December 25, 2010
So, what are you doing reading blogs on December 25? This shoud be a day off. Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, most of the country is shut down, and you should be going to a movie or doing something fun.
Seasons greetings from The Drifters
December 24, 2010
It's a "go-go Christmas" from the Legal Skills Prof blog
Here's a fun, vintage video clip to get you in the holiday mood. Season's Greetings from your friends at the Legal Skills Prof blog. Enjoy!
A big hat tip to Tav Falco - a true gentleman, scholar and friend.
Ten Gifts That Will Cause Your Children Lasting Psychological Damage
From PsychologyToday.com I hope at least some of this is humorous or I have given my children lots to tell their future therapists about. :)
Dickens, Bleak House, and Transactional Costs
At this festive time of year, our literary thoughts turn to Charles Dickens. Though lawyers may appreciate “A Christmas Carol,” they may also reflect on his voluminous novel, “Bleak House,” in which Dickens takes to task the legal system of his day. The book offers a lesson in the transactional costs of litigation. The story centers around the lengthy will contest of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. After many year of litigation, the case seems to be reaching a conclusion. However, the costs of litigation have eaten up all the assets of the once-ample estate.
From the viewpoint of literary style, I recommend the first few pages of Chapter One where Dickens masterfully combines a discussion of London’s November fog with the ambience of the High Court of Chancery.
December 23, 2010
Emily Dickinson on Poets--and Teachers
Here is one of Emily Dickinson’s well known poems. If we substitute “teachers” for “poets,” we can appreciate her imagery even more.
The Poets light but Lamps—
The Wicks they stimulate—
If vital Light
Inhere as do the Suns—
Each Age a Lens
Scribes - The American Society of Legal Writers activates redesigned websiteJust in time for the holidays and new year, Scribes - The American Society of Legal Writers is pleased to announce it has activated a redesigned website. (For a comparison with the previous site, see an archived version here.) We invite you to visit and discover (or rediscover) Scribes. For more information about Scribes, please contact Professor Norm Plate, Scribes executive director, at Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
From Scribes’s officers and board of directors, best wishes for a happy (and safe) holiday season and new year. And we hope you enjoy our new website.
A new approach to law firm hiring - will it catch on?
From the better late than never file (this was reported by Above the Law back in September but wasn't brought to my attention until now). A Tennessee law firm wants to change the way new grads are recruited by waiting until their third year to take them for a test drive. Here's the firm's press release:
Waller Lansden launches Schola2Juris recruitment initiative at UT
Waller Lansden will be on campus at the College of Law on Monday, Sept. 13, to unveil its new recruitment program to 2L students. After months at the drawing board, the Nashville-based firm of 190 attorneys will send representatives to discuss the intensive, practice-specific apprenticeship program, Schola2Juris, that will become its new pathway for hiring entry-level associates. Kathleen Pearson, director of professional recruiting, explained, “Rather than anticipating our hiring needs almost two years in advance, this program will enable the firm to assess its actual needs by practice area and focus its energies and resources on students whose skills and interests align with those needs.”
Waller Lansden attorneys and Pearson will outline the program model, which is based on a six week fall apprenticeship with work assignments and feedback delivered remotely between students in Knoxville and firm attorneys in Nashville. Current 2L students will apply in July before their 3L year begins. The program will be held in early fall, and participants will visit Nashville for a fall weekend retreat and have regular interaction with partners and associates during the six-week program. Offers for associate positions will be in keeping with established timetables for legal recruitments, so students can compare their experience with traditional summer associate programs before accepting an offer of an associate position.
And here's ATL's Elie Mystal's take on this new approach to law student hiring:
1) Moving recruiting to right before 3L year (as opposed to before 2L year) is an idea some firms have been begging for.
2) You are applying for positions the firm knows it needs to fill, not jobs the firm hopes will be available.
3) Did they just say feedback could be delivered remotely? Good God, you mean there is some machine that has been invented that allows people to work on assignments and receive feedback without physically being in the same office?
4) What the hell else are you doing as a 3L anyway?
Will this approach catch on? Perhaps among regional firms looking to hire from regional law schools (which is where most legal hiring occurs anyway) but I think it's unlikely to gain much traction in the "national" market.
You can read more about this story from ATL here.
Hat tip to Dean Athornia Steele.
December 22, 2010
Lawyers and social media - here comes the inevitable backlash
Here's a story about the backlash from lawyers about the use of social media as a business enhancement tool. New technology follows a familiar arc - people rush to embrace it without fully understanding it (how could they? Only time and experience can fully shake it down) and then a backlash follows when it inevitably fails to live up to the hype (which is often driven by consultants and other "experts" with a vested interest in selling you their "expertise"). Social media isn't a panacea for a moribund book of business (anymore than PowerPoint is a cure for a teacher's lack of ideas in the classroom). Whether an attorney is able to take advantage of social media to grow her client base depends on networking of the old fashion sort.
Is the social media phenomenon overhyped? A growing chorus of voices says yes. Critics argue there are no credible ways to measure return on investment in social media. They also contend there’s no definitive data showing that social media create business, or that the number of followers you have on Twitter or friends on Face book translates into dollars earned.
. . . .
'Too often social media is a bunch of one-way conversations,' [a D.C. lawyer and president of a PR firm] says. 'Facebook pages have effectively become Wikipedia entries. Law firms post and walk away, and it becomes a dust- and spam-collecting feed, which creates the impression of being lazy with your online presence. Twitter profiles offer little more than glorified news feeds.'
. . . .
'A lot of people focus on the technology, thinking that it has some-thing to do with Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook,' O’Keefe says. 'Those are just tools. People haven’t stepped back and asked, ‘How do I grow as a lawyer?’'
'You learn, network, meet mentors and join associations. You go where there are people you could learn from. Social media are very effective for becoming a better lawyer, and it’s a very, very effective way of nurturing relationships with existing clients, which will bring in more work.'
Still, if you’re stuck on analytics, O’Keefe suggests asking yourself these four questions:
• Are you extending your reach—for instance, by having social media content indexed on Google, which pushes your website higher in search rankings?
• Are you engaging people by building personal relationships with them?
• Is your influence increasing in your practice area, perhaps because your content is shared and shared again on LinkedIn and Twitter?
• Are you activating your audience in the form of calls from clients or to speak at events?
'We get way overblown on social media because it’s new,' [Kevin O’Keefe, CEO and publish er of Seattle-based Lexblog] says. 'But it’s not that complicated. Take a deep breath and realize this thing called social media was going on 100 years ago. It’s just building relationships.'
A couple of books of interest for new lawyers.
The first one is called "Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: The Essential Guide to Thriving as a New Lawyer" by - get this - Grover Cleveland. Here's a summary courtesy of Amazon:
This book contains hundreds of tips from attorneys throughout the country with the critical advice new lawyers need to ensure their success. The book provides useful, practical advice that law schools never teach. It starts with important steps graduates can take even before they begin work. With an easily readable style, Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks continues to teach new lawyers the ropes from their first day on the job. Humorous, real-life examples illustrate the lessons along with bulleted tips that provide comprehensive advice quickly.
Next up is "The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law" by occasional ATL columnist Mark Herrmann. Here's a summary courtesy, again, of Amazon:
This collection of essays written by The Curmudgeon, offers practical, honest and you need to know this advice for surviving and thriving in a law firm. The book covers the basics of law practice and law firm etiquette, from doing effective research and writing to dressing for success, dealing with staff and clients and building a law practice. Concise, humorous and full of valuable (albeit curmudgeonly) insight, this is a must-read for every newly minted law school graduate or new lawyer.
A big hat tip to ATL.
Words with No Place in Plain English
At plainlanguage.com you can find a “Bathetic Word List,” consisting of words that have no place in clear, effective communication. This list of about 500 words may humble those of us who champion plain English, but still use a great many of these words. This list is a bit more inclusive than my list would be, but still worth pondering.
December 21, 2010
Hey kid - wanna buy some Adderall?
It's been widely reported for a few years that Adderall, a prescription drug used to treat ADHD, is abused by college students (and some of their professors) who believe it's a "smart" drug that can increase performance during exams and other "crunch" times. But you probably didn't know just how easy it is to score the drug until this report from the University of Wisconsin, Madison where two journalism students were able to get some illicit Adderall within 56 seconds of asking a stranger.
Last school year, two UW-Madison journalism students walked into a campus library with a mission: See how fast they could score some Adderall, a popular prescription 'smart drug' that users say improves their ability to study.
They were good to go in 56 seconds.
All it took was a tap on the shoulder of one woman, a stranger at a table of students studying in silence. Asked if she knew where someone could buy some Adderall, the woman offered to call her friend downstairs, who was selling it.
. . . .
'When I first started taking Adderall, I was like Superwoman,' said Alyssa, a recent UW-Madison graduate now studying at a law school in New York. She asked that her real name not be used out of fear it might harm her career. 'You get a little jolt, and you’re just so much more motivated.'
But Alyssa also experienced the downside of the stimulant, which is commonly available for $5 a pill. A few years ago, she began overusing Adderall, overdosed and landed in the hospital.
You can read the rest courtesy of the Wisconsin State Journal.
Hat tip to Inside Higher Ed.
Texting is to email what email is to telegrams
Maybe the analogy isn't 100% true yet, but it's pretty doggone close according to this story from Tuesday's New York Times:
Signs you’re an old fogey: You still watch movies on a VCR, listen to vinyl records and shoot photos on film.
And you enjoy using e-mail.
Young people, of course, much prefer online chats and text messages. These have been on the rise for years but are now threatening to eclipse e-mail, much as they have already superseded phone calls.
. . . .
The problem with e-mail, young people say, is that it involves a boringly long process of signing into an account, typing out a subject line and then sending a message that might not be received or answered for hours. And sign-offs like “sincerely” — seriously?
Lena Jenny, 17, a high school senior in Cupertino, Calif., said texting was so quick that 'I sometimes have an answer before I even shut my phone.' E-mail, she added, is 'so lame.'
Consequently, email providers like Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL are getting left in the dust as more people gravitate towards instant messaging-like communication modes. Facebook is also revamping its email function to give it more of a contemporary, "texting" feel
As an aside, what's so bad about vinyl records? Compared to the crappy, compressed sound of an Mp3 file, vinyl still rules.
You can read the rest of the NYT's article here.
The first amendment doesn't include the right of teachers to select their own textbooks or curriculum
Thanks to the Adjunct Law Prof blog for alerting me to this Sixth Circuit opinion which rejected an Ohio high school teacher's reliance on the first amendment to protect her choice of textbook and instructional methods. Per brother Rubinstein:
Shelly Evans-Marshall, a public high school teacher claimed that she had a First (and 14th) Amendment right “to select books and methods of instruction for use in the classroom without interference from public officials” and that the school district had retaliated against her when she attempted to exercise those rights.
The Tipp City Board of Education disagreed, contending that Evans-Marshall’s right to free speech protected by the First Amendment does not extend to her in-class curricular speech.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, agreed with the school district's position, holding held that the use the right to free speech protected by the First Amendment does not extend to the in-class curricular speech of teachers in primary and secondary schools made “pursuant to” their official duties, citing Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410.
The decision is Evans-Marshall v Tipp City Exempted Village School District, CA Sixth Circuit, 09-3775. You can read more of Professor Rubinstein's analysis here.
By coincidence, today's Inside Higher Ed has an editorial by the president of AAUP that outlines what is, and what is not covered by "academic freedom" based on that organization's policy statements spanning the last 100 years. Under those practices covered by academic freedom is this:
Academic freedom gives faculty members substantial latitude in deciding how to teach the courses for which they are responsible.
But public high school teachers in Ohio (where, by statute, it's the local school board, not teachers, that is empowered to make curricular decisions) now won't have any luck relying on the AAUP's policy statement.
New, free legal research search engine that covers the music industry
If you're looking for a free way to research legal opinions related to the music industry, this new site is your ticket - the discography.com. Here's what it covers:
Our central Database includes 1,300 entries covering 2,400 court opinions (including over 30,000 pieces of data) spanning almost 200 years, fully summarized and searchable by numerous variables, featuring nearly every artist you'll think of (many you won't), covering copyrights and contracts, trusts, torts and more. There's also a Blog and up-to-date legal music News to boot. The Discography: Legal Encyclopedia of Popular Music has arrived.
You can search by artist name, plaintiff or defendant, year the case was decided, a brief description of the case and by the highest court that rendered a decision in the dispute. Pretty nifty, eh?
Yet one more valuable resource for the lawyer, or law student, looking to cut legal research costs.
Hat tip to the National Law Journal.
Letters of Engagement
The lack of a letter of engagement, or a poorly drafted one, can lead to serious misunderstandings between lawyer and client. Law students deserve to know a good bit about this document. Their knowledge would be enhanced by a drafting exercise.
Since 2002, New York Court Rules have required attorneys to provide clients with letters of engagement. Here is the suggested sample letter, and here is an analysis of the New York rule. Here is a short article on the interplay of New York’s engagement letter rule and the state’s new, related ethics rule. An interesting class exercise would be to have the students determine how to comply with both rules.
December 20, 2010
A new telephone survey of law firms finds that hiring will increase but employers are more selective
Following up on a post we blogged last week, a recent telephone survey of large and small law firms found that 31% expect to hire staff within the next three months. Many of the new positions will be in bankruptcy, foreclosure and litigation departments. However, employers said they are being more selective in their hiring decisions, wishing to hire a person with existing skills who can hit the ground running.
Legal hiring is expected to remain strong through the first quarter of 2011, according to the latest Robert Half Legal Hiring Index. The index, which consists of 200 telephone interviews of employees at both small and large firms found that 31 percent of lawyers plan to hire full-time staff in the next three months.
'Improved business conditions have prompted many law firms and corporate legal departments to hire for critical positions to manage rising workloads and achieve greater efficiencies,' said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. 'Organizations that cut staff levels too deeply during the downturn are now rebuilding their legal teams and seeking candidates specializing in the most active practice areas.'
. . . .
'Employers are increasingly selective, hiring job applicants who possess expertise in specific practice areas,' Volkert said. 'Often, firms are under pressure to immediately fill a role, and it can be challenging to swiftly identify the strongest candidate.'
Read more courtesy of the National Jurist online magazine here.
Friday fun on a Tuesday - the perfect t-shirt for your next trip to the airport
This is brilliant - a company called 4th Amendment Wear has designed t-shirts printed with pro-4th amendment slogans in metallic ink that show up during the new TSA body-scans. Don't even try to get one before Christmas - they've already sold out the first run. Check out the full range here. Hat tip to Above the Law.
The ten best legal TV shows of all time
- Law and Order.
- Boston Legal.
- The Practice.
- Ally McBeal.
- L.A. Law.
- Murder One.
- Perry Mason.
- The Defenders.
Hat tip to Susan Kilroy.
Law Profs v. West, Part II
Last week, I blogged about two law professors suing West for defamation. I am including that posting below. The jury has reached a decision. They have awarded the profs $5 million. A big holiday present!
Here's last week's blog:
In federal district court in Philadelphia, the jury trial has begun. Here is the thrust of the defamation action, as reported by the Legal Intelligencer:
Professors David Rudovsky of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Leonard Sosnov of Widener School of Law claim that West harmed their reputations when it falsely identified them as the authors of a poorly researched treatise update.
The pair say they had worked on updates to the treatise for years, but refused when West wanted to cut their pay. West's response, they claim, was to publish a "sham" update that still carried the professors' names but included almost no case updates.
Here is the plaintiffs’ complaint, which tells the story in some detail. It illustrates the proposition that sometimes a complaint is an important advocacy document and is more persuasive if it offers more than a short plain statement of the claim.