May 10, 2011
A great primer on the proper use of hyphens
This comes to us from the popular ATL column "Small Firms, Big Lawyers," by Jay Shepherd. Hyphens, not to be confused with dashes, are basically used in two instances: as prefixes and for compound adjectives. From Mr. Shepherd:
The two main areas where hyphenation questions arise are compound (or phrasal) adjectives and prefixes. Most people fail to hyphenate compound adjectives, and most people put hyphens after prefixes. And most people are wrong both times.
Here’s the rule: if two or more consecutive words make sense only when understood together as an adjective modifying a noun that follows, those words (excluding the noun) should be hyphenated. Thus, you hyphenate special-interest money, but only because money is part of the phrase; if you were referring to this or that special interest, a hyphen would be wrong.
So you write high school, but high-school student. (Otherwise, you might momentarily think that the student had been inhaling.) It’s popular music, but popular-music critic. (Otherwise, you might think it’s the critic who’s popular, not the music.) It’s to spare your reader these momentary false starts — what Garner calls “miscues” — that we use hyphens. As Garner puts it, it’s all about having empathy for your reader, and “to make reading easier and faster.” Many writers bristle at peppering their writing with all those hyphens, thinking that they’re cluttering up their writing with little black lines. Garner disagrees: “Some writers — those who haven’t cultivated an empathy for their readers — would omit all those hyphens.”
There are a few exceptions to the phrasal-adjective rule (see what I did there?). If the phrasal adjective begins with an adverb ending in -ly, you don’t hyphenate (for example, the rapidly falling temperature). If the phrasal adjective is borrowed from a foreign language, no hyphen (prima facie case). If the phrasal adjective is a proper noun, no hyphen (United States Government). And if the phrasal adjective follows the noun, it’s usually not hyphenated (a much-needed solution but the solution was much needed). Your dictionary will tell you if the phrase is always hyphenated. Use an excellent dictionary like the New Oxford American Dictionary, which is available free on every Mac. Don’t use Microsoft Word’s junky spell-checker dictionary.
The other main area for hyphens is with prefixes. The general rule is simple: don’t hyphenate after prefixes. Thus pretrial, noncompete, antiterrorism, postjudgment, and coworker; not pre-trial, non-compete, anti-terrorism, post-judgment, and co-worker. There are two main exceptions. One is when the noun or adjective after the prefix is a proper name: anti-American, post-Bush, pre-Vichy. The other is where the lack of a hyphen would create confusion, either because of strange vowel combinations (anti-inflammatory, extra-administrative, co-opt), or because it would look like a different word without the hyphen (re-sign vs. resign, co-op vs. coop).
To learn about a couple of esoteric exceptions as well as get a list of some writing resources, click on this link to read the rest of the column.
Trick Them into Thinking you’re a Great Employee
Findlaw’s Greedy Associates blog offers advice for the young lawyer on how to give the impression that you are working hard and are happy. This advice also applies to the young law professor.
The advice: make your office reflect a happier and more productive you. Put in some high quality fake plants, visibly store food in your office (to suggest that you virtually live in your office), and pepper your office with personal effects that make you appear likeable. The posting doesn’t mention the all-too-familiar trick of leaving your office door open when you are out of the building.
Cultural competency is a key lawyering skill that's also marketable
Globalization has changed the nature of law practice. In addition to drafting, research and problem solving skills, professional competence now requires cultural intelligence. From the New York Law Journal:
Cultural competence is defined as a "set of academic and personal skills that allows [individuals] to increase [their understanding] and appreciation of cultural differences between groups."1 It also has been defined as "the understanding of diverse attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, practices and communication patterns, attributable to a variety of factors (race, ethnicity, religion, SES [socio-economic status], historical or social context, physical or mental ability, age, gender, sexual orientation, or generational and acculturation status).
. . . .
In a legal market that has witnessed a contraction of available opportunities for law school graduates, the notion of developing culturally competent law students may not be considered a priority for law school deans or administrators. However, despite the marketplace challenges that plague both law students and recent grads alike, there is little doubt that law students are better served by law schools that include cultural competency in their curricula. And, from a legal recruiter's perspective (that would be me), a culturally competent practitioner, particularly in a global economy, is a gem.
You read how one CUNY law prof has incorporated "cultural competence" into her classroom by clicking here.
What's the best font for your law firm website?
Picking a typeface is like choosing an appropriate outfit. Just as with clothing, there’s a distinction between typefaces that are expressive and stylish versus those that are useful and appropriate to many situations. Choose typefaces that are appropriate for the purpose you are using them for. In other words, do not use a large graphic font for the majority of your paragraph text.
There are a few workhorse typefaces that are like comfortable jeans since they seem to go with everything. My particular default choices are: Gill Sans, Myriad, Helvetica Neue, and Interstate among the sans; Garamond, Franklin Gothic, BernhardMod and Perpetua among the serif faces.
Click here to read the rest.
May 9, 2011
Increasing Law School Debt
According to an article in the Hartford Business Journal Online, lawyers' debt is at an all-time high:
"From 2001 to 2010, the average amount borrowed annually by law students for their three-year degrees increased 50 percent, according to the American Bar Association. This past academic year, law students borrowed an average of $68,827 for public educations and $106,249 for private educations."
The article attributes the 11.1% drop in law school applications last year to the debt involved in attending law school and the poor job market. The article concludes that "law school debt essentially means a lawyer must make $200,000 or more above what the holder of a bachelor’s degree will make over a lifetime, to have the investment break even."
The debt problem is indeed distressing. When I graduated from law school in 1989, I had approximately $20,000 in debt and a good job. Based on the article, the average debt for a public law school is about ten times as much today.
Best Practical Practices in Teaching Land Use
Last week, Pace Law School hosted a conference entitled “Practically Grounded: Best Practices in Teaching Land Use Law. According to a report of the conference at Land Use Prof Blog, the conference brought together a diverse group of academics, students and practitioners. The presentations offered teaching ideas that could apply to other courses as well. Papers will be published online in a forthcoming issue of the Pace Law Review.
More Feedback on WestlawNext
It looks like there are still mixed reviews about this tool. It will be interesting to watch what happens as Lexis Advance (for law schools and associates) is rolled out this summer/next fall.
Interviewing: A Step-by-Step Guide for Law Students
Here is a helpful guide originally published in the New York Law Journal, written by Donna Manion, the legal recruiting manager at the New York office of DLA Piper. The article is more than a list of do’s and don’ts; it gives the law student a deep understanding of what the interviewing process is about. For example:
Many times, I have watched a candidate emerge from an interview, wholly stunned that a significant amount of time was spent talking about cinema, cuisine or sporting events. This happens a lot, and your interviewer may be learning more about you through this exchange than you think.
Did you reveal something about your sense of teamwork in discussing last night's ballgame? Were you showing your sense of humor when you found yourself telling the story about your last hiking trip? Did you communicate your ability to think on your feet when you talked about the time you had to unexpectedly teach a class? What did you share about your self-esteem throughout the exchange?
Interviewers may seem to be walking you through easy anecdotes about your life, but they are likely always keeping an eye on what they can learn about you through your comments. This is especially true if your interviewer is adeptly engaging in behavioral interviewing, sometimes unbeknownst to you.
How New York Law School has revamped its curriculum to make students more practice-ready
From an article by NYLS Dean Richard Matasar that appeared in the New York Law Journal:
At New York Law School we have been working for several years to redesign and implement a program geared to the needs of those who employ our students and their clients.
This has meant a restructuring of the first-year curriculum by adding courses requiring deep understanding of the regulatory state, integration of research, writing and lawyering skills like deposition and fact investigation with substantive subject areas, and intensive counseling by both faculty and career advisors to help students develop their personal "brand" of lawyering.
The law school's Office of Professional Development helps all students create a professional portfolio demonstrating their writing, networking and marketing skills. The law school has created curricular specializations to permit students to add depth, as well as breadth, to their knowledge. Students have myriad opportunities to work in clinics and represent clients (real and simulated).
Students also engage in capstone projects that bring all of these elements together to help them understand how to add value to clients. They work closely with a faculty member in an area of his or her expertise to solve a problem on behalf of a client (sometimes real, other times imagined). They work on teams, on deadline, under supervision (and sometimes as a supervisor), and must ultimately write and present publicly on the subject.
For example, teams of New York Law School students built practice pro se guides, did a multi-week simulated real estate transaction in London and Paris, and partnered with high technology firms to develop the peer advising methodology now being implemented by the U.S. Patent Office to improve patent processing.
The rest of the article argues that law schools should shift their focus from input measures of student performance - e.g., LSAT scores and undergraduate GPA's - to output measures - whether students have acquired via the law school curriculum the attributes that will make them successful lawyers. You can read Dean Matasar's thoughts on that subject by clicking here.
Legal skills scholarship: "Acting Like Lawyers: Adapting Medical Education's Experiential Learning Techniques in a Legal Rotations Model"
This appears to be a student note by U. Wisconsin Law School 3L Drew Coursin and who is also identified on his SSRN page as the Research Director of the Task Force on Professional Skills Education (perhaps a post-grad position at U. Wisc.?). Here's the abstract courtesy of SSRN from the forthcoming U. Wisconsin Law Review piece:
In the past, learning to “think like a lawyer” was enough to succeed in law school and beyond. Those days are gone. Leaner economic times have made legal employers hungry for better-qualified candidates. Educators and practitioners alike turn a critical eye to recent law school graduates, and find them lacking. The traditional assumption that good law students make good lawyers has crumbled. The blame for students’ inability to demonstrate essential lawyering skills falls squarely on law schools’ shoulders.
Calls for reform in legal education span more than thirty years, from the ABA’s Cramton and MacCrate Reports, to the Carnegie Foundation’s effort to spur change. Although some forward-thinking educators moved away from traditional methods, most law schools maintain a “business as usual” attitude. Legal education remains a lumbering behemoth of theory and outmoded pedagogy. Employers need capable lawyers, students need skills, and neither group can succeed in a grim economy unless legal education changes. The solution lies in action. Teaching law students to act like lawyers requires a significant shift in focus. This Comment describes the necessity and feasibility of reform, explores the evolution of legal education, and then turns to medical education for a novel framework for teaching legal skills. Finally, this Comment introduces one version of an adaptable, practical skills-based legal rotations model, which law schools may use as a template for future innovation.
Hat tip to the TaxProf Blog.
May 8, 2011
If You Leave a Dreadful Law School, Should You Tell Them Off?
Suppose you discover that the law school employing you is a terrible place with awful colleagues, a dictatorial administration, and a bag full of broken promises. You manage to find a new job at a more congenial law school. Should you go quietly or let your former tormentors and maybe the world know what you have experienced—should you tell them off? I have known people who have chosen the different courses.
In her column at the Chronicle of Higher Education online, Ms. Mentor lists the pros and cons of telling them off. Her general conclusion seems to be to hold your tongue. I agree. As the old saying goes, don’t burn your bridges.
More Advice for New Law Grads
One of my co-bloggers has posted some advice to new law grads from the New York Law Journal. I would like to add some advice to law students for what they can do in law school to prepare for their careers: Do as many activities as you can in law school that involve writing or speaking. Try out for your school's journals. If you don't make the top journal, go out for a secondary one; you will still gain a lot of valuable experience. Try out for moot court teams and trial practice teams. Take advanced writing courses. If you are interested in transactional law, take drafting and similar courses. Finally, take other advanced skills courses or a clinic.
Tips for new law grad job seekers.
Here's a soup to nuts list of tasks that should drive your job search. From the New York Law Journal:
To land that job you must build a skill set that is attractive to the type of employer you desire, and you must perform a proper and thorough search.
Build Your Skills. Crafting the right resume is an art. Whether you are in law school or already practicing, there are a myriad of ways to build the resume you need.
If you are a law student, there is no such thing anymore as "taking the semester off from working." You must work every semester at some type of legal employment to be competitive.
Each internship/fellowship/clerkship/externship improves your skill set and contacts in your practice area. It also showcases your work ethic and diligence.
. . . .
Pro bono. Both students and graduates alike should take advantage of pro bono opportunities, especially if you are seeking to be hired in an area of law in which you have little or no experience/exposure. For example, if you are a litigator and really want to change over to the transactional side, getting some pro bono experience might be your only way of gaining that necessary experience for your resume.
. . . .
Academics. Students and graduates also need to take advantage of the potential to academically augment their resumes. This means attending CLEs and presentations pertinent to your area of interest.
If you are a law student, this means that you take every course available in your area and add these courses to your resume as "relevant coursework." For graduates, a little known fact is that most law schools will allow their graduates to audit particular classes for low or no fees. I have seen graduates audit classes to expand their knowledge in a particular area, bolstering their credentials in their field or moving into a new one.
. . . .
Conduct the Right Search You need to devote significant time to your search; make finding a job your "part-time job" while you are searching. What I mean by this is that you need to put in the hours both in quality and quantity on a consistent basis. You can't apply to a couple of jobs a month and expect something will hit within a few weeks.
If you are in law school, your job search should be a consistent part of every week to the tune of between four and eight hours per week. This four to eight hour span should include both networking and actually applying to jobs.
As a new graduate (and at any subsequent level of your career), you should be doubling those hours to eight to 16 hours per week. This is especially important as a new graduate, post-bar exam. This type of commitment and consistency is the activity level necessary for a successful job search.
. . . .
Resume. A good resume takes all of the skills you have built and the things you have done and condenses them into a concise and professional document. You may have more than one version of your resume that, while including the same entries, emphasizes different strengths. You would then use the resume best suited to the specific position. I have seen this done well with students who intend to enter the financial services world, which often uses bullet-point resumes that are not as acceptable in the legal market.
. . . .
Research. Researching is a time intensive process that is made infinitely easier by way of the Internet. Nearly every organization has a website, even the smallest firms, but if you cannot find a particular employer's website, try Martindale or Google for any pertinent data. Researching the firms to which you want to apply will enable you to build your knowledge base and later help you prepare for the interview process that (hopefully) follows.
. . . .
Cover Letter. Generic cover letters show no attention to detail, and that is one of the prime characteristics employers look for in a lawyer. An article I read recently in The Wall Street Journal1 cited an employer that asked all applicants to put the phrase "Green M&Ms" in the subject line of their application e-mails. This request was specifically made to weed out those who could not follow directions and pay attention to detail. Out of 300 applicants, only 75 followed this explicit direction.
Read the rest here.
Tips for building confidence in the classroom
Harvard B-School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter deemed "confidence" the single biggest determinate of success in the workplace. Whether that's true or not, I still think you'll find very helpful this post from the Harvard Business School Blog concerning tips for building confidence about your job. It's a detailed column but here's the summary:
Principles to Remember
- Be honest with yourself about what you know and what you still need to learn
- Practice doing the things you are unsure about
- Embrace new opportunities to prove you can do difficult things
- Focus excessively on whether you or not you have the ability - think instead about the value you provide
- Hesitate to ask for external validation if you need it
- Worry about what others think — focus on yourself, not a theoretical and judgmental audience
You can read the rest here.