Monday, October 11, 2010
The good news is that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is predicting long term job growth in the legal sector. The bad news if you're thinking about going to law school, is that most of that growth is expected to be among the paralegal ranks as they begin to take over tasks formally done by lawyers. Those are the ominous stats that came to light in this story about the dean of a new Nashville law school who was touting these labor stats as a reason to enroll. As the ABA Journal blog reports:
Belmont University will open Nashville’s third law school, welcoming its first class before the new law building is built, the Tennessean reports. Law school Dean Jeff Kinsler told the newspaper that Belmont has already received inquiries from 1,200 would-be students.
He points to a forecast by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that predicts employment of lawyers will grow by 13 percent in the decade ending in 2018. He also says that by the time the school's 1Ls graduate, the economy may be on the upswing.
The labor report says the legal sector will grow faster than the average for all jobs, but it will add the fewest jobs among professional occupations. Lawyers will account for 98,500 new jobs, while paralegals and assistants will account for 74,100 jobs—a 28 percent growth rate—as they begin taking on more tasks once handled by lawyers.
The outlook from ABA “recession czar” Allan Tanenbaum isn’t as bright, the newspaper says. Tanenbaum is chair of the ABA Commission on the Impact of the Economic Crisis on the Profession and Legal Needs. He told the Tennessean that the country’s economic problems have hit law grads particularly hard.
It’s not unusual to see law graduates working as department store clerks while handling pro bono cases to boost their resumes, he said. The median income for U.S. lawyers is about $75,000, far below the $150,000 starting salaries that so many new law students hope to earn, he added.
What blows my mind is that Nashville County, with a population of just over 600,000, has three law schools. Can such a relatively small population really absorb all the grads of those schools? (Granted, Vanderbilt is a national school so that many of their grads presumably find work elsewhere. But still . . . . ).
I'll be the first to defend a legal education as among the finest a student can get who's interested in developing analytical skills. But I'm also among those law profs who are concerned that too many students leap before they look and thus don't give enough serious thought to the job market, average salaries and debt-load upon graduation. Go to law school if you want but make sure you do your research first and enroll with your eyes open
Sunday, October 10, 2010
LexisNexis rolls out new legal research platform for solo practitioners; other specialty platforms to follow.
Thanks to Above the Law for alerting me to this announcement from Lexis:
LexisNexis… [has] launch[ed] Lexis® Advance for Solos – the first in a series of releases of new Lexis® Advance online legal research tools. Created through close collaboration with solo practice lawyers to meet their unique requirements, Lexis Advance for Solos is the first online legal research solution built specifically for solo attorneys . . . ."
Apparently this new legal research platform, which rolled out on October 4, is only available to one to two person law firms. It'll cost a flat rate of $175.00 per month to sign up. As the online ABA Journal blog further reports:
Lexis Advance for Solos was designed specifically for solos and two-person law firms, according to Law.comand a LexisNexis press release. The cost of adding a second lawyer to the subscription is an additional $140 a month. “Customers can easily budget because the cost is predictable and there is no risk of out-of-plan charges,” according to the press release.
The service is accessed through the Internet and includes: all federal and state case law, including headnotes and case summaries; statutes and constitutions from all state and federal jurisdictions; Shepard’s Citations; and LexisNexis jury verdicts, briefs, pleadings and motions.
Other specialty research platforms will follow including those for BigLaw and even paralegals.
Law school Supreme Court clinics provide great practical experience but do they jeapordize key legal issues?
That's the question raised by this article in today's New York Times entitled "Specialists' Help at Court Can Come With a Catch" (a free subscription may be required to log-in). The article notes that several elite law schools have established specialized clinics to assist with U.S. Supreme Court appeals. At Stanford, for example, second and third year students who take the clinic forgo all other classes for a three month period in order to log the 60 to 80 hours per week needed to work a Supreme Court appeal. And while the Stanford clinic has purportedly had above average success in the more than 100 appeals the clinic has handled since it's inception six years ago, critics fear that the need to find cases causes clinics and other "volunteer" experts to push cases that aren't necessarily the right or best ones:
[P]ublic interest lawyers say firms and clinics have sometimes pushed the wrong cases. “It’s not in every client’s interest to be in the Supreme Court,” said John H. Blume, a law professor at Cornell and the director of its Death Penalty Project, which conducts research and allows students to work on capital cases at all levels of the court system. “If you’re in the get-to-the-podium business, it could compromise your judgment.”
The NYT also references a pending article by Stanford clinical professor Jeffrey Fisher who argues based on his own analysis of Supreme Court appeals that expert pro bono help results in greater success on appeal that those who pursue their cases without it.
As a general matter, the justices are more likely to reverse than affirm the decisions they review. Professor Fisher explored the gaps between experts and amateurs both when they represented individuals as petitioners — the parties bringing the appeals, and so the likely winners — and when they represented individuals on the other side, known as respondents.
Experts not affiliated with the clinic who brought appeals won 67 percent of the time, compared with 46 percent for others. When representing those responding to appeals, they won 29 percent of the time, versus 16 percent.
The Stanford clinic has generally been even more successful. In the 35 cases it has argued before the court, it, too, won 67 percent of the time when representing petitioners but did substantially better than expert counsel in representing respondents, winning 46 percent of the time.
You can read the rest here.
It's a trend that sounds good but never really gained much traction; law firms creating an "apprenticeship" program for new law grads in order to teach them practice skills before letting them loose on clients. Some have suggested that these new-fangled apprenticeship programs are merely a pretext to hire law grads at a reduced salary. That doesn't seem especially credible to me since, in this job market, law firms hardly need a "pretext" to pay new hires less than they would have paid before the market tanked. Rather, the "apprenticeship" model seems like a very good idea to me that surprisingly hasn't caught on more.
At least one New Jersey law firm agrees. According to the National Law Journal:
Gibbons [law firm] has a partial answer: one that echoes from eras past, when young attorneys cut their teeth at law office clerkships. The Newark, N.J., firm has launched an one-year "apprenticeship" program to allow newly admitted lawyers an opportunity to learn the ropes.
The program "exposes recent law school graduates to the day-to-day responsibilities of law firm junior associates" and trains them for that role, the firm said in announcing its first apprentice, John Cahill, a 2010 Seton Hall University School of Law graduate who began in September in the Intellectual Property Department.
David De Lorenzi, chair of the Intellectual Property Department and mastermind behind the apprenticeship program, says the concept had been discussed at firm advisory board meetings for some time.
In effect, the firm is hiring new grads as a "look-see" visitors whom the firm will evaluate to determine if the apprentices merit "permanent" offers. While grads probably aren't happy about the prospect of working for a firm on a trial basis in order to prove themselves, as a practical matter new grads have never had much job security and certainly not in these times. As the firm explains:
[The apprenticeship program is a]vailable to law school graduates who have taken or passed the bar, [it's] a paid position -- with equivalent compensation to that of an Appellate Division clerk, about $48,000 per year -- that could lead to a full-time offer at the end of the one-year period, De Lorenzi says.
Apprentices will participate in training, do research and "shadow" attorneys in court and during client meetings
After an unanticipated delay, the SkillsProf Blog is officially launched. What we hope to accomplish with this blog is to fill a niche that we think is currently missing in the legal blogosphere; creating a forum for news and discussion between and among law professors who teach legal skills (including legal writing professors, clinicians and "doctrinal" professors who incorporate practical skills into their courses), practitioners who hire the students we teach, and student themselves who are interested in keeping abreast of trends in legal skills training.
To that end, the contributing editors of this blog do, and will, come from a variety of pertinent backgrounds including legal writing professors, clinicians, practitioners, experts in applied technology and others.
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