Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tips for starting your own law blog (and the benefits of doing so)

There are several reasons why recent and not-so-recent law grads may want to start a blog. Given the job market, more grads than ever are considering hanging a shingle. A good niche law blog is a great way to market yourself both locally and nationally on the cheap. I've heard of some fabulous  success stories by grads who attracted media attention and clients through blogging (by writing about niche subjects like videogame law). Establishing an internet beachhead may also lead to opportunities to affiliate with other, like-minded attorneys by forming a virtual law firm. Did I mention blogging is really inexpensive advertising?

Over at the blog the Lawyerist, they've put together a great checklist of tips (you'll need to scroll down the page) for starting your own law blog including an interview with an attorney whose blog is apparently also his law practice (he and his co-bloggers are hoping to eventually generate enough advertising revenue to sustain them).

Here are the highlights:

You can read the rest of the Lawyerist's advice here.


March 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Daylight Saving Time begins tonight - remember to "spring" ahead one hour

Whatever your time zone, when the clock strikes 2:00 a.m. tonight, remember to spring ahead 1 hour.

To learn the facts, history and myths surrounding DayLight Saving Time, click here for an excellent article courtesy of NatGeo.

A PSA from the Legal Skills Prof blog.


March 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 11, 2011

How to choose between an E-reader or tablet for your legal reading needs

Should you buy a designated E-reading device like a Kindle or will you be better off with a tablet (like the iPad)?  This article from Law Technology News suggests that an E-reader might be the better way to go if you're concerned about cost, portability and especially eyestrain.

Many [E]-readers, including all Kindles, use E Ink, an 'electronic ink' display technology developed at MIT that's designed create the appearance of text printed on paper. E Ink is comprised of millions of tiny microcapsules, each about the diameter of a human hair. Each microcapsule contains positively charged white particles and negatively charged black particles suspended in a clear fluid. When a positive or negative electric field is applied, the corresponding particles move to the top of the microcapsule where they become visible to the user. This makes the surface appear white or black at that spot.

Katharine M. Nohr, a sports risk management attorney in Kaneohe, Hawaii, says that E Ink's superior readability led her toward a Kindle. 'I use a computer much of the day; my eyes need a break,' she says. 'However, reading a Kindle is similar to reading a book.'

According to the author, it's advantage E-reader when it comes to battery life too. Check out the other considerations here that will help guide you to the right choice for your particular needs.


March 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What the Tokyo earthquake looked and felt like to those on the ground

Here's some pretty amazing YouTube video from Friday's devastating earthquake.  It's incredible that this person had the presence of mind to grab a video camera as the quake hit.

Our thoughts go out to the victims.


March 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One legal staffing firm says demand for contract attorneys will be strong next quarter

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the legal sector lost 2,900 jobs in February, one legal staffing recruiter says demand for contract and project attorneys will be strong next quarter. Particularly desired specialities include litigation, general business/commercial and bankruptcy/foreclosure work. Robert Half Legal is especially interested in associates with five or more years experience.  From the National Jurist magazine:

Twenty-nine percent of lawyers interviewed for the quarterly Robert Half Legal Hiring Index plan to add legal staff in the next three months and none plan reductions in personnel. The net increase in hiring activity is down one point from the first-quarter forecast.

The vast majority — 81 percent — of lawyers polled are at least somewhat confident in their organizations' ability to expand in the second quarter. Hiring activity is expected to take place predominantly at law firms, and litigation is the practice area predicted to see the most growth in the coming months.

. . . .

'Law firms are seeking associates with five or more years of experience who can hit the ground running, guiding clients through complex matters related to corporate and commercial litigation, insurance defense and individual lawsuits,' [Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal] said. 'Companies that are seeing renewed business activity need help handling an increase in commercial transactions.'

You can read the rest here.


March 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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March 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday fun: Fresh goes better with Mentos, um, mentors!

Here's another fun "law review" video from those very talented GWU students.


March 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York considers mandatory e-filing; will an "electronic courthouse" be next?

Lawyer-bot, meet courthouse-bot.  The rest of us are starting to feel like a third-wheel.  As reported by Above the Law, New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman has submitted a state court budget that seeks to save big money by mandating e-filing statewide.  At present, it's only mandatory in a couple of counties.  But the more significant news is that Judge Lippman eventually wants to create a "digital courthouse"

where the bar and public will be able not only to file papers electronically, but to quickly retrieve court documents, receive court orders, pay fines and fees, and make remote court appearances that will be recorded electronically. So much of the basic business transacted in our courts can be accomplished without lawyers or litigants physically appearing in the courthouse. The 'digital courthouse' will provide vast savings for the courts, litigants, and local governments.

When digital lawyers litigate in a digital courtroom, can Skynet be far behind?

You can learn more about Chief Judge Lippman's plan for a digital courthouse by reading his press release here and read more of ATL's commentary here.


March 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Small-sample study finds people read e-text slower than p-text; traditional books are more "relaxing"

This small sample study - involving only 24 participants - by Jakob Nielsen found that people read e-texts 10% slower than p-texts.  Participants in the study were asked to read a short story by Ernest Hemingway on an iPad, a Kindle, a PC and in hardcopy. They were each timed and then quizzed at the end to determine how much they understood. The survey found that "reading from a printed book—versus an e-book on any of the three tested devices—was a faster experience to a significant degree." Since almost all the participants got perfect scores on the quiz, the study doesn't draw any conclusions about which reading method better facilitates comprehension.

The study did find, however, that "[u]sers felt that reading the printed book was more relaxing than using electronic devices. And they felt uncomfortable with the PC because it reminded them of work." 

You can read the rest here.


March 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Working in Collaborative Groups – The “Two Pizza” Rule

Many graduate students don’t care for group projects, especially when a grade depends on the work of others.  However, being able to collaborate and work well with colleagues is an important skill for law students to master.  Once students enter the “real world” as practicing lawyers, they will need to learn to work on group projects and be viewed as valuable contributors.  Often, it is these “soft skills” that may end up tipping the decision on whether to hire a summer law clerk as an associate.

A recent article in the Journal of Legal Education discusses the richness that group work can bring to the law school classroom.  “Studies demonstrate that group work by students will generate higher levels of participation, greater learning, and better products.”  William J. Rich, Balance in Legal Education: Pervasive Principles, 60 J. Legal Educ. 122, 126 (2010), citing Gerald F. Hess, Heads and Hearts: The Teaching and Learning Environment in Law School, 52 J. Legal Educ. 75, 94 (2002).  “Students who gain that understanding will be equipped to take those experiences into the firm, government, or corporate environment…and to gain greater success in their lives as professionals.”  Id.

The size of the group can certainly have an impact on the group culture and ultimate success.  A recent post on The Scholarly Kitchen about the efficiency of working in small groups discusses a rule that provides a great visual and understandable philosophy.  The “two pizza” rule (attributed to Amazon CTO Werner Vogels) is a concept that project team groups should include no more people than can be fed by two pizzas.  Maybe serving two pizzas would make the group work more interesting to law students!



March 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Taxing Soda

In the New York Times, food columnist Mark Bittman writes about the soda tax, a sales tax on sweetened beverages. To my surprise, 14 states have soda tax legislation. The argument can be made that it’s a regressive tax, despite its intent to promote health. My colleague Jim Maule has blogged on the soda tax. (He’s against it.) Here’s a map.



March 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Massachusetts' disciplinary board reprimands lawyer for intentionally misstating on appeal the trial judge's findings of fact

This seems to be the day for appellate lawyer smackdowns (see below). According to the ABA Journal (with a hat tip to our sister publication the Legal Profession Blog), the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers issued a public reprimand to a lawyer who misstated a trial judge's findings of fact in a brief he filed with the state appeals court.

Lawyer Vincent Cragin had presented the statement of facts in single-spaced, indented format, implying it was a full copy of the factual statement, according to a Feb. 3 summary of the disciplinary findings by the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers. The blunder led a Massachusetts appeal court considering the appeal to call Cragin’s omission a 'brazen' misrepresentation.

The Legal Profession Blog posted portions of the disciplinary summary.

Cragin had represented Pella Windows Inc. in breach of contract litigation with homeowner Mary Burman, who had in turn sought double damages for what she deemed to be unfair and deceptive acts. The company’s alleged wrongdoing had included making unauthorized charges on Burman’s credit card (later refunded) and placing a collections call to her husband while he was in the hospital.

When Cragin included findings of fact in the appeal, he omitted references to the hospital call and the credit card charge.

'In as brazen a piece of misrepresentation as we have ever seen, Pella deleted certain words, phrases, and sentences without use of an ellipsis, or any other indication of editing,' the appeals court wrote in its 2009 opinion in the contract dispute. 'Defeating one's hope that the deletions were the result of sloppy copying and proofreading, rather than dishonesty, is the fact that all the information deleted is helpful to Burman, or harmful to Pella.'

It was the first appellate brief Cragin had filed, and he frequently referred to the phone call and unauthorized charges in his statement of the case and his argument section of his brief. He viewed the deleted facts as parts of his argument, the Board of Overseers says.

You can read the rest here.


March 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Ouch! That's gotta hurt.

The Seventh Circuit, in an opinion written by Judge Posner, delivers an unrelenting smackdown to appellants' lawyer for violating the court's rule on the length of an appellate brief. After assailing the lawyer's response to a show-cause order, the court declares: "The motion to file an oversized brief is denied and the judgment of the district court summarily affirmed."

Abner v. Scott Memorial Hospital, No. 10-2713, slip op. (7th Cir. Mar. 9, 2011).

For extra credit, draft a script of the discussions you think will now take place between the lawyer and his clients.


March 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New scholarship: "Practicing Theory: Legal Education for the Twenty-First Century"

This article is by Professor Larry E. Ribstein of U. Illinois College of Law and is available now on SSRN. According to the TaxProf Blog, it will eventually be published in the Iowa Law Review, presumably as part of the recent Future of Legal Ed symposium. From the abstract:

Law practice and legal education are facing fundamental changes. Many assume that these changes will force law schools to give up on theory and focus more on training students for the practice of law. However, this essay shows that the future may be more uncertain and complex. The only thing that is certain is that law schools may face, for the first time, the need to provide the type of education the market demands rather than serving lawyers' and law professors’ preferences. Legal educators must respond to these demands by serving not just the existing U.S. market for legal services but also a global market for legal information. This may call for training in some, but not all, of the theories and disciplines that have been developing in law schools.

Hat tip to the TaxProf Blog.


March 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Boyd School of Law will triple costs to offset state budget cuts; won't lay-off faculty

We had previously reported on the devastating cuts facing the UNLV system in light of a new budget submitted by the governor earlier this year.  Yesterday UNLV's president announced how each unit would absorb the proposed $47.5 million in university-wide cuts. According to these sources (here, here and here) the law school will handle the cuts by raising tuition significantly - tripling the cost of a degree from what it was 3 years ago - rather than laying off faculty. According to a summary from the UNLV president's office:

These additional increases will undermine the Law School's successful formula and render it a mediocre institution.

Other programs are far less lucky according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

To meet proposed budget cuts, UNLV would eliminate 33 degree programs with more than 2,000 students in them, killing 315 jobs, UNLV President Neal Smatresk told school employees and students Tuesday.

"We've already squeezed the blood from the stone," Smatresk said later.

Of the 315 jobs that would be eliminated, 120 are faculty positions. One hundred and ten of the 315 are vacant. The rest would require layoffs. Most probably would take effect July 1, 2012. Those cuts would bring total job losses to more than 800 at the university in the last several years.

"This is horrific, to talk about people like this," he said.

Some of the programs facing elimination include philosophy, women's studies and social work. And the cuts announced yesterday only amount to $32.6 million out of the full $47.5 the university must lose under the governor's proposed budget. The president says he hopes the additional $15 million won't be necessary in the event the new budget does indeed pass in June.

You can read more coverage from the Las Vegas Review-Journal here, from the Las Vegas Sun here and from the UNLV Faculty Alliance blog, here.


March 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Billing by the Inch

Usually, an expert witness bills by the hour for his or her services. But at least one expert bills $150 for  every inch of paperwork that he reviews. On his Professional Responsibility blog (March  2), Professor Alberto Bernabe noted this story from the “Say What?! blog. Here is an excerpt from the deposition:

 Q. [Dr. Caram], how much are they paying you for this work, sir?

A. I don't know what Mr. DiCaro pays me by the hour.

Q. Mr. Franke gets 50 bucks an hour. What do you get?

A. I really don't know what A.J.'s paying me by the hour. I don't pay attention to that until I receive a case, it's I get paid by the inch of paperwork.

Q. Well, this is a three-and-a-half inch case.

A. Oh, no, no. It's much more than that. ... The initial box that came to me had three-and-a-half inches. I have since reviewed many things, such as the depositions and the like, which ...

Q. Okay.

A. The file, probably nine inches at least.

Q. Well, what do you get for a nine incher?

A. It all depends. It's $150 per inch of paperwork that I have to review.

Q. Is it really?

A. Yes.

Q. Per inch?

A. Per inch. As opposed to the hour...


March 9, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Did your recent arrest also lead to a divorce? This is the law firm for you!

Talk about trouble. I saw this billboard for a local law firm while out driving this weekend. Please excuse the crappy cellphone photo.

















March 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

USNWR asks law firm recruiters to rank law schools

Here's another way to rank law schools courtesy of USNWR.  From the magazine's website:

[The survey] was sent last fall to 750 hiring partners and recruiters at law firms who made the 2010 Best Law Firms rankings produced jointly by U.S. News and the publication Best Lawyers. The response rate was 14 percent.
. . . .

The table below highlights the top 25 law schools as ranked by hiring partners at the U.S. News-Best Lawyers Best Law Firms.

Rank School Average Reputation Score (5.0=highest)
1. Harvard University 4.9
2. Stanford University 4.8
2. Yale University 4.8
4. Columbia University 4.7
4. University of Michigan--Ann Arbor 4.7
6. New York University 4.6
6. University of Virginia 4.6
8. Cornell University 4.5
8. Duke University 4.5
8. Northwestern University 4.5
8. University of California--Berkeley 4.5
8. University of Chicago 4.5
13. Georgetown University 4.4
13. University of Pennsylvania 4.4
15. Vanderbilt University 4.3
15. Washington University in St. Louis 4.3
17. University of Texas--Austin 4.2
18. Boston University 4.1
18. Emory University 4.1
18. University of California--Los Angeles 4.1
18. University of Minnesota--Twin Cities 4.1
18. University of Notre Dame 4.1
18. University of Southern California 4.1
18. Washington and Lee University 4.1
25. Boston College 4.0
25. University of Iowa 4.0
25. University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill 4.0

 (Note: due to ties, there are more than 25 schools listed here.)

Click here to read the short, accompanying article.

More coverage from Above the Law, here, and the online ABA Journal, here.


March 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New "skills" scholarship: "Priming legal negotiations through written demands"

This article is by Professor Carrie Sperling of Arizona State and can be found at 60 Cath. U. L. Rev. 107 (2010). From the abstract provided by Lexis:

Although little research has been done on the effects of priming in negotiations, the words lawyers use in a demand letter almost certainly have some priming effect on their recipients. ... I was amazed at my own reaction to my neighbor's written demand, and I experienced, first hand, the power of the written word to ignite emotions and to initiate and guide behaviors. ... These priming studies provide powerful evidence that written words drive unconscious emotions and behaviors. ... Amazingly, though, by priming participants with the professor stereotype ("intelligence"), the researchers were able to increase the participants' scores by sixteen percent over those primed with the soccer hooligan stereotype ("stupidity"). ... By priming group-oriented concerns, demand letters have the potential of drawing another party into negotiations with more cooperative behavior that will lead all the parties to a more satisfactory settlement. ... Procedural rules do not hinder the parties' written negotiations. ... Because texts on negotiation fail to cover the demand letter, lawyers seeking advice on how to start negotiations in writing can only turn to common practice or legal-writing texts.



March 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The WSJ on law schools and shrinking class size

The Wall Street Journal covers the story (and here) of two New York law schools shrinking next year's incoming class in response to the glut of lawyers searching for jobs.  Is the decision motivated by altruism or the need to maintain one's USNWR rank in light of a shrinking applicant pool, as the WSJ suggests? Either way, it's a prudent move.

The deans of the Albany Law School and the Touro Law Center say they plan to reduce admissions this fall, yielding to the fact that the job market for newly pressed JDs continues to be rather lousy. Click here for the story from the National Law Journal.

The drop won’t be significant at either school. Both plan to admit 10 fewer students.

Still, the cuts represent an unprecedented acknowledgment among law deans that the product they’re churning out isn’t as highly valued now as it was, say, 5 years ago.

You can read the rest of the story, as well as some interesting reader comments, here.

Hat tip to the TaxProf Blog.


March 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)