June 18, 2011
New scholarship: "Redesigning the American law school"
This article, available on SSRN here, is by Professor David Barnhizer, Senior Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London and Professor of Law Emeritus, Cleveland State University. It can be found at 2010 Mich. St. L. Rev. 249. From the abstract:
American law schools are an integral part of a vertically integrated system of production in which the end product is lawyers. Law schools are having rapidly increasing problems “selling” their “products” to potential employers/purchasers. Even if the law schools do not voluntarily cut back on the numbers of admitted students some states will decide there should be no public subsidy for educating students for employment areas such as law where there is no demand. Even though many private law schools will be affected negatively, publicly-funded law schools will also be dramatically affected due to declining state budgets and competition for scarce resources from areas of public expenditure with far more powerful lobbying support and, in fairness, greater and more demonstrable and immediate needs. For publicly funded law schools there is significant danger in the fact that there is no shortage of lawyers in America after decades of rapid expansion.
Several potential shifts in ABA accreditation standards and policy will have significant implications, including approval of credit for distance learning, rapid movement toward assessment of law schools based on what are called “output” measurements, and even a decision that scholarly productivity measures are an inappropriate factor for the American Bar Association (contrasted with the AALS) to rely on in assessing the accredited status of a law school. These three accreditation prongs will have enormous effects that include significant faculty reductions, higher faculty workloads, changes in tenure standards, and large-scale eliminations of the traditional law school research library. For the (many) law schools that choose to remain oblivious to the altered operational context, their adaptations will be ones developed in a crisis context as their applicant pools shrink, angry graduates are increasingly unable to find employment even while faced with educational debt equivalent to a home mortgage, and less expensive competitive institutions emerge that offer alternative approaches to legal education.
Free Business Cards for Law Students
As part of their careerbuilding efforts, students might not think about getting business cards for themselves. Even in our electronic society, business cards are a standard method of introduction. Some companies offer free or inexpensive business cards. Here is a link to one company that produces a very serviceable product.
June 17, 2011
Do you mean defendant's or defendants'? Attorney accused of writing "worst" pleading ever
From the Springfield, Missouri News-Leader:
Until Tuesday, Anissa Bluebaum represented Alison Peck, a former teacher who faces criminal charges for failing to register as a sex offender. Peck pleaded guilty in 2009 to five charges of statutory rape in three separate counties against a former student.
Bluebaum withdrew from the criminal cases Tuesday. According to online court documents, a public defender will be appointed to represent Peck in those cases.
Bluebaum remains the attorney in the civil case Peck filed in March against her former probation officer, Rebecca Martin.
Richard Crites, Martin's attorney, has responded to the complaint against Martin with an eight-page list of questions about both the accusations in the case and Bluebaum's abilities as an attorney.
"This petition is the worst example of pleading that the defendant's attorney has ever witnessed or read," Crites wrote in a recent motion.
. . . .
Because of the fact that two people are named in the suit, Martin and her brother, Crites repeatedly asks who Bluebaum is referencing with the terms "defendant's" and "defendants."
"Defendant does not know whether plaintiff is just not familiar with the use of possessives or whether plaintiff was referring to merely one of the two defendants" the motion document said. "...is this merely the poor usage of the English language by plaintiff's attorney? We have no earthly idea which is the case."
Crites' motion asks that Bluebaum clarify the allegations in the civil petition, including where and when referenced incidents oc-curred. He said the case can't move forward until those questions are answered.
"Without answers to these questions and dividing this long-winded allegation into separate paragraphs, there is no way on God's earth that the defendant can reasonably be expected to answer this diatribe," he wrote.
Ouch. But it gets even worse for Attorney Bluebaum; the judge threatened to throw her in jail for unprofessional behavior during a hearing. According to the paper, the judge "reminded her that she went to law school and knew how an attorney was supposed to behave."
Hat tip to the online ABA Journal.
Tennessee law bans posting Internet images that 'cause emotional distress'
Here is Dean Erwin Chemerinsky’s plain English summary of the new statute:
So the law now applies not just to one-to-one communication, but to people’s posting images on their own Facebook pages, on their Web sites, and in other places if (1) they are acting “without legitimate purpose,” (2) they cause emotional distress, and (3) they intend to cause emotional distress or know or reasonably should know that their action will cause emotional distress to a similarly situated person of reasonable sensibilities.
The constitutionality of such a restriction on speech is doubtful, but the statute focuses on how abuse of internet speech is largely unimpeded. Here is a link to the story.
June 16, 2011
What do temp lawyers make doing document review work?
According to this story from the Wall Street Journal, for work that isn't off-shored, temp attorneys can expect to make between $15.00 and $40.00 an hour, no benefits included. That can translate into $40,000 to $50,000 a year if the work is steady but for many it isn't. And as this post from the ABA Journal points out, working as a temp often carries a stigma that can make it difficult to later find permanent employment.
A typical contract lawyer may be able to make $40,000 to $50,000 a year, but the pay can be as low as $15 an hour.
Other negatives [include] . . . little chance for advancement, low prestige, a lack of steady work, stigma and a work atmosphere where breaks are limited and speed is monitored.
ATL's informal survery shows many small firm associates work long hours while pay varies considerably
ATL's Valerie Katz, the columnist behind "size matters," which covers topics related to small firm practice, conducted an informal survey of the salaries earned and hours worked by small firm associates. Many respondents reported working hours consistent with large firm practice but the salaries varied widely from a low of $25k (for an L.A. 4th year - really!) to $250k (for an attorney who is "of counsel" to a D.C. firm).
Here's a summary of the survery results:
Who took the salary survey?
The majority of survey respondents were
• junior associates (years 1-3)
• in firms 20 attorneys or less
• who had been at the firm for less than two years.
How is salary determined?
78.7% of responders work in small firms where compensation is not lock-step. Interestingly, many did not know what factors were considered in determining compensation but assumed that hours billed, client development, skill and the perception that an attorney will leave were considered. There is a firm in New Jersey that, according to an of-counsel who took the survey, considers “sex appeal” in the compensation determination. If I find out the name, I will be sure to tell you all in case some small-firm hotties want to move to Jersey and make bank.
How much do small-firm attorneys make?
Not enough people in a given geographic location responded for a statistically significant analysis. Here, however, are some general conclusions based on the results:
• Attorneys in Pennsylvania reported base salaries between $77,000 and $130,000. The salaries do not necessarily correspond to class year. For example, a first year and a seventh year in Philadelphia earned $100,000.
• The highest reported salaries for small-firm attorneys came from D.C. The majority of responders reported base salaries between $150,000 and $200,000. The highest salary, $250,000, was earned by an of-counsel who billed 1800 hours.
• Not surprisingly, the small-firm attorneys in New York City reported the highest billable hours.
• The majority of junior associates in Chicago earned less than $100,000. There might be a light at the end of the tunnel for Chicago juniors, however. A fifth year reported a salary of $200,000 for billing 1500 hours. Please e-mail me and let me know where you work (and whether there is need for another mid-level).
• Associates in Los Angeles (years 1-5) reported salaries of $125,000 and under. Some were quite a bit under – a first year reported a salary of $40,000 and a fourth year of $25,000 (note: get out!).
• Of the ten San Franciscans who responded to the survey, eight make $100,000 or higher.
. . . . .
How much do small-firm associates work?
• It varies, of course, but about half of those surveyed said that their firms do have a minimum billable requirement.
• Of the associates who have billable requirements, the requirement is between 1800 and 2000 hours.
• Associates reported billing hours between 1000 and 3050 per year. The average hours billed was 1836.
. . . .
If there are any take-aways from this survey, they are as follows:
• We need to improve our survey skills;
• Many small-firm associates work hours similar to Biglaw; and
• Small firms need to be more transparent when it comes to compensation and financial information. After all, aren’t small firms supposed to be like families? Functional families are not supposed to keep secrets.
More on Networking as Career Building
On July 12, I posted my conclusion that students often to not understand that a function of networking is career building. I recently realized another problem. Suppose a student exchanges a business card with a lawyer. The students often does not know what to do next and therefore does nothing. Here are some suggestions that you might give to the student:
1. Encourage the student to tell or phone the lawyer that the student would like to talk further with the lawyer about his or her practice, what it’s like to work in her field of law, etc. The student might tell the lawyer that he or she would like to “shadow” the lawyer when the lawyer is engaged in a particularly interesting hearing or other event.
2. Encourage the student to invite the lawyer to keep the student abreast of any events, courtroom activities, conferences that might be of interest to the student.
3. Encourage the student to ask the lawyer what other people the student might want to talk with about the practice or about possible jobs.
4. And of course, the student should let the lawyer know that although right now, the student is trying to learn more about the practice and meet people, the student still is very interested in finding a job and would appreciate any advice or notice of any possible jobs with other lawyers.
June 15, 2011
Law schools should teach students "information" research skills
Teaching effective legal research skills is a given, but we should also be teaching students how to sift through non-legal databases as well. From the New York Law Journal (the author is an associate at Paul Weiss):
Law students and lateral associates searching for a law firm job should be ready to show that they know how to search.
Many of the skills expected of an associate are well-known: She must be a hard worker, a good writer, a creative analyst of legal arguments, and an organizer of tasks, information and people. But since electronic data has become the primary source of information in many litigations, there is another skill that has become critical for a young associate: the ability to search electronic databases quickly, thoroughly and exhaustively, finding the killer case citation or the incriminating e-mail.
That an associate must be able to conduct research or use a database such as Westlaw or Lexis is hardly a novel idea, but it is worth considering just how central to the life of an associate is the skill of electronic searching. As a young associate myself, I use that skill every day, many times a day, and know that my fellow associates do as well.
. . . .Employers should provide associates with a "best practices" guide with concrete examples of what successful searches look like. Although many law firms offer training sessions on legal research, it would help to have a part of the training program address the subtler requirements of good searching, and the consequences of poor searching, in various electronic data sources such as e-discovery portals.
Training should start even before the job does. Law schools are trying to focus more on preparing students for practice. For example, Harvard Law School has introduced a "Problem Solving Workshop," a course "intended to help prepare [students] for the actual practice of law by allowing [them] actively to engage in the sorts of discussions and activities that occupy real lawyers every day," according to its website.
Part of preparing students for real-world practice is communicating the importance of being able to search well and giving students the opportunity to practice outside the context of a legal research assignment. For example, law schools might offer students the opportunity to search a mock electronic document database to get a flavor for the challenges of e-discovery.
Young lawyers are increasingly becoming the managers, and masters, of electronic information. Searching through that information is difficult to do well. Associates must practice and perfect their searching skills, while the broader legal community must acknowledge the importance of those skills and help associates develop them.
Will Our Students Be Renting Their Case Books?
Today, an increasing number of thrifty college students are renting their text books. According to EdNET Insight:
In the past two years, the post-secondary textbook rental market has exploded. Driven by the outcry over book prices, federal legislation, readily available pricing information on the Internet, and sophisticated web-based rental management platforms, old and new competitors are disrupting the $10 billion college textbook business.
As far as I know, the rental phenomenon has yet to hit the law school world, but we can expect to encounter this revolution pretty soon.
You can't copy that (um, well, maybe you can).
The June 2011 issue of Wisconsin Lawyer includes a primer on lawyers’ work in relation to plagiarism and copyright infringment. The authors discuss (among other matters) copyright infringement versus plagiarism; a theory of plagiarism; copyright infringement of legal work; and plagiarism and legal ethics. The online version of the article includes links to an article on copyright myths and a video presentation by the authors.
James D. Peterson & Jennifer L. Gregor, “Copycat: Plagiarism, Copyright Infringement, & Lawyers
,” Wisconsin Lawyer, Vol. 84, No. 6 (June 2011).
Gina Carter, “10 Copyright Myths,” Wisconsin Lawyer, Vol. 84, No. 6 (June 2011).
Updating Your Resume for Today’s Employers
The Wall Street Journal recently posted some advice on what a resume in 2011 should be. The full column is here.
Elizabeth Garone (WSJ) gives this advice:
- Include you’re a link to your LinkedIn profile;
- Include a link to your online resume/profile in addition to attaching a copy;
- Don’t use these “top 10 overused words" - innovative, dynamic, motivated, extensive experience, results-oriented, proven track record, team player, fast-paced, problem solver, and entrepreneurial; and
- Aesthetics still matter
June 14, 2011
Writing Tip of the Week: There & It Constructions
Constructions using there or it may produce wordiness. “There are many people who like classical music.” "Many people" is the subject of this sentence; "there are" is unnecessary. One can rewrite this sentence as follows: “Many people like classical music.” “It is apparent to everyone that Mary committed the crime.” The phrase beginning "it is" is unnecessary. The sentence means the same thing if "it is" is deleted: “Mary committed the crime.” However, not all phrases that begin with there or it are unnecessary. There is proper when it is the subject of the sentence. Likewise, it is proper when it depicts something definite.
There are five reasons to take evidence.
Grapefruit is very healthy. It contains vitamin C.
George Mason University School of Law opens Supreme Court clinic
From the National Jurist Magazine:
George Mason University recently announced that this fall it will offer a Supreme Court Clinic to students, with the assistance of Wiley Rein LLP, a Washington D.C. law firm. The partnership between Wiley Rein and George Mason will allow the clinic to provide pro bono legal representation before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Students who take part in the year-long clinic will work with Wiley Rein attorneys to identify cases of interest, research issues and draft briefs on behalf of parties and amici at both the certiorari and merits stages.
At the helm of the clinic will be directors William S. Consovoy and Thomas R. McCarthy, both lawyers in Wiley Rein’s Appellate Group and both George Mason grads. Consovoy worked as a clerk for Associate Justice Clarence Thomas and on the Fifth Circuit, while McCarthy served as a clerk on the D.C. Circuit and in federal district court in North Carolina.
Additional components of the clinic for students will include: classroom instruction, analysis of federal and state appellate decisions for possible litigation opportunities, and attendance at least one Supreme Court argument per term.
Here's the official press release from Wiley Rein.
Foundational Legal Skills in Doctrinal Classes
An important part of the recent changes in legal education is proposals to teach skills in doctrinal classes. I would like to contrast foundational legal skills with broad legal skills, such as legal writing, legal drafting, and trial practice. These foundational legal skills are the details for the broad legal skills. For legal writing, they include case analysis, case synthesis, factual analysis, application of law to facts, large-scale organization, small-scale-organization, analogical reasoning, rule-based reasoning, distinguishing cases, etc. We need to teach these foundational skills in all classes, not just skills classes (adding more skills classes to the curriculum is not enough), because students need repetition to perfect these skills. I attended a presentation a few years ago in which the presenter concluded that students are good at applying a single case to a set of facts (which is what the Socratic Method mainly teaches), but that they struggled with case synthesis and applying that synthesis to facts. Similarly, students generally had trouble dealing with ambiguity. To overcome these problems, we must teach foundational skills in every class. For example, a doctrinal professor could teach using case synthesis exercises in one class, and, in another class, the professor could employ rule-based reasoning exercises. Doctrine does not have to be taught by the Socratic Method. If we do not make these changes in legal education, especially teaching foundational skills across the curriculum, legal education will remain in the nineteenth century.
I'm not sure what "this" means.
In today’s New York Times, Adam Liptak highlights the Supreme Court’s reliance on dictionaries for definitions of even “perfectly ordinary” words. (Please pardon me now while I look up the meaning of “perfectly” and “ordinary.”)
Adam Liptak, “Justices Turning More Frequently to Dictionary, and Not Just for Big Words,” N.Y. Times, June 14, 2011, p. A10 (national ed.).
"Best practices" for clicker use in the classroom
Here are a couple of articles I ran across that some of our teacher-readers may find valuable. The first one is by a group of Canadian researchers and is called "Clicker Lessons: Assessing and Addressing Student Responses to Audience Response Systems." From the abstract:
This project began in response to a perceived need to assess students’ perceptions with respect to the emerging use of audience response systems (clickers) in several mid- to large-size undergraduate courses at the University of Victoria. We developed and validated a “Clicker Use Survey” to gather students’ opinions with respect to clicker utility and the impact of clicker use on their learning. With the collected data we generated a set of baseline distributions to support assessment of various clicker use protocols and created a self-evaluation tool to share with instructors to support teacher reflection on the efficacy of their clicker practices. We also provided a sample self-evaluation to model the use of the tool. Links to the survey instrument, baseline data and self-evaluation tool, and sample self-evaluation are provided.
The next is called "Clickers in the Large Classroom: Current Research and Best-Practice Tips" from U. West Virginia Professor of Biology Jane Caldwell. From the abstract:
Use of the audience response devices known as "clickers" is growing, particularly in large science courses at the university level, as evidence for the pedagogical value of this technology continues to accumulate, and competition between manufacturers drives technical improvements, increasing user-friendliness and decreasing prices. For those who have not yet tried teaching with clickers and may have heard unsettling stories about technical problems with earlier models, the decision to use them and the choice of an appropriate brand may be difficult. Moreover, like any classroom technology, clickers will not automatically improve teaching or enhance student learning. Clickers can be detrimental if poorly used, but highly beneficial if good practices are followed, as documented in a growing body of educational literature.
In this Special Feature, we present two reviews that should assist instructors and teachers at all levels in taking the step toward clicker use and choosing an appropriate model. In the first, Barber and Njus compare the features, advantages, and disadvantages of the six leading brands of radio-frequency clicker systems. In the second, Caldwell reviews the pedagogical literature on clickers and summarizes some of the best practices for clicker use that have emerged from educational research. In a related article elsewhere in this issue, Prezsler et al. present the results of a study showing that clicker use can improve student learning and attitudes in both introductory and more advanced university biology courses.
Comparing Ourselves with Others
If we measure our success by comparing our accomplishments with others, we will never feel successful. As they used to say in the old cowboy movies, “There’s always a faster gun.” At the Harvard Business Review online, HBS Professor Thomas DeLong offers alternative measures:
- Capstone progress: Chart your progress toward your ideal position, determining if you're acquiring the experiences and expertise that make you a viable candidate for that position.
- Satisfaction index: Keep track of how meaningful and fulfilling your work is; create a numerical satisfaction scale that depends on how much you're enjoying what you do and how purposeful it seems; take a reading regularly.
- Learning level: Assess the knowledge and skills you're acquiring and whether you're becoming an "expert" in any one area (this is a more subtle measure, but it still can serve as a viable alternative to comparing behaviors).
Announcing a new AALS section on transactional lawyering skills
From the The Conglomerate blog:
Under the leadership of Tina Stark, now with Boston University, an ad hoc committee of transactional lawyering professors proposed a new section on transactional law and skills to the Association of American Law Schools. We recently received word that the AALS has approve the new section, and we will have our first section meeting at the annual meeting in Washington D.C. If you are already filling our your schedule, please plan to attend the inaugural meeting on Saturday, January 7, 2012 from 3:30-5:15 pm.
Chair: Tina L. Stark, Boston University School of Law
Chair-elect: Joan MacLeod Heminway, The University of Tennessee College of Law
Secretary: Eric J. Gouvin, Western New England University School of Law
Treasurer: Afra Afsharipour, University of California, Davis, School of Law
Lyman P.Q. Johnson: Washington and Lee University School of LawMore information about the annual meeting program will be forthcoming soon. In the meantime, thanks to all who have worked on this project, which I hope will represent a significant advance for the study transactional lawyering
Therese H. Maynard: Loyola Law School Los Angeles
D. Gordon Smith: Brigham Young University Law School
June 13, 2011
The 13 most common reasons for getting fired
From the Business Insider:
An analyst at Here is the City researched the most common reasons why employees get fired.
The good news is this: most of the deeds that could lead to you being laid off are totally avoidable.
For example, being drunk at work and sexually harassing co-workers is an obvious no-no.
Other justifications for sacking a worker is more subjective.
1. Poor performance.
12. Being drunk at work.
Online Education and Learning
Interesting points from the graphic:
- there are currently more than 3 million online-only students in the United States
- By 2019 – 50% of all classes taught will be delivered online