January 8, 2011
Another "uh-oh" moment for the legal community?
Apropos an earlier post touching on the need to lay strong skills foundations for success in law school and law practice, see this New York Times piece today profiling William H. Fitzhugh, the “cantankerous publisher” of The Concord Review, “a journal that showcases high school research papers.” Midway through the article (which highlights Fitzhugh’s lament about the state of students’ writing and research skills), this paragraph appeared:
“I can’t count all the lawyers who say their firms have organized remedial classes for all the associates who can’t write,” Mr. Fitzhugh said.
And see this New York Times article -- “Top Test Scores From Shanghai Stun Educators” -- reporting on the results of the worldwide Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009 conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This survey, the fourth since 2000, “examine[d] 15-year-old students’ performance in reading, mathematics and science.” The survey’s framework “includes not only the assessment of reading and understanding printed texts, but also an innovative component to assess how well students read, navigate and understand electronic texts.” A chart comparing the results from the surveyed countries implies that if you regard research and writing skills as positively correlated with reading skills, many more U.S. law firms will need to develop remedial programs for associates.
I'm beaming with pride. For you, one last chance to contribute to LSS
I wrote this post earlier this week because at precisely the moment of its publication on Saturday (i.e. today), I'm standing at the finish line at Disney World in Orlando, Florida supporting my g/f Doreen who has just completed her first ever road race - and a half marathon to boot - that's 13 miles, son! - to raise money for Leukemia and Lymphoma research (I was diagnosed with the latter at the end of July). I couldn't possibly be more proud of her or love her more.
But enough about me. Let's talk about you. There's still time to make a donation. All you have to do is put your mouse right here and click.
January 6, 2011
Friday Fun: "My Blackberry is not working!"
There will always be an England:
Warm-up exercises to prevent finger and hand injuries from texting
Yes, that's right friends. The helpful folks over at the Attorney at Work blog have put together a list of warm-up exercises so you don't pull a muscle or otherwise get injured while texting.
Ergonomic experts say the strains and pains of texting and using other handheld devices such as iPads are quite similar to those seen in repetitive computer use—carpal tunnel, eye strain, and neck and back pain.
Warm Ups for Texting
For those of us (and you know who you are) who just can’t put the smartphone down, here are five easy exercises to warm up your texting muscles and prevent pain:
- Tap each finger with the thumb of the same hand (5 times).
- Pull your thumb firmly with the other hand.
- Tap the palm and back of your hand on your thigh as quickly as you can (20 times).
- Reach both arms up high and shake your hands. Reach both arms down low and shake your hands (3 times).
- Put your arms at 45-degree angles and squeeze them behind you.
You can read more about how to keep yourself injury-free while texting by clicking here.
January 5, 2011
Immediate publication opportunity for articles on law and technology
Since knowing how to effectively use technology in legal practice is a core skill for today's lawyer (yet it's a subject that's strangely absent from most law school course catalogues) this call for papers is squarely within our bailiwick. We bring it to you courtesy of the Legal Scholarship Blog:
The World Jurist Association is seeking articles of publishable quality in the field of law and technology for inclusion in a publication entitled Law/Technology. The journal has a readership in over 200 countries, including many of the major law libraries around the world. We publish 4 issues a year and are currently searching for articles for the 2011 publications.
In addition, we have a current issue which we need to fill immediately and therefore would consider articles that have been previously published but which are available for republication and would still be of interest to an international audience. For more information, contact Rachael Boyd at programs [at] worldjurist [dot] org, (202) 466-5428.
Blind law grad wins legal fight to use assistive software during bar exam.
From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:
Stephanie Enyart, who graduated from UCLA School of Law in 2009, tried to take the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam and the Multistate Bar Exam using a computer equipped with read-aloud software. But the National Conference of Bar Examiners refused to approve the accommodation. She sued, and a district court ruled that the conference must let her take the exams with the assistive software. Today’s decision, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, upheld the lower court’s rulings.
Read the full story here.
2010 Law School Survey of Student Engagement is now available
Here's the link to the annual report sponsored by the AALS and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Among the key findings are the following:
- Women law students are less likely to talk in class than men.
- Students who interacted with faculty more often were significantly more likely to report substantial gains in key areas related to professionalism and ethics compared to students with less faculty contact. Despite the benefit to students, opportunities for student-faculty interaction often are missed.
- Only about half of 1L, 2L, and 3L students said that they felt prepared to understand the needs of clients. Students with experience in clinical or pro bono work were more likely than others to report that they felt prepared.
- Fewer than 60% of law students generally felt prepared to work with colleagues as part of a legal team, cope with day-to-day stresses of law practice, deal with ethical dilemmas, serve the public good, or understand professional values.
- Students generally reported that faculty members play crucial roles in helping them to acquire work-related knowledge and skills, to work effectively with others, to develop a personal code of ethics, to understand themselves, and to deal with ethical dilemmas. Yet fewer than a third of 3Ls have worked closely with faculty members or frequently discussed class readings or career plans with faculty members. The average student found faculty members to be only moderately available, helpful, and sympathetic.
- More than 50% of 1L students reported motivations for law study related to securing a challenging and rewarding career, furthering academic development, achieving financial security, or achieving prestige. Younger students in particular were motivated to attend law school as a way to continue their studies when unsure about their next steps in life.
You can access the full report here.
The NITA white paper on how law schools can better prepare students for practice
This was published in October, 2009 though I only recently came across it. It was prepared by a group of lawyers (including one from the U.K.), NITA officials and consultants who discuss concrete ways that law schools can do a better job preparing students for practice (as well as suggestions about how legal employers can better train newly minted lawyers). Among the suggestions are that:
- Law schools will face increasing pressure to produce practice-ready lawyers in order to ensure their graduates find jobs. Cheaper legal services offered by off-shore companies mean that clients will be less willing to subsidize the legal training of new grads.
- Law schools need to train student in client relations, business development, financial planning, and leadership and management skills.
- Professional ethics training needs to be enhanced.
- American law schools can learn from domestic medical schools and European law schools that focus on solving client problems rather than the quality of one's own analysis.
- Law schools need to expand transactional training since most of the present "learn-by-doing" opportunities are focus on litigation problems.
Here's an excerpt:
With speed few anticipated and permanence even fewer are willing to predict, the legal industry has changed. While it remains to be seen just what will constitute the “new normal,” and how different it will be from what was a stable, profitable, and growing profession just a year ago, we believe that a skills-based lens provides important insights into today’s legal climate and crucial focus for those seeking success in tomorrow’s legal reality.
While seldom thought of in this way, the market for law school education is thus facing the same forces of increasing supply (as new law schools open and existing law schools seek to expand) and decreasing demand (from both funding effects and hiring patterns for new attorneys) as law firms. As a result, we believe that law schools, as well, will need to highlight—and in some instances, create—the connection between a law school education and value to the prospective lawyer, the firms that hire them and, ultimately, the clients that pay them. And that value increasingly will be grounded in quick-to-deploy skills, and not exclusively academic reputation or research excellence. In short, law students entering law firms will need to 'hit the ground running.'
You can read the full report here - even though it's more than a year old, it's just as pertinent today.
I always tell my students that they can fire difficult clients, assuming they have that authority. The Attorney at Work blog has an entertaining post on the subject. Some other attorney will almost always be willing to take on your ex-client. Clients who are always complaining and often refuse to follow your advice can eat up a lot of the time that you could be devoting to other clients. I am told that they are also the clients who are most likely not to pay their bills.
Wednesday Fun: Another entrepreneur jumps on the TSA protest-underwear bandwagon
The new TSA bodily search rules, while the bane of travelers, have become a boon to a few enterprising businessmen. We'd previously told you about a company called 4th Amendment Wear that makes undergarments printed with special metallic ink designed to show up during TSA body scans. 4th AW's undergarments feature such slogans as "Read the 4th Amendment perverts!" Now comes attorney Marc Carey's line of TSA-ready underwear with a more, um, understated approach according to the ABA Journal:
"Carey says the special ink used on his shirts blurs body parts that aren’t subject to search during a pat down by airport screeners from the Transportation Security Administration. 'They're not protest garments,' Carey told Fox19.com. 'They're designed to be a reasonable compromise for travelers to allow the TSA to do their job, but allow people to travel without a great deal of inconvenience and preserve their dignity.'"
You can read more courtesy of the ABA Journal blog here.
January 4, 2011
"Pay-as-you-go" fee arrangement is small firm's innovative way to provide legal representation
Creativity and flexibility is the name of the game these days when it comes to finding billing arrangements that work for lawyers and their clients. Here's another example courtesy of the ABA Journal Blog:
Paying an attorney on an a la carte basis, only for the specific legal services that you can afford, may not be ideal for a client.
But it's better than going without representation altogether because you can't afford standard legal fees of nearly $300 per hour, say two young lawyers who have established an unusual pay-as-you-go business model in Arizona.
At Tarascio & Del Vecchio in Mesa, clients don't have to pay a retainer fee and are charged between $99 and $129 hourly for out-of-court services, the East Valley Tribune reports.
Billie Tarascio says she and her partner, Allyson Del Vecchio, are still figuring out how to make the new model work. But 'we have no shortage of clients, so I guess that's the best affirmation of what we're doing. Our clients are grateful to have resources they didn't have before.'
Former law student charged with threatening professor, "razing and pillaging" his school
A former Florida Coastal Law School student was arrested after police discovered he had plans to "raze and pillage" the school. Part of his preparation also included a plan to adopt a cat from the local shelter so he could practice his killing technique. From the Florida Times Union:
The to-do list ran the gamut: from buying eggs to killing his Jacksonville law school professor and five others before fleeing the country.
And Michael Nader Behzadi, 26, had the firepower to back it up, according to police.
When he was arrested in March on charges of making threats, search warrants turned up 13 firearms, four stun guns and numerous rounds of ammunition. Jacksonville police also found what appeared to be child pornography, books like “The Anarchist Cookbook” and the written to-do list that included the phrase “raze and pillage” Florida Coastal School of Law.
You can read the rest here.
Hat tip to Professor Braccialarghe
The future of classroom note-taking technology?
Wow! Check this out - a prototype device called the Note-Taker 2.0 that's a PC-tablet with a split screen that allows students to simultaneously take class notes while video-recording the lecture on the top-half of the screen. Suppose the prof momentarily steps in front of the board obfuscating whatever scintillating notes she's scrawled there? Not a problem for the Note-Taker 2.0! It captures and holds for 10 seconds still video frames of all the action so students can scroll through past screen shots to find the one they need.
But wait! There's more! The Note-Taker 2.0 also allows students to capture and hold indefinitely any screen shot they choose while they handwrite notes on the lower half of the screen.
I've got to get me one of these!
Read all about it here along with photos of the device. A Note-Taker 3.0 is now in development. (In case Google Books sends you to the wrong page-stop, the title of the article describing this device is "The Note-Taker: A Tablet PC-based Device that Helps Students Take and Review Classroom Notes").
"The Learning Curve": January 2011 Edition
“The Learning Curve,” the online newsletter of the AALS Section on Academic Support, is now available. It contains 25 pages of helpful articles, particularly articles on giving feedback to students.
When interviewing for a job, chek yore speling - and your nose ring
Another development that perhaps portends more remedial intervention by law schools and law firms . . . . According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the increasing use of texting has led to a noticeable decline in the spelling skills of college students and recent graduates -- a decline that's undermining their job-seeking efforts.
Thoughts on Thinking Like an Outline
A primary message we send to students is that they should write in outline form. We encourage them to organize their notes in outline form. We insist that they draft briefs, memos, and other documents in outline form. For some, thinking and writing in outline form comes easily. For others, they think and organize differently. In the end, however, they must translate their documents into outline form.
I have no objections to this instruction. I also insist that my students produce documents that conform to an outline. Recently, however, I realized that many of their readers, particularly decision makers, including judges, do not naturally think in outline form. Their natural reasoning process may require flow charts or organizational models that look like puzzles. Thus, for these decision makers, we insist that they think like outlines.
The question then arises, how do we best communicate with decision makers who do not think like outlines, especially when we really don’t know which ones think like outlines and which do not? I don’t have an answer to this question. Perhaps, because I naturally think like an outline, I am not the best person to come up with an answer. Our blog permits readers to post comments. If you have thoughts on the subject, I hope you will share them.
January 3, 2011
Green Bag's list of best legal writing for 2010
And here's the list from the Green Bag Journal's best legal writing for 2010:
Opinions for the Court
• Frank H. Easterbrook, Bodum USA, Inc. v. La Cafetiere, Inc.
• John Gleeson, U.S. v. Ovid
• John L. Kane, U.S. v. Brownfield
• Kevin G. Ross, State v. Wiggins
Concurrences, Dissents, Etc.
• Alex Kozinski, U.S. v. Pineda-Moreno
• Diane P. Wood, Bodum USA, Inc. v. La Cafetiere, Inc.
• John H. Langbein, Renee Lettow Lerner & Bruce P. Smith, History of the Common Law: The Development of Anglo-American Legal Institutions
• Martha Minow, In Brown’s Wake
• Jack Rakove, Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America
• Barbara Babcock, Clara Shortridge Foltz, in Roger K. Newman, ed., The Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law
• Justin Driver, Why Law Should Lead
• Jeffrey Rosen, Roberts versus Roberts: Just how radical is the chief justice?
• Mary Whisner, Enact Locally
• Albert W. Alschuler, Two Ways to Think About the Punishment of Corporations
• Allen D. Boyer, Law’s Architect
• Mark R. Kravitz, Written and Oral Persuasion in the United States Courts: A District Judge’s Perspective on Their History, Function, and Future
News & Editorial
• William W. Bedsworth, No Questions Asked?
• Jeffrey Toobin, Without a Paddle
• Nina Totenberg, Martin Ginsburg’s Legacy: Love of Justice (Ginsburg)
• Heather K. Gerken, Testimony Submitted to the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration
• Tony West et al., Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Memorandum in Support of Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, Al-Aulaqi v. Obama
Here's the link where, if you're lucky, you might also be able to snag one of GB's very coveted SCOTUS bobbleheads.
Hat tip to the Legal Blog Watch.
The ABA Journal's top "Blawgs" for 2010
The results are in and the readers have voted the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog as the winner in the "law prof" category. It is described by one reader as “timely and greatly assists . . . in linking doctrine and rules to what happens in the ‘real world.’ ”
Here are the winners in the other categories:
- "Court watch" - SCOTUSblog
- "Torts" - Abnormal Use
- "Labor Law" -Work Matters
- "Law Biz" - 3 Geeks and a Law Blog
- "News" - Above the Law
- "Law Prof Plus" - Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog
- "Criminal Justice" -Not Guilty
- "IMHO" - The Legal Satyricon
- "Niche" -TheCorporateCounsel.net Blog
- "IP Law" - IPWatchdog
- "For Fun" - Law Law Land
- "Legal Tech" - iPhone J.D.
The ABA is "officially" advising prospective law students about the dangers of too much debt, too little salary
First reported by CNBC, (but see the update at the bottom of this post) the ABA has included a four page pdf advisory on its website about the serious financial risks of a leveraged legal education. Here's an excerpt:
Choosing to attend law school is a big decision that prospective law students should not take lightly. Although many factors may influence one’s decisions about whether and where to attend law school, a proper understanding of the economic cost of a legal education is vital for making an educated decision. Far too many law students expect that earning a law degree will solve their financial problems for life. In reality, however, attending law school can become a financial burden for law students who fail to consider carefully the financial implications of their decision.
Obtaining a degree from an ABA-accredited law school is not cheap. Over the last
twenty-five years, law school tuition has consistently risen two times as fast as inflation. Consequently, the average tuition at private law schools in 2008 was $34,298, while the average in-state tuition for public law schools was $16,836.2 When one adds books and living expenses to tuition, the average public law student borrows $71,436 for law school, while the average private school student borrows $91,506.3 Many students borrow far more than $100,000,4 and these numbers do not even include debt that students may still carry from their undergraduate years.
. . . .
Many prospective law students are already familiar with the steep price of a legal
education. What many do not know, however, is that these costs often exceed the expected return on their investment in the job market. Prior to the recession, starting salaries for associates at large law firms stabilized around $160,000 a year, and many prospective law students expect to be able to earn a comparable amount. In reality, however, only 23% of the graduates of the class of 2008 started with such a high salary, including only 37% of those who went into private practice. Shockingly, most of the rest of the graduates, about 42%, started with an annual salary of less than $65,000.
Hat tip to Above the Law.
UPDATE - 1/4/11 - According to Elie Mystal at Above the Law, although the mainstream press began reporting this story around 12/31/10, the ABA document at issue was published sometime during 2009.
Using the techniques of "Typography for Lawyers" to transform documents
Back in November, we told you about Typography for Lawyers authored by Matthew Butterick (A Harvard magna cum laude grad with a degree in typography who is now a practicing lawyer) and published by Jones McClure. Today comes this very favorable book review courtesy of the Ernie the Attorney blog (got to love that name) with which the Legal Blog Watch and the (new) legal writer blog also concur.
"If you're going to start from scratch in making typographic choices, where do you begin when you are setting out your text? Matthew Butterick advises starting with the Body Text which is most of what makes up a document. Start with:
- Point Size
- Line Spacing
- Line Length
These four decisions will determine how the body text will look. See Matthew Butterick, Typography for Lawyers 145 (2010)
Taking the choices in that order:
- I ditched the Times New Roman for a book font like Century Schoolbook.
- I scaled it down to 11 point font based upon the research showing that fonts of this size are most readable, and bigger fonts are not.
- I chose 14 point line spacing based upon research showing that this ratio to 11 point font lends itself to good readability.
- I shortened the line length by having 2.23 inch margins--approximating what some typographers call the “golden ratio.”*
The other main changes were (largely out of habit) placing headings and titles in Helvetica (one point size smaller since they are in bold) and then using "proximity." I made a bigger gap between sections and pushed headings closer to the text they support and tried to separate Chief Justice Jefferson's text from the material merely supporting his text by placing secondary cites and parentheticals in footnotes. To deemphasize the footnotes, they are one point smaller than the text font."
The "after" picture is much more readable to my weary eyes.
And here's an example of a legal research memo that's been given the Butterick treatment.