Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Halloween treat from the Legal Skiils Prof Blog

Here's a little Halloween "treat" for all our readers - Screamin' Jay Hawkins performing the holiday-appropriate "I Put A Spell on You."  This abbreviated live version comes with all the bells and whistles - Screamin' Jay emerging from his coffin, flash paper pyrotechnics and his trusty companion Henry (a skull on a stick).

And here's the original, recorded version for you completists.

Legend has it that Jalacy Hawkins, a trained operatic singer, had to get completely inebriated before he was able to lose enough inhibition to properly record the song.  Initially considered too raw and full of sexual innuendo for radio play, it is now considered one of the best rock and roll tracks ever recorded.  Enjoy and have a Happy Halloween!


October 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

As iPad replaces laptop, lawyers lag behind rest of business world in making the transition

From the Legal Blog Watch:

As discussed on The Unofficial Apple Weblog, a new Forrester report finds that:

1. The iPad is beginning to displace the traditional laptop, particularly among those who use a laptop primarily for email and web-based communications.

Tablet Legal writes that there is not much evidence that this is similarly occurring in the legal world so far, which is 'surprising considering the typical short list of lawyer computing needs: reading, writing, email, calendar, contacts, internet. All of these are handled well by the iPad.'

2. The iPad is replacing paper. Forrester found that 'wherever people would usually carry around stacks of paper or files, particularly in medical and pharmaceutical industries, the iPad is now the preferred choice.'

Tablet Legal writes that this trend also does not seem to have taken hold in the legal world. Many lawyers still 'feel they can only edit or review a document in its printed form,' TL writes, also noting that the move to abandon paper may begin to grow with the next generation of legal professionals.

3. The iPad is allowing companies to be more efficient, Forrester says, 'by providing immediate connection to further resources and data.' For example, a sales rep may use the iPad to customize a customer’s order on the showroom floor.

Tablet Legal says this is strike three for lawyers, who have not really begun to do anything similar for their clients.

You can read the rest here.


October 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Act Like a Lawyer on Halloween (humor)

In the Texas Lawyer, attorney Kip Mendrygal offers two suggestions on how to act like a lawyer on Halloween. (1) Mediate the neighborhood candy swap. (2) Enforce the law—“Excuse me Scary Dragon, use the crosswalk” “Look Strawberry Shortcake, ‘one piece’ means ‘one piece.” In the words of Carl Sandberg, “Why does a hearse horse snicker hauling a lawyer away?”


October 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

More on U.S. News

Only 646 faculty, lawyers, and judges responded to the latest U.S. News survey that helps determine law school rankings. So reports Gary Greener, Associate Dean for Career Services at Southwestern Law School, in the NALP Bulletin (Oct. 2010) (National Association of Legal Career Professionals). These individuals ranked each law school on a scale of 1 to 5. The results of these rankings account for 40 percent of the U.S. News ranking results. 646 lawyers comprise less than 1/20 of one percent of all the lawyers in the country.

This information  previously was noted on the Law Librarian Blog.

 (Thnx to Anne Rector, Emory)


October 30, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Job posting - Georgetown Law seeks Externship Director

Here are the details:

Georgetown University Law Center is seeking to hire a Externship Director.  We are looking for a person with both administrative and teaching skills who can build and grow an excellent program.  The Externship Director will be responsible for all aspects of the program, including: assisting students in finding appropriate placements; ensuring the quality of student placements; designing and teaching "bookend" classes at the beginning and end of the semester in which students define their learning goals and then reflect on whether they have achieved them; and holding individual student reflection sessions throughout the semester.  The Externship Director will be supervised by the Associate Dean for Clinical Programs and Experiential Learning; because this is not a faculty position, there is no scholarship requirement.  Teaching experience and familiarity with public interest, non-profit and/or governmental entities are desirable.  

Please send a resume and cover letter to  Associate Dean Deborah Epstein,  Applications must be received by November 12th, 2010.

October 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Perils of Poor PowerPoints

When the Arthur Anderson accounting firm showed the Enron Board of Directors accounting board powerpoints that gently warned of sketchy accounting practices, did the lack of a bold warning doom Enron? Did a confusing powerpoint –driven presentation by Boeing engineers contribute to the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster? These are the questions that Nancy Duarte raises  in her article, “Why We Hate PowerPoints—and how to fix them.”


October 29, 2010 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Four-Year Old Can be Sued, Judge Rules in Bike Case

According to the New York Times, a four year old can be sued for negligence. While racing on her bike (with training wheels), the girl ran down an 87 year old woman. One wonders if the judge ever had children.


October 29, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

New, Skills-Friendly Dean at Villanova

Congratulations to John Gotanda, who transitions from Associate Dean to Dean at Villanova University Law School. Most recently, Gotanda led the successful effort to provide that every 1L student have one course (Property or Contracts) that includes one credit hour of practicum. The practicum is in addition to the Legal Writing course.



October 29, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

More on Stronger Passwords

Do you want to make your passwords even more of a challenge for hackers? Here’s a tongue-in-check list of suggestions.

 (Thnx to Ralph Brill)


October 29, 2010 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Colleges may require students to buy e-textbooks even though students prefer hardcopy versions

As reported below, students overwhelmingly prefer hardcopy textbooks to electronic copies.  Nicholas Carr, author of "The Shallows:  What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains," makes a compelling argument that hardcopy textbooks promote better learning than their electronic counterparts.  Nevertheless, the Chronicle of Higher Ed is reporting that pressure from college administrators to control costs may result in students being required to purchase e-textbooks as part of an electronic course packet.

For years observers have predicted a coming wave of e-textbooks. But so far it just hasn't happened. One explanation for the delay is that while music fans were eager to try a new, more portable form of entertainment, students tend to be more conservative when choosing required materials for their studies. For a real disruption in the textbook market, students may have to be forced to change.

That's exactly what some companies and college leaders are now proposing. They're saying that e-textbooks should be required reading and that colleges should be the ones charging for them. It is the best way to control skyrocketing costs and may actually save the textbook industry from digital piracy, they claim. Major players like the McGraw-Hill Companies, Pearson, and John Wiley & Sons are getting involved.

You can read more about the reasons behind the big push for e-textbooks here.  And for an interesting historical perspective on the role administrators, rather than teachers (or students, for that matter), have played in the push to introduce technology into the classroom, check out "Teachers and Machines:  The Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920.


October 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday fun: Why are there no more cool movie lines?

"You talkin' to me?"

"Go ahead, make my day!"

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

"Hitler... there was a painter! He could paint an entire apartment in ONE afternoon! TWO coats!"

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

"I can get you a toe, dude.  There are ways."

This New York Times editorial asks where have all the great, or at least memorable, movie lines gone?  Blame it on the internet.

Sticky movie lines were everywhere as recently as the 1990s. But they appear to be evaporating from a film world in which the memorable one-liner — a brilliant epigram, a quirky mantra, a moment in a bottle — is in danger of becoming a lost art.

. . . .

Maybe it’s that filmmaking is more visual, or that other cultural noise is drowning out the zingers.

“I’m at a loss, because the lines for a while were coming fast and furious,” said Laurence Mark, who had us at “hello” as a producer of “Jerry Maguire,” and is a producer of “How Do You Know,” which is written and directed by James L. Brooks and scheduled to open just before Christmas. (In 1987 Mr. Brooks mapped the media future in seven words from “Broadcast News”: “Let’s never forget, we’re the real story.”)

If film lines don’t stick the way they used to, Mr. Mark said, it is not for lack of wit and wisdom in Hollywood. “What I don’t believe is that the writers are less talented,” he insisted. “I don’t think that’s true, I just don’t.”

Speaking by phone recently, however, Mr. Mark was hard-pressed to come up with a line that stuck with him in the last few years. “I will try my darnedest to think of one,” he promised.

It may be that a Web-driven culture of irony latches onto the movie lines for something other than brilliance, or is downright allergic to the kind of polish that was once applied to the best bits of dialogue.

You can read the rest here.


October 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge responds in rhyme to 465 (!) page complaint.

An attorney filed a 465 page complaint (including an 8 page title!) in a Washington state federal district court against defendant GMAC Mortgage, et al. whom, not surprisingly, responded with a Motion for a More Definite Statement.  In support of his order granting defendants' motion, Judge Leighton cited to Shakespeare for the proposition that "brevity is [not only] the soul of wit," it's also the soul of effective pleading.  The judge recommended that plaintiff's counsel read Bryan Garner's "The Elements of Legal Style."  Finally, the judge ended his order with the following rhyme:

Plaintiff has a great deal to say,
But it seems he skipped Rule 8(a),
His Complaint is too long,
Which renders it wrong,
Please re-write and re-file today.

If you ask me, the plaintiff's attorney got off easy.

You can read Judge Leighton's full order here.

Thanks to and a big hat tip to Rob Hudson, librarian extraordinaire.


October 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Problem with subscribing to the Legal Skills Prof Blog is now fixed

If you recently tried to subscribe to this blog but were unable to, I believe the problem is now fixed.  (Thanks to Dennis Kennedy, Simon Fodden at and Joe Hodnicki).  Scroll down the page and look in the left-hand margin for the subscription button.  If you still experience a problem subscribing, let me know and I'll get it fixed.

Thanks for your support.


October 28, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clinics and Working with Practitioners can Prompt Law Reform

A recent article by Marisa Cianciarulo and Claudia David  demonstrates how clinical work and practical expertise can contribute to developing law reform.  The article is “Pulling the Trigger: Separation Violence as a Basis for Refugee Protection for Battered Women,” 59 American University Law Review 337 (2009). Here’s the abstract:

 For over a decade, women seeking asylum from persecution inflicted by their abusive husbands and partners have found little protection in the United States. During that time, domestic violence-based asylum cases have languished in limbo, been denied, or occasionally been granted in unpublished opinions that have not provided a much-needed adjudicative standard. The main case setting forth the pre-Obama approach to domestic violence-based asylum is rife with misunderstanding of the nature of domestic violence and minimization of the role that society plays in the proliferation of domestic violence. Fortunately, however, a recent Obama-administration legal brief indicates that women fleeing countries where governments are unable or unwilling to protect them from their abusive husbands finally may be able to avail themselves of U.S. asylum law. This article proposes a workable standard for adjudicating such claims. Based in part on psychological research on the dynamics of abusive relationships, particularly the phenomenon known as “separation violence,” this article formulates a particular social group that satisfies the various legal elements for political asylum: “women who have left severely abusive relationships.” This social group is based on research demonstrating that abusers strike out with increased violence when their partners leave the relationships, in many cases even killing them. This article explores the dynamics of abusive relationships, the failure of U.S. adjudicators to understand those dynamics, and the application of international human rights law to domestic violence survivors.

 Professor Cianciarulo conducts the Family Violence Clinic at the Chapman University School of Law and has an extensive background in the immigration field. Dr. David is a practicing psychologist specializing in abusive relationships. Their experience has permitted them to make a real contribution that may help refugees from domestic violence.


October 28, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Starting to Fill the Practical Skills Niche

Please allow me to introduce myself with my first post as a contributing editor on the Legal Skills Prof Blog. I’m Dennis Kennedy and I’m an information technology lawyer, legal technology author, blogger and podcaster who has been writing about the application of technology to the practice of law for many years.  Among other things, I currently write the technology column for the ABA Journal.

There’s never been more discussion of or greater interest in the role that practical skills training should play in legal education than there is today. I’m so pleased to be part of the Legal Skills Prof Blog team because I believe this blog will become a focal point and a platform for conversation about this topic as well as a way to highlight developments and provide models for action.

In my last year of law school, I realized one day that I was learning much more about bankruptcy law in my part-time job at a law firm than I was learning about the day-to-day aspects of bankruptcy practice in my bankruptcy law class. That’s a common feeling among those who work part-time during law school.

I co-taught a class in Intellectual Property Drafting as an adjunct professor at the Washington University Law School several years ago. Some of the best response I received was to the time I took at the end of a couple of classes to talk about how the students might actually go about completing a drafting project at a firm – use of forms and templates, et al.

For the last few summers, I’ve been a guest speaker for a law practice management class at St. Louis University Law School. I focus on using technology in the practice. I’ve simply done a Q & A session and, to my surprise, we’ve never even come close to running out of questions to talk about.

My “beat” on this blog will, not surprisingly, given my long history of writing and speaking about legal technology, focus on technology aspects of law practice and legal education, and ways we can teach and, most importantly, learn about technology. Ideally, we can all learn from each other.

I’ll admit to being a technology advocate. I can assure you that you won’t ever see my advocating a prohibition on the use of laptop computers in the classroom. 

Please join us in this blog conversation and experiment, which is so well summed-up by the “mission statement” of this blog:

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.



October 27, 2010 in About This Blog | Permalink | Comments (3)

Skills development in the United States

      Skills (including legal skills) do not develop spontaneously or in a vacuum. Skills reflect a fusion of an array of factors, such as education; experience; mentors; cohesive families; and supportive economic, social, legal, and political institutions and policies. Consequently, acquiring a useful skill involves, typically, a long-term investment by both an individual and others near and far who provide direct as well as indirect support for a person’s skill-development efforts.

      In that context, Tom Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times -- “Can’t Keep a Bad Idea Down” -- highlights Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5, a newly published report from The National Academies Press that offers a sobering view of where the country stands globally in long-term investments in some of those skill-building factors. Friedman writes:

      Here is the story: In 2005 our National Academies responded to a call from a bipartisan group of senators to recommend 10 actions the federal government could take to enhance science and technology so America could successfully compete in the 21st century. Their response was published in a study, spearheaded by the industrialist Norman Augustine, titled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future.”
      Charles M. Vest, the former M.I.T. president, worked on the study and noted in a speech recently that “Gathering Storm,” together with work by the Council on Competitiveness, led to the America Competes Act of 2007, which increased funding for the basic science research that underlies our industrial economy. Other recommendations, like improving K-12 science education, were not substantively addressed.
      So, on Sept. 23, the same group released a follow-up report: “Rising Above the Gathering Storm Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5.” “The subtitle, ‘Rapidly Approaching Category 5,’ says it all,” noted Vest. “The committee’s conclusion is that ‘in spite of the efforts of both those in government and the private sector, the outlook for America to compete for quality jobs has further deteriorated over the past five years.’”
      But I thought: “We’re number 1!”
      “Here is a little dose of reality about where we actually rank today,” says Vest: sixth in global innovation-based competitiveness, but 40th in rate of change over the last decade; 11th among industrialized nations in the fraction of 25- to 34-year-olds who have graduated from high school; 16th in college completion rate; 22nd in broadband Internet access; 24th in life expectancy at birth; 27th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering; 48th in quality of K-12 math and science education; and 29th in the number of mobile phones per 100 people.

      Although not mentioned by Friedman, two years after publication of the original Gathering Storm report, The National Academies Press issued an updating essay, Is America Falling Off The Flat Earth?, written by Norman Augustine, the chair of the Gathering Storm Committee.


October 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Four low cost commercial legal research alternatives to Wexis

Here's a list of low cost legal research alternatives compiled by a Milwaukee law firm librarian courtesy of the Wisconsin Law Journal.  The article appears to be authored before Lexis announced its special solo practitioner rates - which currently makes Lexis a very competitive product - so some of these alternatives may no longer be as inexpensive as they once were.  Also, the article omits mention of Bloomberg Law which offers attractive pricing as well.

The four recommendations are Fastcase, Loislaw, VersusLaw and The (kudos for grabbing that last domain name).  You can read a detailed description of each product courtesy of the Wisconsin Law Journal here.

Hat tip to Eric Young.


October 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How U.S. News Ranks Legal Writing Programs

Once again, U.S. News has requested my assessment of law school legal writing  programs for the purpose of computing its rankings of these programs. I haven't responded in several years and don't know if I will this year.

Here is how the procedure works. I receive a list of ABA accredited law schools and am requested to place an "x" next to the names of up to 15 law schools with top programs. U.S. News compiles the survey results and, based solely on this information, compiles its rankings.  That's  it.

I probably know as much as anyone about LW programs around the  country, but still am in no position to rank them. High rankers tend  to be law schools whose LW profs are heavily involved  in national LW organizations and who publicize their school's efforts. Being active on the Legal Writing Institute listserv seems to help. In my opinion, some schools deserve to have ended up with high rankings, but some do not. In any  case,  the rankings process is far from reliable.


October 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hard Copy Texts or E-Books?

 According to  a study by the National Association of College Stores, 76 percent of students surveyed preferred hard copies.  The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the study.


October 27, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

UK law firm uses battery of tests to assess qualified law school candidates

Despite what I said below, one UK law firm has decided to use a battery of psychometric tests, including one designed to measure critical thinking skills, in order to make "better" hiring decisions.  The firm has also made its application form more difficult to complete in order to weed-out the ambivalent.

As Legal Week reports:

Applicants will now visit the firm twice as part of the initial recruitment process but will only be interviewed by a fee earner if they pass a first-round assessment consisting of a number of written tests, including a newly-added psychometric testing element.

The top 15 UK law firm [Simmons and Simmons] said the changes were partly implemented in a bid to reduce the time fee earners spend on the recruitment process.

After a consultation earlier this year, Simmons has added the Watson Glaser test, which examines critical thinking, to its trainee recruitment process and plans to also roll it out to vacation scheme applicants next year.

Maybe Professor Henderon is right after all.

You can read more about this UK firm's new twist on job candidate assessment here.

Hat tip to the online ABA Journal blog.


October 27, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)