Saturday, November 6, 2010
The Howard University Law School’s Clinical Law Center has opened an Investor Justice and Education Center. The clinic will assist investors who have suffered from stockbroker misconduct. Students will help clients understand documents, represent them before arbitration panels, and conduct educational and outreach programs for community groups and organizations.
Friday, November 5, 2010
In the November 2010 issue of the Michigan Bar Journal, Wayne Schiess (University of Texas) writes about his work in helping redraft the Texas bar’s pattern jury charges. When tested in mock jury trials, the plain English revisions showed modest gains in comprehensibility. According to Schiess, making the revisions encountered resistance from some judges who opposed some of the changes. Eventually, the reform was put on hold, but has since been reactivated. The article includes examples of the proposed revisions.
On November 2, three interesting metaphors popped up in the Supreme Court oral argument in Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association (No. 08-144). A California statute bans deviant violent video games that are. At issue was whether the statutory ban violates the First Amendment.
In his opening statement challenging the statute, Paul M. Smith of Jenner & Block used the metaphor “free pass” to argue that California was attempting to avoid the limitations that the First Amendment places on government
" The California law at issue restricts the distribution of expressive works based on their content.California, as we have heard today, does not seriously contend that it can satisfy the usual First Amendment standards that apply to such a law this Court to grant it a new free pass, a brand-new Ginsberg-like exception to the First Amendment that would deny constitutional protection to some ill-defined subset of expressive works, and I submit not just video games, but necessarily movies, books and any other expressive work that describes or portrays violence in a way that some court somewhere, some day, would decide is deviant and offensive."
Justice Ruth Ginsburg expressed her concern that permitting this regulation of expression on the basis of violent content could have a “spillover potential” that could lead to further inroads on the First Amendment. She noted that the Court had been careful not to expand the reach of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942), which gave “fighting words” no First Amendment protection lest expanding the doctrine further limit the protection afforded by the First Amendment. Thus the Court had been careful to “cordon off” that doctrine.
"Because this Court, with respect to the fighting words, Chaplinsky's "in your face," provoked an immediate action, the Court has been very careful to cordon that off so it doesn't have this spillover potential."
Here is the transcript of the oral argument. The metaphors are on pages 1 and 18. Professors teaching oral argument may want to consider using this transcript. With minimal education on a handful of cases, students would find the arguments quite accessible and interesting.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Upcoming legal skills conference: "Empire State Legal Writing Conference - Teaching Legal Writing Effectively to Prepare Students for Practice"
Here's the call for proposals:
The Second Annual Empire State Legal Writing Conference will be held at the St. John’s University campus in lower Manhattan on Friday, May 13, 2011. We invite proposals for presentations on a broad range of topics relevant to those teaching legal writing and research. We hope to provide attendees with practical teaching suggestions to implement in their own classrooms. Some possible topics include the following: experiences in the first years of teaching, preparing students for practice, best practices for teaching written legal analysis, and effective responses to student questions. We seek proposals from those who have previously presented at legal writing conferences and also from those who have not presented before. Please feel free to contact any of the Planning Committee Members so that we may assist you in developing your proposal, or if you would like to see sample proposals. Individual and panel presentations are both welcome, especially where panel members are from different schools.
With the widespread use of PDF documents in the legal community (e.g., for electronically filing documents with courts), the value of converting scanned PDF documents into searchable PDF files increases accordingly. In my appellate work, I scan many documents from the appellate record (transcripts in particular) into PDFs and then use Adobe Acrobat's OCR feature to make the PDFs searchable, a conversion that also permits me to copy and paste from the documents.
For those who don't have the full Acrobat program (or a substitute that offers an OCR capability), the November issue of WSLL @ Your Service, the Wisconsin State Law Library newsletter, links to a helpful roundup of online OCR services, some of them offering the conversion at no charge. As WSLL Electronic Services Librarian Heidi Yelk notes, however, the effectiveness of an OCR conversion depends a great deal on the quality of the scan, which, in turn, depends largely on the clarity of the scanned document.
Another article about the impact of technology on students' performance might seem a yawner at this point (for some reason, articles of this sort often call to mind the National Lampoon cover that asked, "Pornography: Threat or Menace?," or Mark Twain's "Well, some said he was, some said he wasn't" answer in "An Encounter with an Interviewer"), but a recent piece in Government Technology -- "Technology Can Be Tool for Student Success, and a Distraction at Home" -- digs a bit deeper than many treatments of the topic, highlighting The Information Communication Technology (ICT) Test Bed, a United Kingdom project that ran from 2002 to 2006 "to explore how ICT can be used to support the Government's wider agenda for education reform."
Can a lawyer have a client sign a power of attorney authorizing the lawyer to execute for the client all the important documents in a matter—for example, settlement agreements and settlement checks? No, except in extraordinary circumstances say the Ohio Supreme Court’s ethics board. Such a practice “shortchanges the client’s role in the legal representation.”
Here, the ethics board was addressing a contingent fee agreement containing this authorization. Query: Would the same concerns apply to a non-contingent fee agreement? One would think so. U.S. Law Week summarizes the opinion in some detail.
Legal Research and Writing Profs who read this blog - get a free copy of the essential reference book "Typography for Lawyers"
Joe Hodnicki of the Law Librarian Blog just clued me into this great offer for Legal Research and Writing Profs (only) who happen to read this blog. During the month of November, you can get a free copy of "Typography for Lawyers" authored by Matthew Butterick and pressed by Jones McClure. The catch, small as it may be, is that you must mention the "Legal Skills Prof Blog" (and be a bona fide LRW prof) to get the deal. If you're interested (and who wouldn't be?), call the publisher at 800-626-6667 give them the "password."
As Joe says, Typography for Lawyers "is an essential companion to Garner’s usage manuals (who wrote the foreword), and rounds out a legal researcher’s reference tools."
Did I mention it's free during the month of November?
The Institute for Law Teaching and Learning is inviting proposals for presentations at its upcoming conference at New York Law School on June 1-3, 2011. The title of the conference is “Engaging and Assessing Our Students." The conference invites proposals on techniques for generating student engagement and for improving assessment of students to enhance their learning. I have always found the Institute’s conferences to be rewarding and fun. The deadline for proposals is February15.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Professor Bill Henderson of Indiana U. School of Law, an expert on the legal marketplace and someone we've blogged about many times before, has announced he's started a consulting firm called Legal Metrics whose purpose is to help legal employers make "better" hiring decisions.
As reported by the ABA Journal blog:
A law professor known for his analysis of law firm hiring statistics has formed a new company, along with other like-minded experts, to take a more detailed look at the qualities shared by successful applicants, attorneys and partners.
Lawyer Metrics will also apply a 'Moneyball' approach to help quantify what qualities partners seek in an associate, reports the Am Law Daily. (The article doesn't address whether the characteristics partners seek are, in fact, traits common to fledgling legal eagles rather than their lower-flying counterparts.)
However, law professor Bill Henderson of Indiana University tells the ABA Journal that his company will help law firms collect and analyze their own data to optimize their hiring, training, retention and promotion policies.
'We want to design and build systems to select and develop world-class lawyers and counselors,' Henderson says, arguing that law firms will not only be more productive and competitive as a result but have happier attorneys who are working to their full potential in an environment of success.
'The legal profession's in turmoil, but we think we can help,' he tells the ABA Journal. 'We think this will definitely make things better.'
As I mentioned before, I'm skeptical about whether firms will spend the money, at least with respect to new grads, for this kind of analysis when indicators like school and class rank are available for free, despite their limitations and imperfections (not to mention law firms' own internal hiring data). But Professor Henderson has studied how firms make hiring decisions whereas I'm only relying on the common sense notion that cost (of the penny-wise, pound foolish type) drives most business decisons. If he's right, it may open the door to more of our grads who otherwise get left behind in the jump hunt.
Read more about Legal Metrics here.
Here are two jobs you may be interested in or, if not, please pass the information along to someone you know who may be interested.
First up are a couple of skills/legal writing positions available at the newly opened UCal Irvine School of Law. Prior teaching experience is required. Given that these are tenure track jobs, pay between $150 - 200K and only require teaching 31 to 35 students per semester, the competition for these is likely going to be "hotter and tighter than a fat man in a spandex bathing suit sitting in a convertible with a black interior on a Texas blacktop in the summer" to use a description Dan Rather once applied to a political race (he really did say that).
Here are more details:
Applicants should have at least three years of teaching experience and three years of practice experience. All applicants should submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, a writing sample,and your last two years of student evaluations. All applications should be submitted to UCI's online application system here [where you can also find more information].
The other teaching position we have to tell you about is a legal clinic fellowship opportunity at U. Baltimore School of Law. Here are the details on this one:
The University of Baltimore School of Law invites applications for a Fellowship in its Civil Advocacy Clinic to start on or about May 1, 2011. This public interest fellowship program offers practicing attorneys exposure to law school clinical teaching.
The Civil Advocacy Clinic represents low-income individuals and organizations in poverty law litigation, legislative advocacy, and legal reform. The Clinic handles a wide variety of cases, which include housing, public benefits, consumer, employment, and special education law. The Civil Advocacy Clinic Fellow's duties include direct supervision of case work by clinic students and clinic classroom teaching in coordination with clinic faculty. Fellows also pursue professional goals in conjunction with his/her clinic director, including opportunities for scholarship.
Over on Jim Maule’s tax blog “Mauled Again,” Jim asks, “Could tax professors be more “tax return hands-on than tax practitioners?” In other words, the members of which group are more likely to fill out their own tax returns and thus are more attuned to the frustrations of the average citizen?
From the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court:
The Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility of the American Bar Association has published Formal Opinion 10-457, which provides valuable guidance to lawyers and law firms who make use of websites in the public presentation of their practices. The opinion addresses content issues such as providing information about the firm or practice, publishing information about the law, and handling visitor inquiries. It also provides advice on warnings or cautionary statements intended to limit or clarify the practice’s obligations to visitors.
Some of the high points of the opinion’s coverage include:
- A website may offer biographical and professional information about the lawyers and practice, but such statements that are “communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services” are subject to the requirements of Rules 7.1, 8.4(c) (generally), and 4.1(a) (when representing clients).
- Information that identifies clients may be posted, but the clients should provide informed consent within the requirements of Rules 1.6 (current clients) and 1.9 (former clients).
- Lawyers and firms may address legal issues on the website. Such communications should be general information rather than specific advice. Qualifying statements may be necessary to make sure that such information is not construed as legal advice.
- Lawyers who respond to questions or inquiries from website visitors should be particularly aware of the provisions of Rule 1.18 regarding prospective clients. The opinion addresses this topic at length.
- Finally, warnings or cautionary statements on a lawyer’s website can be designed to and may effectively limit, condition, or disclaim a lawyer’s obligation to a website reader. The opinion makes a number of observations on assuring that such statements are effective.
The opinion’s coverage of these issues is much more detailed than this brief summary. Lawyers and law firms who publish websites would benefit from reviewing the opinion and checking their own sites along the lines it suggests.
The California State Board of Governors has adopted a sample contract with which a lawyer can designate a surrogate to take control of the practice in case of death or disability. Without such an agreement, the California Bar seeks a court order to take over the practice. It collects the files and attempts to return them to the clients and does not try to find a new attorney to take over cases. New York and Indiana also have successor programs in place. Here is an article on the subject in the California Bar Journal. The article contains a link to the sample contract and to guidelines for dealing with the situation.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Lawjobs.com has created a couple of great charts that summarize salaries for in-house counsel positions ranging from general counsel to those who are hired fresh out of law school.
Click on this link to view the chart reporting the average salaries of non-management in-house attorneys. And click on this link to see the chart showing average salaries for all in-house positions (as well as information about whether those salaries have dipped or increased since 2009).
According to this story from lawjobs.com, South Florida is attracting many temp attorney agencies because of lower costs than larger legal markets like Washington, D.C. and New York where the going wage for contract attorneys averages $50.00 per hour. In South Florida, contract lawyers typically make $20.00.
South Florida, with relatively lower rates, is fast becoming a document review center, say industry employment agencies. Rates in New York and Washington run more like $50 an hour. In the Daily Business Review's 2010 managing partners survey, 23 percent of managing partners reported using them. (The question was not asked in previous years.)
The same trend is being seen with in-house lawyers. Corporations like Office Depot and Pediatrix, and real estate companies are increasingly turning to contract attorneys rather than hiring lawyers outright, sources say.
'Corporations are doing a substantial amount of substantive legal work on a contract basis in South Florida,' said Jonathan Broder of Strategic Professional Staffing in Aventura. He noted 200 attorneys work at a Miramar document review center run by Huron Consulting Group, one of six such centers the company operates around the country.
You can read more here.
At what point does a client lack the capacity to execute a document, and who decides? Suppose a lawyer or financial advisor suspects that a client’s mind is slipping? New research suggests that an early sign of dementia is an inability to understand money and credit, contracts and agreements. A recent New York Times article is important reading for professionals dealing with seniors.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Is this the beginning of a trend that will eventually see law profs replaced by robots? (I'm sure that's every law dean's dream). As we reported earlier, the UK has developed robots to grade English papers (some UK educators say that it's not "whether" robots will replace certain teaching functions, but only a question of "when").
Now this story from the Chronicle of Higher Ed reports that South Korea is developing its own robot-teacher:
Robots now build cars, defuse bombs, and explore distant planets, but can they teach?
Researchers at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology think so and are building an army of robots to deliver English instruction to schoolchildren. It might be the most elaborate online-learning effort yet.
As an engineering achievement, they are a feat. Brightly colored and shaped like penguins, the roughly three-foot-tall robots can roll around, recognize speech, and display facial expressions as they broadcast audio. They are designed to help with pronunciation, among other tasks.
The robots can teach in one of two ways: either by leading students through preprogrammed exercises or by having a human operate them remotely using the Internet.
In wondering whether the US is secretly developing its own robot-teacher, I'm reminded of the line from Dr. Strangelove: "Mister President, we must not allow a mine-shaft gap!" If South Korea and the UK have them, can the US really be that far behind?
You can read the rest here.
Professors Michael Hunter Schwartz and Gerald Hess are the guiding force behind a new series of legal textbooks published by the Carolina Academic Press that are designed "to make it easy for professors to implement the ideas in Best Practices for Legal Education (CLEA 2007) and in the Carnegie Foundation’s Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Practice of Law (2007)."
According to the Carolina Academic Press website, the textbooks in this series offer the following:
- Provide resources, such as multiple-choice question banks and essays with answers, designed to make it easier for professors to provide students opportunities for practice and feedback;
- Focus on problem-solving in simulated law practice contexts across a wide range of practices, including both advocacy and transactional practices;
- Include teachers’ manuals that make it easy to use multiple methods of instruction and to emphasize active learning;
- Guide students’ development of self-directed learning strategies;
- Incorporate learning objectives and doctrinal overviews and situate topics in the law practice contexts in which they arise;
- Include questions that prompt readers to question, reflect, and analyze as they read;
- Provide exercises that require students to reflect on the roles of lawyers and their own professional development;
- Integrate self-regulated learning skills and exercises; and
- Help students to discover links between what they are learning and real life
Here's a link to the titles in the series including their release dates.
Hat tip to Professor Sarah Ricks.