Saturday, March 19, 2011
If you're thinking about going to law school, you first need to read this deposition transcript. It comes from an Ohio case (courtesy of the Ohio Plain Dealer via the Wall Street Journal) in which the lawyers argue, and I do mean argue, over whether a question concerning the existence of a photocopy machine was too ambiguous to answer.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer: During your tenure in the computer department at the Recorder’s office, has the Recorder’s office had photocopying machines?
Deponent’s Lawyer: Objection.
PL: Any photocopying machine?
Deponent: When you say “photocopying machine,” what do you mean?
PL: Let me be — let me make sure I understand your question. You don’t have an understanding of what a photocopying machine is?
D: No. I want to make sure that I answer your question correctly.
. . .
D: When you say “photocopying machine,” what do you mean?
PL: Let me be clear. The term “photocopying machine” is so ambiguous that you can’t picture in your mind what a photocopying machine is in an office setting?
D: I just want to make sure I answer your question correctly.
PL: Well, we’ll find out. If you can say yes or no, I can do follow-ups, but it seems — if you really don’t know in an office setting what a photocopying machine is, I’d like the Ohio Supreme Court to hear you say so.
D: I just want to make sure I answer your question correctly.
DL: There’s different types of photocopiers, Dave.
This scintillating colloquy continues after the page break.
Friday, March 18, 2011
I take what follows from the Comments following an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Here is the first Comment:
The problem is that there are four types of people in academia:
1. Those who work hard at useful things and are productive
2. Those who work hard at useless things (think most committees) and are not productive
3. Those who are lazy, yet show up to the office everyday, so they spend 50 hours a week on campus, but in essence do nothing.
4. Those who are lazy, don't show up on campus, cancel classes, etc and ought to be fired but administrators are too spineless to go after them.
I am sure there are other types that people could think of.
That Comment accords with my experience.
BUT WAIT. Here’s another comment:
The problem is that there are four types of people in the WORKING WORLD :
1. Those who work hard at useful things and are productive
2. Those who work hard at useless things (think company memos) and are not productive
3. Those who are lazy, yet show up to the office everyday, so they spend 50 hours a week at work, but in essence just surf the net, chat with coworkers, eat birthday cake, etc.
4. Those who are lazy, use all their sick and vacation days, come in late frequently, and should be fired, but their bosses are too spineless to go after them.
I am sure there are other types that people could think of.
The differences between the Working World and the Academic World aren’t so great.
The research that I've seen suggests that serious readers like e-books for skimming lots of information quickly but prefer p-books when it comes to deep reading. Over at the Chronicle of Higher Ed, the popular columnist the ProfHacker proposes a list of reasons that scholars might prefer e-books over their paper counterpart.
- To quickly locate passages in books (using Google Books). Sometimes I can’t find a passage in the print version that I own, and can quickly find the passage using the search feature in Google Books. Sometimes I just need part of a book, and the available preview has what I need.
- For marking up text, much as I would with a traditional book that I own. With some ereaders, it’s possible to annotate and highlight text, then transfer those annotations and highlights to a computer.
- To gain quick access to a book that I don’t need to own permanently, but that isn’t available at my library—especially if I need it sooner than interlibrary loan could get it to me. (The University of Chicago Press’s digital options make this possible. Purchasing temporary access to a book would add up quickly if done frequently, but for occasional use it could be quite convenient.)
- To sample a book to see whether it’s worth buying or trying to acquire through interlibrary loan, if my own library doesn’t have it. (Some ebook sellers make book samples available; those samples typically include the table of contents and the first chapter, which is often enough to get a good sense of whether the book’s worth the time and effort.)
What do you think? Do you prefer e-books to p-books? Some combination of the two and if so, under what circumstances do you grab an e-book rather than a p-book (and vice versa)?
Be sure to also check out the always interesting reader comments here.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Want to be a curmudgeon? Here's how in four easy steps courtesy of the legal humor blog "Big Legal Brain." Surf and turf on us if you can identify the ATL commenter who used the avatar to the right.
- Berate Anyone With Whom You Remotely Disagree. This is key advice. If you write a blog, for instance, and someone remotely disagrees with you, lay into the commenter and don’t hold back. [Here are some sample comments to help get you started:] a.) "There are enough scummy lawyers like you who have neither pride nor desire for excellence;" b.) "I pity any client who has someone who thinks like your [sic] represent him. As for the rest of us, don’t be so arrogant as to project your embrace of failure;" and c.) "In a post where the point is nearly impossible to miss, you have manage [sic] to do so completely."
- Consider Yourself Above Any Possible Reproach. You are right and make no mistakes. Just repeat that as you write a blog post or respond to any comments or telephone calls. Not much more to it than that, particularly if you are successful in inculcating this critical component into your daily gestalt. Makes for good lawyering, too, except when you are wrong. Wait, repeat.
- Think of Yourself as an Elder Among Infants. Referring to anyone remotely younger than you as a baby or infant is key to being a snarky curmudgeon. Actually, it works well for older colleagues or your own cohorts. And it works if you disagree with someone. Hell, it just works. Despite anti-bullying efforts, curmudgeons know that sticks and stones work well, as do insults typically reserved for a preschool classroom.
- Deny That You Mean Something When You Really Do. This is key to being a successful snark and curmudgeon. It’s called the “art of the proper preface” and goes something like this. “And lest I be misunderstood, which is infrequent, I’ve seen just as many male lawyers as female lawyers breastfeed their kids and deal with PMS, bad periods, menopause and discrimination while practicing law. It’s just that female lawyers seem to think these things only apply to them, which makes them babies and infants."
You can read more advice on how to cultivate your inner curmudgeon right here.
At California Western School of Law.
Here's the announcement:
California Western Co-sponsors Legal Writing Seminar
Workshop offers legal professionals tips on improving legal writing
SAN DIEGO, March 16, 2011 - On Friday, March 18, California Western School of Law and Scribes, the American Society of Legal Writers, present “Legal Writing Tips from Top Experts,” a workshop offering practical tips for legal writing.
“Clear communication is the hallmark of all good lawyers,” says Dean Steven R. Smith, who serves as president of Scribes. “Scribes and California Western are committed to clear and succinct legal writing. This seminar brings California Western students and faculty together with judges, lawyers, and law professors dedicated to improving the communication skills of lawyers, which benefits the legal profession and society as a whole.”
Legal Writing Tips from Top Experts
During the seminar, attendees learn to write clearly in all legal papers, prepare effective memos and briefs, and draft contracts and rules.
“The way a healthy lawyer relates to billable hours is much different than the way an unhealthy lawyer does.” This is the conclusion of attorney Tim Batdorf in the April issue of the Michigan Bar Journal. Yet, his article emphasizes the drawbacks of using this system to bill clients and assess lawyer performance. For example:
Despite the many advantages of the billable hour, we now see several of its disadvantages: ever-increasing hourly demands, the absurdity of rewarding inefficiency, an overreliance on billable hours to assess lawyer performance, allegations of lawyers and law firms padding time, the destruction of collegiality within firms, and lack of time for pro bono work, just to name a few.
The article also provides a history of the rise of the billable hour.
Most, if not all, law students must complete at least one scholarly paper before they graduate. It may only take a few more steps for them to try to publish their paper and add another line to their resume. Nancy Levit, Lawrence D. MacLachlan, and Allen Rostron have posted a paper on SSRN full of great advice to students seeking to publish their scholarly paper in a law journal. The article includes a VERY useful chart of contact information for the journals and information about their publishing cycles. This is a wonderful resource to share with students to encourage them to submit their papers for publication.
Another useful resource is the listing of journals that accept electronic submissions maintained by Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University. While this is not limited to student authors, the tool allows authors to submit electronic copies of their papers to several journals at a time. Students should look at the submission policies of the journals they are interested in publishing with before submitting to more than one at a time.
Some schools have started hosting poster sessions or author receptions to highlight student work. This is another great way to encourage student writers to turn their upper level paper into a publishable piece. By celebrating and encouraging our students to think about their work as something publishable, maybe we can spark more enthusiasm among those students who are not as excited about their upper level paper requirement.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Completing Your Profile
If you Google yourself (and if you don’t, you should), more than likely the first result will be your LinkedIn profile. If a potential employer or client Googles you, this is precisely what she’ll see, too. Time to complete your profile, right? Like it or not, it will frequently serve as your online professional resume, so make certain that it:
- Includes a current professional head shot. It really is worth a 1,000 words.
- Presents your background and credentials in the way that most represents where you want to go in your next job.
- Emphasizes what’s most likely to be influential in demonstrating your expertise.
If you don’t know what to include, study your friends’ and colleagues’ profiles. Model your profile after the best one that you find.
You can read the rest of the advice column, about populating your account, here.
By now we know what every player, large and small, in the legal services sector is doing regarding social networking (here, here, here and here). But do you know the T-FAQ's of social networking? FAQ's are frequently asked questions; T-FAQ's are too frequently asked questions. Here's the list from the legal humor blog Big Legal Brain:
Yes. How could I forget about that option?Yes, of course.
When lawyers deal with different cultural groups, they need to listen differently. At the Harvard Business Journal online, Roger O. Crockett offers an example:
Among some Americans or some Italians, for example, you might hear what Reid calls "an explosion of conversation." In these boisterous cultures, people often build rapid-fire strings of conversation in which one person adds onto another's thought before the first person finishes and vice versa. This pattern of conversing requires a different set of ears than what's necessary for conversations with a thought and then a pause. The beauty of learning to listen to different patterns of conversation from different cultures is that "you wind up with a more dexterous way of thinking," Reid says. "This type of listening dexterity is a hallmark of any great multicultural team."
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
• Blogs: As of March 2010, 96 of the AmLaw 200 are blogging with 297 blogs among them, 245 of which are firm-branded. This is up from 39 firms blogging as of August, 2007, representing a 147 percent increase. (Source: LexBlog).
• LinkedIn: Every AmLaw 200 firm has a Company Profile on LinkedIn, by default. Most firms have Group Pages as well, mainly for alumni and recruiting, but also around specialized areas of law. Of the 50 million users currently on LinkedIn, nearly 1.5 million are lawyers. Approximately 5,000 firms have business profiles on the platform, and there are 4,000 Groups with “law” as part of the title. (Source: Apollo Business Development).
• Facebook: 31 of the AmLaw 100 have “Fan Pages” related to their firm on Facebook. Most have a basic placeholder page with little content, and only a few are posting content via regular status updates. To date, law firm efforts have been too tentative to deliver any real value. But with 400 million users, the business potential of Facebook is hard to ignore. (Sources: statistics— TheByrneBlog; Stem Legal blog).
• Twitter: 76 of the AmLaw 100 have a presence on Twitter, and just under half of those firms haven’t posted a single “tweet.” 39 firms are using the platform somewhat regularly, but not meaningfully in terms of aggregating and delivering targeted content to like-minded pools of followers at the practice group and industry level. (Source: statistics—TheByrneBlog; Stem Legal blog).
OK, we've covered the social media practices of solo and small firms, mid-size firms and one large firm that's decided to take the leap. Let's now look at what corporate legal departments are doing. A communications consulting firm called Greentarget recently surveyed 164 in-house attorneys about their social media practices. The results can be found in the Corporate Counsel New Media Engagement Survey. From the summary:
Are in-house counsel frequenting legal and business focused blogs, as well as micro-blogging platforms like Twitter, to stay informed? Are they using tools such as LinkedIn, Martindale-Hubbell Connected, and Legal OnRamp to deepen their professional networks and engage new communities? On a more personal level, are they using social networking sites like Facebook to stay connected with friends and family? And more importantly, how do they expect their use of–and general attitudes toward–social media to change in the future?
Highlights of the Corporate Counsel New Media Engagement Survey:
The answer to all of these questions is, if not a resounding “yes,” then at least a steady
affirmation. Almost half of the survey’s respondents use LinkedIn, and 68 percent use
Facebook, although, for the time-being, the latter primarily for personal instead of
professional reasons. Blogs are an increasingly preferred mechanism for obtaining
business and legal industry information, and among the most surprising findings of the
research: corporate counsel now are getting more of their business- and legal-industry related information online than from traditional print sources.
New Media Consumption, Familiarity and Use
• 53 percent of in-house counsel expect that their consumption of industry news and information via new media platforms will increase over the next six months to a year.
• 69 percent of counsel aged 30-39 expect that their consumption of business, industry, and legal news and information will increase over the next six months or in
the next year compared to:
– 57 percent of counsel aged 40-49
– 47 percent of counsel aged 50-59
– 52 percent of counsel aged 60+ years
• The social networking and new media tools that in-house counsel most frequently use for professional reasons are LinkedIn, blogs, and Wikipedia.
• The social networking and new media tools that in-house counsel most frequently
use for personal reasons are Facebook, Wikipedia, and YouTube.
Go-To Media Sources
• While in-house counsel continue to rely on “traditional media” as their leading
sources for business-related news and information, 43 percent cited blogs and 26
percent cited social media Web sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) among their
top “go-to” sources.
Congratulations to Terri LeClercq and Karin Mika on publishing the 5th edition of “Guide to Legal Writing Style” (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen). From the promotional material, here is some information:
New to the Fifth Edition:
- Exercises in the book will now include open-ended exercises with answers available on web as well as self-graded exercises in the text.
- The well-received chart comparing the college essay and the legal memo has been expanded.
- A new section added to Chapter 4, Choosing Words with Style, that introduces the basics of email communication. The chapter including includes advice on sentence structure, word choice, punctuation, formatting, and professional tone.
- Special advice for international students.
- The Companion Website will include multiple resources for students and professors:
- dictionary of grammar and punctuation terms
- numerous additional exercises that reinforce and develop both basic skills and a professional legal writing style
- expanded explanations
- self grading exercise for students
- robust graphics to encourage student use
SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
- Reviewing the Basics
- Creating Sentences with Style
- Choosing Words with Style
- Punctuating with Style
- Organizing with Style
- Presenting Material with Style
There have been several stories over the past few years about what a discovery bonanza Facebook and other forms of social media can be to lawyers looking to dig up dirt on a litigant or witness. We've even heard stories about the inappropriate use of social media (such as texting and Twitter) by jurors sitting for a case. But this is the first time I've read about a judge using Facebook to investigate a witness appearing before her (though this practice will undoubtedly become more common). That's what happened in Purvis v. Commissioner of Social. Sec., C.A. No. 09-5318 (D.N.J., Feb. 23, 2011). From the blog Internet Cases:
[T]he question before federal judge Susan Davis Wigenton was whether the plaintiff had been wrongfully denied Social Security benefits. Ultimately the judge determined that the question of whether plaintiff’s asthma made her disabled needed to go back to the Social Security office for further proceedings. But the judge had some pretty severe skepticism about the merits of the plaintiff’s claim, expressed in this footnote:
"Although the Court remands the ALJ’s decision for a more detailed finding, it notes that in the course of its own research, it discovered one profile picture on what is believed to be Plaintiff’s Facebook page where she appears to be smoking [link to Facebook page omitted because it's broken] . . . . If accurately depicted, Plaintiff’s credibility is justifiably suspect."
You can access the full decision here via Google Scholar.
Hat tip to the ECommerceLaw Blog.
Let's go full circle on this topic. We've talked about what the small firms should do and what one large firm plans to do as far as establishing a social media presence, how about the mid-size firms? Here are the results from a recent survey conducted by a service called the International Lawyers Network. It sent surveys to its 91 member network of mid-size firms around the world. Based on the 90 firms that responded, ILN found that:
while some firms have jumped on the social media bandwagon, others are still questioning its usefulness as a professional tool for business development.
Notably, the majority of firms were not using social media, and use of social media tools for professional reasons and as a source of news and information was fairly limited.
Among the other findings:
- Firms with 151 attorneys or more are focusing more on raising the firm's brand/visibility through social media than smaller firms. Among the smaller firms, greater emphasis was placed on raising personal brand/visibility.
- Smaller firms are also using social media to test new marketing initiatives, whereas firms larger than 100 attorneys are not doing so at all. Similar results are seen for recruitment.
- 51 percent of respondents said that their firm does not have a presence in online social networks.
- However, 77 percent said their firms maintain an online presence on LinkedIn, 46 percent of respondents' firms maintain an online presence on Martindale-Hubbell Connected and 31 percent on Twitter.
- Only a small percentage of firms have a social media policy (23%), but as firm size increases, so does the likelihood of a firm having a social media policy.
- 17 percent of firms are tracking social networking leads and 66 percent of the attorneys surveyed belong to firms that are not measuring the return on investment from social networking.
The survey also asked about the social media practices of individual attorneys within those firms:
- 69 percent of respondents see social media as "very" or "somewhat important."
- When broken down by firm size, smaller firms are less likely to consider social media to be of importance to law firms (56%). For firms with more than 50 attorneys, the numbers are fairly similar for perceived importance of social media.
- Respondents considered LinkedIn to be the most important site for law firms (57%), while they thought Twitter was the least valuable (42%).
- Respondents ranked legal industry websites (68%), general business media (54%), and legal industry trades (50%) as their top three most frequently used news and information sources.
- The social networking tools that respondents most frequently used for professional reasons are LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter (despite Twitter being identified as the "least valuable" tool for law firms).
- The social networking tools that respondents most frequently use for personal reasons are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
- Not surprisingly, those under 30 have the highest use of social media for professional reasons in the last 24 hours and we see notable spikes in Facebook usage for professional reasons among 30-39 and 50-59 (25% and 22% respectively). Additionally, usage of LinkedIn for professional reasons spikes dramatically among those in the 60+ age group.
- 72 percent of respondents use social media tools for attorney networking and 52 percent use these tools to engage with clients
The full survey report can be obtained here.
A recent, nationwide survey of more than 800 law firms by a consulting firm called Expense Reduction Analysts found that "most firms plan to keep [library books] rather than rely [exclusively] on electronic research." The ABA Journal has the story here. The survey further found that:
'The general belief was that the managing partners and the lawyers who have been there a while really like the printed materials and everyone else would like to go to online research libraries,' [said the survey administrator]. But the survey didn’t find a huge difference between the views of managers and those of administrative staffers. Fifty-eight percent of the managers saw a need for physical, printed libraries, compared to 50 percent of support and administrative staffers
The survey also found that attorneys still print much of what they find on the screen to read later even when those documents are "unimportant."
I happen to be doing a lot of research right now on the pros and cons of screen versus print reading. There's a robust consensus based on surveys of "professional" readers (e.g. researchers, scholars and others who read for a living) that serious readers use the screen to skim lots of material quickly but then print the things they want to read more deeply. The research also suggests this is not the result of generational differences but instead reflects the superior psycho-ergonomics of print over the screen. It's possible our brains may one day develop the ability to read deeply from a screen but that's not the case yet.
In his book "Legal Writing for the Re-Wired Brain," Robert Dubose posits that attorneys need to affect a "hybrid" reading style that allows them to shift from screen to print depending on whether they are skimming the document or need to read it more closely.
The recent law firm survey also confirms the opinion of experts like Professor Robert Darnton, Director of the Harvard University Library who says that e-libraries will not entirely replace print ones. Instead, both formats will co-exist in the same building although the mix of e-books to p-books will vary depending on the particular needs of each library's users. I also highly recommend Professor Darnton's "The Case for Books: Past, Present and Future" which offers a fascinating history of print and reading.
What do you think? Are your reading habits consistent with the "hybrid" style noted above or do you follow a different mix between print and screen? And does this suggest we need to continue to expose law students to the benefits of print?
Hat tip to the ABA Journal.
Once law students make their way to a law firm or legal department job, they will have to balance what is likely to be a bigger workload than that as a student. They will have many competing demands on their time, likely from many competing sources (partners, managers, other associates, or clients). I think our students should leave law school with communication skills that will help them negotiate deadlines for projects so that they can successfully navigate the many demands on their time. All too often, I see students (and even law school staff) who take on more than they should and work under the mistaken impression that everything needs to be done IMMEDIATELY. That is a recipe for disaster (either personally or professionally – or both) and will eventually lead to burn-out. Having the communication and social skills necessary to courteously negotiate deadlines so that work can be properly prioritized is important.
A colleague of mine who teaches legal writing to the first year students has an interesting assignment designed to help students realize that they will face this issue and helps them develop some skills to succeed. At some point during the first semester, after the students have been assigned their respective sides to represent in a legal matter, he sends them an email that is meant to be from their client. The students do not know when (what day, what time of day, what else might be going on) they will get the email. They are taught that they need to respond within 24 hours with a well thought out and researched response. I think the assignment is great for a couple of reasons. First, it teaches them that they do not have to respond to an email immediately, unless they want to manage their client’s expectations with a quick email noting they’d received it and need to do some research in order to answer the questions presented. Many of our students entering the working world will struggle with work-life balance since it is so easy to be electronically wired in all the time. Next, the assignment causes them to have to prioritize whatever else they might need to get done during that 24-hour time period. Finally, it emphasizes taking the time to do some research and provide a reasoned and professional response to an email from a client. The students are graded on meeting the deadline, the content of their email as far as correctly researching and answering the question, and the tone/demeanor of the email (do they come across as professional).
How else can we help our students learn these skills? Do you have any interesting examples from your courses?
Monday, March 14, 2011
Apropos to the posts, below and here, about the benefits of social networking to small firms and solos comes this story ("Social Media Guru Becomes a Real Job at BigLaw") from the Legal Blog Watch that mega-firm Latham & Watkins is seeking to hire a "social media" specialist to manage its online presence. Here's a portion of the job ad:
The Social Media Specialist helps develop and implement the firm’s social media strategy. The Social Media Specialist’s responsibilities include formulating a comprehensive social media approach that is integrated with the firm’s public relations and marketing endeavors, as well as supporting the development of the firm’s social media policies and governance. The Social Media Specialist coordinates the firm’s presence within social media and stays abreast of best practices and trends in the digital communications and social media arena, while accomplishing these and other critical functions.
Query how many other BigLaw firms are going to make a major commitment to social media. I believe surveys exist about social media use among large firms generally and if I can find that information, I'll post it here.
In the meantime, if you know someone who might be a good fit for this job, please pass it along. You can read the rest of the job posting here.
Update 3/16/11 - here's our post about the social media practices of BigLaw.
We posted the other day about the advantages to new grads and solos of establishing a practice-related blog as an inexpensive way to promote yourself. Included in that post are numerous tips to help get you started. Over at Above the Law, a new and popular column devoted to small firm practice addresses a number of concerns expressed by those wading into the social media waters for the first time. Here they are:
- How to get established on Twitter.
- How to maintain a professional aura in your social media use.
- What about "billing" for time spent on social media? (short answer - you can't)
- Can you get sued for something you post (always a possibility but if you use commonsense you should be able to avoid it)
- What if you offend someone? (sometimes it happens, but if you use commonsense, you should be able to avoid it)
- Do I really need a social media presence if I'm already in the Yellow Pages and Martindale-Hubbell? (yes).
You can read the commentary that goes along with each of these points by clicking here.