December 4, 2010
Bloomberg Financial "lawyers up" to compete with Wexis
This post from the Law Librarian Blog tells us that Bloomberg Law has become one of the largest employers of attorneys in NYC and that this hiring spurt has occurred in anticipation of competing with Wexis for your commercial research dollars.
While law firms have spent the last year and a half reeling from the financial crisis and trying to cope with diminished employee rosters, a new powerhouse is building a legal army: Bloomberg LP. The financial data and news juggernaut has quietly hired nearly 500 lawyers over the past year, making it the largest source of new legal jobs in New York. From its midtown headquarters, Bloomberg is positioning itself to attack the $14.5 billion legal research industry, which has been long dominated by the duopoly of LexisNexis, a $4 billion enterprise owned by Reed Elsevier, and Westlaw, which is part of the Thomson Reuters information empire.
. . . .
For now, it is far too early to say what impact Bloomberg Law will have. BLaw is a legal search vendor that integrates its inventory of financial industry content. When I saw a product demo my reaction was "I wish I had this service when I worked for a securities law firm in the early 1980s." But BLaw is only a legal search vendor. It does not have a product line of premium secondary legal resources. Acquiring BNA and unleashing BNA's sales force into this market would be a major plus. Content does not sell itself. BLaw also does not offer what WEXIS does as professional legal services vendors for this market segment, namely an electronic infrastructure ranging from practice management to billing and marketing support. At least not yet.
Fixed-Rate Pricing for Legal Search? Still the Financial Times is reporting that Bloomberg Law's Lou Andreozzi expects many law firms and corporate lawyers may prefer the service's flat-rates (e.g., $450 per attorney per month) instead of the more “expensive and unpredictable” sums they pay WEXIS. Andreozzi is signaling that BLaw discounting to increase its client base may be coming. See FT's Bloomberg Law’s discounts pose threat for details (and note Outsell industry analyst David Curle's comments)
Will fixed-rates for online legal search in the BigLaw and corporate legal department sector be the new normal? Free WestlawNext? Competitive fixed-rate pricing for Lexis Advance in the BigLaw and corporate legal department private sector? Watch for pricing concessions if BLaw poses a competitive threat. Also watch WEXIS start packaging its many discrete workflow solutions into "total solutions" including online search for the private sector market to compete with each other and with Bloomberg Law.
You can read the rest here.
Legal Writing Workshop at Widener--Thanks!
On Friday, I drove to the Widener University School of Law to take part in the Legal Writing Institute’s “One-Day Workshops.” It was one of 13 held on Friday across the nation, with two more yet to come.
The main topics were the Nuts and Bolts of Teaching Legal Writing; Grading Papers and Handling Student Conferences; Teaching Legal Research and Citation; and Thinking Forward.
Many thanks to Mary Ellen Maatman and her Widener colleagues for organizing the event, and a special thanks to all presenters: Peter Blum (Valparaiso), Jennifer Lear (Widener-Harrisburg), Theresa Clark (Villanova), Christine Mooney (Villanova), Mary Nagel (John Marshall-Chicago), David Raeker-Jordan (Widener-Harrisburg), Carol Wallinger (Rutgers-Camden), Susan King (Widener-Wilmington), Candace Centeno (Villanova), Mary Alice Peeling (Widener-Wilmington), Ann Fruth (Widener-Harrisburg), and James Lare (Marshall, Dennehy, Coleman & Goggin).
Another thanks goes to all who attended. As is true at every Legal Writing event, the audience makes the program really valuable by asking great questions and contributing valuable insights.
Debt Collection Firm Sets Up Phony Court
From the “Unbelievable Department” as reported by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania:
We have all heard stories of unlicensed persons engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. But a complaint filed by the Consumer Protection Bureau of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania points to what may be a first – the unauthorized practice of jurisprudence.
According to the Attorney General’s office, an Erie debt collection company allegedly set up a section of its office decorated as a courtroom, with furniture and decorations similar to those used in actual court offices, including a raised "bench" area; tables and chairs in front of the "bench" for attorneys and defendants; a simulated witness stand; seating for spectators; and, legal books on bookshelves. An individual dressed in black reportedly sat behind the “bench.” Attorney General Tom Corbett stated that “Consumers also allegedly received dubious 'hearing notices' and letters – often hand-delivered by individuals who appear to be Sheriff Deputies – which implied they would be taken into custody by the Sheriff if they failed to appear at the phony court for 'hearings' or 'depositions'." This technique was used to intimidate debtors into making payments, signing agreements, and turning over assets such as vehicle titles,
December 3, 2010
More "skills" scholarship: "How Courts Use Wikipedia"
This one is by U. Buffalo Reference Librarian Joseph L. Gerken and is available at 11 J. App. Prac. & Process 191 (2010). From the Lexis summary:
The Doe decision cites two Wikipedia entries that no longer exist, so it is impossible to use the "history" function in Wikipedia to identify the entries for these terms that were in place at the time of the decision A court's citation to an entry that is unavailable to the reader is of no use to him or her. In the course of its erudite discussion of the issue, the court averred that O'Grady's seemed to have more of the characteristics of a webzine than of a blog, citing the Wikipedia entries for those two terms. The Palisades Collection court said nothing about using Wikipedia to support assertions of fact that are peripheral to the core issues of a case, nor does its opinion preclude using Wikipedia as a source for uncontested facts. A review of the Wikipedia website reveals a pervasive and, for our purposes, disturbing series of disclaimers, among them, that: (i) any given Wikipedia article "may be, at any moment, in a bad state: for example it could be in the middle of a large edit or it could have been recently vandalized;" (ii) Wikipedia articles are "also subject to remarkable oversights and omissions;" (iii) "Wikipedia articles . . . are liable to be incomplete in ways that would be less usual in a more tightly controlled reference work;" (iv) "another problem with a lot of content in Wikipedia is that many contributors do not cite their sources, something that makes it hard for the reader to judge the credibility of what is written;" and (v) "many articles commence their lives as partisan drafts" and may be "caught up in a heavily unbalanced viewpoint." Concerns about the Open-Edit Feature of Wikipedia A number of decisions have focused on the anyone-can-edit aspect of Wikipedia in rejecting it as an authority. This endorsement suggests a possible niche for Wikipedia in court opinions as a source for information that simply is not available in more traditional authoritative sources, particularly when that information is not subject to dispute.
The use of Wikipedia as a gap filler in cases like these does not seem particularly problematic; indeed, in many instances, it enlightens readers about matters germane to, but not dispositive of, the issues in each case. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court ruled that Patel had received a simple majority. The court starts with the disclaimer that it does "not necessarily consider Wikipedia an authoritative source," yet it is clear that the court intends the Wikipedia entry on gangsta rap to be considered credible, if not authoritative, because the court cites Wikipedia in support of its conclusion that gangsta rap does not implicate any racial animus. Entries that have been edited thousands of times are particularly susceptible to this risk.
Scholarship alert: "Changing Fashion in Advocacy - 100 Years of Brief-Writing Advice"
This essay is authored by Professor Helen Anderson of U. Washington School of Law and is available at 11 J. App. Prac. & Process 1 (2010). From the abstract:
As one who teaches advocacy, and who has practiced in appellate courts, I wondered about the historical roots of the modern consensus of advice. A survey of brief-writing advice from the last century shows that neither ideas about brief writing nor those about the appellate brief itself have been static. In fact, researching brief-writing advice proved problematic because the very term "brief" has many meanings, and those meanings have changed over time. Using books and articles of brief-writing advice, Part II of this essay examines the changing nature of the brief during the early twentieth century and the transition from an abstract or outline to a fully fleshed prose argument. Brief-writing articles and books show a shift in emphasis from the purely logical argument to one that incorporates storytelling techniques and an artistic approach to the advocate's task. The ratio of written argument to oral presentation was the inverse of what it is today: Oral arguments would go on for hours - maybe even days - while briefs were for the most part only a few pages. The image of the scientist was replaced by the lawyer as artist and storyteller: Nevertheless, it is the central theory of this paper that brief writing is essentially a creative function in just as real a sense as writing dramas, novels, poems or short stories; that the greatest and most lasting satisfactions in life can be gotten from truly creative work; that thus really understood brief writing can become the most desirable and satisfaction-giving activity of the lawyer; further that the lawyer with the necessary equipment (principally a clear, emotional, as well as intellectual, understanding of the truth of this statement) the job will be attacked with pleasurable anticipation and zest. In the latter half of the twentieth century, the learned advice-givers continued to acknowledge the importance of the facts, but still spent most of their advice on logical argument and the technical aspects of brief-writing. These advisors integrated narrative, ethos, and logos with in-depth advice about use of authority and the proper construction of each section of a brief. Such an approach necessarily emphasizes logical reasoning over storytelling.
Using Visuals to Explain Complex Ideas
When matters are complex, word explanations often make them seem even more complex. In these instances, visuals can help out. For example, taming the national debt is a complex issue. Here is a 90 second video that explains the enormity of the problem. For a further examination of the problem, here is a posting from my colleague Jim Maule on his blog, “Mauled Again.”
(Please note: My purpose here is not to stir up a political debate, but only to offer an example of the power of a good visual aid.)
December 2, 2010
A meeting of DC law firm partners confirms that fundamental changes in legal practice are here to stay
Consistent with a report yesterday in the American Lawyer, the Blog of LegalTimes notes that a meeting of DC law firm partners supports the general consensus that recent changes in law practice resulting from the recession are likely permanent.
During a breakfast discussion this morning, the managing partners of some of Washington’s top law firms said that they believe the Big Law business model has fundamentally changed and that the industry is just now starting to figure out what the new environment is going to look like.
. . . .
Overall, the consensus was that 2009 was an unprecedentedly bad year, both in terms of drops in revenue and in the reduced headcounts many firms saw as a result of layoffs and associate deferrals. While there were some slight improvements in 2010, this year failed to mark a return to the boom-time days in the years leading up to the recession.
. . . .
Toward the end of the discussion, David Brown, the NLJ’s editor-in-chief who served as moderator, asked whether the changes being made by law firms today were temporary or marked a permanent shift in the profession. Flanagan said that he sees them as fundamental shifts that are here to stay, particularly in regard to alternative billing arrangements.
'For an alternative fee arrangement to work, firms have to deliver for their clients. That takes discipline and efficiency. That’s not going to change any time soon,' he said.
You can read the rest here.
A helpful technique for improving your writing - "turn it around"
This advice comes to us courtesy of a blog called "Manage Your Writing."
Novelist Philip Roth once wrote, "I turn sentences around. That's my life. I write a sentence and then I turn it around. Then I look at it and I turn it around again."
He was probably talking about sentences like this:There are three reasons why you should expand the product line.
There are is an "empty" opening. The two words tell you that something exists, but they don't tell you what it is. If you want to emphasize the three reasons, consider making reasons the subject:Three reasons why you should expand the product line are . . . .
If you want to emphasize the reader, make you the subject:You should expand the product line for three reasons.
If you want to emphasize the product line, make line the subject:The product line should be expanded for three reasons.
You can read the rest here.
Friday Fun: What if law school truly prepared students for practice?
The experience might be something like this tongue-in-cheek post from the Snark, courtesy of lawjobs.com. (To take the Snark's "BigLaw boot-camp" metaphor a step further, consider appointing Curtis LeMay as Dean and Jack Webb as professor).
BIG LAW BOOT CAMP
The Big Law Preparatory Curriculum should be offered as an elective seminar that lasts seven nights a week from 5 p.m. till 9 p.m. for an entire school year. Anyone who misses a single night -- for any reason -- receives no credit for the classes.
The schedule will immediately thin the herd of weaklings who aren't serious about pursuing Big Law careers. I expect at least half of the participants will quit after a few weeks. "But I had pneumonia -- I had to miss Sunday night's class!" Absolutely not. That is why they invented those handy little white masks -- cover your mouth, plug in your laptop and power through.
Those who can handle the schedule should then be subjected to a surprise "Reality Drill" lecture that occurs one unexpected Friday night at 8:50 p.m. -- just when the students think they are done for the day.
ADVANCED E-MAIL FOR BIG LAW COGS
This fast-paced class will give you the skills you need to read and comprehend 100 e-mails in less than two minutes. We will teach you how to use the preview pane to quickly prioritize e-mails from partners or clients in immediate distress by "panic-word spotting."
This course will provide guidance on deciphering e-mail tone, typing prompt and succinct responses, drafting CYA e-mails and searching to find CYA e-mails on a moment's notice -- all while being chastised for failing to do something that you were specifically told not to do but that you documented in the aforementioned CYA e-mail.
MATH FOR BIG LAW LAWYERS
Be the first law student to take a math class in law school with this riveting course! You will learn math equations that are essential to your very survival. Try calculating whether you are on track for hitting your annual minimum billable requirements: X/Y x 12 = Z, where X = total hours billed to date, Y equals total months that have passed in the year and Z = projected billables for the year. Amazing.
You can read the rest here, including another essential course called The Legal Assistant's Toolbox.
A near record number of students took the LSAT in October
The number of test-takers for the most recent sitting of the LSAT is exceeded only by the all-time record set last year. From the online ABA Journal Blog:
In October, there were 54,345 test-takers, a 10 percent drop from the record set last year, the blog Most Strongly Supported reports. A chart published by the Law School Admission Council has the specifics.
Most Strongly Supported says the decrease doesn’t mean interest in law school is cooling all that much, since the October 2010 numbers are the second-highest ever. 'One wonders why people continue to line up to attend law school,' the blog says, given stories of the tough legal job market and high law school debt.
Job announcement - BU seeking a transactional skills prof
Here's the announcement:
Boston University School of Law is seeking to fill a full time faculty position in teaching transactional skills. The person who is hired for this position must be able to design and teach in a program of instruction that gives students a foundation in the evaluation, formation, negotiation, documentation, and consummation of a business deal either in a clinical setting or in simulation courses. This is a non-tenure track position that will provide a long term contract. The position may also entail teaching a class outside the transactional skills program, subject to curricular needs and the interest of the successful applicant. Boston University School of Law is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and welcomes applications from individuals of diverse background. Interested individuals should submit a letter of interest and a resume listing references to Professor Nancy Moore, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Four Wordsmiths: In Memoriam
This past Sunday, Ben Zimmer of the New York Times paid tribute to four wordsmiths who passed on during 2010: journalists Edwin Newman and James J, Kilpatrick, and dictionary giants Sol Steinmetz and Frederick Mish. The memorials are well worth your time.
New Dayton Law Dean to Continue the School's Entrepreneurial Spirit
Paul McGreal, the Univerity of Dayton’s new law dean, plans to advance the school’s already innovative program. Here is an excerpt from an article in the National Law Journal:
"What excites me is working on creating institutional incentives and policies that support people doing good work," McGreal said. "This is a law school that's been entrepreneurial in looking at curriculum and the recruitment of students."
McGreal said he was attracted to Dayton because of its reputation for curriculum innovation. The school launched its "Lawyer As Problem Solver" program in 2005, emphasizing practical skills and requiring students to take a course in alternative dispute resolution, an externship and at least one clinical or capstone course based on a practice simulation. Dayton was among the first to launch an accelerated two-year J.D. program.
Here is a link to the full article.
December 1, 2010
Is it better to have a gap on your resume than do "temp" legal work? A response.
We'd previously blogged about some advice from legal career services folks who suggested that having "contract attorney" (i.e. document reviewer) on one's resume might be the kiss of death to some employers if you're hoping to snag a permanent position. They suggested one might be better off leaving a gap on your resume. So what's a recent law grad to do? Forgo a temp position because it might hurt her prospects for later, full-time employment?
Professor Mitchell Rubinstein of our sister publication, the Adjunct Law Prof Blog, is an employment law expert who offers a different take on a situation confronting many recent grads. In the words of Brother Rubinstein:
The worst thing on a resume is a gap because that implies that the person was fired. Whether that is true or not that is simply the implication. So, what is a person suppose to do? Getting a job as a temp shows that the person is willing to work and is not concerned with titles or form.
Sure, no one wants to be in this situation; but given the economy many lawyers find themselves in this situation. The responsible thing to do is to try to get out of it anyway you can.
You can read the rest of his thoughts on the subject here.
Job opening: U. Kentucky seeks Legal Writing Director
Here's the announcement:
Qualified applicants will have a J.D. degree from an ABA-accredited law school, a distinguished academic record, experience in the law school teaching of legal writing, and a serious commitment to students. The successful candidate will report directly to the Dean and, after a three-year probationary period, will be eligible for a renewable, five-year appointment as a clinical faculty member. The salary will be commensurate with experience.
The University of Kentucky College of Law seeks outstanding applicants for its newly created, full-time position of Director of Legal Research and Writing. The Director will lead and administer the College of Law’s Legal Research and Writing Program and will play an important leadership role in evaluating and improving the content, structure, and staffing of the present program, currently taught by 12 part-time adjunct instructors. In addition, the Director will teach one or more sections of the two-semester legal research and writing course for first year law students and other legal writing courses as assigned.
In administering the program, the Director will participate in the hiring, orientation, training, and evaluation of legal research and writing instructors; participate in the orientation of incoming first-year law students; prepare the syllabi and the common writing problems used by all legal research and writing sections; chair regular meetings of the legal research and writing instructors to discuss course content, teaching methods, and related issues; handle student issues related to the program; oversee the selection of legal research and writing award recipients; coordinate legal research and writing with the broader curriculum in conjunction with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; and perform other related administrative duties as assigned.
Applicants should submit a letter of interest, C.V., and at least three references to Professor Harold R. Weinberg, Everett H. Metcalf, Jr. Professor of Law, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee, University of Kentucky College of Law, Lexington, KY 40506-0048 by mail or electronically to him by email message and attachments to email@example.com. Applications should be received by January 15, 2011. The University of Kentucky College of Law is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.
Survey of AmLaw 200 finds that most think legal job market has fundamentally changed
From the American Lawyer:
After two years of turmoil, the nation's largest law firms are settling into a new normal. That's the takeaway from The American Lawyer 's 2010 survey of leaders of Am Law 200 firms, which suggests that many of the changes implemented during the recession--smaller associate classes, postponed start dates for new hires, reductions in the equity pool, and scaled-back profit expectations--are here to stay, at least for a while.
Sixty percent of the 124 respondents to the Law Firm Leaders survey said that the downturn has produced a fundamental shift in the legal marketplace, and a smaller proportion--32 percent--said that the downturn had caused their firm to adjust its business model.
How does this affect our recent and soon-to-be law grads who want to work for Big (and maybe not-so-Big) Law?
Clearly, the days of ever-expanding first-year classes are a thing of the past. More than 87 percent of respondents said that 2011's incoming class will be the same size or smaller than their (usually already reduced) 2010 class.
. . . .
[F]ew firm leaders worried that a smaller class size would leave them short-staffed in the event of a sudden uptick in work. With so many recent law school graduates looking for jobs, firms can staff up quickly if the need arises, says Perkins Coie managing partner Robert Giles.
Get the full AmLaw survey results with commentary here.
Proofread those statutes: Omission of single word results in acquittal for criminal defendant
A great lesson for law students about the importance of proofreading. From the online ABA Journal Blog:
A Virginia man accused of passing a stopped school bus has been acquitted because an amended law dropped the word 'at.'
The law as amended in 1970 requires drivers to stop school buses, rather than to stop at them, the Washington Post reports. The law reads:
'A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children.'
Fairfax County Judge Marcus William explained why he acquitted the defendant, John Mendez, according to the Post account. 'He can only be guilty if he failed to stop any school bus,' Williams said at the end of trial. 'And there's no evidence he did.'
Google is set to launch its E-book store
And the price of Barnes & Noble stock took a nosedive today in response. As reported by the Wall Street Journal:
Google, Inc. is in the final stages of launching its long-awaited e-book retailing venture, Google Editions, a move that could shake up the way digital books are sold.
The "Top 10" crime documentaries every law student should see.
The website CriminalJusticeDegreesGuide.com posted the list below but absent is a film that I consider to be one of the best crime documentaries of all time - and an especially good choice for law students - Billy Corben's Raw Deal: A Question of Consent. In this very disturbing documentary, the audience is cast as the jury for a rape trial that never happened. The crime itself was filmed by friends of the accused and the viewer must then decide whether or not consent exists. It's unforgettable. Here's the trailer:
O.k., the films chosen by CriminalJusticeDegrees are:
- The Staircase.
- The Thin Blue Line.
- Cocaine Cowboys (again with the Billy Corben).
- Deliver Us From Evil.
- The Trials of Darryl Hunt.
- American Pimp.
- Witch Hunt.
- Dear Zachary: A letter to a son about his father.
- The Iceman Confesses: Secrets of a Mafia Hitman.
- Scottsboro: An American Tragedy.
Check out a detailed description of each movie along with trailers here.
Hat tip to Professor Joseph Bazan.
Should Judges Accept Gifts?
Should a judge be permitted to receive gifts from those who do business before the court? In Pennsylvania, the answer is yes, provided the judge makes disclosure of gifts valued at $250 or more. According to the New York Times, almost no other state follows this policy. According the Philadelphia Inquirer, perhaps the leading judicial recipient of gifts in Pennsylvania is the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. See also here. The Justice’s record shows no pattern of favoritism; however, the practice of receiving gifts may affect public perceptions. Members of the federal judiciary may not receive gifts. The Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are not subject to this ban.