Saturday, May 7, 2011

New Public Access to Federal Court Opinions

The US Courts announced a pilot project to provide free public access to court opinions through the FDSys system.  See the full announcement here.

"The judiciary continually has sought ways to enhance public access to court opinions. Free access to opinions in all federal courts is currently available via the judiciary’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records service (PACER)....


The initial 12 participating courts are the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second and Eighth Circuits; the U.S. district courts for the Districts of Minnesota, Rhode Island, Maryland, Idaho, and Kansas, the Northern District of New York, and the Northern District of Alabama; and the U.S. bankruptcy courts for the District of Maine, the Southern District of Florida, and the Southern District of New York."

Hat tip Legal Reseach Plus - http://legalresearchplus.com/

(dkh)

May 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Makes “Strunk & White” So Popular?

The Elements  of Style” by Will Strunk and E.B. White may be the best known book on writing  style of our day. Although the book has its critics, it appeared in its fiftieth anniversary edition in 2009.

So, what made it so popular? Here is E.B. White’s speculation:

The Strunk book, which is a “right and wrong” book arrived on the  scene at a  time  when a wave of reaction was setting in against the  permissive school of rhetoric, the Anything Goes school where right and wrong do not exist and there is  no foundation all down the line. The little book climbed on this handy wave and rode it in.

White describes Professor Strunk as a fundamentalist who believed in right and wrong. White largely agreed with this philosophy:

Unless someone is willing to entertain notions of superiority, the English language disintegrates, just as a home disintegrates unless someone in the family sets standards of good taste, good conduct, and simple justice.

 These quotes come from “Will Strunk,” an essay in White’s “The Points of My Compass.” It probably appears in other collections of his essays, and a shorter version appears as the introduction to “The Elements of Style.”

(ljs)

May 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Starting 'em young: Plan to give iPads to kindergartners upsets parents

iPads for kindergartners? Talk about your digital natives. From the Bangor Daily News:

AUBURN, Maine — Upset citizens filled the Auburn Hall council chambers Wednesday night to let the school committee know how unhappy they were about a decision to give iPad 2s to kindergarten students this fall.

For nearly two hours, person after person condemned the decision. Several said they are for technology in schools, but this was too much for students too young.

The majority of those who spoke demanded the committee change its direction and drop or alter the iPad 2 program for kindergartners.

The committee took no action.

It was announced that the pilot program would proceed in five classes May 12. From May 20 to 24 there will be pilot parent nights, and on June 15 the committee would hear how the four weeks went with kindergarten students using iPad 2s. If students don’t show promise, the program won’t continue, educators said.

That didn’t appease the audience.

James Williams told the committee they’ve gone too far and he didn’t care about “charts and graphs” showing how iPads would boost student learning. Charts and graphs can be manipulated to show anything, Williams said.

Kids today want to play computer games, he said. “They don’t want to work anymore.”

At stores kids can’t make change for $1 unless the machine tells them how much, Williams said. Kids who have access to computers too early “are afraid to make eye contact. … What you’re going to do is raise a bunch of computer geniuses, but illiterate idiots.”

Tracey Levesque, co-founder of the Facebook page Auburn Citizens for Responsible Education, said the group asked people to say whether the iPads for kindergartners was a good idea. “As of 3 p.m. today, 329 had voted yes, 6,722 voted no, and 133 were undecided.”

Read the rest here.

(jbl).

May 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Proposal for U.S. News Law Rankings

U.S. News has two classifications for medical schools: Research and Primary Care. A similar thing might be done for law schools: Research and Lawyer Preparation. There could be separate reputation rankings for scholarship and teaching, and categories could be weighted differently depending on the classification. For example, bar passage would be more important for the lawyer preparation classification.

This might help with some of the problems that law schools are having in reaction to U.S. News rankings. A school could choose whether they want to be primarily thought of as a research institution or a teaching institution. This would also help students decide what type of law school was best for them.

(esf)

May 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Law Student Scholarships: U.S. News Fights Back

The media has given considerable coverage to the story that law schools give out merit scholarships conditioned on the student maintaining a minimum grade average. When a student fails to attain the requisite grade, the student may claim that the law school engaged in “bait and switch”—not informing the student how difficult it might be to satisfy that minimum.

 According to the accusation, law schools offer the scholarships in hopes of attracting students with high LSATs and grade points in hopes of improving their U.S. News rankings. The Morse blog of U.S. News has taken offense. Here is its response:

It's clear that the U.S. News law school rankings have a large impact on law schools and prospective law school students. However, the U.S. News Best Law School rankings are not why students lose their scholarships. In addition, the article implies that the U.S. News rankings are the key factor behind why law schools are offering more merit-based aid and less need-based aid in order to enroll students with higher LSATs and GPAs and, as a result, improve in the rankings. Law schools need to take far more direct responsibility for their policies instead of citing the oft-repeated claims that they are forced into these actions solely because U.S. News exerts so much power over law school behavior.

I don’t see U.S. News as the cause of students losing scholarships. However, I do see it as the reason that schools give out so many scholarships in the first place—instead of rethinking the economics of legal education. I also wonder how many students lose these scholarships. After all, the schools award them to applicants with better numbers than their average student.

(ljs)                  (Thx to the ABA Journal blog)

May 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Another popular press report on the changing nature of the legal services sector

This time it's The Economist magazine that's reporting on the changes occurring within the legal services sector. Or as U. Indiana Law Professor William Henderson characterizes it - "The 100 year flood that's hitting the legal profession."

Nothing earth-shattering here. By now, you know the drill: Decreased demand for legal services, clients who insist on lower bills,  outsourcing and offshoring, software that can replace associates, increased competition for the work that still exists. Here's an excerpt:

Lawyers would like to believe that the worst is over and that no more of them will suffer Howrey’s fate. Work on M&A and initial public offerings has recovered from dismal levels. And according to American Lawyer, profit per partner at America’s 100 biggest firms rose by 8.4% last year, having fallen by 4.3% in 2008 and gone up by a measly 0.3% in 2009.

But not all the trends that have hit the legal industry are cyclical. Some are here to stay even as the economy recovers. One is clients’ determination to keep their bills down. Feeling that they had overpaid vastly for the work of green trainees, they began refusing to have routine work billed to first- and second-year associates (ie, lawyers who are not yet partners). They see no reason to stand for it again. And alternative fee arrangements continue to grow in importance, albeit slowly: they accounted for 16% of big firms’ revenue in 2010.

A second trend is globalisation, which the law is experiencing later than other industries. For lawyers, it holds both promise and peril. Booming emerging markets, especially in Asia, are leading New York and London firms to extend their reach. But the growth of outsourcing to places like India is not lost on money-conscious clients, some of whom are demanding that their lawyers pass certain routine work to cheaper contractors.

A third trend is the growth of technology in an industry long synonymous with trained human judgment. Software that can perform tasks like “e-discovery”, sorting through e-mails and other digital records for evidence, is saving firms money. It has also made it harder to sustain a business model in which partners sit atop a pyramid with a fat base of associates who carry out expensively billed work, some of which is routine and repetitive.

Trends that were not part of the recession will not disappear with the recovery. Some will even strengthen. William Henderson of Indiana University points out just how good and how long a run lawyers had. Spending on legal services grew from 0.4% of America’s GDP in 1978 to 1.8% in 2003. The legal business grew four times faster than the economy. Now, Mr Henderson says, a “hundred-year flood” is hitting the profession. Job growth had begun well before 2008, he points out, so that the labour market was already out of balance when recession struck. Not all firms will survive, and those that do will not all prosper equally.

You can read the rest here.

(jbl).

May 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday Fun: It's ATL Law Revue Time!

The finalists for ATL's annual Law Revue contest have been posted. I'm always amazed and impressed with the creativity these students show. Below is a sample called "Angel" - a mock PSA about how to save a law student life. From a group of very talented BU students:

Click here to see the rest of the finalists and then vote for your fav.

(jbl).

May 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

California considers bill that would require search warrant before police can look at list of e-book purchases

From the BNA Electronic Commerce and Law Report (password protected):

Law enforcement and other government officials in California would be required to obtain a court issued search warrant in order to access the personal information of individuals regarding their purchase of books in either paper or electronic form under a bill (S.B. 602) that received clearance from the Senate Appropriations Committee May 3 to proceed to a second reading on the floor.
“Individuals should be free to buy books without fear of government intrusion and witch hunts. If law enforcement has reason to suspect wrongdoing, they can obtain a warrant for such information,” bill sponsor Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), said in an April 12 statement welcoming the Senate Judiciary Committee's unanimous approval of the measure earlier the same day.
The growth in the market for digital books prompted introduction of the legislation, Yee said. In statements since the bill was introduced in February, Yee has stressed that protecting the privacy of book purchasers and readers is urgent, given the amount of information digital book services, such as Amazon and Google, collect in tracking book e-reader purchases and online usage.
Yee said S.B. 602 would update consumer protections for book purchases and readership online to bring them in line with “similar long-established privacy laws for library records.”
Other Allowable Releases of Reader Personal Data
“Personal information” is defined under the proposed law as “[a]ny information that relates to, or is capable of being associated with, a particular user's access to or use of a book service or a book, in whole or in partial form,” including unique identifiers, such as an internet protocol address.
In addition to search warrant releases, S.B. 602—the Reader Privacy Act—would allow booksellers to reveal personal information in response to a court discovery order so long as the court had determined that there was a compelling need for such data and there were no less intrusive means available to gather the information. In that situation, individuals must be notified of the discovery order and given an opportunity to file objections with the court to the release of their information.
Booksellers and book services would also be allowed to release book purchaser or reader personal information to government officials without a warrant in emergency situations where the government asserts, and the book services provider “in good faith believes, that there is an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury requiring the immediate disclosure of the requested personal information.”
In addition, a bookseller or services provider may reveal reader personal information if it has a good faith belief the information is directly related to a crime carried out against the vendor or the reader.
Individual Lawsuits, $500 Penalty for Knowing Violations
Readers would be authorized under the proposed law to bring lawsuits against book sellers and book services that “knowingly” provided government officials with their personal information outside of the allowable bases for doing so. Individuals could seek civil penalties of $500 per violation.
In addition to any penalties imposed under an individual right of action, the state attorney general, and state and local prosecutors, would be authorized to seek additional civil penalties of $500 per knowing violation.
S.B. 602 would also require book sellers and book services to post an annual report online detailing the number and type of requests for reader personal information it received and responded to in the preceding year.
According to Yee, S.B. 602 is supported by, among others, the California Affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Google Inc., the Consumer Federation of California, and Californians Aware.
(jbl)

May 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A recipe for success requires equal parts optimism and realism

The conventional wisdom is that optimistic people are naive while depressed people see things realistically.  In isolation, none of these characteristics will help you get ahead. But what if we could extract the best qualities from each personality type?  It might be a good recipe for success. That's the message from this post via the Harvard Business Review called "Be An Optimist Without Being a Fool."  Here's an excerpt:

There are quite a number of motivational speakers and self-improvement books out there with a surprisingly simple message: believe that success will come easily to you, and it will. There is one small problem in this argument, however, which unfortunately doesn't seem to stop anyone from making it: it is utterly false.

In fact, not only is visualizing "effortless success" unhelpful, it is disastrous. This is good advice to give only if you are trying to sabotage the recipient. It is a recipe for failure. And no, I'm not overstating it.

But how can this be? Isn't optimism a good thing? Yes it is. Optimism and the confidence it creates are essential for creating and sustaining the motivation you need to reach your goals. Albert Bandura, one of the founding fathers of scientific psychology, discovered decades ago that perhaps the best predictor of an individual's success is whether or not they believe they will succeed. Thousands and thousands of experiments later, he has yet to be proven wrong.

But there is an important caveat: to be successful, you need to understand the vital difference between believing you will succeed, and believing you will succeed easily. Put another way, it's the difference between being a realistic optimist and an unrealistic optimist.

Realistic optimists (the kind Bandura was talking about) believe they will succeed, but also believe they have to make success happen — through things like effort, careful planning, persistence, and choosing the right strategies. They recognize the need for giving serious thought to how they will deal with obstacles. This preparation only increases their confidence in their own ability to get things done.

Check out the rest here.

(jbl).

May 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

In a Jury Trial, Don’t Mention the McDonald’s Coffee Case

According to U.S. Law Week online, a defense attorney committed prejudicial error when he told a jury during closing argument in personal injury case that cases  like this are “how we get verdicts like in the McDonald's case with a cup of coffee The McDonald's coffee case is at Liebeck v. McDonald's Rests. P.T.S., Inc., No. CV-93-02419, 1995 WL 360309 (N.M. Dist. Ct. 1994). There, the plaintiff received a $2.9 million verdict after being scalded by a cup of coffee at her local McDonald's.

In the current  case, the Utah Supreme  Court stated that the  popular criticism  of the McDonald’s case was based on an erroneous understanding of the facts: “Given the uniquely iconic nature of [the McDonald's coffee] case, the passion it has produced in the media, and the general misunderstanding of the totality of its facts and reasoning among the public, we find it hard to imagine a scenario where it would be proper for a party's counsel to refer to it before a jury.” The court reversed and remanded  the case  for a new trial. Boyle v. Christensen, Utah, No. 20090822, 4/15/11.

(ljs)

May 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

An inspirational struggle ultimately lost to stage fright

Fear of public speaking is quite common. One popular anecdote says that many people fear speaking in front of a large audience more than they fear death. No doubt many teachers experience the jitters before the start of each semester or secretly battle occasional bouts of anxiety during the school year.  Students must have feelings about speaking in class that are at least as intense.  One of life's truisms is that we really have no clue what personal struggles others are dealing with just below the public persona we all affect.

A case in point is Tom Durkin who, until last week, was the widely recognized voice of the Kentucky Derby. Apparently Mr. Durkin has battled an acute fear of public speaking for years. He tried everything to overcome it; all manner of therapy failed to cure him. Despite never having made a mistake, he constantly worried that one day he'd blow the big call.  Because the anxiety finally got to be too much, last week he resigned rather than struggle with stage fright any longer.

“It’s a tough professional decision, but a great personal one,” a relieved Mr. Durkin told Joe Drape, the Times racetrack writer, in quitting the premier job as television’s Triple Crown announcer. He poignantly told of years of anxiety eating at him even as his voice soared wire to wire with the thundering fields at the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
. . . .

The new voice Saturday will be the veteran Larry Collmus. But Tom Durkin has already made Derby day special by retreating from it in plainly human terms. “Life is too short and precious,” was his parting call.

A compelling and oddly inspiring story; Mr. Durkin gave up his long struggle with anxiety over public speaking in exchange for peace of mind and self-acceptance.

You can read more here courtesy of the New York Times.

(jbl).

May 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

In survey of user satisfaction, computer science students pan Kindle

If I was a betting man, a couple of years ago I would have bet the farm that e-reading devices like Amazon's Kindle would have taken over the textbook market by now. I mean, who wants to lug to class big, heavy textbooks? More importantly, who wants to pay for those big, heavy textbooks? 

But the traditional textbook has proved to be surprisingly resilient, even among digital natives. Most, if not all, the surveys of college students I've seen show that, at best, students have mixed feelings about e-readers.  Although the devices now let students highlight and annotate the text, the e-reader experience isn't yet comparable to highlighting and annotating in a traditional textbook.  Maybe that will change. 

In the meantime, check out this soon-to-be-published survey from U. Washington that asked computer science students to rate the Kindle for academic work.  Here's a summary courtesy of the Seattle Times:

"There is no e-reader that supports what we found these students doing," first author Alex Thayer, a UW doctoral student in design and engineering, said in a release. "It remains to be seen how to design one. It's a great space to get in to, there's a lot of opportunity."

Seven months into the study, more than 60 percent of the students had stopped using their Kindle regularly for academic reading -- and these were computer science students, who are presumably more sympathetic to an electronic book.

Although the device has note-taking capabilities, some students still tucked paper into the Kindle case to write notes and others would read near a computer that they could use for reference and other tasks that weren't easy on the device.

The study used the DX, which is the largest Kindle, a $379 model with a 9.7-inch diagonal screen. It involved 39 first-year graduate students in computer science and engineering, with ages ranging from 21 to 53.

Some conclusions, as listed in the release:

-- Students did most of the reading in fixed locations: 47 percent of reading was at home, 25 percent at school, 17 percent on a bus and 11 percent in a coffee shop or office.

-- The Kindle DX was more likely to replace students' paper-based reading than their computer-based reading.

-- Of the students who continued to use the device, some read near a computer so they could look up references or do other tasks that were easier to do on a computer. Others tucked a sheet of paper into the case so they could write notes.

-- With paper, three quarters of students marked up texts as they read. This included highlighting key passages, underlining, drawing pictures and writing notes in margins.

-- A drawback of the Kindle DX was the difficulty of switching between reading techniques, such as skimming an article's illustrations or references just before reading the complete text. Students frequently made such switches as they read course material.

-- The digital text also disrupted a technique called cognitive mapping, in which readers used physical cues, such as the location on the page and the position in the book to find a section of text or even to help retain and recall the information they had read.

The study will be presented at next week's Association for Computing Machinery conference on human factors in computing systems, taking place in Vancouver, B.C.

You can read more here.

Hat tip to Inside Higher Education.

(jbl).

May 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Distributing Law Firm Profits

Deciding how to allocate a firm’s profits is a sensitive subject. A system that firm members find unfair can lead to any number of problems. On his blog, “Law Practice Management Tip of the Week,” Joel Rose states that implementing a system requires making six basic decisions:

(1) Who or what body will make the decision on allocation of income?

(2) Will the allocation be based on percentages, units or participation?

(3) Will the distribution be prospective (distribution percentages or units of participation determined in advance of the year) or retrospective (distribution percentages or units of participation determined when year-end results are known)? Or will an initial percentage be prospective and a specified amount of dollars or percentage be withheld for end-of-year distribution based on retrospective considerations?

(4) Will the firm determine that the profits to be distributed will consist of all that is left over after overhead is paid, or will profits be considered everything after a predetermined draw (or salary equivalent) is paid to partners  or shareholders in addition to overhead?

(5) Will the firm have a class of non-capital partners whose salary and bonus will be exempt from the final distribution of income to general partners or shareholders? Or will there be a gross percentage to be divided among general partners and other pools to be divided among other partners? (The term "partnership" is used to represent either a partnership or a corporate form. The term "partner" is used for a partner or shareholder).

(6) Will hourly rates be periodically established or reaffirmed by or for each partner, associate, or other direct producers of income - law clerks, legal assistants (non-lawyer professionals or paralegals) and sometimes secretaries - so that an equitable base for billing to clients and the resultant gross billings allocation for all partners will be equitably established?

His posting provides considerable advice. Now consider how law school salaries  are distributed. It would be so much easier if law schools could measure productivity and value in monetary terms  and then split up the revenues.

(ljs)

May 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A survey of the writing habits of college freshmen; are smartphones the new laptops?

It's believed that today's students do more writing than any generation in history. Digital natives blog, Tweet and text. To them, cellphones are the same as paper and pencil were to Baby Boomers. Whether all this activity is leading to improvements in the quality of what they write is another matter.

One thing is certain, though, law school teachers have to start thinking about whether, and how, to incorporate mobile technology into the classroom. If smartphones are the preferred composition tools of digital natives, should we be adapting our writing assignments to fit that format? Are those technologies even suitable to the kinds of in-depth analysis law students have to master? If not, will we have to ween students off smartphones in favor of (gasp) laptops for their more substantive writing projects?

I don't know the answers to these questions but they are certainly ones all of us need to consider and pronto given the data summarized below about the writing habits of today's college freshmen. What follows is a preliminary report of a study undertaken by several academics at a variety of undergraduate institutions that sought to understand what kind of writing are college freshmen doing and how are they doing  it.  The study is called "Revisualizing Composition: Mapping the Writing Lives of First-Year College Students" and can be read in full by clicking here. In the meantime, here's the abstract:

Writing practices and technologies have changed considerably over recent years. Given these changes, we know that contemporary college students are highly literate, but we lack clear and comprehensive portraits of how writing works in their lives. The primary aim of this study is to generate a large and uniform data set that leads to a better understanding of the writing behaviors of students across a variety of institutions and locations. Working from the assumption that students lead complex writing lives, this study is interested in a broad range of writing practices and values both for the classroom and beyond it, as well as the technologies, collaborators, spaces, and audiences they draw upon in writing. Initial findings include the following:

  • SMS texts (i.e., texts using short message services on mobile devices), emails, and lecture notes are three of the most frequently written genres (or types) of writing
  • SMS texts and academic writing are the most frequently valued genres
  • Some electronic genres written frequently by participants, such as writing in social networking environments, are not valued highly
  • Students’ write for personal fulfillment nearly as often as for school assignments
  • Institution type is related in a meaningful way to the writing experiences of participants, particularly what they write and the technologies used
  • Digital writing platforms—cell phones, Facebook, email—are frequently associated with writing done most often
  • Students mostly write alone, and writing alone is valued over writing collaboratively

These findings, along with others reported in this white paper, shed light on the writing practices and values of contemporary college students. In particular, these findings point to the pervasiveness of writing in the lives of our participants and the importance of hand-held devices like mobile phones as a writing platform.

And here's a brief podcast summary courtesy of Inside Higher Ed: academicminute - Inside Higher Ed.

(jbl).

May 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Student Reaction to Merit Scholarship Article

As most of you know, the New York Times ran an article on how students are surprised when they lose their merit scholarships because they did not meet the g.p.a. minimum. The article called for greater disclosure of how many students retained their scholarships after their first year.

Lisa McElroy has written a post on Dorf on Law concerning law students' angry reactions to the article. She asks, "What is it about current law school culture that creates these feelings among students that law schools are acting in bad faith, without their best interests in mind?" In other words, many students don't trust their law schools. She believes, "Our mission should be . . . to make the three or four years that our students spend in law school valuable in and of themselves, a time to explore the concepts of law and justice, of community and governance." She also advocates transparency to show our students that we are trustworthy.

I agree that law school should be more than just getting a job. The intellectual aspects of the law are fascinating, and we need to convey that to our students. As Professor McElroy writes, we should show our students our commitment to law and learning. We need to demonstrate that learning enriches our lives even when it does not contribute to our economic worth. Finally, we should convey to our students that law teaching is more than a job, that we love teaching.

(esf)

May 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Same Old, Same Old Courtroom Attire

Why is it that I always wear the same thing in  court be it for a status hearing, argument on a  motion, trial (bench or jury) and appellate argument - white button down oxford shirt, dark non-styled/American suit (only small/thin stripes - no gangster wides), and maroon and blue striped ties/or diamond/dotted maroon ties? (NB: with the exception of red and blue ties – I wear them, sometimes, when I am going to do a key cross – a “Mr. Subliminal message” to the fact finder/ witness that “there will be blood” or just a pump up for me – yes it is a little crazy and I don’t always do it, but in the interest of full disclosure I must admit this practice)

So is what I do a superstition or method?

So asks Stewart Weltman  on his Lean and Mean Litigation blog. He attributes his practice partly to respect the solemnity of doing law and partly so that his attire does not distract from what he is communicating:

I wear what I wear because I do not want what I wear to get in the way of what I am saying.  When we are in court, be it in front of a judge or in front of a jury, our message, not who we are or what we wear, should be what is coming through.  You don't want to create unwanted or, more important, unintended interference with those who are receiving your message.

He admits to being “old school.” Other lawyers may dress to impress.

(ljs)

May 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Scholarship alert: "The Changing Cultures and Economics of Large Law Firm Practice and Their Impact on Legal Education"

This article is by Neil Dilloff, an adjunct professor at U. Maryland School of Law and a litigation partner with DLA Piper in Baltimore. It is published at 70 Md. L. Rev. 341 (2011) and can be found on SSRN here. From the abstract:

The practice of law, especially in large law firms, has been affected significantly by recent economic conditions. The recession of 2008-2009 brought about a new way of doing business for BigLaw. The year 2009 was the worst ever for law firm layoffs: more law firms laid off more employees than in all past years combined. Major law firms laid off more than 12,100 people over one-third of whom were lawyers. (It is likely that the number of layoffs was dramatically under-reported.) Moreover, some major law firms simply disappeared. As a direct result of large companies' decreased need for the sophisticated legal services typically provided by large law firms, the nation's largest firms have implemented various measures that are likely to have long-term effects on the hiring, retention, promotion, and training of lawyers.

Historically, a large number of law school graduates sought employment in the nation's largest law firms. The reasons for this interest are many, including money, prestige, training, and the opportunity to do sophisticated work for large clients. Thus, one of the functions of law schools is to produce graduates who are capable of providing high level legal services and who can enter a large law firm and be successful. Law firms are looking for associates who exhibit sound judgment and creative and efficient problem solving abilities. To fulfill their function of producing practice-ready graduates, law schools must adapt to the new economic realities and their effects: fewer big firm jobs, alternate methods of billing clients, increased emphasis on marketing, moderated pay increases (and in some cases, decreased pay), fewer opportunities for partnership, and less job security. The challenge for legal education is how best to prepare students for this brave new BigLaw world.

Hat tip to the TaxProf Blog.

(jbl).

May 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

400th Birthday of the King James Bible

This year marks the 400th birthday of the King James Bible, a masterpiece whose elegant wording and figures of speech pervade our modern language. At the beginning of the 17th century, James  I brought together Anglican and  Puritan scholars in hopes  they would  devise a translation of scripture that would be acceptable to all. Although there have  been many translations  since, the phrasing of the King  James version  gives  it a special  place in our culture.

 Many expressions in the King James Bible share a beauty that is quickly recognized as the language of the Jacobean period. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters…;” (Ps 23:1) “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is. (Ps 63:1) “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” (Ps 42:1) “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Ps 119:105) “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts…” (Ps 139:23) “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters…” (Isa 55:1)

Phrases from this translation are integrated into the language of our everyday speech:

 “to fall flat on his face” (Num. 22:31), “a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14), “the land of the living” (Job 28:13), “to pour out one’s heart” (Ps. 62:8), “sour grapes” (Ezek. 18:2), “pride goes before a fall” (Prov. 16:18), “like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7), “the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13), “a thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7), “to give up the ghost” (John 19:30), and “the powers that be” (Rom. 13:1).

For more information, please see this article from the Christian  Post blog.

(ljs)

May 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Password protected "lecture-capture" videos are vulnerable to public release and distortion

It's become commonplace these days for teachers to videotape classes and then make the material available to students via a password protected site so that they can later review it at their leisure.  But how about when "what happens in the classroom doesn't stay in the classroom?" (Or, for that matter, on the password protected site). Streamed video, like most lecture-capture arrangements, can be "ripped" without the teacher's consent and then distributed via YouTube and other social networking sites. This raises some serious issues about student privacy, the sanctity of the classroom and the teacher's ability to control distribution of her (presumably) copyrightable class materials.

Here's an even scarier scenario. Some U. Missouri faculty members had their password protected class lectures ripped, altered and then distributed by Andrew Breitbart, the same nutjob who went after Acorn and Shirley Sherrod.  It's led to some serious heat for U. Mizzou. The Chronicle of Higher Ed explains:

The University of Missouri system has been besieged with angry letters and phone calls, and top officials at its St. Louis campus have asked an adjunct faculty member to resign, as a result of the conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart's posting videos this week that appear to show two labor-studies instructors advocating union violence.

A contributor to Mr. Breitbart's Web site produced the two videos, which run roughly seven minutes each, from about 30 hours of lecture footage taped as part of a distance-education course and uploaded onto the university's Blackboard course-management system.

Because the footage includes depictions of students in the classroom and was supposed to be accessible only to faculty members, students enrolled in the course, and university technical-support personnel, its wide-scale online distribution has raised concerns about students' privacy rights and the unauthorized use of online course footage to put colleges' faculty members under political pressure.

 . . . .

Gail Hackett, provost of the University of Missouri at Kansas City, issued a statement denouncing how the videos are presented on Mr. Breitbart's Web site, based on the campus's continuing review of the raw classroom footage used to make them.

"From the review completed to date," her statement said, "it is clear that edited videos posted on the Internet depict statements from the instructors in an inaccurate and distorted manner by taking their statements out of context and reordering the sequence in which those statements were actually made so as to change their meaning. Such selective editing is disturbing, and the release of students' images without their permission is a violation of their privacy rights."

You can read the remainder of the story here.

(jbl).

May 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

European law firm experiments with computers that change color based on productivity

Wow. From Roll on Friday via Above the Law:

Lawyers at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain can tell how effectively their colleagues are billing from the colour of their computer screens.

An insider complains that the firm has inserted a "nifty programme" on associates' computers which changes the colour of the screens depending on how profitable they are. Red means they're losing the firm money, yellow means they're doing OK but must try harder, and green means that the key to the partnership washroom is within grasp. And given that the firm has open plan offices, everyone can check out everyone else's performance.

It seems an extraordinary development for a firm given a cracking score by its own staff in RoF's Firm of the Year survey. But it's true. A spokesman confirmed that colour coding was used, but said this was an "award-winning* system" that was designed to enable lawyers to "develop their commerciality, and understand the work they're doing and the amount of time they're spending on it". Apparently it was absolutely not intended to shame unprofitable staff in front of their colleagues, so that must be just a happy consequence.

(jbl).

May 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)