May 21, 2011
Law firm requires students interviewing for job to argue fact pattern
It's a buyer's market so expect legal employers to get more creative in how they select job candidates. From the online ABA Journal:
Law students interviewing for summer associate positions at Pepper Hamilton can’t just rely on transcripts or law review experience to prove their legal abilities.
Instead students will have to argue a hypothetical fact pattern with law firm lawyers as part of a three-pronged interviewing process, according to U.S. News & World Report. University of Pennsylvania 2L Noor Najeeb, who landed a job as a summer associate at the firm, calls the interview a “hot seat” situation.
The story says Pepper Hamilton’s new methods are an example of “small tremors of change” at law firms seeking more information about potential hires. Several law firms are using behavioral interviews, designed to assess how job candidates dealt with difficult situations.
Pepper Hamilton changed its interviewing style in 2010. Students still go through the typical 20-minute initial interview, the story says. Then they go through interactive interviews discussing their writing samples and arguing a fact pattern.
Hiring chair Michael Subak tells the publication the new hiring model was the result of brainstorming sessions with summer associates, associates, and hiring and recruitment committees. "The idea was, 'Let's all come at this the way we work our cases, which is together,' " he said.
Law students lobby Congress for law requiring transparency on law school employment stats
From the National Law Journal:
There appears to be widespread agreement among law students that their schools should be more transparent about how well their recent graduates do in the job market.
They don't seem to agree, however, on how to best press their cause.
A coalition of 55 student bar association presidents wrote on Thursday to a number of U.S. senators proposing legislation requiring the U.S. Department of Education to collect graduate job information statistics directly from law schools.
By contrast, Law School Transparency — a nonprofit group formed last year to advocate for more detailed graduate employment information — is focusing squarely on the American Bar Association. The DOE has delegated oversight of law schools to the ABA, and the proposed legislation would represent a major departure from the existing regulatory system.
The proposed legislation was the brainchild of Nate Burris, president of the Law Students Association at Boston College Law School. Burris said he supports and admires the work of Law School Transparency, but has grown impatient with what he sees as foot-dragging by the ABA.
"The ABA said they've been working on this issue for three years, and will need at least another year before they decide on anything," he said. "I agree that due diligence is incredibly important, but to me, three years and probably one — if not more — years still to go is not the level of attention this issue calls for. More classes of law students are going to school, and I think the time for action is now."
Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency and a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School, said he understands the frustration. He argued, however, that the ABA needs time to complete its overhaul of accreditation standards.
On its Web site, Law School Transparency described the move as "jumping the gun."
McEntee declined to comment regarding whether he tried to dissuade Burris from contacting lawmakers.
"I think the people in the ABA know what they need to do," McEntee said. "I don't think [the proposed legislation] will have too much of an effect on them."
Still, the broad support for the proposal among student leaders on so many campuses may well send a message to members of the ABA's Council for the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which must approve any changes to law school accreditations standards, McEntee said.
"It seems everyone is in agreement, and it's a matter of putting the right pressure on the right people," he said. "It's going to take time, but the ABA is going to be the fastest way to get it done."
The fact that U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) sent a letter to ABA President Stephen Zack in March asking the group to "ensure potential students have a full understanding of the costs and benefits of legal education" indicates that lawmakers are interested in the issue, Burris said.
The letter was sent to U.S. Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), as well as other congressional leaders.
"I don't think there is a right or wrong time for truth," he said. "I think [the proposed legislation] clearly fits in with the mission of the Department of Education."
NY Times: Writing Advice from the Supremes
Below one of my co-bloggers mentions interviews on writing with Supreme Court Justices, originally published in Scribes. The New York Times now has an extensive article on these interviews. (hat tip: Sarah Ricks)
What I find most interesting is that the judges mostly cite novelists as role models. While narrative is important in briefs, especially the fact sections, fiction is fundamentally different than opinion writing. For one thing, novelists try to hide the ending, while a judge's role is to be as clear as possible. Also, a novelist emphasizes flowery language, while a judge should stress clarity in language. Finally, novelists generally expand on character, scene, etc., as much as possible, while briefs should be as succinct as possible.
Winklevosses v. Facebook: Is the Supreme Court Next?
Having lost their most recent foray into the judicial system, the Tinklevoss twins are petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to grant them further relief against Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg. In 2008, the twins and their partner Divya Narenda settled for $65 million to end their lawsuit claiming that Zuckerberg had stolen the Facebook idea from them. The movie “Social Media” dramatizes the story.
The twins and Narenda later argued that the valuation of Facebook was fraudulently inaccurate, and therefore the settlement was inaccurate and unfair. But last month, the 9th Circuit upheld the initial settlement. Judge Alex Kosinski wrote,” At some point, litigation must come to an end. That point has now been reached.”
The current effort to persuade the Supreme Court to reopen the case is that last gambit. I doubt that the Court will oblige. Whether the initial settlement was unfair or not, the case is fact-based and does not present any new issues of law or policy. Therefore, it is not the sort of case that the Court usually finds of interest. Here is the story at Huffington Post.
Study tips for the bar exam
The blog Lawyerist has posted several good tips for dealing with the bar exam including: 1. how to apply to take the exam; 2, how to study for the exam; and 3. how to handle the exam itself on game day. Since you've already missed the deadline for registering for your state's bar exam if you haven't done so by now, let's skip right to the study tips:
1. Stick to study habits that worked for you while you were in school. If your pattern was studying five hours a day, trying to work for 12-hour stretches may be counter-productive. Whether you take a bar review class or study on your own, take as many real-time practice essay tests as possible. Thousands of sample Multistate Bar exam questions are available. Whether your state drafts its own or uses the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) questions, find them all and practice, practice, practice.
2. Study groups are a gamble. Unless you are continuing with the group you have been in since Torts, finding an appropriate rhythm with strangers has the potential to detract from purposeful and productive studying.
3. Exercise and eat right. Meeting the pizza delivery guy does not count as exercise unless you climb down 30 flights of stairs to get it. Sugar, fat, salt, and caffeine are not food groups.
4. Do not talk to other test-takers for two weeks before the exam. Your friends will remember things that you have never heard of and they will confuse you with their notions of arcane issues of trust law. Don’t let yourself be distracted.
You can check out the tips for taking the exam here.
May 20, 2011
Wanted: Teaching Materials for Practicum Courses
Wanted: Teaching Materials for Practicum Courses
Recently on Concurring Opinions, Jessica Erickson (Richmond) posted on her experience in developing a practicum course on Corporate Fraud & Litigation. She found the effort to be a demanding one.
In light of the lack of materials for practicum courses, she notes that adjuncts will tend to teach these courses only when the course materials are readily available. Thus the lack of materials for a particular type of course will dissuade adjuncts (and probably many full-timers) from teaching the course. Professor Erickson notes that authors and publishers should be attracted to this untapped market for suitable materials.
Patriot Act Surveillance Provisions Extended to June 2015
Tips for managing email inbox overflow
I'm guessing many people feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of email we get each day. Between student messages, administrative stuff, keeping up with professional readings, blogs, newspapers, etc, not to mention non-work related stuff - I wouldn't be surprised to learn that most teachers deal with 200 to 300 new emails each day, if not more. My own netiquette habits have changed as a result - I used to try to acknowledge many messages, as appropriate, with a simple "thanks" or other short indication that the message was received. Not anymore - it just isn't possible due to volume plus I've become more sensitive to not clogging up someone else's inbox with unnecessary messages.
To help you cope, here are a couple of tips for managing your inbox. The first one has to do with setting up an auto-archiving function so you don't have to spend time every few days manually sorting email into the correct folders. The second tip is about setting up a daily filtering system that will automatically send certain categories of emails that don't require action - like professional reading and newsletters - to the appropriate folder. You'll still need to read it at some point, but at least this is a way to cut down on the amount of time you spend each morning culling and sorting.
First, auto-archiving from the blog the emailadmin.com:
Setting up AutoArchive is a very easy process. Go to Tools > Options > Other > AutoArchive, and then choose the settings that work best for you. My personal preference is for a weekly cleanup, and to be informed when it’s about to do so. Another thing I like is to collect all of my archived data into just one archive folder (Archive.pst), and then as the year progresses I will manually move the old data to monthly archives. These are the settings I recommend for easy organization:
- Turn on – AutoArchive every week
- Turn on – AutoArchive prompts
- Turn off – expired item deletion when AutoArchiving
- Set Archive.pst as default archive file
2 – Setting AutoArchive Properties for Individual Folders
If you want to set the properties for your individual folders, do this:
Select the folder > Right Click > Properties > AutoArchive and then choose the settings you want. Don’t forget to repeat this for each folder that you wish to archive.
- Turn on – Clean items more than 1 month old
- Turn on – Move old items to default archive folder
Next, daily filtering via the Lawyerist blog (using Outlook):
You probably subscribe to lots of bar association emails, blog updates, even the Lawyerist Insider newsletter. When there’s lots more urgent stuff piling into your Inbox, you often need to place those subscriptions to one side for when you have more discretionary time.
Using Outlook’s Rules & Alerts feature to move routine emails into subfolders will automatically clear non-urgent email out of your Inbox, making it easier to scan in those moments when you’re doing Inbox triage. It’ll also give you a quick visual of what publications you need to read when you can.
Writing advice from The Supremes
Bryan Garner interviewed several SCOTUS Justices about what they think makes an appellate brief good and published the transcripts in Scribes. Below are some choice excerpts courtesy of An Associate's Mind. Click here to get the whole enchilada via the aforementioned Scribes and click here to get AAM's always worthwhile commentary.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.
BAG [Garner]: On some of the cases on which you grant cert, are you still, when you read the briefs, having to hack through with a machete?
JGR: Well, sure. The quality of briefs varies greatly. We get some excellent briefs; we get a lot of very, very good briefs. And there are some where the first thing you can tell in many of them is that the lawyer really hasn’t spent a lot of time on it, to be honest with you. You can tell that if they’d gone through a couple more drafts, it would be more effective. It would read better. And for whatever reason, they haven’t devoted that energy to it. Well, that tells you a lot right there about that lawyer’s devotion to his client’s cause, and that’s very frustrating because we’re obviously dealing with very important issues. We depend heavily on the lawyers.
Our chances of getting a case right improve to the extent the lawyers do a better job. And when you see something like bad writing, the first thing you think is, “Well, if he didn’t have enough time to spend writing it well, how much time did he spend researching it? How much time did he spend thinking out the ramifications of his position?” You don’t have a lot of confidence in the substance if the writing is bad.
Justice John Paul Stevens
BAG: How much does grammar matter to you?
JPS: Well, it does matter. It really does. And it’s perhaps unfair, but if someone uses improper grammar, you begin to think, well, maybe the person isn’t as careful about his work, or his or her work, as he or she should be if he doesn’t speak carefully. Grammar is really quite important.
Justice Antonin Scalia
BAG: What are the characteristics of a good legal style?
AS: Well, number one, be literate. That’s pretty basic — such as not saying cite to and such as using an apostrophe before a participle that’s used as a noun. There is a difference between “I saw him coming” and “I saw his coming.” And increasingly I read briefs where they never put an apostrophe before the noun form of the verb. And that’s terrible. Again, it makes it impossible to convey that difference between “I saw him coming” and “I saw his coming.” Beyond pure literacy, avoid legalese. There are all sorts of . . . the instant case. I said in one of my speeches or I wrote somewhere: a good test is, if you used the word at a cocktail party, would people look at you funny? You talk about the instant case or the instant problem. That’s ridiculous. It’s legalese. This case would do very well.
Friday Fun: "Rakofsky v. The Internet" - The Movie!
Have you heard about this guy? What cojones! Thanks to Big Legal Brain for this.
May 19, 2011
Indiana Needs More Lawyers: A New Law School to Open There
From the Chicago Tribune:
Indiana Tech says Indiana doesn't have enough lawyers, so it plans to open a law school in the fall of 2013.
The Fort Wayne-based school says its board of trustees unanimously approved a proposal last Friday to move forward with establishing a law school in Fort Wayne.
Among the factors swaying the school's decision is the relatively low number of lawyers in Indiana relative to its population and the number of Indiana students attending law school in other states.
Job Interview Tips – “Research Research Research”
The Curious Capitalist blog at Time.com has a post with some “new rules for the job interview”. You can read the full post here.
The tips give good advice preparing for the job market (research) and on managing your online footprint/social networking etiquette. This is such an important message for job seekers.
Charlie don't surf (but we think he should)
Here's an innovative testing idea from an undergrad professor that might make sense to adapt to the law school classroom. Rather than prohibiting students from web-surfing during exams and other graded assignments, instead make those assignments all about: 1. measuring their abilities to seek our reliable information on the web; and 2. then using what they find to solve problems posed by the teacher. From Inside Higher Ed:
. . . .
A Danish university has adopted an unusual strategy to tackle cheating: allowing unfettered internet access, even during examinations.
Lise Petersen, e-learning project coordinator at the University of Southern Denmark, said that . . . administering exams via Internet software would allow lecturers to create tests that were aligned with course content rather than "trivia" quizzes. Petersen added that, far from being a soft option, using the Internet as an academic tool was a challenge for most students because of the sheer volume of information available. "The skill is discerning between relevant and irrelevant information and then putting it in context," she said.
"What you want to test is problem-solving and analytical skills, and ... students' ability to reflect and discuss one particular topic," she said.
Petersen said that another benefit of the new Web-based system was that a strict limit could be imposed on the length of work submitted by students. This would force them to rethink how they write and prevent them from copying and pasting from other sources, she said.
"We have had situations where students submit many pages and obviously they have been cutting and pasting from their notes." Peterson explained, "That’s perfectly legal but … if they can write only a few pages, they have to reshape and reform their notes to get to the answer."
While I like the idea of testing a student's ability to discern reliable web sources from unreliable ones, I'm also thinking it might be very difficult to design legal problems that would test those abilities. I say that because unlike researching a factual issue where, depending on the issue, there might significant amounts of material to wade through and assess, it seems to me that with a legal issue, determining the authenticity and reliability of statutes, cases, etc. is pretty self-evident. Of course just sending students on a hunting expedition to find certain legal sources is a different type of skill that most of us already test. And this idea certainly would work well for teaching law students how to investigate and authenticate factual sources on the web.
Anyhow, if you'd like to check out the rest of the article, click here.
Does the Period Go Inside or Outside the Quotation Marks? It Depends.
Although in the U.S. we were taught to place the punctuation inside the quotation marks, there is a contrary trend, particularly when it comes to emails, the web, student papers and business memos. According to Ben Yagoda at Slate, there are two reasons why the standard rule is in decline.
First, with respect to computers:
one is often instructed to "input" a string of characters, and sometimes (in the printed instructions) the characters are enclosed in quotation marks. Sticking a period or comma in front of the closing quotation marks could clearly have bad consequences. So, for example, the Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition), which otherwise endorses the American way— "This is a traditional style, in use well before the first edition of this manual (1906)"—makes an exception in the case of computer instruction, illustrated by:
name your file "appendix A, v. 10".
Second, according to Yagoda, “logical punctuation” makes more sense:
The best way to grasp this is to look at an example, such as what Slate commenter Dean Hamer wrote under a recent article about PBS and NPR:
[I]ronically, given the anecdote about "Tales of the City", PBS is the ONLY widely available channel that has any serious LGBT content; e.g. documentaries such as "Ask Not" and "Out in the Silence".
"Tales of the City" and "Out in the Silence" are units—consisting of the words and the quotation marks. Insinuating a period or comma within the unit alters it in a rather underhanded manner. American style is inconsistent, moreover, because when it comes to other punctuation marks—semicolons, colons, exclamation points, question marks, dashes—we follow British/logical protocol. Dean Hamer would pass muster in any U.S. newspaper or magazine, for example, if he were to write: I am a big fan of "Tales of the City"; did anyone else see "Ask Not"?
Lawsuit to be filed next Tuesday alleging LSAT discriminates against blind students
From the Oakland County (Michigan) Daily Tribune:
A federal lawsuit will be filed against the American Bar Association on behalf of a blind man arguing the required Law School Admissions Test is biased against the visually impaired and should not be required of blind law school applicants.Binno, 28, is a Wayne State University graduate who worked for two years for Homeland Security and was awarded a high security clearance.
The suit will be filed on May 24 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Attorney Richard Bernstein said.
Bernstein, who is blind, was the last law student to be admitted to law school 15 years ago without taking the LSAT.
The suit is being filed on behalf of Angello Binno, 28, of West Bloomfield, who was born blind.
He has been denied admission to law school five times because of his LSAT scores. His latest rejection was April 28 by the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Law. Previously, he was denied admission to the Thomas Cooley Law School, Wayne State University Law School and two other times at UD-Mercy, he said.
“All I want to do is attend law school and some day work in the area of civil rights,” said Binno.
Bernstein said Tueday that the test, which costs $139 to take and is administered by the Law School Admissions Council of Newton, Pa., discriminates against the visually impaired because it requires testers to draw diagrams and charts, something inherently discriminatory against a blind person who cannot conceive of or perceive spatial relationships.
You can read more here.
Hat tip to Above the Law.
Most college presidents say they favor long-term contracts over tenure for professors; Dean Chemerinsky favors tenure instead
According to a survey of presidents from both private and public institutions conducted by the Pew Research Center together with the Chronicle of Higher Ed. I can't say that's very earth-shattering news coming from administrators, many of whom are facing serious budgetary constraints these days. In fairness to them, it's no more surprising than learning that most faculty members prefer tenure over long-term contracts. Doesn't everyone pretty much want what's in their own self-interest? To his credit, Dean Chemerinsky of U.C. Irvine Law who was interviewed by CHE for the story said he's strongly in favor of tenure for law faculty.
While the survey findings seem pretty self-evident, here's a graph that provides the particulars (it's pertinent insofar as the ABA Standards Review Committee is presently considering whether to make the availability of tenure-track positions a condition of accreditation).
May 18, 2011
Favorite Songs for Commencement
At my high school graduation, our class stood and faced the audience and sang “The Halls of Ivy.” Still my sentimental favorite. Here it is on YouTube. Here, it’s portrayed as a Christmas song, but I believe it began on the radio show—later a TV show—by the same name starring Ronald Coleman as the president of Ivy College in Ivy, USA. Perfect casting.
And then there’s the alma mater of my place of employment, Villanova University. It is the archetypal college song with practically every bit of classic collegiate imagery you can think of. It was constructed by two Tin Pan Alley song writers who may be best known for another of their hits, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” Here it is:
Alma Mater By Al Dubin and Joseph Burke
When the twilight shadows gather
Out upon the Campus green,
When the blue and purple night
Comes stealing on the scene
Loyal heirs of Villanova
Sing a hymn of praise
To our dear old ALMA MATER
And our College days.
When we leave your shelt'ring walls,
We shall leave an echo ringing
Through your treasured halls
We will leave an echo ringing
In the silent night
While our memories are singing
Of the Blue and White
When the last big game is over
And the last roll call is heard
When the oldest pedagogue
Has had the final word
We shall come to ALMA MATER
In our dreams again
With prayer for Villanova
And a sweet amen.
My goal is someday to become the “oldest pedagogue.”
Writing Tip of the Week
Legal writing often sounds overly formal because lawyers use too much passive voice. The active voice is where the actor is at the beginning of the sentence (before the verb), and the passive voice is where the actor is not at the beginning of the sentence or is not mentioned at all.
Writers should always use the active voice unless they have a reason to use the passive voice. For example, the passive voice is helpful for hiding the actor in persuasive writing. During the Clinton presidency, the White House was criticized for allowing donors to sleep in the historical rooms. President Clinton's response was, "Mistakes were made." This sentence shows honesty, while not actually blaming anyone.
Professor Farnsworth's guide to rhetoric and persuasion
Have you purchased your copy of Farnsworth's Guide to Classical English Rhetoric (2010) by B.U. Law Professor Ward Farnsworth? If not, check out the boffo reviews here courtesy of Amazon as well as this one from the Washington Post.
Soon, all across this fair land, assembled multitudes of young people will sit restlessly listening to commencement addresses. On such solemn occasions, the distinguished speakers, as they look out upon the bright, shining faces of the graduating classes, typically feel obliged to do more than just talk and tell jokes. Instead, they declaim, they orate, they moralize, they rise to the heights of what is commonly called rhetoric. “Let not this generation be one which . . . ” “Into your capable hands I bequeath to you this challenge.” “Go forth with eager heart and sturdy mind.”
Fundamentally, rhetoric is the art of persuasion, embracing all those verbal tricks, patternings and syntactic subtleties used to gain assent from an audience. Yet insofar as any speech varies from the ordinary, we instinctively tend to be suspicious of it. Can such elevated, slightly artificial discourse be sincere? Aren’t we being persuaded by false tugs on our heartstrings or faulty logic dazzlingly presented? Thus, rhetoric is widely regarded as the tool of the fast-talking scam artist, the sleek courtroom showman, the rising political demagogue.
In fact, as Ward Farnsworth — a professor of law at Boston University — demonstrates in his witty handbook, the various rhetorical techniques are actually the organizing principles behind vivid writing and speech. Unfortunately, because too few of us know Latin and Greek, the terminology describing these devices can seem off-puttingly alien. So “Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric” offers pronunciation guidance, as well as definition: “Anaphora (a-na-pho-ra) occurs when the speaker repeats the same words at the start of successive sentences or clauses.”
More important, this handbook also provides a slew of examples to reveal how great writers have added force and color to their sentences by employing these tropes or figures (as they are sometimes called). Chiasmus, for instance, “occurs when words or other elements are repeated with their order reversed.” John Kennedy’s most famous sentence is built on chiasmus: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
Notice that the president also employed anaphora in the initial repetition of the word “ask.” By contrast, repetition of a word or phrase at the end of a series of sentences is called epistrophe. Dan Quayle once boldly likened himself to John Kennedy, provoking Lloyd Bentsen, who was running against him for vice president, to protest: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy; I knew Jack Kennedy; Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” Farnsworth points out that here “the repeated element, Jack Kennedy, is put at the front rather than the end of the third clause, then moved back to the end for the finish. The variety adds to the force of the device when it resumes.” Farnsworth concludes that “the general purposes of epistrophe tend to be similar to those of anaphora, but the sound is different, and often a bit subtler, because the repetition does not become evident until each time a sentence or clause ends.”
Hat tip to the ABA Journal.
Top 10 Words of 2010
I won’t hold you in suspense. According to Merriam-Webster, the top word was austerity. The runners-up were pragmatic, moratorium, socialism, bigot, doppelgänger, shellacking, ebullient, dissident, and furtive. Popularity is calculated according to popularity on the dictionary’s website. How about using all these words in a single sentence? Here’s one attempt by Adam Smith Esq. online:
A new breed of dissidents, taking aim at the dominant big-government, socialism light, "soft bigotry of low expectations" mindset of the past few decades, is standing ebulliently atop the shellacking the Democrats took last November, casting themselves as pragmatists in favor of across-the-board governmental austerity--moratoriums at the very least--and contrary to past furtive custom, they are proudly open about their agenda even at the tail end of the Great Recession, happily running the risk of being called Hoover's doppelgangers.