Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Too Many Dashes in the New York Times?

On the March 25 print front page of the Times, each of six stories had at least one dash on the front-page part of the story. Page A1 contained a total of 16 dashes in the text. The lead story had two pairs of dashes in the first two paragraphs. 

Earlier in my career, I peppered by writing with lots of dashes. After a while, I realized that the dashes broke up the flow of the sentences and that if spent more time crafting a sentence, I could dispense with the dashes. I still use dashes, but not very often. 

My statistics on dashes in the Times come from “After Deadline,” a column in the Times Topics blog. The column examines questions of grammar, usage, and style that writers and editors of the paper encounter. This particular column offers excerpts from the dash-laden articles and also discusses other stylistic and grammatical issues.


April 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hiring Partner Gives Tips to Job Seekers

In this video, Richard Holzheimer, Reed Smith’s hiring partner, advises potential associates to do their homework on firms that they are interviewing. (2minutes, 13 seconds)


April 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

When will legal educators start using videogames as a teaching tool?

This article from the Harvard Business Review asks whether gaming has a place in higher ed. I'm aware of at least one law practice video game called "Objection!" ("Be a trial lawyer!" screams the ad) which has obvious application to trial ad. and evidence classes. I have no doubt that some enterprising legal educator will find a way to make CALI-type exercises into a more "game-like" experience for law students. It's just a matter of time and money. In the meantime, enjoy this post from the HBR. Here's an excerpt:

So why are educators and the education industry not making better use of games, gaming, and gamification? While many of us who are sharing ideas through the Harvard Think Tank might be well-informed about the benefits and research, the concept has to this point seemed to have failed to have any significant impact beyond what we might call boutique adoption. Yes, we've had many conferences, institutes, and roundtables on the topics, and we have seen millions of dollars invested in a wide range of research, but given all that, when are we going to see a fundamental adoption of gaming at scale in any one of its forms, and the core principles on which it is based? What's holding this progress back?

Is it that gaming, by its very name, cannot be taken seriously by the wider education community, or indeed the wider community in general? Is it possible that gaming is only now starting to reach a level of "maturity" and sophistication from an affordable technology perspective, that it can finally provide what might be to be "serious opportunities for learning"? Or is it something that might be seen as driving what could be called subversive pedagogy? Surely if the latter is the case, then we are never going to see any widespread adoption of game-based learning in our schools without a comprehensive strategy that addresses that challenge. Is it possible that many of the innovations that have driven changes within our schools have only succeeded because they have been incremental, while gaming is perceived, at least in Papert's model, to be a fundamental shift? In the educational world — as in business — fundamental shifts can be threatening to the status quo, leading to pushback and relegating them to token or boutique adoption.

Whatever the reason, it's time we thought beyond the fundamental research around the value, impact and opportunities game-based learning provides, and spent some time trying to leverage the evidence we do have be presenting it to a much broader community. Also long the way it would be nice if we could reverse the trend that too many schools seem to have followed away from programming and games development (with some obvious exceptions, most notably Scratch, MicroWorlds and lately Kodu) and invest long-term in creating substantial numbers of student voices who can speak to the fundamentals of gaming built on their knowledge of games design. Teach students to fish, in this instance, may be a better, and more impactful outcome all round.


April 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Social Media Important Marketing Tool for Lawyers (and soon-to-be lawyers)

Larry Bodine at the Law Marketing Blog just posted powerful statistics about the use of social media as a marketing tool for lawyers.  He cites a recent Hubspot survey:

• Businesses that blog get 55% more web traffic.
• 78% of Internet users conduct product research online.
• In the past year, Web-based email usage dropped a staggering 59% among young people who prefer to communicate via text, instant messaging, and social networks.
• 78% of business people use their mobile device to check email.  So that means pretty much everybody that can check email on a mobile device, does. Is your email newsletter optimized for mobile devices?
• 91% of email users have unsubscribed from a company email they previously opted-in to.
• 57% of businesses have acquired a customer through their company blog.
• 41% of business-to-business companies and 67% of business-to-consumer companies have acquired a customer through Facebook.
• The number of marketers who say Facebook is “critical” or “important” to their business has increased 83% in just 2 years.


April 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New scholarship: Is the "law school scam" blogging movement influencing the legal profession?

Here's a new article by John Marshall Professor Lucille A. Jewel called "You’re Doing It Wrong: How the Anti-Law School Scam Blogging Movement Can Shape the Legal Profession." It can be found at 12 Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, 239 (2011). From the introduction:

In contrast with the ribald and sometimes abusive culture of the Internet, the culture of the legal profession is restrained, deferential, and committed to resolving disputes through formal legal processes. Thus, there is a potential for conflict between the culture of the Internet and the culture of the legal profession. Specifically, normative conflicts are emerging with respect to blogs where lawyers air caustic, uncensored, and highly critical views of the legal profession. This conflict is exemplified by the so-called Law School Scam Blogging Movement (“Scam Blog Movement” or “Scam Bloggers”), a populist online community calling for reform of the way that law schools market themselves to potential law students.

Using jarring visual rhetoric and public shaming techniques unique to the Internet, the Scam Bloggers argue that there is an oversupply of lawyers in the United States, that law schools are engaging in a type of fraud by purposely over-inflating post-graduation employment data in order to draw in more law students, and that, in essence, law schools and professional institutions, such as the American Bar Association (ABA), should be ashamed of themselves. Some Scam Blog sites, such as Temporary Attorney, call attention to the humiliating job experiences of attorneys who are paid by the hour to perform low-level, systemized legal tasks such as computerized coding of documents for discovery review. Others, such as Subprime J.D., emphasize the distress and anxiety of young J.D.s (Juris Doctors) who are heavily in debt but unable, after months of trying, to land a decent paying law-related job. The general theme arising from this collection of web sites is that market forces within legal education and the legal job market have produced a deeply disappointing professional experience for some lawyers.

Despite its nontraditional approach, the Scam Blogging movement has had a palpable effect on the debate of an important issue facing the legal profession. Beginning with a few independent blogs, the movement grew into a community of bloggers, all focusing on the idea of publicizing the problem of an oversupply of lawyers in the job market, the exorbitant expense of legal education, and a lack of transparency in how law schools report and publicize post-J.D. employment data. The ideas publicized by the movement reached an apex in the late summer and fall of 2010, evinced by the number of traditional media outlets covering the Law School Scam Blog story and well-regarded law professors evaluating the movement’s contentions

. . . .

In looking at the story of the Law School Scam Blogging movement, Part I of this Article explains how the technological structure of the Internet enables ideas to solidify and spread in a way that differs from the way information is expressed in traditional media formats. Part II generally describes the attributes of Internet culture, both the good and bad, and contrasts that culture with the culture of the legal profession. Part III looks at the Scam Blogging movement and argues that, when non-traditional members of the legal profession use the Internet as a forum to argue for reform, even if they do so in untoward ways, those arguments do impact the profession and should be listened to by all members of the legal profession.


April 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Another video on how to create an effective PowerPoint presentation

Admittedly I've been on a PowerPoint obsession lately, trying to better understand why it works and why it doesn't (here, here, here and here). Below is another video that describes how to put together a good one (the key is to organize your slides around a story line while avoiding too much text and bullet points). The video was created by the author of a book called "Beyond Bullet Points" and it's a bit of an advertisement to buy his book (where more secrets will be revealed) but you may still find it useful.


April 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

2008 study of college freshman writing finds papers have gotten longer, more analytical

Even though this study is three years old (and the data is even older having been collected in 2006), you may still find it interesting. "Mistakes Are a Fact of Life: A National Comparative Study" by Andrea Lunsford & Karen Lunsford published at 59 College Composition and Communication 781 (2008). Contrary to many reports that students are assigned shorter and less analytical writing projects by their college professors, this study found just the opposite as compared to similar data gathered during the mid-80's. Here's an excerpt:

What We Found: Two Major Shifts

Before we turn to a discussion of the particular formal errors in these essays, we want to note two major shifts that have taken place during the last two decades. First, we found that our sense that these papers were quite a bit longer than those in the Connors and Lunsford study was accurate: in fact, these papers turned out to be, on average, over two-and-a-half times longer than those in the previous study. In a further analysis, we found that papers in our sample ranged from a scant 1.5 pages to a densely written 23 pages, and we calculated from the total pages that the average length was 4.15 pages. Assuming the standard 250 words per full page, we calculated that the average number of words was 1,038 per paper. Thus, as Table 5 indicates, research across the decades demonstrates that college student essays have grown longer and longer with time.


The second trend we noted is a sea change in the types of papers teachers are asking students to write in first-year writing classes. Although the first study included some reports and a fair number of readings of (mostly) literary texts, the majority of the papers were personal narratives. When we analyzed the kinds of papers represented in this study, we found a range of paper types, as indicated in Table 6.


These results strongly suggest that emphasis on personal narrative has been replaced by an emphasis on argument and research. This finding is supported by Richard Fulkerson's recent map of our discipline, which points to the tremendous growth of argumentation-based textbooks in the last twenty years, despite wide differences in approaches to composition courses (672). Likewise, these results confirm a finding offered by Kathi Yancey and her colleagues: in a national survey of writing programs, an "overwhelming" majority of teachers indicated that they focus on argument- and research-based writing. Together, the two shifts we have identified suggest that student writers today are tackling the kind of issues that require inquiry and investigation as well as reflection and that students are writing more than ever before.

Has this trend reversed in recent years as the result of mobile communication technology (did texting even exist in 2006?) - I'm sure some would argue that's the case.

You can read the full Lansford and Lansford study here.


April 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

British Inn of Court issues "health warning" to those thinking about law school

Here's the notice that appears on the U.K.'s Middle Temple Inn of Court website under the heading "Health Warning:"


Is it right for you?
We are very glad that you are seriously thinking of pursuing a career at the Bar. However, you must think carefully about whether you have the potential to make a successful career as a barrister. A career at the Bar is very demanding, requiring high standards.

The Bar can offer an extremely rewarding career if you

• have a high level of intellectual ability;
• are highly articulate in written and spoken English;
• can think and communicate under pressure; and
• have determination and stamina and are emotionally robust.

Once you have satisfied yourself you have these qualities, and the potential to develop your knowledge and skills further, you should also consider some of the ‘facts and figures’ concerning a career at the Bar before you commit yourself.

. . . .

So, to make a realistic assessment of whether you are suited to a career as a barrister you should:

• Seek guidance from your university law tutors and careers advisers
• Go to the Inns and speak to their Education staff (they organise open days for university students)
• Find out more about the profession and look at the statistical information
• Try to gain relevant experience such as working for a law firm, doing a mini pupillage or marshalling for a judge
• Try to talk to people who have studied for the Bar, for example to a recently qualified barrister.

If you have faith in yourself, your capabilities and your potential to succeed after hard work and effort this should not discourage you. For good candidates, from whatever background, financial support (for example scholarships from the Inns of Court, or loans) is frequently available, and the final rewards - both in terms of job satisfaction and financial remuneration - can make it a very worthwhile career

Hat tip to Professor Larry Kreiger.


April 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Do Juries Perceive Defendants with Eyeglasses?

Are perceptions of attractiveness, intelligence and how threatening you appear to be related to whether you wear glasses?

Kind of, but it depends. Overall, Caucasian defendants were seen as more attractive, more friendly and less threatening than African American defendants. And both Caucasian and African American defendants were seen as more intelligent and less threatening when they wore eyeglasses. But when Caucasian defendants wore eyeglasses they were seen as less attractive and less friendly. However, African Americans were rated as more attractive and more friendly and less threatening with eyeglasses.

This comes from a posting on the “nerd defense” at Keene Trial Consulting. It sounds a little confusing, but the results are nuanced.


April 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

‘Astonished’ Judge Declares Murder Mistrial Due to Defense Lawyer Who Never Tried a Case

The headline says it  all. Here's the story from the ABA Journal online.


April 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Research Tip – Administrative Law – Start at the Agency Website

In law school, most students get exposed to Westlaw and LexisNexis and never look back (until they hit the “real world” and discover the real costs of using these tools).  In our 1L research classes at St. Thomas, we, like other teaching librarians, have made a commitment to teaching our students to be cost-effective researchers. 

While preparing for a research session for an administrative law class next week, I pulled together an example from a current project that shows how useful (and FREE) an agency website can be for a research resource.

My example comes from the Department of Labor website.  The agency website has all the tools needed to locate a proposed rule, see the public comments submitted, read the testimony from the recent hearing, and set up an alert to track when the regulation becomes final.  All this without incurring a single database charge!

The more we can do to teach our students to be savvy information consumers, the better. 


April 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

ABA Standards Review Committee appears to decline AALS request to "start over"

Regarding the ABA Standards Review Committee's open forum in Chicago yesterday, here's the report from the online ABA Journal:

A request that an ABA committee put a hold on its review of law school accreditation standards to consider the broader ramifications of its efforts on the future of legal education did not get much of a response.

The Association of American Law Schools made the request at a public hearing Saturday before the ABA Section of Legal Education's Standards Review Committee, which is meeting in Chicago this weekend to work on several draft chapters of the proposed new standards. Some of the initial recommendations have been controversial.

AALS President Michael Olivas asked the committee to reject any proposed changes that would weaken, rather than strengthen, legal education; to initiate a process that would allow "important constituencies" to understand and debate the proposals; and to undertake an independent, fact-based study of the actual cost drivers in legal education and their relationship to the accreditation process.

. . . .

Committee members didn't respond directly to the association's request. But one member of the committee—Loyola University-Chicago law school dean David Yellen—urged Olivas to "try a little harder" in the future to avoid mischaracterizing the committee's actions.

Yellen was referring to cited Olivas' contention that the committee had not given any thought to the philosophy underlying the standards and his claim that the committee had not engaged in a dialogue over the standards with other constituencies.

"Disagreement is great, but I urge you to adopt a different spirit than what is sometimes reflected in this letter," Yellen said.

Olivas said the association doesn't believe what the committee is doing constitutes a dialogue. "We'll just have to agree to disagree," he said.

Committee chair Donald J. Polden, dean of the Santa Clara University School of Law, said later he was both surprised and disappointed by the tenor of Olivas' letter. He said the committee, which has been working on the standards for 2½ years, has heard very little from the AALS until now.

Polden also said he hadn't heard anything that would persuade him the committee should stop what it's doing and start over.

"I'm just one vote," he said, "but as far as I'm concerned, they haven't made the case."

You can read the rest here.


April 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Another essay defending use of the Socratic method in law school

Are they putting something in the water in New York? Last week we brought you a passionate essay by a student at Albany Law School who defended the Socratic method as the best way for teachers to prepare students for practice. This week, we have this essay called "Quit Whining!" from a recent New York Law School grad who also defends tough Socratic questioning as great preparation for the practice of law. The essay begins as a criticism of the recent effort by some U. Miami law students to pass a bill of rights that would exempt them from being responsible in class or on tests from material not explicitly assigned.  But it then turns into praise for the professors who hold students' feet to the fire:

What I learned that day was to pay more attention to what I was reading, what I was learning, and how I could make learning a more holistic experience.  Throughout the remainder of my law school education, I looked for nuances, procedural issues, and other legal issues that may be present or simultaneously exist but remain unexplained, in the assigned reading. I also challenged myself to think more acutely when a professor engaged in the Socratic method, with either a classmate or with me. It was grueling, but it made me a better student; it also helped me understand everything that I was learning and make connections that I may not have otherwise made.

. . . .

The Socratic method is not only one of the oldest styles of teaching; it is one of the most arduous styles of learning.  Although this method is anxiety-provoking, intense, and rigid, it does prepare future attorneys to be able to meet the demands of the profession. It trains us to discern relevant facts from a sea of facts, to find laws on point that will guide an issue or claim, and most importantly, to help our clients.  Law school is not about endless discussions on how students feel about the law, and writing heartfelt essays on exams. Law school is hard.  It has to be; anything less than that would be a disservice to future clients.

You can read the rest of the essay here courtesy of the NYLS Legal Journalism blog.

Hat tip to Brittany Weiner.


April 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do lower acceptance rates at elite colleges reflect USNWR "gaming?"

A brief article from Friday's New York Times points out that elite college acceptance rates are at an all-time low. For instance, Stanford "received 34,348 applications and accepted only 7.07 percent of those applicants. The rate was 26 percent a quarter-century ago and 62 percent 50 years ago." What accounts for this?  Are there more qualified candidates today than a generation ago or is this the result of schools gaming their selectivity figures in order to raise their USNWR rankings? The Times asked several educators to weigh-in and below are links to their opinions (hint: several suggest the ease of electronic applications coupled with schools who encourage more students to apply in order to boost selectivity figures are the reasons).

Colleges Love to Say No

How Success Can Backfire

To the Parents: Stop This

A Vicious Cycle

Yale Versus Jail

Overinvesting in Higher Education

Gaming the System

It's About Fit, Not Data

Four Years to Relax

The NYT just erected a paywall - if you can't access the stories, try this.


April 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Suppose A Lawyer on Inactive Status Takes Case for No Fee

Suppose a lawyer is on inactive status and helps out an ailing fellow lawyer and the lawyer’s client, and accepts no fees for his services.  In Pennsylvania, the result is suspension by the state Supreme Court for a year and a day. The disciplinary system takes inactive status seriously.  Here is a link to the story from the e-newsletter of the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.


April 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

In test of online versus offline research, guess which is quicker?

Thanks to our good buddies at the Law Librarian Blog for alerting us to this recent U. Michigan study called A Day Without A Search Engine: An Experimental Study Of Online and Offline Search. It sought to compare the time needed to complete traditonal, offline research tasks against the time needed to complete those same tasks online.  The online tasks took less than a third of the time as the offliners. Is anyone surprised?

Here's the study abstract:

With the advent of the Web and search engines, online search has become a common method of obtaining information. The question arises as to how much time people save by using search engines for their information needs, and the extent to which online search affects search experiences and outcomes. Using a random sample of queries from a major search engine, we conduct an experiment to compare online and offline search experiences and outcomes. We find that participants are significantly more likely to find an answer on the Web. Restricting to the set of queries which participants find answers in both treatments, the average search time is 22 minutes offline, and 7 minute online. While library sources are judged to be significantly more trustworthy and authoritative than the corresponding web sources, web sources are judged to be significantly more relevant and more likely to contain enough information to answer the question. Balancing all factors, the overall source quality is not significantly different between the two treatments. Lastly, post-search questionnaires reveal that online search is more enjoyable than offline search.

There's some detailed commentary at the LLB, including the reaction from Google, which you can read by clicking here. To read the original study, click here.


April 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)