May 28, 2011
Teaching Ethics in the First Year
I have previously posted on the need to teach professionalism throughout the curriculum. UC Irvine Law School requires a course on the Legal Profession in the first year. Ann Southworth and Catherine Fisk, two faculty members at UC Irvine, have written an article on this course.
"This essay, which is part of a symposium on UC Irvine Law School’s innovations in legal education, describes the required, year-long, first-year course on the Legal Profession. Responding to a number of calls for improved law school instruction on the legal profession and professional ethics, the course offers students an empirically grounded understanding of actual practice realities and critical perspectives on those practices, drawn from history, sociology, philosophy, economics, and psychology. It situates issues of legal ethics and professionalism in broader contexts, including the history and social structure of the bar, the market for legal services, and the organizations of practice. It relies heavily on theoretical and empirical literature about the profession, as well as case studies, simulations, and commentary by guest speakers. We require our students to engage with issues of the profession from the very start of law school, and we pitch the course in terms that appeal to the students’ self-interest – as an effort to help them chart successful, rewarding, and responsible careers in law. This essay describes the premises, goals, circumstances of creation, and content of our Legal Profession course. We also assess the success of the course and identify continuing challenges."
In my first year in law school, I felt like I was learning courses in isolation; I had no context. Maybe, this kind of course will help students better understand how things fit together.
Report on Jobs for New Law School Grads
From the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) comes this report:
For the class of 2009, [NALP] reported the employment rate nine months after graduation was 88.3 percent for graduates for whom employment status was known. Of that 88.3 percent, 55.9 percent of graduates are in private practice, 13.5 percent are in the business industry, 10.1 percent are in government, and 8.7 percent are in a judicial clerkship. In an interview with BNA May 3, James G. Leipold, Executive Director of NALP, noted that these splits remain relatively constant each year, even during and after tough economic periods.
For 2010, the overall employment rate nine months after graduation was around 87 percent, he said. (NALP will release complete 2010 employment data in late May or early June.)
As for salaries:
NALP's 2009 report of survey data from recent graduates reported that compensation for beginning attorneys at the “big law firms” in 2009 was around $160,000 in major metropolitan areas. The mean salary for the entire class was about $93,000. Leipold was quick to point out, however, that very few salaries actually hovered around the mean. In fact, 34 percent of 2009 graduates who reported salaries made between $45,000-$65,000 and about 25 percent of graduates responded that they made around $160,000 per year. The class of 2011 can expect a similar, reverse Bell curve type of salary distribution.
According to NALP, during the past year, the number of employers interviewing on campus has increased.
The full story is at U.S. Law Week online.
Happy Birthday to a very special person
Life's a rollercoaster and there's no one I'd rather share the ride with than you.
In the words of the immortal Ernie K. Doe "I'm so glad I'm your man!"
Happy Birthday, baby.
May 27, 2011
Should We Try to Match Each Student With a Preferred Learning Style?
Maybe not. In an article that should gain some attention, Professor Aida Alaka argues that the matching of preferred learning styles with particular teaching styles may not result in better learning. “Learning Styles: What Difference Do the Differences Make?”, 5 Charleston Law Review 133 (2011):
Many education psychologists and others involved in researching educational theories are highly critical of the notion that students possess fixed learning styles that teachers must address in order for students to learn. In the last few years, two comprehensive literature reviews have been conducted to assess the theoretical and research bases underlying the spectrum of learning style theories. And yet, many in legal education think of the existence of learning styles as being settled fact. They also think of them rather narrowly—primarily as a question of whether one has a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic style—although many learning style theories exist. This Article explores the controversy surrounding learning styles and presents the critical bases for the controversy. It explains that most disinterested researchers are particularly skeptical of the “matching hypothesis”—that is, that one must teach to specific styles.
Friday Fun: "Two Law Profs Discuss What They Are Planning To Do To Integrate Legal Skills Into Their Courses"
A viral YouTube video that I somehow missed until now. From our buddies at the Law Librarian blog.
Personally, this gave me a headache about 20 seconds in.
Court denies defendant's motion to compel plaintiff to "friend" him on Facebook to gain access to photos
A Pennsylvania court recently denied a defendant's request that plaintiff accept his Facebook "friend" request to gain access to plaintiff's photos in connection with a personal injury action she brought following a car accident. The defendant in the case conceded liability but contested the plaintiff's injury claim which involved some serious facial lacerations.
During the plaintiff's deposition, the defendant learned that she had a Facebook account. When the defendant tried to access it, however, he discovered that the plaintiff had her privacy settings switched on and thus the defendant couldn't access some pre- and post-accident photos available there. Accordingly, the defendant brought a motion to compel asking the court to order the plaintiff to "friend" him so that he could gain access to the photos at issue. Relevant to the court's ruling may have been the fact, as the plaintiff argued, the defendant already had in hand several pre- and post-accident photos produced during discovery.
From the blog Law Technology News:
The plaintiff in a car accident case does not have to accept a friend request on Facebook from the defendant so that the defendant can have full access to the plaintiff's postings and pictures, a Bucks County, Pa., Common Pleas Court judge has ruled.
In Piccolo v. Paterson, Judge Albert J. Cepparulo issued a one-paragraph order denying the motion to compel filed by defendants Lindsay S. Paterson, Lee Anne Paterson, Linsey Paterson, and Allstate Insurance.
The defendants wanted access to the photos of plaintiff Sara Piccolo that she posted of herself on the social networking site.
. . . .
In Piccolo's response to the defense motion, Lipman argued that defense counsel had only asked at Piccolo's deposition about the pictures she posted on Facebook, not any textual postings. He said Paterson had already been provided "as complete a photographic record of the pre-accident and post-accident condition" of Piccolo as she "could reasonably have a right to expect in this case."
Piccolo allowed the insurer to come to her home in 2008 and take photographs of her face. She also gave the defense 20 photos of her face from the week following the accident as well as five photos from the months just before the accident. She allowed the defense to take more pictures at the September 2010 deposition.
"Defendant Paterson has not made a prima facie showing of need for access to the non-public pages of [Piccolo's] Facebook account," Lipman said in his motion. "She has all the photographs she can reasonably use from every different period before and after the accident and she has not asserted that there is likely to be any text in the non-public postings that is material or will likely lead to the discovery of material evidence."Lipman said Piccolo concedes that her Facebook account "is probably not protected by any evidentiary privilege that has been recognized in Pennsylvania." But he cited Rule of Civil Procedure 4011(b), which precludes discovery that would cause unreasonable annoyance, embarrassment, oppression or burden.
Because the defendant already received from plaintiff several photos showing her face before and after the accident, the court's decision to deny the defendant access to her Facebook photos probably speaks little about a future court's willingness to compel access to a party's Facebook page.
You can read more coverage here.
Student transfers hurt the schools they leave behind
The National Law Journal's report on Professor Jeffrey Rensberger's article "Tragedy of the Student Commons: Law Student Transfers and Legal Education."
The law school transfer system benefits individual law students, but it's hardly a boon for the less-prestigious schools that invest in promising students only to see them leave following their first year.
That's the conclusion reached by South Texas College of Law Professor Jeffrey Rensberger, who examined law student transfers for an article in the Journal of Legal Education. Rensberger said Wednesday that he wrote the article largely because little attention has been paid to the subject.
"There hasn't really been a well thought out discussion of transfers in legal education," he said. "People talk about it, but it hasn't been studied in a comprehensive manner."
After analyzing the numbers and patterns of transfer students as well as the overall cost to legal education, Rensberger concluded that the transfer system is inefficient and causes more harm to the schools students leave than benefits to the schools to which they transfer.
The former see losses in tuition money, quality classroom participation, bar passage rates and alumni prestige. The latter gain little, since transfers tend to land at institutions that already enjoy stronger reputations, alumni networks and bar passage rates.
"From the standpoint of legal education as a whole, this is a bad thing," Rensberger wrote. "It may be and probably is good for the student who transfers, but it also imposes costs on those who do not transfer."
Rensberger analyzed class size data provided to the American Bar Association by law schools to identify transfer trends. He found that during each of the past four years, between 2,265 and 2,400 students transferred to ABA-accredited schools. They accounted for about 5% of the national 2L class.
Law schools varied widely, however, in the number of transfer students they accepted. Rensberger looked for the biggest gainers, and found that 26 schools had 2L classes with 10% or more transfer students (five of those schools had 20% or more transfer students). Most schools, however, had 2L classes in which transfer students comprised 5% or less.
Unsurprisingly, transfer students tended to move toward schools with higher rankings, as determined by U.S. News & World Report, Rensberger found. That casts doubt on the idea that most law students transfer because of changes in their life situation, he wrote.
Similarly, students tended to transfer to schools with higher bar passage rates. Schools with a net gain had an average bar passage rate of 88.2%, while net loser schools had an average of 78.9%. Additionally, transfers gravitated to law schools with higher median LSAT scores. It didn't appear that most transfer students were lured by lower tuition.
"On the whole, transfers slightly increase the cost of legal education for those transferring," Rensberger wrote. "Moreover, the financial effect on schools that receive high volumes of transfers and schools which lose high volumes of transfers is large."
For instance, he reported, the school that received the most transfers saw a $3.4 million increase in revenue as a result, while the school that lost the most students forfeited $5.2 million.
When one student transfers out, schools must replace that lost revenue by accepting a transfer student in his or her place, Rensberger wrote. That new student likely will have credentials inferior than the one who left — and the move creates similar problems for the law school from which he or she came.
Furthermore, the transfer of students who perform well during their 1L year most likely depresses the bar passage rates of their original law schools, he continued. At the same time, it may boost the bar passage rates at the schools into which the students transfer. The benefits to the new school and the loss to the old school are not equal, Rensberger concluded.
"The loss of a few percentage points in pass rate is much more significant to a school that is already struggling with a pass rate below the state average," he wrote. "In short, as to bar pass rates, transfers have the effect of making the rich richer and the poor poorer; and in the context of bar pass rates, poverty is more significant than wealth."
Along the same lines, the transfer of promising students decreases the quality of classroom discussion at the original law schools, since those students tend to represent the "cream of the academic crop," Rensberger wrote.
Similarly, transfer students create a net loss of high-performing alumni for the schools they leave behind. "Law schools are stronger when their alumni are stronger," he wrote. "An alumnus who is an especially successful practitioner, an esteemed judge, or even an academic adds to the reputation of the school."
Finally, the student transfer system may help law schools game the U.S. News rankings, since they can boost their selectivity scores by admitting fewer 1Ls and set higher LSAT cutoffs. They can then fill that gap with 2L transfers students who had lower LSAT scores, since they won't affect the median LSAT figure used in the rankings.
You can continue reading here.
May 26, 2011
Passive voice reduxTardily following up Scott Fruehwald’s Writing Tip of the Week on passive voice, I’ve linked below to an article I wrote several years ago that I think complements Scott’s tip.
“E-Prime, Briefly: A Lawyer’s Experiment with Writing in E-Prime,” Clarity, No. 48 (December 2002)
“E-Prime, Briefly: A Lawyer Writes in E-Prime,” Michigan Bar Journal (July 2007) (slightly edited reprint of Clarity article)
Keeping a Clean Online Image
Law students should recognize that potential employers will likely check on their online images when making hiring decisions. In a training session that I lead with our career services office, I recommend that students take a look at their online image and make sure they are not putting information out there that will come back to bite them come job search time.
A recent study by Reppler revealed that 47% of Facebook users have profanity on their FB walls. Another recent study found overwhelming references to drinking. This is not the image you want to present to a potential employer.
Hat tip Mashable
Creating the Optimistic Classroom
“Always look on the brighter side of life” goes the ironic Monty Python song. Maybe we want to temper that view with a little realism. Nonetheless, taking a positive approach with students in the classroom and in private discussions can result in a better learning environment. In her article, “Creating the Optimistic Classroom: What Law Schools Can Learn from Attribution Style Effects,” 42 McGeorge L. Rev. 319 (2011), Professor Corie Rosen shows that a pessimistic style contributes to depression among law students and impedes their learning. In contrast, a positive teaching style contributes to a successful learning experience:
This Article will address the linked problems of declining subjective well-being and increasing depression among law students, and will explore the way that depression in law students is produced and reinforced by pessimistic attribution style. Next, this Article will address the potential effects of using the language of optimistic attribution in law school classroom feedback, and methods professors might use to access and build that language into their feedback methodology. Finally, this Article will examine the possible effects of an optimistically-oriented learning environment. Perhaps, instead of giving up [FN6] or falling prey to depression, [FN7] students exposed to the language of optimism in their *321 classrooms may develop healthier psychological defenses to a difficult environment. In the face of both perceived and actual failure, [FN8] students who have learned optimism [FN9] may remain more motivated and, therefore, prove more successful than students who have not been so exposed. [FN10]
The six rules for delivering bad news to clients
1. The client must hear the news from you first. If the client hears the news from a Google alert or an e-mail from an old friend, you’re starting off on the wrong foot
2. The news must arrive promptly. If you’d promptly call to tell the client that you’d just won the summary judgment motion (and you probably would, to share the moment of glory), then you should promptly call the client to say that you’ve lost the summary judgment motion (because the news is equally important and equally time-sensitive).
3. If at all possible, you should deliver bad news by telephone or in person. I understand that it’s easier to send an e-mail reporting the bad news, but that’s why e-mail (or a voicemail message, or a letter) isn’t acceptable. The worse the news, the more important to deliver it personally.
4. Be clear and direct when you deliver the bad news. Beating around the bush doesn’t make life easier for either you or the client.
5. Do not sugarcoat the bad news: “We lost the motion for a temporary restraining order, and this is great! Now we can beat up on the other side in discovery, and they’ll still have the threat of a future defeat hanging over them.” You won’t fool anyone when you sugarcoat bad news, and you may well infuriate someone.
Click here to read Mr. Herrmann's final suggestion - come up with a plan for moving forward.
May 25, 2011
College students like tablet computers but still shun e-textbooks
Most students in this recent survey by the Pearson Foundation, as reported by Inside Higher Ed, say they don't own tablets but would like to. These students believe tablets will transform higher education. Ninety percent of students who already tablets say they are a valuable learning tool (IHE reports, however, that most students use tablets to check email, manage schedules and keep track of assignments rather than classwork).
Interestingly, most students report that they still prefer hardcopy texts for school and pleasure reading rather than e-texts. The responses change, though, for students who already own tablets - those students prefer digital texts to print texts by 73%
Here's a portion of the survey findings:
College students who own tablets believe the devices are valuable for educational purposes.
• Nine in ten college students who own tablets believe that tablets are valuable for educational purposes.
• Almost nine in ten college student tablet owners (86%) believe that tablets help students study more efficiently.
• The majority of college students who own tablets (86%) also believe that professors at their institutions should integrate tablet-based activities into their courses. Only two in ten college students say that some of their professors use tablets.
• Three-quarters of college student tablet owners (76%) believe that tablets help students perform better in their classes.
On average, students prefer print over digital format for both textbooks and leisure reading. Students who own tablets, however, are far more likely to favor digital books over print.
• More than half of all students prefer print over digital format for both textbook (college and high school: 55%) and leisure reading (college: 55%; high school: 59%).
• When reading or studying for class, 73% of tablet owners (32% of non-owners) prefer digital format over print for reading textbooks.
• Students are more likely to prefer digital formats when reading or studying course materials besides books, such as journal articles (college: 62%; high school: 49%).
Writing Tip of the Week
Wordiness is a major problem in most lawyers' writing. While an extra word here or there doesn't seem like much, they can quickly add up. More importantly, wordiness can slow down your reader. There are lots of things you can do to eliminate wordiness from your writing. This tip comes from Andy Starkis:
"Want to cut down on your word/page count? Want to get your point across more clearly and effectively? Play Where's Waldo? with your draft. Only instead of Waldo, look for combinations of relative pronouns ("who," "which," "that") followed by any form of the verb to be ("is," "was," "were," "has been," "will be," etc.). Then put a line through those words and read what's left of your sentence. Chances are that what's left will say exactly the same thing and say it more effectively, in fewer words. And you will be amazed to discover how many of them you find in ten, fifteen or twenty pages.
For example, in an answer submitted to the Elephant Post (reported in a 5/15 jbl post):
'As a result, the market is flooded with graduates who are unable to pay back student loans. Most lawyers I know express similar views and all repeatedly tell friends and family members who are considering going to law school that they should not.'"
The Best Legal Department of 2011
According to the Legal Times Corporate Counsel blog, the best law department is Google. Here are a few paragraphs from the article:
Many of their cases are cutting-edge. "Bleeding-edge," an in-house lawyer amends. They test the limits of laws perpetually lagging behind new technology. Can advertisers use trademarked terms in Google ads? Can Google scan and make available copyrighted but out-of-print books? Is the company liable if results of its search engine direct users to counterfeit or pirated products? These are just a few of the questions that courts-and Google's lawyers-have been grappling with.
It's an exciting time to be Google's general counsel, says Kent Walker. They win a lot of cases that define the boundaries of the law. The biggest was the summary judgment last June in which a judge ruled that Google's YouTube was not liable for the posting of Viacom Inc.'s video clips. "We lose some," Walker adds, "as we did today," referring to the decision by another judge rejecting the Book Search settlement Google had reached with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. The ruling leaves years of legal work in limbo.
The company has only been around for a dozen years, so the lawyers aren't exactly encumbered by tradition. They're trying to craft approaches of their own, says Walker, sitting in a conference room near his office-er, make that desk. There are no offices. The renovation of their building that Walker ordered last year for the law department was part of an "open style" in hierarchy and architecture. "We don't have an open-door policy," he explains. "We have a no-door policy."
A message to new grads about joining the legal profession from the ABA president
Here's an inspiring message from ABA president Stephen Zach (courtesy of the ABA Journal) to all new grads:
Being a lawyer [is] a special commitment. It is about much more than practicing law. It is defending the rule of law and advocating for fairness and access to justice.
That same commitment led John Adams, our first lawyer-president, to fight for an independent American nation. It spurred a small group of attorneys—133 years ago in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.—to create the ABA to defend liberty and pursue justice as the national voice of the profession. And it guided the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and other lawyers to march in the streets and litigate in the courtrooms to remind this country that “all men are created equal.”
These values are the foundation for the latest generation of lawyers in facing major issues of our day, including cuts to legal aid, decreases in access to the courts by the middle class and small business, and the increase in the diversity of American society. In talking to students nationwide these past few months, it’s clear that today’s young lawyers are up to the task, and that they share the passion and obligation of prior generations to use their new skills in service to society.
We need these young lawyers to right today’s wrongs. We also have to do right by them. Currently, many young lawyers are feeling great uncertainty regarding their future, and a lot of pressure about the debts they took on to pursue their education. There will always be a role and a need for good, new lawyers.
So to the graduates of the 200 ABA-accredited law schools, congratulations and welcome to an amazing path for your life’s work. To those in practice, reach out to the next generation. Share with them how you built success, and encourage them to expand their horizons by becoming active in local, state and national bar associations. Encourage them also to donate time to legal causes they care about, especially helping the poor in our society. This kind of public service has always been part of private sector legal work. It sharpens skills, builds a network and helps land a job. But most important is that it will help shape how this generation of lawyers, like the ones before them, will be remembered.
May 24, 2011
Studying for the Bar Exam – There’s an App for That
Aspen Publishers, through Modality, offers several iPhone apps designed to help students study for the multistate bar examination. The apps are offered for about $40 each, covering the following topics: civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, corporations, criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, federal income tax, future interests, professional responsibility, real property, sales, torts, wills & trusts. More information here.
Law firm creates App to notify applicants about job openings.
A Cleveland law firm has thrown stodginess to the wind and is recruiting with up-to-the-minute job alerts sent to iPhones and iPads.
The free "Benesch Apportunity" app from the iTunes store automatically sends out a notification when an attorney position is available at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff. The 165-lawyer, seven-office firm says it has about two openings a month.
. . . .
"I've never heard of that before," said Robert Ambrogi, a lawyer, consultant on legal technology and former editor of the National Law Journal. "It's a nice idea, especially given how many lawyers are looking. I assume it would be a very popular app."
Hat tip to Above the Law.
A Handbook for Students Who Learn Differently
Congratulations to Professor Leah Christensen on her new book, “Learning Outside the Box: A Handbook for Law Students Who Learn Differently (Carolina Academic Press).
Although there are plenty of books advising students how to succeed in law school and resources for faculty and administrators on working with students who learn differently, this book offers detailed advice to the student who learns differently. Theses are students who may have a learning disability, a reading disability, ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome or any other diagnosed or undiagnosed learning disability that affects the way in which they learn.
The book focuses on reading, studying, and testing strategies that are based on empirical research and statistical correlations between learning strategies and law school GPAs.
Is Twitter making us stupid?
The most obvious drawback of social media is that they are aggressive distractions. Unlike the virtual fireplace or that nesting pair of red-tailed hawks we have been live-streaming on nytimes.com, Twitter is not just an ambient presence. It demands attention and response. It is the enemy of contemplation. Every time my TweetDeck shoots a new tweet to my desktop, I experience a little dopamine spritz that takes me away from . . . from . . . wait, what was I saying?
My mistrust of social media is intensified by the ephemeral nature of these communications. They are the epitome of in-one-ear-and-out-the-other, which was my mother’s trope for a failure to connect.
I’m not even sure these new instruments are genuinely “social.” There is something decidedly faux about the camaraderie of Facebook, something illusory about the connectedness of Twitter. Eavesdrop on a conversation as it surges through the digital crowd, and more often than not it is reductive and redundant. Following an argument among the Twits is like listening to preschoolers quarreling: You did! Did not! Did too! Did not!
As a kind of masochistic experiment, the other day I tweeted “#TwitterMakesYouStupid. Discuss.” It produced a few flashes of wit (“Give a little credit to our public schools!”); a couple of earnestly obvious points (“Depends who you follow”); some understandable speculation that my account had been hacked by a troll; a message from my wife (“I don’t know if Twitter makes you stupid, but it’s making you late for dinner. Come home!”); and an awful lot of nyah-nyah-nyah (“Um, wrong.” “Nuh-uh!!”). Almost everyone who had anything profound to say in response to my little provocation chose to say it outside Twitter. In an actual discussion, the marshaling of information is cumulative, complication is acknowledged, sometimes persuasion occurs. In a Twitter discussion, opinions and our tolerance for others’ opinions are stunted. Whether or not Twitter makes you stupid, it certainly makes some smart people sound stupid.
I realize I am inviting blowback from passionate Tweeters, from aging academics who stoke their charisma by overpraising every novelty and from colleagues at The Times who are refining a social-media strategy to expand the reach of our journalism. So let me be clear that Twitter is a brilliant device — a megaphone for promotion, a seine for information, a helpful organizing tool for everything from dog-lover meet-ups to revolutions. It restores serendipity to the flow of information. Though I am not much of a Tweeter and pay little attention to my Facebook account, I love to see something I’ve written neatly bitly’d and shared around the Twittersphere, even when I know — now, for instance — that the verdict of the crowd will be hostile.
The shortcomings of social media would not bother me awfully if I did not suspect that Facebook friendship and Twitter chatter are displacing real rapport and real conversation, just as Gutenberg’s device displaced remembering. The things we may be unlearning, tweet by tweet — complexity, acuity, patience, wisdom, intimacy — are things that matter.
You can read more here.
A good check list for deciding whether to attend law school.
This is the time of year when applicants may still be mulling over whether to attend law school in the fall. Even if you've already paid a deposit to secure a seat, you may still be wondering whether it's the right choice (you can always forfeit your deposit if you decide it's not the right thing for you at this moment in your life).
Here's a helpful checklist courtesy of the President of the California Bar Association for assessing the pros and cons of attending law school:
- Have realistic expectations about what lawyers actually do on a day-to-day basis. It's best to work for a lawyer for a year or two before attending law school so you'll go in with your eyes wide open. If you haven't already done that, seriously consider deferring for a year to first get that kind of experience.
- Consider the reputation of the schools that have accepted you. If you're going to law school in hopes of landing a $160k job but aren't planning to attend a top 50 law school, your odds are long at best (even if you attend a t-50 school, you may still need to be in the top 10-15% of the class).
- Ask yourself whether you're primary motive is to make a lot of money. If you answer in the affirmative, law school is probably not the right choice.
- Crunch the numbers on the debt you'll incur to attend law school and ask yourself whether it will allow you an acceptable standard of living based on a likely mid-five-figures salary.
As long as you have realistic expectations and have thought carefully about this decision, then you're making the right choice. Click here to see more detailed advice about how to assess each one of the above factors.
Hat tip to JD Oasis.com.