May 3, 2011
More Summer Reading
I think the best introduction to legal method and legal reasoning is Thinking Like A Lawyer: An Introduction to Legal Reasoning by Kenneth J. Vandevelde (2nd ed. 2010).
Also, I should mention Cardozo's classic The Nature of the Judicial Process. Finally, I would like to suggest Tort Law In America: An Intellectual History by G. Edward White for second-and third-year students. This book helps the reader understand the intellectual underpinnings of American tort law, thus helping the reader improve their ability to understand how law develops.
Avoiding Mortgage Loan Scams
According to the FBI, mortgage fraud is one of the fastest-growing white collar crimes. Homeowners in fear of losing their homes may be willing to trust anyone who promises a way out. The April Texas Bar Journal offers a brief consumer-oriented article that describes typical scams. The article is excerpted from a pamphlet published by the Texas Young Lawyers Association.
ABA responds to Senator Boxer's request for more transparency regarding law grad employment data
Back in March, California Senator Barbara Boxer sent a letter to the ABA asking what steps it is taking to respond to news stories like this one - "Is Law School a Losing Game" - which suggest that law schools manipulate the employment stats of recent grads to enhance their USNWR rankings and mislead prospective students about the economic value of a JD. You can read the full text of Senator Boxer's letter here. Her letter ends with a request to ABA President Stephen Zack that he provide her "with a detailed summary of the ABA’s plans to implement reforms to its current procedures" to ensure prospective law students get accurate information about recent grad employment data.
On April 27, the ABA filed its response. President Zack notes that the ABA has been trying to make the process of applying to law school more transparent since 2009 when it published a paper cautioning students about the risks of taking on lots of debt to fund a law degree during a time when the job market for lawyers is suffering. President Zack also notes in the letter to Boxer that the ABA is currently studying other ways to make the application process more transparent for those thinking about attending law school. Here's an excerpt:
Much of the issue is about students making informed, smart choices, and the ABA distributes information that can help. I enclose a paper the Association produced entitled “The Value Proposition of Attending Law School,” which has gained wide coverage in traditional press and by legal bloggers for its simple, clear approach to helping potential law students weigh their decision to enter law school. The ABA also is encouraging more young people to read the highly detailed, comparative information about law schools, published in the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools. This book includes extensive chapters on job
opportunities, careers and salaries, and also is posted free on the Law School Admission Council website.
The ABA Young Lawyers Division, at my request, also has been looking into how the ABA can encourage additional dissemination of relevant information on this topic. While the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar leads on this issue through the accreditation standards applied to law schools, the ABA as a whole is committed to complementing its efforts.
Hat tip to the Law Librarian Blog.
Summer Reading for Law Students
Do you have any favorites that you would recommend for your students (or incoming students)?
Here are a few that may be of interest:
Law-Related Summer Reading:
Scott Turow, One L (1977)
Gene Roberts & Hank Kilbanoff, The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation (2006).
Keven Boyle, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age (2004).
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960).
Anthony Lewis, Gideon’s Trumpet (1964).
Law School Success:
Ruta K. Stropus & Charlotte D. Taylor, Bridging the Gap Between College and Law School: Strategies for Success (2d. ed. 2009).
Ann L. Iijima, The Law Student’s Pocket Mentor: From Surviving to Thriving (2007).
Andrew J. McClurg, 1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor’s Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School (2009).
David Hricik, Law School Basics: A Preview of Law School and Legal Reasoning (2000).
Christen Civiletto Carey & Kristen David Adams, The Practice of Law School: Getting in and Making the Most of Your Legal Education (2003).
Albert J. Moore & David A. Binder, Demystifying the First Year of Law School: A Guide to the 1L Experience (2010).
Joseph G. Allegretti, The Lawyer’s Calling (1996).
ABA considers requiring law schools to disclose data on number of students who lose scholarships
Saturday's New York Times story ran a story called "Law Students Lose the Grant Game as Law Schools Win" that's getting a lot of play in the blogosphere (here, here, here and here). It's about law students who say they feel duped for matriculating based on merit scholarship awards that are later lost due to law school grading curves that ensure not every student who gets a scholarship can keep it. Students are upset because they claim lost scholarships force them to either drop out after a year's sacrifice or go forward by paying a huge tuition bill.
The ABA has already responded, according to this article from the National Law Journal, by suggesting that it may require law schools to disclose to applicants what percentage of merit scholarships are lost after the first year.
The committee reviewing the American Bar Association's law school accreditation standards is considering requiring schools to disclose the percentage of students who lose merit scholarships following their first year. David Yellen, dean of the Loyola University Chicago School of Law and a member of the ABA's Standards Review Committee, said panel members agree that students need better information about their odds of retaining scholarships.
"It's a pretty easy case to make," he said. "I think that schools ought to be disclosing how many students keep their scholarships, so they can make informed decisions."
The committee likely will take up the matter during a meeting scheduled in July, he said.
Law schools should be required to disclose this data because it's the right thing to do. But I'm skeptical whether it will make much of a difference to prospective law students in light of the very human tendency to inflate the belief in one's own success while presuming one's peers will falter (as born out by studies like this one which happens to involve law students).
You can read more about the ABA's latest proposal to require more law school transparency by clicking here. You can also check out what the Law School Transparency Project has to say about requiring law schools to disclose scholarship retention rates by clicking here.
Hat tip to Above the Law.
And if China is too far, consider Silicon Valley
That's because, according to this article from the California Recorder, hiring there is setting a blistering pace.
"It's been a long time coming," [Delia] Swan [of Swan Legal Recruiting] said. "Firms have trimmed so much there's no room to take on excess work. They necessarily have to hire new people."
Swan isn't alone in noticing that associates are once again in demand. Cooley and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati are bumping associate salaries up, effective today, restoring pay lost in the recession.
Corporate is booming, but litigation, licensing and patent prosecution attorneys are in high demand, too.
"Even firms that maybe had smaller groups in the past are looking to grow," said Ryan Kerian, managing director in Major, Lindsey & Africa's San Francisco office. "The demand is just extraordinary right now."
Click here to get the full story.
Hat tip to Law.com.
New law grad looking for a job? Try China
It's the fastest growing legal market in the world according to this story from the National Law Journal:
China was the second most-popular foreign location for large U.S. law firms during 2010. According to the latest NLJ 250 -- The National Law Journal's list of the largest law firms in the United States -- 70 firms maintained offices in China and had posted 2,055 lawyers there.
China has a long way to go to become the biggest destination for U.S.-based firms, however. The United Kingdom far outpaced China in 2010, with 5,303 lawyers in 78 offices -- meaning that nearly one-third of NLJ 250 firms had a presence there.
Down the road, however, foreign firms will have more lawyers in China than the United Kingdom, said legal consultant Peter Zeughauser, who has done consulting work in China. The only question is how long that will take. "I do think that China is the fastest-growing legal market in the world," he said.
Keep reading by clicking here.
May 2, 2011
William Safire's Rules for Writers
The late William Safire was a presidential speechwriter, political columnist, and wordsmith. As a wordsmith, he understood the need for flexibility and creativity in writing. Here are his tongue-in-cheek rules for writers:
- Remember to never split an infinitive.
- The passive voice should never be used.
- Do not put statements in the negative form.
- Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
- Proofread carefully to see if you words out.
- If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
- A writer must not shift your point of view.
- And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. (Remember, too, a preposition is a terrible word to end a sentence with.)
- Don't overuse exclamation marks!!
- Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
- Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
- If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
- Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
- Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
- Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
- Always pick on the correct idiom.
- The adverb always follows the verb.
- Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives.
Best moot court programs of 2010
A website called Brian Koppen's Law School Advocacy has compiled a list of the top law school moot court programs for 2010 based on the aggregated results from several moot court competitions around the country. Here's the top 10:
1. South Texas
2. Texas Tech
3. UC - Hastings
4. Loyola (IL)
5. Univ. of Texas
6. Univ. of Miami
9. Lewis & Clark
10. Loyola New Orleans
Researching a Potential Employer
Law students should spend some time researching in order to identify a potential employer and to prepare for a job interview. Here are some ideas and resources that will help:
- Start with the firm, agency, attorney website – your interviewer will expect that you have spent some time exploring the website.
- Directories – Use a directory (online or on your library’s shelves) to get useful background information on an attorney or firm. You can also use a directory to identify potential employers in a particular practice area, geographic location, etc.
- Cases and Scholarship – do a search to find out what your interviewee has written or to find cases they have argued – this should lead to interesting discussion at the interview and demonstrate your level of interest.
- Social Media – is your interviewee a blogger? A quick search using a tool like Google Blog Search may turn up some interesting results or help you find potential employers. You may also wish to set up a LinkedIn profile for your professional online social networking.
In today’s job market, you need to make sure you stand out as someone who is prepared and proactive. Be prepared to demonstrate your research skills by researching your potential employer!
Student cheaters rely mostly on social networks and Wikipedia
The commercial anti-plagiarism software company Turnitin has released a white paper (password protected but summarized here by the Chronicle of Higher Ed) that finds nearly one third of high school and college students who cheat rely on social networking sites to get their material. Among non-social networking resources, Wikipedia tops the list with term papers for pay sites coming in near last.
Turnitin, one of the most popular anti-cheating resources, consists of a giant database of student-authored papers. Teachers submit suspicious papers to the database which searches for a match. Finding a match doesn't necessarily prove plagiarism but at least the teacher is alerting to the strong possibility that there's an academic dishonesty issue.
Here's a summary of the findings regarding the sources of plagiarized material.
- One-third of all “matched content” comes from social-networking and content-sharing sites like Facebook, Myspace, Scribd, SlideShare, Yahoo Answers, and Answers.com
- Legitimate education sites account for one-quarter of all copying. Popular sources included the National Institutes of Health site, www.nih.gov; MedLibrary.org; and test-prep and homework-help sites like Course Hero and BookRags.
- To researchers’ surprise, paper mills and cheat sites accounted for only 15 percent of matches. In this category, Turnitin includes sites like OPPapers.com and Allfreepapers.com.
- Over all, the top eight sites for matched content were Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers, Answers.com, SlideShare, OPPapers.com, Scribd, Course Hero, and MedLibrary.org
You can check out a more detailed summary here.
May 1, 2011
How is the law school class of '09 faring?
One important measure of a law school's success at producing a value-added outcome is the percentage of grads who are employed in a legal practice job nine months after graduation ("NMAG"). For that reason, it's also part of the data USNWR collects to rank schools. But the figures are not always what they seem according to a recent article by CU professor Paul Campos published in the New Republic (here and here). Professor Campos looked at the nine-month forms collected by the NALP for the class of 2010 from one T-50 school and concluded that respondents sometimes mistakenly report their jobs as full-time permanent when they are not which can mislead prospective law students who rely on the NMAG figure when choosing a law school.
This article from the National Law Journal looks at the NMAG figure for the class of 2009, which was hit especially hard by the Great Recession, and finds that the 88.3% overall figure reported by the NALP doesn't tell the whole story. Taking a closer look at the NALP forms reveals the following:
- Temporary jobs - 41 percent of all public interest jobs, 30 percent of all business jobs, and even 8 percent of private practice jobs [were] reported as temporary. Overall, nearly 25 percent of all jobs were reported as temporary, a figure that includes judicial clerkships.
- Part time jobs - Members of the class of 2009 were also working more often in part-time jobs than their predecessors, with 56 percent of academic jobs, 20 percent of business jobs, and more than 10 percent of all jobs reported by the class of 2009 as being part-time, up from 6 percent for the previous class.
- Grads working but still looking - Another marker of the weakness of the job market is that a much higher percentage of this class reported that even though they were employed, they were still looking for work (almost 22 percent of the class of 2009 compared to 16 percent of the previous class), suggesting that graduates took jobs they may not have been satisfied with simply to be able to earn money to offset living expenses and student debt.
- Significantly, a measurably smaller percentage of graduates from the class of 2009 were working as practicing lawyers than their predecessors, with only 70.8 percent reporting that they held jobs for which a J.D. was required, compared with 74.7 percent of the class of 2008. Of those who did report jobs in private practice, a far greater number reported that they were working as solo practitioners than in the previous year.
- Grads who've gone solo - For the class of 2009, the number of solo practitioners reported was well over 1,000 and represented more than 5 percent of law firm jobs reported, compared with 3.3 percent for the class of 2008. Solo practitioners represented about 2.9 percent of all jobs reported for the class of 2009, compared with 1.9 percent for the previous class. This jump in the number of law school graduates reporting that they were working as solo practitioners is consistent with data that was reported during the recession of the early 1990s.
- Schools that employ grads - Law schools were very active in trying to mitigate the impact of the recession on their graduates, with 42 percent of schools reporting that they provided on-campus postgraduate jobs for their students. This helps account for the fact that 3.5 percent of the jobs reported by the class of 2009 were categorized as academic, compared to 2.3 percent for the class of 2008. Overall, 69 percent of academic jobs reported by the class of 2009 were reported as temporary.
To temper this with some good news, the article suggests that the worst is behind us and hiring at the entry level is starting to recover.
You can read the full report, including predictions about future hiring trends, here.
A response to "Law school for the white and wealthy"
We'd previously blogged (here and here) about an op-ed in the National Law Journal by Michael Coyne, Associate Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law that was highly critical of the ABA's regulation of legal education. Here's a response to that, filed as a letter to the editor, from Bucky Askew on behalf of the ABA's Subcommittee on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. From the National Law Journal:
The opinion piece "Law School for the White and Wealthy" [NLJ, April 11, Web-only] contains inaccuracies and misrepresentations that should not go unchallenged.
Contrary to Michael Coyne's assertion that American Bar Association-accredited law schools charge exorbitant tuitions, 25 of the 200 ABA-approved schools charge less than his school, the Massachusetts School of Law ($15,000), and the lowest is $7,611. An additional 14 schools are between $15,000 and $17,000; and 29 are between $17,000 and $25,000. With the average public law school tuition for in-state students at $20,489, law school tuition remains affordable for many students.
Having said that, the ABA is very conscious of the financial commitment students make to attend law school. The Value Proposition of Attending Law School, posted on the ABA Web site, provides a good analysis for students considering a career in the law, particularly in the current economic downturn and tightening in the legal job market.
The op-ed in NLJ erroneously suggests that minority students are not encouraged to attend ABA-accredited law schools. In fact, since the late 1990s, minority enrollment at ABA-approved law schools has held steady at 20% to 22%; 7% of the total law school enrollment is African-American. And although the number of African-American applicants dropped during that time, admission of African-American students has actually increased by 7% (and matriculation by 11%).
Another important measure of diversity is in a law school's administration and professoriate. Minority representation in law school deanships in ABA-accredited law schools during the period 2000 to 2009 increased from 11 to 40 (24 of whom are African-American). At the same time, minorities in the professoriate increased from 14% to 16% of the total faculty.
Two of the law school accreditation standards (211 and 212) require schools to demonstrate nondiscrimination in admissions and hiring and require that schools concretely demonstrate a commitment to having a diverse student body, faculty and staff with respect to "members of underrepresented groups, particularly racial and ethnic minorities." The ABA as an association has a deep and long-standing commitment to diversifying the legal profession. One of the four core values of the ABA is diversity.
It is important to note that Coyne is associate dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, which applied for ABA accreditation in 1993 but was denied it because it did not meet accreditation standards. Since 1993, the ABA has accredited 23 new law schools, all of which were able to demonstrate compliance with the standards. Those 23 new schools are found in a dozen different states and include both public and private institutions; university-affiliated and, like the Massachusetts School of Law, independent institutions; religiously affiliated and secular, and for-profit and not-for-profit law schools. In 2010, these 23 new law schools admitted more than 1,600 students of color into their first year classes.
Consultant on Legal Education
ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar
Hat tip to the TaxProf Blog
Is family friendly law firm an oxymoron?
A student organization called Yale Law Women has just published its list of "Top 10" family friendly law firms culled from surveys sent to the Vault 100. This is the sixth year the list has been published. Criteria for making the top ten includes such things as whether firms offer an "on ramp/off ramp" program, have child care facilities, make accommodations for elderly care, offer family support groups, etc. Based on those considerations, here are the finalists as chosen by YLW:
Arnold & Porter
Covington & Burling
Dorsey & Whitney
Kirkland & Ellis
Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky & Popeo
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
The commentary included with the survey results published on the YLW website notes that a disproportionately small number of women make partner at top firms. That raises the question whether, despite the plethora of family friendly programs, BigLaw is really doing enough to make the environment hospitable for working mothers.
Although YLW found that, on average, 45% of associates at responding law firms are women, women make up only 17% of equity partners and 18% of firm executive management committees. Additionally, on average, women made up just 27% of newly promoted partners in 2010.
You can read the rest here.
Is an Amicus Brief a Vehicle for Introducing Evidence Not Presented at Trial?
In a recent Pennsylvania Superior Court decision, the intermediate appellate court refused to consider the neurological and psychological information submitted in an amicus brief submitted by several organizations and three professors with considerable expertise in juvenile justice.. (See footnote 3 on page 7 of the opinion). Commonwealth v. Brown. The court wrote:
Although informative and enlightening, the information contained in the
amicus brief was not provided to the trial court for consideration. Therefore,
the amicus brief was not relied upon by this Court in rending this opinion.
This position would have ruled out the famous Brandeis brief. Still, one can understand why a court would hesitate to rely on information in a brief when the opposing party had no opportunity to test the quality of the information through cross-examination and the testimony of other expert witnesses. Here is a posting from the Legal Intelligencer blog by Bruce Merenstein.