Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How to Manage Without Micromanaging

When you are serving as a manager, how do you avoid micromanaging those who are supposed to be doing the work or end up doing the work yourself? On the Harvard Business Journal blog, Linda Hill and Kent Lineback suggest the “prep-do-review” technique. Here is a brief summary: 

Prep: Start by previewing people's plans with them and suggesting changes, if necessary. You do this by asking crucial questions.

Do: Based on what you learned in the Prep stage, you can decide whether and how to be involved in the doing of the activity.

Review: Great managers make post-action review a regular practice for themselves and their people. You can make it the focus of a one-on-one after an activity has been completed.


March 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Libya or Shoplifting?

This is off topic.On March 28, Lawrence Kudlow of CNBC had to have been embarrassed.  President Obama has  just delivered an important speech about U.S. involvement in the Libyan crisis. Kudlow then conducted a  discussion with top commentators. Then, with apparent embarrassment, he told the audience that he had to end  the discussion so that CNBC could show a documentary on shoplifting—a somewhat  revamped version of a previous 60 Minutes episode.

 I remember when cable held the promise of a “wired nation” and national town meetings.  Life is full of disappointments.


March 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Writing tip: How to avoid those pesky comma splices

A comma splice occurs when the writer combines two sentences with a comma. Below are some examples from the Business Writing Blog as well as advice on how to fix them:

  • Thanks for your help, it's exactly what I needed.
  • I will see you on Friday, I'm looking forward to lunch.
  • These examples are great, thanks for sending them.
  • My interview is tomorrow, we'll see how it goes.

Each of those items is two sentences. Each item is incorrect according to all style guides. 

Why do intelligent people make the error? I think people worry that they will come across too informally or too plainly if they use such short sentences. They believe using 4-to-6-word sentences, especially two of them in a row, can't be professional. 

But two short, crisp, clear sentences in a row are professional and punchy.

Some people call the error a "comma splice," since the sentences are spliced incorrectly, using a comma. To correct the errors, replace each comma with a period (full stop). Or for a breezy tone, use a dash, like this:

  • Thanks for your help--it's exactly what I needed.
  • These examples are great--thanks for sending them.
  • My interview is tomorrow--we'll see how it goes.

This example works better with a period than a dash:

  • I will see you on Friday. I'm looking forward to lunch.

You can read the rest of Lynn Gaertner-Johnson's column here.


March 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Much Do Michigan Lawyers Make?

And how much do they charge? A study by the Michigan State Bar reveals all. The report breaks down the information in a number of categories:

I 2010 Attorney Income

Exhibit 1 2010 Estimated Attorney Income—Private Practitioners........................5

Exhibit 2 2010 Estimated Attorney Income—Non-Private Practitioners................6

II 2010 Attorney Hourly Billing Rates

Exhibit 3 2010 Attorney Hourly Billing Rates.........................................................7

Exhibit 4 2010 Attorney Hourly Billing Rates by Years in Practice........................7

Exhibit 5 2010 Attorney Hourly Billing Rates by Firm Size....................................8

Exhibit 6 2010 Attorney Hourly Billing Rates by Office Location...........................9

Exhibit 7 2010 Attorney Hourly Billing Rates by Field of Practice.......................10

Exhibit 8 2010 Attorney Hourly Billing Rates by Primary County of Practice......12

Exhibit 9 2010 Attorney Hourly Billing Rates by Primary Circuit of Practice........14 

Here’s the report.


March 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

One law student's defense of the Socratic teaching method

Here's a spirited argument from one law student in favor of retaining the tried and true Socratic method at a time when legal educators face increasing pressure to reform the law school curriculum in order to better prepare students for law practice. This student argues that the Socratic method is already the best preparation for practice.  From the Albany Government Law Review Fireplace:

The reality is that “‘[n]o one has ever died because of the Socratic method . . .” and the added pressure is pivotal in getting used to what the profession is all about. Thus, to disfavor a practice that has been respected for centuries, precisely because of its tenacity, would completely undermine the law school learning process and make it less rigorous. Another Harvard Law professor reiterates that pure lecturing (which it seems these students would prefer) would mean “the lecturer pumps laboriously into sieves. . . .It treats the student not as a man, but as a school boy reciting his lines.” Law school has a reputation for being so difficult because the professor is not going to hold the student’s hand from start to finish; it is presumed that students already have acquired the skills necessary to adapt to a new world of academia.  It would be entirely elementary to expect the professor of higher education to adapt to every student’s individual needs.

. . . .

Learning theory before practice, by means of the Socratic method, is at the hallmark of the intellectual tradition of legal education.  It makes the law school classroom the starting point, as the challenging forum that turns the fresh young minds of first year students into sophisticated and empowered practitioners of today.  If law school only taught practical tactics in lawyering, with no theoretical or philosophical premise to conceptualize the historical underpinnings of what the law is today, law students may as well earn an online degree and call it a day.

. . . .

Some legal scholars believe that just because the legal academic institution is hesitant to adopt “progressive” methods means that the Socratic method is “archaic” and devoid of any true significance. This belief is alarming.  The Socratic method has been used for over centuries and there is a reason for it: the risk of being questioned invokes classroom participation in such a vicarious way that it explores the strengths and weaknesses of the student’s legal arguments.  These students are more apt to learning legal analysis by actually doing it, cold, with questions thrown at them rapid fire, strengthening their oral dialogue. In essence, if a student finds the material to be so intellectually challenging that being questioned about it Socratically contributes to overtaxing psychological pressure, chances are, that student will have a hard time practicing law.  The reality? “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

You can read the rest here.

Hat tip to the Best Practices For Legal Education blog (which also includes a response to Ms. Carravetta's original post).


March 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law firm sues over "fake" online review left by disgruntled ex-employee

The internet turns everyone into a potential critic and makes every business and service subject to the vagaries of consumer complaints. Law firms are no different as the story below, courtesy of the Texas Lawyer, makes clear. 

A small Texas firm, Weston & Associates, is suing a former paralegal who left negative feedback on Citysearch.com which has allegedly cost the firm significant reputational and economic harm.

Bellaire lawyer Michael W. Weston and his firm, Weston & Associates, have filed a defamation suit alleging a 'false review' about the firm was posted online on Citysearch.com. They seek more than $1.25 million in damages.

Weston and his firm are suing a paralegal who formerly worked at Weston & Associates and a man who has her same last name. The plaintiffs allege in the petition filed March 3 in Harris County's 133rd District Court that the Nov. 22, 2010, 'fraudulent posting' on Citysearch.com was accessible through a Google search. The further allege the review resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost business, because it was 'made public to thousands of potential clients since Nov. 22, 2010.' [See the petition.]

As alleged in the complaint, the "fake" review states:

'I went to this attorney on the recommendation of a friend. He had used the father for a bankruptcy. I would be using the son to help with debt settlement. I found him to be condescending to my situation and cold in demeanor. If you are looking for a factory that turns out debt settlements then this attorney is for you. If you want someone to answer your questions and help you through a hard time in your life then find another firm!!!!!!!'

Weston said he only recently found the negative review after doing a Google search for his firm. He said that his stomach dropped when he realized that the review had been online for several months resulting in an unknown quantum of negative publicity.

This is undoubtedly a situation that firms will face with increasing frequency moving forward.  You can read the rest of the story here.

Hat tip to the ABA Journal.


March 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Update: Academics Resuscitated at Texas?

An Update to our recent post. The Chair and three members of the Texas Board of Regents have written to alumni and others that “We respect (academic research). We embrace it. There has not been, nor will there be, an attempt to exclude research in how we value faculty.” To be continued.

 In my earlier post, I included an incorrect link to the letter from the chair of the Texas alumni organization. Unfortunately, I have lost the connection. Here is the most recent article from the Austin American Statesman covering the story.


March 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dos & Don’ts for Court

The Minnesota State Bar Association’s publication, “Bench and Bar”, has a regular column “Tips & Traps” where experienced lawyers can post their advice to newcomers.  A post in the March, 2011 issue is just too good to not pass on through this blog.

Author Susan Dickel Minsberg (Law Offices of Susan Minsberg – St. Paul, MN) put together these tips based on behavior she had observed in the courtroom:

"Do not walk into a courtroom with a swagger – this is not the ... Grammys.
  Do not use inflammatory language during an argument – it will only be used against you in rebuttal.
  Do turn OFF your cell phone or smart phone.
  Do comb or brush your hair – you don’t want to look like you just got out of bed.
  Do take your sunglasses off of your head.
  Do not act like you are in charge of the courtroom – the judge is.
  Do not interrupt the judge.
  Do not interrupt opposing counsel.
  Do not lose your temper.
  Do not whine.
  Do not rely on your claim that something is true because you said so.
  Do be on time and prepared.”

It seems like some folks just need to be reminded of what many of us take for granted as obvious decorum and professionalism.  Don't be afraid of giving your students advice that you might think is obvious!


March 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A video on how to make better PowerPoint slides for the classroom or for practice

PowerPoint can be a great classroom teaching tool.  But it can also undermine student learning to the extent professors jettison complexity in order to make the lecture fit the format of a PowerPoint slide. In one article I read about the dangers of teacher over-reliance on PowerPoint, the author said we risk turning our students into the "pancake people" when sophisticated ideas are "flattened" and squeezed of any nuance in order to shoehorn them into the bullet-point format of a slide.  To mitigate the effects of PowerPoint compression, you may want to check out this video from Microsoft's "Casual Office" blog that explains how to make PowerPoint more useful in the classroom, for clients, the boss or whomever.

You can learn more here.

Hat tip to the Chronicle of Higher Ed.


March 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Large survey shows most high school students cheat

And a related study found that cheaters overestimate their ability to do well without having to resort to cheating. From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

A new series of studies has found that a majority of students cheat, and that those who do often have inflated expectations of how well they can perform without cheating. In a survey of 40,000 students at public and private high schools, 59.4 percent admitted to cheating on a test, and one in three said they had cheated on a test twice or more in the past year. Another study, by Harvard Business School and Duke University, found that students who were given the opportunity to cheat on a test predicted they would perform just as well on a second test when they weren’t given the opportunity to cheat.
. . . .
The results of the study suggest that some cheaters set themselves up to fall behind academically after becoming overly confident about their abilities . . . .

You can read the rest here.


March 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How much money do e-textbooks save students?

Not as much as you might think according to a recent column in the Chronicle of Higher Ed called "iPads: Boon or Bane to College Teaching?"  The article questions whether requiring students to buy a $500.00 iPad, which can then be loaded with e-textbooks, is a cheaper alternative to buying p-textbooks. At present, though, e-textbooks are only about 20% cheaper than their hardcopy counterparts. Unlike p-textbooks, however, students can't recoup a portion of their initial cost by selling their e-textbooks back to the bookstore at the end of the semester because the licensing agreements prevent it. 


March 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is Academic Scholarship Doomed in Texas?

The UT System Board of Regents, led by Chairman Gene Powell, has hired consultants who have publicly stated the fundamental view that academic research is not valuable and that tenured faculty could be replaced by lower-cost lecturers. These consultants propose a formula that excludes research in valuing faculty. They only want to look at any immediate financial value of research that can be proven on a current basis.

 This report comes from the President of the alumni association of the University of Texas, and it is appalling in what it says about how the overseers of higher education in a major state understand the purposes of academia. Although many would agree that higher education faculty should devote more time to teaching and less to scholarship, the apparent thinking of the Board of Regents goes too far. Here is the letter from the head of the alumni association. The slogan of  the University of Texas is “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You.” As applied to the Regents, they certainly are.

(ljs--a UT Law Alum)

March 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)