Saturday, September 3, 2011

Are Law Schools Discriminating Against Older Applicants for Professorships?

The University of Pittsburgh School of Law is the latest to be hit with an age discrimination lawsuit, joining the University of Baltimore School of Law, University of Iowa College of Law and Michigan State University College of Law.

Longtime Pittsburgh tax law professor William Brown, 73, filed suit on Aug. 24 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, claiming that the law school passed him over for a tenured position in favor of someone 40 years younger.

Here is coverage of these lawsuits by the National Law  Journal.

It is my understanding that before the rise of anti-age discrimination laws, law schools regularly favored hiring young applicants for professorships. The youngsters were less expensive hires. I addition, schools harbored a prejudice against those who spent too long in practice (over 5 years) on the assumption that they no longer could adopt an academic perspective. One would hope that this (illegal) prejudice is no longer with us, particularly as the pendulum swings away from high theory and toward lawyering skills.


September 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Helping Students Develop Listening Skills

Ever wonder whether your students are really listening?  This article by Neil Hamilton helps your students develop listening skills and talks about the connection between listening and empathy.

Effectiveness Requires Listening: How to Assess and Improve Listening Skills

This article first explores the strong empirical evidence that listening is an important skill to be effective and successful in the study and practice of law, but legal education gives little attention to helping students develop listening skills. There is a great need for the required curriculum to include educational engagements to help students develop this critical skill, but no scholarship on what engagements might be effective.

The article outlines some criteria to assess which listening exercises might be most effective. It then proposes six exercises that meet the criteria.

This article builds on my series of articles on the virtues, capacities and skills of lawyers who demonstrate high professionalism. The virtue of empathy and the closely related skill of listening are important elements of professionalism and contribute strongly to both client and senior lawyer perceptions of effectiveness in the practice of law.


September 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Top law schools for moot court programs

As ranked by National Jurist Magazine. Click here for the story.


September 3, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Passing the Bar. Getting a Job. What Next? Marketing Yourself

So you passed the bar. CONGRATULATIONS! Now you are a real lawyer. After the pain and torment of law school and the nerve-jangling business of studying for the bar, you’d think this would be a good time to relax and regroup—and ease slowly into your new career. Yes, that would be nice. But it’s not recommended. Because once you have that job (and aren’t you lucky)—whether as an associate in a sizable firm, as the new guy at the three-lawyer practice over on Main, or as a solo practitioner—there are things to be done now to lay the groundwork for a successful practice later on. Marketing things.

At Attorney at Work, consultant Merrilyn Astin Tarlton, offers a checklist to the newly-minted lawyer—designing your business card, drafting your biography, increasing your social networking, getting on directory listings, perfecting your elevator speech, joining organizations. Please pass this on to your new graduates.


September 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Answer To One of the Law's Most Important Questions

In preparation for the long holiday weekend I just wanted to take a moment to provide an answer to one of the most important and perplexing questions in contemporary Anglo-American Jurisprudence. Additionally, the complex nature of the below question is in keeping with the amount of patience for deep contemplative thought most of us have on the Friday afternoon before Labor Day Weekend.

With that being said, see below for the answer we have all been waiting for, What exaclty did Warren Zevon mean when he said, "send lawyers, guns and money ?" 

Mr. Zevon told this story whenever asked:

"My job is making things up, y'know, but "Lawyers, Guns And Money" was very loosely, in my mind, based on the idea of the old Chuck Berry song, "Dear Dad" - "Dear Dad, don't get mad, what I'm asking for." And I was on vacation with a guy named Bert Stein, who worked at Asylum Records then, a great guy. Bert and I were riding along, riding through a sugar cane field in Kauai with this gal who was a waitress at the place we were staying. She was taking us to somebody's house and we were, y'know, a sunny day, a beautiful day, and we're riding through the cane fields and she says, "Well, there's nobody really home at this place we're going." We said, "Yeah, what do you mean, exactly?" She says, "Well, well, we'll just...let ourselves in." We're saying, "Yeah.." and she says, "Yeah, well, they won't mind...we might have to kind of break in." And I looked around at Bert and said, "Dear Joe", thinking of Joe Smith, who was the head of Asylum Records and our boss, I guess you might say. And I said, "Dear Joe - send lawyers.." Or I said, "Dear Joe" and Bert said, "Send lawyers..." and I said, "and guns..." he said, "and money...."
Read more:

I'm not sure there are great many lessons in that story for the modern law student or lawyer (other than the obvious you shouldn't break into other people's houses lesson) but hopefully our readers found it somewhat entertaining. Hope everyone enjoys the long holiday weekend !


September 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

When famous quotes have been faked

Sometimes those inspiring quotes from famous political leaders or literary figures were never spoken. From the New York Times:

In a coffee shop not long ago, I saw a mug with an inscription from Henry David Thoreau: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.”

At least it said the words were Thoreau’s. But the attribution seemed a bit suspect. Thoreau, after all, was not known for his liberal use of exclamation points. When I got home, I looked up the passage (it’s from “Walden”): “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Now Thoreau isn’t quite saying that each of us can actually live the life we’ve imagined. He’s saying that if we try, we’ll come closer to it than we might ordinarily think possible. I suppose that the people responsible for the coffee mug would say that they’d merely tweaked the wording of the original a little. But in the tweaking, not only was the syntax lost, but the subtlety as well.

Gandhi’s words have been tweaked a little too in recent years. Perhaps you’ve noticed a bumper sticker that purports to quote him: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” When you first come across it, this does sound like something Gandhi would have said. But when you think about it a little, it starts to sound more like ... a bumper sticker. Displayed brightly on the back of a Prius, it suggests that your responsibilities begin and end with your own behavior. It’s apolitical, and a little smug.

Sure enough, it turns out there is no reliable documentary evidence for the quotation. The closest verifiable remark we have from Gandhi is this: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.”

Here, Gandhi is telling us that personal and social transformation go hand in hand, but there is no suggestion in his words that personal transformation is enough. In fact, for Gandhi, the struggle to bring about a better world involved not only stringent self-denial and rigorous adherence to the philosophy of nonviolence; it also involved a steady awareness that one person, alone, can’t change anything, an awareness that unjust authority can be overturned only by great numbers of people working together with discipline and persistence.

When you start to become aware of these bogus quotations, you can’t stop finding them. Henry James, George Eliot, Picasso — all of them are being kept alive in popular culture through pithy, cheery sayings they never actually said.

My favorite example of the fanciful quotation is a passage that’s been floating around the Internet for years. It’s frequently attributed to Nelson Mandela, the former South African president, and said to be an excerpt from his 1994 inaugural address.

“Our deepest fear,” the passage goes, “is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. ... As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Picture it: Mr. Mandela, newly free after 27 years in prison, using his inaugural platform to inform us that we all have the right to be gorgeous, talented and fabulous, and that thinking so will liberate others. It’s hard to imagine it without laughing. Of course, it turns out it’s not actually an excerpt from this or any other known address of Mr. Mandela’s. In fact, the words aren’t even his; they belong to a self-help guru, Marianne Williamson.

Thoreau, Gandhi, Mandela — it’s easy to see why their words and ideas have been massaged into gauzy slogans. They were inspirational figures, dreamers of beautiful dreams. But what goes missing in the slogans is that they were also sober, steely men. Each of them knew that thoroughgoing change, whether personal or social, involves humility and sacrifice, and that the effort to change oneself or the world always exacts a price.

You can continue reading here.

Know of any other examples? Let us know in the comments below.


September 2, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Friday Fun: Have you heard the one(s) about the Ph.D.?

Thanks to Professor James Ward for these.

Q: What is the difference between a Ph.D. in mathematics and a large pizza?
A: A large pizza can feed a family of four...


Q: What does the Ph.D. in math with a job say to the Ph.D. in math without a job?
A: `Paper or plastic?'

Instant Rimshot


September 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Advice for New Law Students

With the start of the Fall Semester mostly upon us I thought it might be a good idea to take a moment to follow up and add to some of the recent posts that focus on the large amount of incoming first year law students. For many students, the start of law school can be an overwhelming experience. Many articles have been written that focus on what law students can do to make the first year as successful as possible.  Likewise, I think it's  important that as educators and legal practitioners we also think about what role we have to play in contributing to a meaningful first-year experience. The following three points reflect a combination of suggestions made by other practioners  in various articles and blogs, as well as my own experience as both a once-upon-a-time law student and a current lawyer and legal educator. Essentially, these three things are what I wish I had been told on my first day of law school and are directed at both legal educators and students.

1. Law school is a sprint, but the practice of law is a marathon- It is clear that the first year of law school has an out-sized importance . Doing well is important as it opens up initial job interviews and can help create significant opportunities such as membership on various law reviews and journals. However, once you enter the world of practicing real law, not one judge and not one juror cares what grade you got in first-year contracts or that you were the comment editor of your law school's law review. Students should be reminded that while the first year is important,  at the end of a 30 or 40 year or sometimes 50 year legal career if you're smart, creative, hard working and honest, the cream will rise to the top. Students who do well in the first year should not think they are the next Learned Hand, nor should those who do less well feel  that they don't belong in law school . Your first year law school GPA is not a referendum on what kind of lawyer you are going to be. As an educator, I feel it's important to remind first year law students of this fact.

2. Don't worry about what other students say in class or other peoples study habits- Not all law students did well academically before coming to law school, but most did. However, the study of law poses challenges for first-year law students because it requires a new way of thinking and a new language to learn. During the first year and, in particular, the first semester, law students are constantly looking at their fellow students to see how they are adapting to this new thought process and language. What happens, however,  is that students become concerned that they are falling behind. An example, which in some form repeats itself about 100 times an hour in a first-year law class, is something along the lines of the following:

Student A has decided to take notes using 4 different highlighters, one color for holding, one for issue, one for past precedent, and so forth and so on. Student A also takes notes using a lap top. Student B uses only one color highlighter and takes notes by hand. The professor calls on Student A to talk about a particular case. Student A gets the answer right and the correctly indicates the type of claim an injured party is entitled to for the botched operation  that  resulted in the creation of an overly hairy hand. Student B thinks to themselves, " I would have never got that answer. I must be taking notes wrong, and clearly I need to do something different with how I'm understanding the reading. I need to start using 5 different color highlighters."

Before you know it, Student B has changed her study style because of her lack of confidence in herself. However, it is important to keep in mind that Student B was in all likilhood a very good student before she got to law school. Now she has adopted a study style that doesn't work for her. Students can learn from each other, for sure. However, students should stay focused on making sure they continue to learn material in a way that is natural to them and not change how they learn because of what other students are doing. 

3. Treat law school like a job- Some students start law school after having a full career in another profession. Often times these students understand what hard work and discipline are all about. However, many law students come to law school right from college. Law school is not like college. In many colleges you have a core of very hard working students and  many other students whose principle accomplishment  in college is never missing a night of quarter pitchers of beer. Studying for an exam in college can require several hours. Studying for an exam in law school requires several months. Unless you are truly gifted, you can't put in half the effort and get a good result. Law students should always go to class, always do the reading, and begin outlining and studying for exams as early as possible. Unlike college, everyone is working extremely hard and if you don't respect the difficulty of the material you will learn a lesson, only it won't be about the law and you will learn it the hard way ! 


September 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Memorizing Your Students’ Names

As the years go by, remembering student names poses an increasing challenge for me. ProfHacker provides some helpful techniques for meeting this challenge. Most memory experts don’t have exceptional memories; rather they have techniques that work for them:

Most memory contestants use variations of the memory palace to learn all kinds of information. The memory palace, based on the classical rhetorical technique of loci, connects visual images of the information you want to memorize to spots in a familiar location. So if you want to remember a shopping list containing bread, broccoli, and tofu, you might visualize those items in specific places around the entryway of your childhood home. But since an image of a loaf of bread isn’t likely to stand out in your memory, you have to make it noticeable in some way: visualize a talking loaf of bread, or one that looks like a celebrity or someone you know. Then you walk through the space of your memory palace first placing the items there, and then again when you want to remember the list in order.

ProfHacker gives detailed guidance on using this technique.


September 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law schools lure fewer students as jobs dry up

That's the title of this article from

COLUMBIA, Mo.—Tenia Phillips has heard the horror stories about life after law school, circa 2011, from crushing student loan debt to recent graduates serving coffee at Starbucks.

The reality check didn't deter the 27-year-old Waco, Texas, resident from pursuing her childhood dream, though it took four years of working as an apartment leasing agent before she could start fall classes last week at the University of Missouri law school.

"I had gotten to the point in my life where it was either now or never," she said. "Nothing in life is guaranteed. The job market can go back up again or back down."

The days of top law school graduates having their pick of six-figure jobs at boutique firms -- or at least being assured of putting their degrees to use -- are over.

Post-graduate employment rates are at their lowest levels in 15 years. The typical student leaves school nearly $100,000 in debt. And after several years of recession-driven enrollment gains, applications to law schools nationwide are down nearly 10 percent this year.

The sobering statistics have prompted plenty of soul-searching in the legal academy, with calls for schools to provide more accurate job-placement data as well as efforts by some law schools to admit fewer students to avoid dumping a glut of newly minted J.D.s onto an unforgiving job market.

"The sense that one can go to law school and get rich quick, that it is the lottery ticket-- those days are well past," said law dean Larry Dessem at the University of Missouri, where first-year fall enrollment is down 11 percent and applications declined nearly 17 percent.

The lessening interest in law school can be seen at flagship public universities in Missouri and elite private schools such as Washington University in St. Louis, which reports a 12 percent enrollment decline.

New student enrollment at the University of California-Los Angeles is down 16 percent, while the University of Michigan reports a 14 percent decrease in applicants. WashU, UCLA and Michigan are top 25 schools in the influential U.S. News & World Report rankings.

"This year, people realize that this is not a one-year economic decline," said Sarah Zearfoss, assistant law dean and admissions director at Michigan. "It seems to be a much longer-term problem."

That's not necessarily bad, she said. Long considered a refuge for the hyper-ambitious, law schools may now be attracting more committed students, said Zearfoss.

"Now that people are aware it's not a cakewalk to get a big salary, they're thinking more carefully and a little more rationally about making this choice," she said.

Or, as Dessem put it, "That's going to lead to a lot more satisfied lawyers down the road."

That satisfaction could come without a fatter paycheck. According to the National Association for Law Placement, only slightly more than two-thirds of spring 2010 graduates had jobs requiring law licenses nine months later -- the lowest mark since the industry group starting keeping count.

Continue reading here.


September 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New House Ethics Committee Report Search Tool

Reported in the AALL Washington E-Bullletin here:

“The House Ethics Committee investigates and makes recommendations on the enforcement of House ethics rules. The committee also publishes its reports online, but only in PDF format. Thanks to the Sunlight Foundation, AALL’s 2009 Public Access to Government Information Award winner, you can now search documents in an easy-to-use online database.”

This search tool includes all “documents and statements published online by the House Ethics Committee between 12/24/1998 and 7/24/2011” (which were only online in PDF format and not easy to search or sort.  These documents are now searchable by name or keyword.  You can access the tool here.


September 1, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Juror held in contempt of court for "friending" via Facebook the defendant in a civil case

The Texas judge in this case had instructed the jurors not to discuss the case with anyone and not to contact any of the parties or witnesses. After the judge learned that one of the jurors, 22 year old Jonathan Hudson, had "friended" the defendant, a woman, via Facebook, he was dismissed from the jury. After his dismissal but before being discharged from jury duty, Hudson again contacted the defendant via Facebook (was he seeking a date?). With that, the judge found Hudson guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to community service. Here's a link the judge's order and here's the full story via the Tex Parte Blog.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Advice for new law grads going solo

Recent law grads who can't find jobs are hanging shingles in records numbers according to a report released by the NALP. And while going solo right out of law school is daunting in the best economic conditions, some who've taken the plunge are finding that things are working out better than they expected. This story from the Connecticut Law Tribune (via describes a couple of recent law grads who have been able to build a practice in a short amount of time by networking like crazy, placing ads and cutting overhead to the bone.  Here's an excerpt:

Jason G. Doyon, a graduate of Western New England University School of Law, . . .  started his own practice just as the economic downturn began in December 2007. He said he started making money at his East Windsor general practice within five months and may hit six figures this year.

Not bad for a guy who was forced for a time to return to the factory where he had worked as a high school kid after graduating from law school. "Ultimately, I just got frustrated with submitting résumés and applications for jobs and not getting anything back. Ultimately, I decided to put my degree to use. Enough was enough," Doyon said.

He built up a clientele via word of mouth, networking and a small ad in a local weekly newspaper. A member of the moot court team in law school, he said he does some criminal defense work, along with wills and trusts, real estate closings and landlord-tenant law.

Like his peers, Lucas Hernandez credited mentors with helping to guide him to a successful career when he decided his first boss in the legal field would be himself.

"I wanted to be my own boss; I wanted to work in the community I was from," said Hernandez, who had an office in Bridgeport for several years before recently moving to Stratford.

After working in a family business for several years following graduation from Cornell University Law School in 2000, he was ready to take the plunge. And he did it the hard way in 2004. "I literally got my start in the legal field by pounding the pavement," Hernandez said. "I started going door to door. I told attorneys, 'I'm a new attorney. I'm able to do research and court appearances and here's my card.'"

One older attorney told him he was crazy to go out on his own. But others offered him all the help they could. In one instance, a lawyer offered him free office space if he could clear a working area in the basement.

If you're looking for more advice on how to succeed as a solo (without really trying), you may want to check out which is maintained by Connecticut practitioner Susan Cartier Liebel. According to her bio, Liebel teaches a course at Quinnipiac School of Law called How to hang a shingle right out of law school." We're not endorsing this site but instead merely passing along information to any readers who might be interested.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

In Settling a Dispute With A Client, a Lawyer Cannot Ask the Client to Forswear Filing an Ethics Complaint

Lawyers may not ask their clients to forswear filing an ethics complaint as a condition of settling an attorney-client dispute, the New Jersey Supreme Court's ethics committee has advised (New Jersey Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, Op. 721, 6/27/11).

“Attorney discipline is not a private cause of action or private remedy for misconduct that can be negotiated between an attorney and the aggrieved party,” the committee explained. 

See U.S. Law Week online. I  wonder how this ruling would apply to a  nondisparagement clause in a letter of engagement or a law firm’s employment contract.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Citation Manager – Zotero Now Available as Stand-Alone (Zotero Everywhere)

Zotero is now available (in Beta) as a stand-alone citation management tool.  From the Pace Law Library blog:

“Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself.”

Many law librarians use and recommend Zotero as one of the few tools that play nice (or at least somewhat nice) with Bluebook.  More information and download from Zotero here

When working on a paper or brief with many footnotes and citations, starting early with citation management is preferred to “fixing” citations at the end.  Using a tool like Zotero can help.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Building a Professional Network Starts During 1L

A recent post from Law Practice Today caught my attention as I watch the new 1Ls begin to form relationships/study groups with each other.  

Some of these friendships are likely to be long lasting and will help to create a professional network that will serve the students well as they enter the field and through the years as they practice law.  The post offers some great advice, not only for those new attorneys entering practice, but for the new students just beginning their first year of law school:

"Where to Start
Establishing professional friendships takes time and sweat equity. It is built up slowly over time as incremental deposits by first helping others… It means staying in regular contact with the circle of legal peers you've developed over the years from law school, friends and acquaintances from past cases. Using, but not abusing, these professional friendships with other lawyers is just the start. Giving back and sincerely helping others before you ask help from them matters perhaps most of all."

The full post is here.
It seems like a good discussion to have with law students.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Helpful study tips for new law students

The advice below comes from the Lawyerist blog. To me, the single, most important tip is to pay attention in class and take good notes. As a legal writing professor who often has to spend class time on rote tasks like how to format a memo or how to draft a "question presented," I always provide students with concrete examples to follow. No need for students to waste time re-inventing the wheel when generations of lawyers have already done that work. All students need to do is copy down the examples.  Yet I'm always surprised how many don't.  The students who get the better grades aren't necessarily "better" or brighter but they are certainly the ones who take better notes.  So, if you, too, want a better grade, take good notes.  Your teachers want you to succeed and you may be surprised to find out just how many helpful tips we put right under the noses of those who are paying attention.

Follow a Consistent Schedule

New law students should treat law school like a full time job, or more. People often remark how different law school is from undergraduate studying. One notable difference is the dramatic increase in the hours required outside of class to master the material. Manage your time by creating a study schedule that includes attending class, pre-class reading, reviewing material after class, and grappling with the big picture (a.k.a. outlining).

Scheduling your time in law school is important, so you know what to expect from day to day. A helpful way to stay on top of short-term assignments and deadlines is to use a weekly work planning template. As you fall into your study routine, revaluate it from time to time, being sure to make the most of your most productive days and times of day: using your maximum focus and brain power on the toughest law school tasks.

Build in time to rest and relax every now and then, and you’ll help stave off depression while motivating yourself to study harder in anticipation of the break. You can also consider using stricter timekeeping tools to monitor how you use your time and adjust accordingly.

Don’t Get Behind

Despite your best attempts to stick to a realistic study schedule, you’ll find there is a heck of a lot of reading in law school. Very dense, often boring, confusing reading that buries the lede like you wouldn’t believe. It is so easy to get behind, only to be overwhelmed when you realize there aren’t enough hours in the day to catch up. If that happens, don’t catch up. Move on to stay on top of where you need to be today. Don’t ignore that material you missed, just give yourself the leeway to skip an assignment that’s already passed, make note of it, and beg some solid class and reading notes on the topic off of your friends.

Even better than letting go of missed assigments is to not get behind in the first place. Use the first week of classes to feel out your pace and preferences for good study habits. Realize that it’s ok to take five, six, or even ten minutes per page on really tough material, as long as you’ve given yourself the time to complete the reading. When you find yourself facing days when there’s more than can be done in the hours remaining, selectively try out studying shortcuts, like reading a few online case briefs before skimming the edited cases in your book. New law students will likely all face this problem at least a few times in a course, so be willing to lean on other law students for support, too.

Pay Attention in Class

Class time in most law school classes is not when you learn rules of law. You will pick up some so-called blackletter law along the way, but mostly that will come when you study on your own or in your study group. Class time is when the professor tells you how to excel on her exams. Not directly, perhaps, but listen carefully and you’ll begin to hear patterns in what she finds important, or perspectives she favors on particular topics. At first, you’ll be drowning in how to brief, scrambling to concisely state the facts of the day’s case, or just trembling in fear of being called on. But acute observation will tip you off to important clues of what will and won’t be tested and how to approach various issues that will arise in your final exam

Create a system for indicating in your notes when the prof harps on or is dismissive of a topic or opinion. It can be as simple as a star, asterisk, or typing: “She spent a lot of time on defining bilateral contracts!” When you’re reviewing to study, this will help you focus on areas the professor likes, which, inevitably, are more likely to appear on a test.

Paying attention in class sounds like common sense for new law students. However, many law students succumb quickly to the peer pressure of in-class distractions of the technological variety. I remember distinctly the first time I logged onto Facebook during class. I was sure I’d be struck by lightning, or at least the professor would sense it and call me out. In fact, the world didn’t end, when I stopped paying attention, and that was a very dangerous lesson. Do what you can to resist the temptation to chat up your peers during class. Turn off your wireless, take paper notes, or just keep your browser or gchat closed, and you’re much more likely to catch vital tidbits that will improve your study habits and thereby your grades.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The longer teachers talks, the more students' minds wander

That's the conclusion of this study published in Applied Cognitive Science and available here (subscription required). Interestingly, the researchers note that most of the formal research on adult attention spans has involved people whose job it is to spend long periods of time staring at a screen like military radar operators. Little research has been done on the attention spans of college students or the effect of lectures on those attention spans. This study concluded that "mind wander" increases the longer the teacher lectures.  From the abstract:

Understanding the factors underlying variation in attentional state is critical in a number of domains. Here, we investigate the relation between time on task and mind wandering (i.e., a state of decoupled attention) in the context of a lecture. Lectures are the primary means of knowledge transmission in post secondary education rendering an understanding of attentional variations in lectures a pressing practical concern. We report two experiments wherein participants watched a video recorded lecture either alone (Experiment 1) or in a classroom context (Experiment 2). Participants responded to mind wandering probes at various times in the lecture in an effort to track variations in mind wandering over time. In addition, following the lecture, memory for the lecture material was tested. Results demonstrate that in a lecture mind wandering increases with time on task and memory for the lecture material decreases. In addition, there was a significant relation between mind wandering and memory for lecture material. Theoretical and practical applications of the present results are discussed.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

The most useful law school electives according to the alums of one school

The Volokh conspiracy is reporting on a survey that asked alumni of George Washington U. Law School to pick the most useful elective they had as students as well as identify the course they wish they'd taken but didn't.  Out of the 13,000 surveyed, here's what the 576 who responded said:

The three most useful elective courses students took, according to the responses received:
1. Evidence — 156 respondents (27%)
2. Administrative Law — 120 respondents (21%)
3. Corporations — 105 respondents (18%)

Regarding the electives alums said that in hindsight they wished they'd taken, here are the results:

1. Complex litigation (50 votes)

2. Administrative law (48)

3. Pretrial advocacy (46)

4. Corporate finance (41)

5. Law & accounting (38)

And here's the list of courses that had high enrollments when the alums were students but did not make the list of important courses once they began practicing:

V]ery popular courses taken during that same period were Criminal Procedure (555 students), Negotiation (532 students), Legal Drafting (424 students), Trusts and Estates (423 students), and International Law (330 students). For those courses, their utility, as judged by our respondents, included Criminal Procedure (35), Negotiation (34), Legal Drafting (37), Trusts & Estates (19), and International Law (14)

You can read the original survey results and report from GW here and more commentary courtesy of the Wall Street Journal Law Blog here.

Hat tip ABA Journal blog.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Educating Judges About Animal Cruelty

On the blog (August 22) of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, ALDF attorney Geoff Flek discusses his experience with some judges presiding over animal cruelty cases:

In the last few months, I've had judges in criminal cruelty and fighting cases refer to a case as "The Woof-Woof" case, ask at a restitution hearing, "Why should a defendant convicted of animal fighting be responsible for reimbursing rescuers the costs of rehabilitating rescued dogs?", strike a juror sua sponte on his own because she revealed she was a member of the ASPCA, and comment, "This is just a dog case - what's the big deal?"

He emphasizes the need to educate judges and the community about the importance of these cases and the link between animal cruelty and violence to humans.


August 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)