Saturday, October 16, 2010

Attorney publicly reprimanded for plagiarizing article in brief filed with court.

From our sister publication the Legal Profession Blog:

The Iowa Supreme Court has imposed a public reprimand of an attorney who was found to have plagiarized in two briefs filed in a bankruptcy matter. the court agreed with its Disciplinary Board that the attorney had not charged an excessive fee, but rejected the proposed sanction of a six-month suspension.

Read more about the Court's admonishment here.

Hat tip to the (new) legal writer blog.


October 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Two academic conferences of interest

Here are a couple of conferences that those interested in skills pedagogy, or law school pedagogy in general, might be interested in.

First up is the second annual "Colonial Frontier Legal Writing Conference" at Duquesne Law School on March 5, 2011.  From the brochure:

Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh, PA, will host the Second Colonial Frontier Legal Writing Conference in March 2011.  The theme of the conference will be "The Arc of Advanced Legal Writing: From Theory through Teaching to Practice."

There will be six presentations.  The three lead presentations will be from nationally-renowned scholars of advanced legal writing:  Michael Smith (Wyoming), Elizabeth Fajans (Brooklyn) and Mary Ray (Wisconsin). They will be followed by Sheila Miller (Dayton), Susan Wawrose (Dayton), Victoria VanZandt (Dayton) and Johanna Oreskovid (Buffalo), who will speak about surveys of the bench and bar, reporting on the advanced writing skills that lawyers and judges believe new attorneys should have. Then Julia Glencer (Duquesne), Erin Karsman (Duquesne), and Tara Willke (Duquesne) will speak about the team-taught advanced legal writing "law firm simulation" course they created, supported by an ALWD Research Grant. The closing session will be a panel of law firm partners addressing how law firms can be agents of curricular change, encouraging law schools to implement advanced legal writing courses.

The Duquesne Law Review will be publishing a Proceedings Issue containing articles reflecting the presentations. CLE credit will be available for attendees. Aspen Law and Business will be the prime sponsor for the event.

A continental breakfast, buffet lunch, and closing reception will be available to all attendees.  There will be no charge for attendance.  Accomodations for Friday, March 4, and Saturday, March 5, will be available at a discounted rate at a hotel adjacent to campus, a five-minute walk to the law school.  For additional information about accomodations, Pittsburgh, travel, and other local attractions, please visit the conference website for last year's conference.

Next is a conference on "Course Re-design" sponsored by the Institute for Law Teaching at Salmon Chase College of Law in Northern Kentucky.  From the announcement:

Course (Re)Design is a one-day conference for new and experienced legal educators interested in designing a new course or redesigning an existing course.

During the conference, participants will learn best practices for course design, apply them to a course they have taught or will teach in the future, and will receive immediate feedback on their course design efforts.

For more information on the conference, see the flyer.

Registration is limited to 40 participants. The roster will be filled in the order that the registration forms and conference fees are collected. Conference fee is $225.

Registration Form



October 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More legal clinics take heat for supporting unpopular causes.

Withhold any real job security to skills profs and then hammer them when they supervise clinical students who take on unpopular cases and see whether schools graduate the kind of fearless, justice-seeking advocates the public needs.   The trouble started with a Tulane clinic that came under fire for seeking more stringent environmental regulation.  But that may be only the beginning of a disturbing trend that includes legal clinics at several schools. 

As the current issue of the ABA Journal Magazine reports:

The Rutgers case [in which the legal clinic sued a local developer to stop the building of a strip mall but was met with a public records request that sought otherwise attorney-client privileged materials] is one of several recent examples of law school clinics caught in a web of peeved alums, local businesses and angry legislators. The clinics are facing pressure to abandon clients, as well as threats to ban hiring of graduates and attempts to bankrupt their universities.

Maryland legislators, for example, considered a law to slash funds to the University of Maryland if the school’s environmental law clinic didn’t provide detailed information about its expenses and cases. The proposed legislation, later amended to drop the funding conditions, came after the Perdue poultry company was sued by clinic students for environmental violations in the Chesapeake Bay.

Similarly, in Michigan, a Detroit district attorney listed as prosecution witnesses University of Michigan law students representing the defendant through an innocence law clinic. Had the DA not subsequently dropped the case, the witness list would have required students to testify against their own client.

. . . .

Clinical legal education emerged in the 1960s as a way to prepare law students not just for legal analysis but for other aspects of lawyering. Handling their own cases with supervision from professors, students learn pretrial and trial procedures, negotiation, transactions and the nuances of the attorney-client relationship.

Clinics offer “an unmatched method of teaching professional skills and values to the next generation of lawyers,” Kuehn [president of the Clinical Legal Education Association - CLEA] explains. “The consensus is that the best way to learn to practice law is not from a book or lecture but by putting students in the role of lawyer in a controlled situation.”

. . . .

Yet clinical education raises questions about who controls the casework, especially at publicly funded schools. This hands-on teaching affects not just the law students but also clients and opposing parties, triggering debates about professional responsibility and academic freedom.

. . . .

But proponents of lawyering in the academy argue that to be effective, clinics must be treated less as a student program and more as a law office, with the full protections of the attorney-client relationship and the accompanying obligations of ethical rules. For example, model rules of professional responsibility as well as ABA ethics opinions provide that lawyers should accept their fair share of unpopular clients or matters and, at the same time, resist outside pressure or influence on their lawyering.

Amen, brother.  You can read the rest here courtesy of the ABA Journal Magazine.  You can also read the New York Times coverage of the story - School Law Clinics Face a Backlash, here.


October 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Princeton Review ranks law schools on best career prospects based in part on practice prep.

Before getting to the list, let's provide the criteria (free registration may be  required) the Princeton Review uses to rank the 172 schools surveyed (aren't there close to 200 accredited and provisionally accredited law schools?):

Based on school reported data and student surveys. School data include: the average starting salaries of graduating students, the percent of students immediately employed upon graduation and the percent of these students who pass the bar exam the first time they take it. Student answers to survey questions on: how much the law program encourages practical experience; the opportunities for externships, internships and clerkships, and how prepared the students feel they will be to practice the law after graduating.

With that in mind, here's the list:

  1. U. Penn.
  2. Northwestern
  3. NYU
  4. Vanderbilt
  5. Harvard
  6. U. Chicago
  7. UVA
  8. U. Michigan
  9. B.C.
  10. BU.

Seems strange that Yale and Stanford, among others, didn't make the list but then again the Princeton rankings have been criticized as less than reliable, here and here



October 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday Fun: IP Lawsuit cancels Red Bull "space jump."

Red Bull energy drink, which has fueled many of my own late night blogging sessions, a few years ago began sponsoring a series of extreme stunts, the most exciting of which for my money, was this guy jumping a motorcycle onto, and then off of, the fake Arc De Triomphe in Las Vegas.

Seeking to up the ante (and begging the question how-the-hell could anyone ever top this?!?), the 2010 edition of the Red Bull "No Limits" stunt was going to be a dude jumping from a space platform almost 23 miles above the earth's surface in order to break the speed of sound protected only by the suit he was wearing.  As incredulous as that sounds, here's the video evidence:


Unfortunately for Red Bull "No Limits" fans (but perhaps fortunately for the family and friends of would-be space diver Felix Baumgartner), a pesky IP suit has nixed the plan on the grounds that the company stole the idea from someone else.  You can read the full story courtesy of the Wall Street Journal legal blog.

Hat tip to the online ABA Journal blog.



October 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Share your thoughts

The world of LRW has changed remarkably in the short span of ten years that I have been teaching our first-year LRW course out here in Sacramento, CA.  At McGeorge, we have an exciting new two-year program that covers our LRW instruction and a lot more.

It's called Global Lawyering Skills, and the title is entirely apt, as we cover, over the course of the two years and six units of the full program, many of the skills required of attorneys who work in a global environment.

Hence, we introduce our students to international law in the first year and then give them a major international issue as part of a full case file that they take from initial pleading through appeal in their second year.  Along the way, they gain instruction in client interviewing and counseling, case file management, drafting of inter-office memos, letters to clients, pleadings and points and authorities in support of (or opposition to) trial motions.

And it all ends with a full-blown appellate brief that is filed with a fictitious federal circuit court that has a full panoply of court rules issued for the students to comprehend.  We like to say at McGeorge that we produce "practice-ready" lawyers, but this program takes that claim to a higher level.

If the students have any complaint about the course, it is that they are required to do twice as much work for six units as they normally encounter in podium courses of comparable unit value.  But, when they actually get experience in a real-world setting (like summer internships), they sing our praises.

Undoubtedly, many law schools are moving in the same direction.  Feel free to share your school's program with all of us.


October 14, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hey ABA, skills profs need more job security

As some of you may know, there's a movement afoot by the ABA to eliminate tenure as a credentialing requirement for obtaining a license to operate a law school.  As you would expect, most law profs are up in arms about it.  For the record, my job is not a tenure track one and it's unlikely to become one unless the administration has a radical change of heart.  So, in a way, I don't really have a dog in this fight except for this - non-tenure track law professors (which includes many, if not most, skills profs) have become beholden to the almight anonymous student evaluation.  Getting good ones may not help your career (and at elite schools it may even hurt it to the extent you're perceived as caring too much about teaching rather than scholarship) but get bad ones, and you may find yourself out of a job.  You can imagine what kind of incentives that creates for even the most principled instructors.   (The consensus among researchers seems to be that while student evals have some value, no one believes they tell the whole story about whether a teacher is effective or not).

If you're still not convinced that eliminating tenure is a bad idea (many of us need to first get it before we can start complaining about losing it) perhaps this commentary from the Chronicle of Higher Ed does a better job persuading.

[T]enure guarantees the quality and integrity of higher education—by securing faculty members' intellectual independence. [Students] need tenured college professors.

. . . .

If [students] are going to be taught to think rigorously and creatively—which is their best route to success—they need to be taught by teachers who can be rigorous, creative, and courageous as well. Tenure doesn't guarantee that college teachers will be courageous. But it protects those who are.

Professors without tenure are nothing more than at-will employees. They can be fired tomorrow or whenever their contracts expire. One complaint from a student, parent, or politician is all it may take. What if a professor offends a parent or preacher by teaching evolution? What if a professor expresses sympathy for unpopular religious beliefs? What if a professor admits that he or she supports gay rights? What if a professor asks students whether the war in Iraq was in the national interest? Worst of all, what if a professor asks students whether the college really needs that fancy new administration building? Administrators who prefer to avoid controversy just won't send that professor a new contract.

If this blog suddenly goes dark, you'll know why ;-)




October 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Textbook publishers jump into custom e-books big time

As reported by the Chronicle of Higher Ed, McGraw Hill and MacMillan, among others, are either launching or revamping their custom books services hoping that an emphasis on e-books will ignite what has been moribund demand for custom p-books.  

For years, major textbook publishers have offered professors the option of customizing textbooks—cutting unneeded chapters or adding original material—but the vast majority have stuck with the official versions. As e-textbooks gain popularity, however, publishers are betting that the "build-a-book" option, as it is sometimes called, will take off.

. . . .

'The reality is by and large they don’t customize,' said Ed Stanford, president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education, in an interview. 'We think the more all this becomes digital, the more people will want to customze, and we want to be able to do that. McGraw-Hill officials say custom textbooks are now the fastest-growing area of the industry.

For a "p-book" that argues "e-books," especially those with embedded links and other features that potentially distract the reader, are "bad-books" in terms of promoting critical thinking skills, check out The Shallows by Michael Carr (author of the popular Atlantic Monthly article "Is Google Making Us Stupid?").

To read more about custom e-book options, click here.


October 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The secret to good writing is exude confidence, keep the beat and remember your audience

Here's an interesting Op-Ed from the New York Times in which novelist Michael Cunningham discusses the way in which translating his books into a foreign language changes their meaning.  What's especially interesting to readers of this blog are the lessons he draws about the ingredients of compelling fiction writing (and don't the same observations generally hold true for good brief writing?). 

To make his point, Mr. Cunningham analyzes one of the most famous lines in literature - "Call me Ishmael" - and asks why does that work so well?  The answer is "confidence."

Three simple words. What’s the big deal?

For one thing, they possess that most fundamental but elusive of all writerly qualities: authority. As writers we must, from our very opening sentence, speak with authority to our readers.

It’s a little like waltzing with a new partner for the first time. Anyone who is able to waltz, or fox-trot, or tango, or perform any sort of dance that requires physical contact with a responsive partner, knows that there is a first moment, on the dance floor, when you assess, automatically, whether the new partner in question can dance at all — and if he or she can in fact dance, how well. You know almost instantly whether you have a novice on your hands, and that if you do, you’ll have to do a fair amount of work just to keep things moving.

But confidence, by itself, isn't enough.  As Mr. Cunningham says, opening with "Idiot, read this!" may command one's momentary attention, but is certainly not effective beyond that.  Instead, sentences have to have "rhythm and cadence, they should engage and delight the inner ear."  But keeping a good beat still won't help you if you're not focused exclusively on the needs of the reader, rather than one's own. 

I began to think of myself as trying to write a book that would matter to [the reader]. And, I have to tell you, it changed my writing. I’d seen, rather suddenly, that writing is not only an exercise in self-expression, it is also, more important, a gift we as writers are trying to give to readers. . . . It also helped me to realize that the reader represents the final step in a book’s life of translation.

Keep your writing direct and authoritative, always focus on your reader, and keep a good beat.  Simply, right?

You can read the full Op-Ed here.


October 13, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How do you handle those pesky classroom tech glitches?

We've all had it happen; a classroom technical glitch that threatens to turn a brilliantly planned lesson into a train-wreck.  ProfHacker, the popular columnist at the Chronicle of Higher Ed asks his readers to suggest ways to handle these situations  - not in terms of solving the technical issues (which most of us are powerless against) but instead how to deal with a classroom of antsy students.

Here are a couple of helpful suggestions:

From reader # 1.  I often find that my attitude in face of these “disasters” is crucial. If I have a tech failure and walk into class and start getting upset, railing against the tech staff who “never get it right” or otherwise blow my cool, then the “disaster” really becomes one, with students spreading word of either my incompetence or how the institution “never gets it right.”

However, if I go in with a “well, we’ll skip using that tool for awhile until I get the bugs worked out, lets move on to something else” the situation usually stays manageable . . . .  Remember, its education, not brain surgery. If you make a mistake in the classroom, technology related or not, the student isn’t going to suffer irreparable harm…they will just need to catch up a little later.

From reader # 2. 

[I]t’s pretty important to acknowledge the students’ frustration with a simple, “You’re mad, I get it, I’m sorry. I’m annoyed too.” Then I usually take the opportunity to talk (again) about why I choose to use the tool even though it’s not 100% perfect. Students are usually happier to try again if they understand what my pedagogical goals are, or if they get that the alternative is going to be even less convenientd (sic).

Please, dear readers, provide your own suggestions in the comments below about how to handle classroom IT foul-ups with aplomb and grace.

If you'd like to see more suggestions from ProfHacker's readers, click here (and scroll to the bottom of the page).


October 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Washington U. School of Law implements in-house apprenticeship program

To help students who weren't able to find summer employment, the Washington University School of Law (St. Louis) implemented a program this past summer called "Associates in Training."  We've reported on the mini-trend among legal employers to start "apprenticeship" programs in which new grads trade salary and workload in exchange for the chance to train at the heels of experienced lawyers.  Now a law school has jumped into the act by turning the idea into a six credit course.  Click here and scroll down for the official course description.

As the National Law Journal explains:

The school has started a summer program called Associate in Training. The six-week program is loosely modeled on law firm summer associateships, and includes attorney shadowing, networking, instruction on the business of law firms and other skills training. It appears to be the first program of its kind, said Tomea Mayer Mersmann, associate dean for strategic initiatives.

"Obviously, we'd rather have our students getting trained at law firms and being paid. Unfortunately, the current employment market has made it much harder to secure a summer associate position," said Mersmann. She noted that "significantly fewer" Washington University law students nabbed summer positions this year. "For students who weren't able to go to firms this summer, this program is the best substitution to learn those skills."

Some area law firms have more than halved the number of summer associates they hosted in previous years, Mersmann said. Some didn't invite back students who had clerked with them last year.

The wider push among legal educators to incorporate real-world skills also played a part, Mersmann said.

The pilot program is underway now with 11 students, a mix of 2Ls who did not get summer clerkships and 1Ls who want to make themselves more attractive during the fall recruiting season, she said. A handful of international LL.M. candidates are enrolled. Students earn six credits for the program, which costs $8,520, although tuition remission is available, Mersmann said.

The program involves courses in litigation skills, accounting and business for lawyers, research and writing, and client development. Students are assigned mentors who are practicing attorneys. They are visting law firm visits and doing mock interviews.

If any WashU students reading this blog (don't they all?) would like to comment on the program, the rest of our readers would love the feedback.

The school says it has plans to offer the program again in 2011.

Read the full coverage here.


October 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Miami School of Law "pays" public interest employers to hire its students

In a disturbing sign of the financial times, U. Miami School of Law joins SMU and Duke by "paying" employers to hire its grads.   As Above the Law reports, to qualify for the program, students must go to work for a public interest employer.  Unlike SMU's program under which the school writes a check to employers, Miami - like Duke - will instead pay students a monthly stipend (in this case $2500.00) for up to six months.

Here's the school's official announcement:

The University of Miami School of Law cordially invites you to participate in our newly-created Legal Corps Program for law school graduates. The Legal Corps Program gives you the opportunity to hire graduates from the Class of 2010 to provide legal assistance to your organization, for up to six months, while they receive stipends from the University of Miami School of Law in many instances.

An anonymous source at the school added:

It’s a $2,500 a month stipend. Graduates have to find a public interest position. You can’t just go work for any solo looking to exploit free labor instead of hiring someone.

I wonder if the stipends are funded by tuition dollars? 

You can read the full story from Above the Law here.


October 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

U. Michigan partners with Mexican law school to establish international human trafficking clinic

Last year, the University of Michigan School of Law established the first in the nation student clinic devoted to fighting human trafficking.   The school has now received a $300k grant from the U.S. State Department that allows it to partner with a Mexican law school in order to fight the problem at its source.  As the National Law Journal reports:

'[H]ere in the U.S., we can do a lot as far as assisting prosecutors and victims of trafficking,' said Bridgette Carr, who directs the Michigan clinic. 'What we can't work on as much is prevention, because we're sitting here in Ann Arbor. The goal is to not have clients.'

 One of the goals of the Mexican clinic, which will represent a partnership between the two law schools and a local nongovernmental organization called Centro de los Derechos del Migrante (Center for Migrant Rights), is to educate people about human trafficking. Although it will officially be part of the Mexican law school, the Michigan law school will help set up the clinic.

'This is really an opportunity to see how we can most effectively advocate for these clients on a transnational basis,'Carr said.

The partnership between the two clinics is a real innovation, said center founder and executive director Rachel Micah-Jones. 'Students will provide quality legal representation to vulnerable migrant communities whose legal needs often cross borders,' she said. 'In doing so, students will develop the skills to be transnational advocates in this new economy.'

 You can read more here.


October 12, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 11, 2010

LexisNexis announces a new interface debuting October 19

This seems to be legal research week here at the Legal Skills Prof Blog.  To keep the party going, here's a press release I just got from my LexisNexis rep:

Beginning on October 19th, when you log on to, you will see the cleaner, more intuitive interface that allows you to research with fewer clicks. We wanted to offer you this preview access prior to student access in early January. Here are just a few of the new features that will improve your research experience:

  • Fewer tabs for a cleaner, more modern look and to help you get to the information you need with fewer clicks and in less time.
  • Tools for activities that researchers do most every day-Get a Document, Shepardize®, Find a Source, Recently Used Sources, Quick Search, etc.-will appear in easy-to-access locations on most pages.
  • Our open-Web product, Lexis Web, will be integrated into so that you can benefit from the combination of free content and reliable LexisNexis content in a single research service.

Best of all, you won't have to change a thing-no system upgrades or installations are necessary, and all of your current preferences will carry over to the new interface. Learn more about this new interface and the latest enhancements by visiting our new interface site. This site provides the latest information on the new interface, access to FAQ's, access to webinars, and more. Please note that while you will automatically view the new interface on October 19th, you will still have the ability to research using the existing interface by simply selecting this option in your preference settings.


October 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Can Bloomberg Law compete with LexisNexis?

My school's law librarian just circulated to our faculty the below article in which upstart legal research engine Bloomberg Law announced an aggressive pricing strategy in the hopes of gaining market share.  But its flat rate of $450.00 per month for unlimited legal research is so last July in light of LexisNexis' recent announcement of a $175.00 per month flat rate for solo practitioners.  Nevertheless, Bloomberg may still appeal to BigLaw practitioners though it apparently never caught on with students.

As the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported in July (via The PrattLawLibrarian Blog):

A flat fee of $450 per attorney per month appears to be the ace in the hole for upstart Bloomberg Law as it takes on established giants LexisNexis and Westlaw in the electronic research market.

Just as Bloomberg built a $6 billion-a-year business by taking a mystifying bundle of financial data and making it indispensable to Wall Street professionals, Bloomberg Law intends to do the same for lawyers now serviced by LexisNexis and Westlaw in the $8 billion-a-year electronic legal research business.

After an early test-marketing effort failed to win fans among law students, the company scrapped the amber-print-on-black-background design familiar to the financial industry readers of Bloomberg news columns and went back to the drawing board.

Although the still-significant $450 subscription fee will likely discourage the student market, corporate law firms rather than all practitioners may find two aspects of the Bloomberg Law service particularly appealing.

First the certainty of the pricing--both Lexis and Westlaw charge based on usage--may offer Bloomberg an edge over its well-entrenched competitors. But another advantage may prove even more valuable to law firms. The speed with which Bloomberg Law

updates its docket service is particularly attractive says Lillian Arcuri, Director of Library Services at Chadbourne & Parke.

You can read the rest of the WSJ article here.


October 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are Google-like search engines making us worse legal researchers?

That's the implication raised by this article by U. Chicago Sociology Professor James A. Evans entitled "Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship" published in the July 18, 2008 edition of Science Magazine.   The suggestion is that as Westlaw and Lexis move towards a more Google-like approach to legal research, search queries will tend to turn-up the most current and popular cases while the kind of serendipitous results that occur during book research, and which often lead to novel theories that can win the case, are completely overlooked. 

From the abstract:

Online journals promise to serve more information to more dispersed audiences and are more efficiently searched and recalled. But because they are used differently than print—scientists and scholars tend to search electronically and follow hyperlinks rather than browse or peruse—electronically available journals may portend an ironic change for science. Using a database of 34 million articles, their citations (1945 to 2005), and online availability (1998 to 2005), I show that as more journal issues came online, the articles referenced tended to be more recent, fewer journals and articles were cited, and more of those citations were to fewer journals and articles. The forced browsing of print archives may have stretched scientists and scholars to anchor findings deeply into past and present scholarship. Searching online is more efficient and following hyperlinks quickly puts researchers in touch with prevailing opinion, but this may accelerate consensus and narrow the range of findings and ideas built upon.

The full article is available here for download.




October 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Robots grade English exams in the U.K. - could law schools be next?

I just came across this announcement from a U.K. educators online newsletter explaining that a software maker has developed a program that allows computers to grade exam essays used by universities to test the language proficiency of incoming students.  According to the developer, the software's "'proven automated scoring' will provide a test that accurately measures candidates’ English writing abilities."  Some of those quoted in the article suggest that it's not "if" more schools will begin to rely heavily on the use of grading robots, but only a question of "when" that's going to happen.

Critics are fearful that use of such software will discourage creativity and instead cause students "to write for the robot."

Bethan Marshall, senior lecturer in English and education at King’s College London, said: “A computer will never be unreliable. They will always assess in exactly the same way. But you don’t get a person reading it and it is people that we write for. If a computer is marking it then we will end up writing for the computer.

“People won’t be aiming for the kind of quirky, idiosyncratic work that produces the best writing. So what is the point?”

Tim Oates, research director at Cambridge Assessment, which owns the OCR exam board, said: “It’s extremely unlikely that automated systems will not be deployed extensively in educational assessment. The uncertainty is ‘when’ not ‘if’.”

The technology being used by Pearson is designed to allow computers to assess pupils’ use of grammar and vocabulary. But some experts say newer, more effective systems are available.

The Pearson approach is based on correlations between human judges and artificial intelligence systems. Machines are “trained” to learn from the scores given to specific texts by humans so that they will be able to achieve the same results on their own.

Mr Oates said: “In simply getting an automarking system to agree with human markers you are ignoring the vital question of exactly what parts of performance are being ranked.

“Other developers are working on more valid approaches, of greater merit and promise. Crucially, these aim to be sensitive to the concepts and language structures actually being used by candidates.”

You can read more here.





October 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Using the new, improved version of Google Documents to teach writing in your classroom

Some of you may be using Google Documents for in-class drafting exercises.  The popular columist ProfHacker over at the Chronicle of Higher Ed notes that Google Documents has recently made several changes to its platform some of which are welcome and others, like eliminating the ability to compare different drafts, require a work-around.

Perhaps the most notable [change to Google Documents] is the new document editor (which is now the default for new accounts, unless I'm mistaken). That's a welcome change; the new editor more closely resembles a desktop word processing application than the previous editor did, which makes it feel more familiar to new users.

A second change was not so welcome. One of the best features of the original Google Documents was the ability to compare different versions of a document . . . .  With the advent of the new document editor, the ability to compare different versions of a document suddenly disappeared

But here's the fix:

Happily, I found a solution to the problem in Google Documents itself. Not only can Google Documents import files of various types, it can also export files in a number of formats. For my purposes, the file types in question are .odt and .doc.

What I do, then, is ask students to download their documents on a regular basis. To make keeping track of files a bit easier, I ask them to adhere to a particular filenaming convention. Each document name in Google Documents takes the form of LastnameFirstInitialAssignmentname (so, in the image at left, the document name is BeeblebroxZSampleEssay).

I also ask students to set up a folder for their portfolios on their hard drives. Inside this folder, they can create one folder for each assignment . . . . 

Then, each time I've commented on a draft for any of their essays, that commented draft can be downloaded to the portfolio on the hard drive. All that's needed is for students to change the filename slightly when downloading — they just need to add "v#" at the end.

What's handy about this is that Google Documents preserves comments as well as text when it exports files. That makes it very easy to use the "compare documents" feature in OpenOffice or in Microsoft Word to see how a document has changed between revisions, and the ways in which students have responded to comments on their work.

You can read the full descripti0n of ProfHacker's fix, complete with helpful screen-shots, here.




October 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law firm interns say now more than ever they want employers to make expectations explicit

In its annual survey of summer associates, the American Lawyer reported that interns want their employers, now more than ever due to heightened anxiety over the job market, to provide explicit expectations regarding work assignments and billable hours.

Given the stakes, a number of associates expressed the belief that their firms should have set explicit guidelines for how much time they should be putting in. "Be clearer at the beginning of the summer about expectations (How many projects should we complete? How many hours a day should we actually "bill" vs. be at work?)," suggested an intern who spent the summer at Hogan Lovells.

"Don't answer 'it depends' to questions concerning the appropriate number of assignments," wrote a Morrison & Foerster clerk, adding that "more than any other year" this is "one of the things we are worried about."

You can more of the comments and thoughts of the class of 2011  here courtesy of the American Lawyer survey.


October 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Compared to the long term, short term growth in legal jobs is good

Just after I got done blogging the below story about the Bureau of Labor Statistics dire prediction for long term job growth in the legal sector comes this favorable report about a short term spike in legal jobs.  As reported by

For the third straight month, more people landed legal jobs than lost them, according to the latest employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The sector saw 2,500 new positions added in September.

BLS initially reported an increase of 1,000 legal services jobs in August, but newly adjusted numbers show the total was actually 1,400 for that month. The recent job stats in the legal market still lag behind the rates of employment in the sector reported by BLS for September 2009 (by 6,700 jobs). Total legal sector jobs have been on the rise since July, with nearly 4,000 new jobs added in the past three months. (See our jobs reports for August, July and June.)

The same report notes that, overall, the U.S. economy is still in the tank with the unemployment rate remaining unchanged at 9.6%.  In addition to growth in the legal sector, the other short term bright spot is health care which showed a solid gain in jobs added.  

You can read the full story here.


October 11, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)