Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A New Type of Law School For the Next Generation of Law Students

First, I would like to thank James and Lou for inviting me to contribute to this very interesting and insightful blog. I hope that my contributions can add to the engrossing and important conversations already taking place on this blog with respect to legal skills and legal education.

To that end, I would like to make my first post focused on the changing nature of legal education. The need for more experiential learning as a part of legal education (so that law students can graduate with a much better idea of how to be lawyers and not just really good law students) has been recognized within the legal education community for some time (See the infamous Carnegie Report found here http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/sites/default/files/publications/elibrary_pdf_632.pdf for a interesting discussion concerning this issue).

However, the below "thought experiment" put forth previoulsy by Dean Roger Dennis of Drexel Law School focuses on how to actually organize a law school and structure the legal curriculm to provide law students not just with the best legal education, but also to address the rising cost of law school tuition. Dean Dennis poses several interesting questions regarding the effectivness of this proposed model.  I would be interested in hearing others thoughts as well as answers to the questions posed.   

The No-Frills Law School

"We are in the midst of back to school blogging blitz about the future of legal education, particularly focused on issues related to the interaction of cost, student debt, and the job prospects for our students.  To further the discussion, as a thought experiment, I present a model of an ABA-accredited, university-based private law school covering all its costs at the $20,000-per-year tuition level.

The Class of 1957 College of Law will have 500 students.  It will not offer any financial aid; one price for all will create $10 million in revenue.  Let’s imagine how this revenue will be expended.

The law school’ s full time faculty of twenty will be recruited from the legion of highly talented experienced practitioners who would bring much to the classroom but do not want to produce traditional law review scholarship.  They will be pleased to work at the law school for $100,000 per year plus benefits.  Because the law school will not have a scholarly mission, full-time faculty members will teach three courses per academic term.  It will not have a sabbatical program.  Faculty professional development will be focused on improving teaching, nothing else.  The curriculum will be meat and potatoes, no seminars on postmodern jurisprudence or corporate governance in the EU for The Class of 1957.  Instead, all students will take many efficiently scheduled required courses such as evidence, commercial law, federal income tax, business organizations, trust and estates, family law and legal drafting.  Students in these courses will be required to do many exercises graded by teaching assistants.  Every student will also take pre-trial and trial advocacy, taught by the many noted practitioner friends of the dean.  The law school will add to its teaching resources by also using adjuncts to teach significant portions of the non-core upper-level doctrinal curriculum, as do most other law schools.  Beyond our trial advocacy and legal drafting programs, the experiential education program will be based on other simulation courses and well monitored externships.  In sum, the teaching budget will be $3.5 million.

Freed from the need to support faculty scholarship, the law library can meet all the needs of the 1957 Law School community, with a collection development and personnel budget of $1.25 million.  Of course, the law school will have the usual array of student services such as career placement and academic support.  Also, it will provide general administrative support for the institution.  The budget for direct operating expenses and support will be a generous $3 million.  Indirect support to cover shared university expenses will cost $2 million.  After all, the president and provost do need to be paid.  It also would be wise to pay those pesky utility bills and other building expenses.  That leaves an annual $250,000 contingency fund.

So here are some questions about the 1957 Law School.  Do the economics work?  Would you send your kid to this school?  More generally, is the model attractive to a sufficient number of qualified students who are likely to pass the bar so that 1957 Law School could attract a class?  As a competitive matter, is the price sufficiently low, considering the discounting practices of competitors?  Would enough potential employers give the 1957 Law School students a chance?  Answers to my questions fervently sought."

August 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Cognitive Science and Plain Language

As I have mentioned previously on this blog, I believe that understanding brain science is becoming an important legal skill.  Julie Baker has written an article applying aspects of brain science to legal writing, specifically plain language.

And the Winner Is: How Principles of Cognitive Science Resolve the Plain Language Debate

Abstract: “Legalese – you mean jargon? Legal jargon? Terrible! Terrible!” – U. S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, 2010.

This statement captures the prevailing view in the teaching and practice of legal writing – that “legalese” is bad and must be eradicated; and that plain language should be employed as the alternative to legalese. Yet defenders of legalese remain – and they argue that the language of the law is intertwined with the law itself, such that “simplifying” this language detracts from its meaning and makes it less precise. How, then, is a legal writer to write?

This article posits that the two different methods are not polar opposites, but rather are “endpoints” on the spectrum of language available to the legal writer. To explain this view, the article begins by reviewing what we mean by “legalese” vs. “plain language,” and how the one has fallen into disfavor while the other has become the prevailing method in legal writing pedagogy and practice. The article then undertakes a study of Cognitive Science, particularly Cognitive Fluency – the measure of how easy or difficult the mental process feels when the brain receives information. Fluency principles are critical to the understanding of the preference for plain language, which until now has been supported only by anecdotal and empirical surveys.

Applying fluency principles to legal writing, the article demonstrates that most of the time, plain language is, in fact, the right way to write, as it is “fluent” and thereby inspires feelings of ease, confidence, and trust in readers (whereas legalese is “disfluent,” engendering feelings of dislike and mistrust). The article suggests, however, that there are times when the legal writer’s analytical or persuasive goals may be served by more difficult, less fluent language – and that, going forward, an approach aimed at moderating fluency will produce the most effective legal writing. Thus, no language (except, maybe, “law French”) should be prohibited entirely; but all language should be considered as the range of options available to the skilled legal writer.

(esf)

(hat tip: Gabriel Teninbaum) 

August 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge publicly criticizes attorneys for misspelling in brief

The case is a murder trial in Brooklyn involving the kidnapping, death and dismemberment of an eight year-old boy. The judge criticized the attorneys representing the defendant for misspelling "canon" of ethics as "cannon" of ethics and more generally questioned whether they were competent enough to represent a defendant accused of such a serious crime. The judge further criticized the attorneys for briefly discussing the case on their Facebook pages.

From the New York Times:

The judge [Justice Neil J. Firetog] in the case of Levi Aron, the Brooklyn man accused of murdering an 8-year-old Borough Park boy in July, upbraided Mr. Aron’s lawyers on Tuesday for their handling of his defense and questioned whether they were experienced enough to handle such a complex case.

. . . .

The judge chastised the two [defense attorneys] for briefly discussing the case on their Facebook pages, and for defending their client in this public forum. (He even scolded Mr. Bazile for misspelling “canon,” as it relates to ethics. “Two N’s means a cannon that shoots at something,” he said.)
. . . .

The judge grilled them about their experience. Mr. Bazile said he had tried one homicide case; Ms. McCann said she had tried six cases, with three ending in acquittals.

Justice Firetog said that had the two lawyers not been retained, he would have assigned more experienced ones to defend Mr. Aron.

You can read the rest here.

(jbl).

August 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Facebook introduces new privacy settings

Now, everytime you add a picture, comment or any other content, Facebook will ask you to specify who can see it.  The change went into effect last week.

From the New York Times:

Privacy worries have bedeviled Facebook since its early days, from the introduction of the endless scroll of data known as the news feed to, most recently, the use of facial recognition technology to identify people in photographs.

At the nub of all those worries, of course, is how much people share on Facebook, with whom and — perhaps most important — how well they understand the potential consequences.

The company has struggled to find a balance between giving users too little control over privacy and giving them too much, for fear they won’t share much at all. Seeking a happy medium, Facebook announced changes on Tuesday that it says will help users get a grip on what they share.

When the changes are introduced on Thursday, every time Facebook users add a picture, comment or any other content to their profile pages, they can specify who can see it: all of their so-called Facebook friends, a specific group of friends, or everyone who has access to the Internet. These will be indicated by icons that replace the current, more complicated padlock menu.

Similar controls will apply to information like users’ phone numbers and hometowns and whether they like, say, death metal bands, on their profile pages. Users will no longer have to seek out a separate privacy page to tweak who sees how much of that personal information. Nor will they have to bother to remember what those settings were.

Company officials say they hope the changes will simplify the process of establishing who knows what about your life on the Internet — and hopefully, save a few people the embarrassment of unwittingly sharing too much.

“We want to make this stuff unmistakably clear,” Chris Cox, vice president for product at Facebook, said in an interview. “It has to be clear that Facebook is a leader in how people control who sees what.”

Implicit in these changes is the challenge brought on by Facebook’s own success. It is used by 750 million people worldwide, with varying degrees of knowledge about what it means to have a life online. There is the looming prospect that the company will go public, along with the abiding concern about potential government regulation or litigation stemming from privacy issues.

Not least, there is the need for Facebook to cultivate the trust of its users, amid growing competition from Google’s nascent social networking service, Google Plus, which emphasizes more compartmentalized communications with different sets of friends and acquaintances.

. . . .

Privacy advocates warned that the new tools did not address a concern about sharing location. One Facebook user can publish information about another user’s whereabouts without his or her consent — whether it’s an employee at the beach on the day he or she called in sick or a husband at a strip club without his wife’s knowledge.

Other privacy experts say that if users believe they have control over who sees what, they are more likely to share.

“I think it’s part of an evolution to push back at the notion that Facebook is trying to trick you into sharing,” said Jules Polonetsky of the Future of Privacy Forum, which is based in Washington. “You’re more likely to do so when you know what you’re doing.”

You can read the rest here.

(jbl).

August 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 29, 2011

“But enough about me, let’s talk about you... what do YOU think of me?”*

Interesting and favorable review in yesterday’s New York Times Sunday Book Review of a book — “The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us” — about what the pronouns and “style” or “function” words we use reveal about us. The book originated in “unexpected findings” arising from the use of “remarkably stupid” word-counting programs:

     Pennebaker admits that word-counting programs are “remarkably stupid,” unable to recognize irony, sarcasm or even the basic contextual clues that allow us to distinguish which meaning of a word is intended. Yet these “stupid” programs have led to a series of unexpected findings ever since Pennebaker first saw the need for one 20 years ago. At the time, he and his graduate students were working through thousands of diary entries written by people suffering from depression, analyzing how people deal with traumatic moments. Writing about trauma seemed to help some people, but why? To answer the question, his team created a program to read the diary entries automatically and count words related to different psychological states, like anger, sadness and more positive emotions.

     Helped by a grad student sleuth named Sherlock Campbell, Pennebaker looked past the content-­related terms to discover that a change in the use of function words, particularly pronouns, was the best indicator of improved mental health. Recovery from trauma seemed to require a kind of “perspective switching” — reflecting on problems from different points of view — that shifts in pronoun use could facilitate.

     “The Secret Life of Pronouns” outlines in lively and accessible detail how that initial discovery led Pennebaker to appreciate the many ways in which function words reveal our interior lives. He has found strong correlations according to such factors as gender, age and class. For instance, women, younger people and people from lower social classes more frequently use pronouns and auxiliary verbs — words that supposedly signal both lower status and greater social orientation. Lacking power, he argues, requires a deeper engagement with the thoughts of one’s fellow humans.

The review suggests (to me, anyway) that the book highlights some fertile territory for those who teach legal writing to explore.

Ben Zimmer, The Power of Pronouns, N.Y. Times, Sunday Book Review, August 28, 2011, p. 16 (reviewing The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us, by James W. Pennebaker).

* CC Bloom [Bette Midler in Beaches]: “But enough about me, let’s talk about you... what do YOU think of me?

(cgw)

August 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Collaborative Peer Editing: A Method of Assessing Learning Outcomes

Professor Cassandra Hill has published her article, “Peer Editing: A Comprehensive Pedagogical Approach to Maximize Assessment Opportunities, Integrate Collaborative Learning, and Achieve Desired Outcomes” at 11 Nevada Law Journal 667 (2011). Here is the abstract:

This article examines an underused teaching strategy - collaborative peer editing - through the lens of student learning outcomes and assessment measures. The American Bar Association (“ABA”) recently proposed sweeping changes to law school accreditation standards that focus less on input measures, such as the school’s facility, faculty size and budget, and more on output measures, such as the school’s bar passage and employment rates. This shift will require law schools - and law professors - to articulate student learning goals and assess their achievement. To do so, law professors must find efficient techniques to assess students’ performance. Peer editing presents such an opportunity.
This Article shows how to leverage peer editing into an engaging teaching opportunity and in-depth assessment of student learning. When effectively designed, a comprehensive peer editing assignment considers projected outcomes and assessment, together with class dynamics, student engagement, and required training. This approach results in more practice-ready students, with improved teamwork, writing, and editing skills.

Part I of this article discusses the benefits both students and professors receive from collaborative peer editing exercises and outlines the challenges of peer editing. Part II shows professors how to design an assessment-focused peer editing assignment by systematically approaching the assignment in stages: (1) planning, (2) the “pitch” and training, (3) implementation and (4) assessment. Part III urges the law school community to incorporate student-to-student feedback across the curriculum. The introduction of peer editing in all law school classes will improve students’ writing and bring a team approach to the educational process. My approach focuses on legal writing but works equally for clinical and doctrinal law school classes.

(ljs)

August 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rats! Twitter's too slow today. Guess I'll go back to bed.

Today’s New York Times includes an article about a research paper posing an interesting theory on the impact of a government’s efforts to control social media during periods of social unrest (e.g., during open rebellion). The article notes that shutting down Internet access to social media can have a radicalizing effect. A blog post by the chief technology officer of a company that assesses the way the Internet operates across the world raises a complementary notion: making access merely inconvenient instead of impossible might have a de-radicalizing effect.

The research paper focuses on the Egyptian government’s decision to shut down all access to the Internet and cellphone service, while the blog post looks at the effect of Libya’s different decision:

     “The disruption of cellphone coverage and Internet on the 28th [in Egypt] exacerbated the unrest in at least three major ways,” [Navid Hassanpour, the author of the research paper,] writes. “It implicated many apolitical citizens unaware of or uninterested in the unrest; it forced more face-to-face communication, i.e., more physical presence in streets; and finally it effectively decentralized the rebellion on the 28th through new hybrid communication tactics, producing a quagmire much harder to control and repress than one massive gathering in Tahrir [Square].”

     In an interview, he described “the strange darkness” that takes place in a society deprived of media outlets. “We become more normal when we actually know what is going on — we are more unpredictable when we don’t — on a mass scale that has interesting implications,” he said.

     Mr. Mubarak’s government collapsed and the former president, at age 83, now finds himself being wheeled into a Cairo court on a hospital bed to face charges of corruption and complicity in the killing of protesters.

     Jim Cowie, the chief technology officer of Renesys, a company that assesses the way the Internet is operating across the world, believes that another besieged leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, may have taken note of the Egyptian experience.

     In a blog post on the company’s Web site, “What Libya Learned From Egypt,” Mr. Cowie writes that in March, Libya toyed with the idea of pulling the switch on its Internet service.

     Libya’s leaders “faced this same decision in the run-up to civil war,” he wrote, “and each time, perhaps learning from the Egyptian example, they backed down from implementing a multiday all-routes blackout.”

     Sophisticated governments will realize that “shutting down radicalizes things,” he said in a phone interview. What is more useful to governments, he said, was “bandwidth throttling,” recognizing that “Internet is something you can meter out.” This “metering out” is meant to make the experience less reliable and responsive, he said, so that video streaming is hesitant and Web pages are slow to load.

     Iran, Mr. Cowie said, was one of a number of countries that have realized that “you don’t turn off the Internet anywhere — you make it less useful,” controlling which neighborhoods get it, for example.

Noam Cohen, Link by Link: In Unsettled Times, Media Can Be a Call to Action, or a Distraction, N.Y. Times, August 29, 2011, p. B3 (national edition).

(cgw)

August 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do we need to teach students e-discovery skills?

This story from Forbes (hat tip ATL) is about e-discovery moving to the cloud but what really caught my attention is just how big the e-discovery industry is expected to become.  According to Forbes, e-discovery software and services generated $3 billion in revenues for 2010 and that number is expected to double in the next two years. It's not clear to me the extent to which large scale opportunities exist in the e-discovery industry for lawyers (rather than software designers), putting aside the question of whether it's wise for law students to incur heavy debt for a career in e-discovery even if that's an option.

It is abundantly clear, though, that law grads must understand the technological issues involved in e-discovery including how to search for meta-data to prevent the inadvertent waiver of the attorney-client privilege or other mistakes that could compromise the client's case.  Graduating students who don't understand these issues may be a bit like graduating ones who don't understand the significance of deadlines; they will be malpractice cases waiting to happen.  And while digital natives are fluent in social networking, the use of the web and video-games, some commentators have suggested that they have little to no understanding of the technological issues that underlie it all.

What, if anything, should law schools be doing to impart to students the skills needed to competently assess and handle e-discovery issues? I know what you're thinking - there already isn't enough room in the curriculum to teach students some of the most basic skills they will need in practice without adding "technology 101" to the mix. And besides, who on the faculty has the technological know-how to teach such a course?  Unless a faculty member has come from practice within the past few years, they most likely don't have the expertise to do it either.  Perhaps librarians (as information technology experts), vendors (we often use Wexis reps teach those technologies to students) or IT department personnel could do it.

What do you think? Are these the kinds of skills we should be adding to a "practice-ready" curriculum and if so what would such a course look like and who would staff it? Please share your thoughts below.

(jbl).

August 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Please welcome Professor Todd Berger to the LSP Blog

We're very pleased to have Professor Todd Berger from Rutgers-Camden joining us on the legal skills blog as a contributing editor. Professor Berger is a clinician and former criminal defense attorney. From his bio:

Todd A. Berger is a 2003 graduate of Temple University School of Law.  He also earned an L.L.M. in Trial Advocacy from Temple University in 2007.  He is currently the Managing Attorney of the Federal Prisoner Reentry Project at Rutgers School of Law-Camden. Prior to coming to Rutgers he worked as an assistant public defender with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, representing indigent defendants throughout all stages of the criminal justice system, from preliminary arraignment through trial and post-verdict motions.  He worked as a supervisor in both the Municipal Court and Felony Waiver Units, assisting new attorneys in trial preparation and courtroom practice.  He also served in the Major Trials Unit representing clients in jury trials involving the most serious non-homicide felony charges.  He was also a Lecturer in Law at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law where he taught the Criminal Defense Clinic.  

Professor Berger will be covering the clinical legal education beat among other topics. We look forward to his contributions.

(jbl).

August 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tennessee gets another law school

Belmont College of Law has just opened for business in Nashville which brings the number of schools in that city to three - the others being Vanderbilt and U. of Nashville. Tennessee now has  a total of six law schools including the University of Tennessee and the provisionally accredited Lincoln Memorial - both in Knoxville, as well as the University of Memphis.

There are 130 students in the first year class and according to this story from the New York Lawyer, it plans to have a total enrollment of 325 by 2014.  It's a given that Vanderbilt draws most of its students from a national pool rather than locally but even so, can a city of approximately 600,000 support this many law schools? According to NYL, the median LSAT score of the inaugural class exceeded expectations suggesting there's more demand than classroom seats.

(jbl).

August 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Crafting your “Elevator Pitch”

So, just what is an elevator pitch? According to Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner: 

An “elevator pitch” is a short, self promotional statement which you can deliver when time is limited. The term came to prominence during the dot-com boom when every other person seemed to be starting up an Internet company and looking for venture capital funding. It comes from the scenario of finding yourself in a lift – or elevator, as Americans call it – with someone who can help you out professionally, such as an investor, business partner or potential employer. In a minute, the lift will reach its destination and the other person will leave, so you only have a few seconds to say something to capture that person's interest.

The aim of an elevator pitch should not be to make a sale, get a job or nab a sack full of money from a venture capitalist. Rather, it is to start a conversation. The ideal outcome of an elevator pitch is for the other person to look at her watch and say, “I've got a free hour. Let's go have a coffee and talk about this.”

His posting offers how-to-craft-it guidance.

(ljs)

August 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

More On LawProf and Legal Education

LawProf is at it again; this time he is criticizing legal education as having little connection to what lawyers actually do.  He states: "Law schools don't teach people how to practice law, except by what appears to be accident."  He quotes Duncan Kennedy, who said: "This procedure disables students from any future role but that of an apprentice in a law firm organized in the same manner as a law school, with older lawyers controlling the content and pace of depoliticized craft-training in a setting of intense competition and no feedback."  He adds: "There is a certain value to teaching somebody the basics of doctrinal case analysis, especially if, like approximately .1% of attorneys, that person is going to spend his or her career arguing or deciding appellate court cases, but that can be done in three months not three years. "

Mr. Campos is obviously ignorant of the changes that have taken place in legal education over the last twenty years.  All law schools now require intensive legal writing courses in the first year, usually taught by full-time (although sometimes underpaid) professionals.  Most law schools have clinics, which allow students to work on real cases.  Also, most law schools offer other skills courses, such as trial practice, advanced legal writing, contract drafting, and transactional skills.  Even many doctrinal teachers include practice skills in their courses.

The above is known by almost everyone in the legal academy.  I cannot understand how Mr. Campos has missed these changes.

The first comment after the post calls out Mr. Campos for his post: "I got a shitload of practice stuff taught to me in law school, I would say the Langdellian stuff criticized here and practice stuff was divided maybe 60-40 in terms of how I spent my time? Maybe more like 90-10 in 1L. But we were standing in front of profs and arguing a position for a fictional client from week two. I'm shocked to learn this is not how other schools did it."  He adds:" I think the "law and" classes derided here have an effect beyond mere (?) study in the grad school style and beyond vocational education. The ones I experienced covered two areas that turned out to be useful. One was ethical. The other was filling in gaps in my undergraduate experience. I went into law school with a mathematics degree, for chrissakes, what did I know about drugs, the War on (Some People Who Use Some) Drugs, or the realities of child abuse? Nothin'. Do those things effect my daily practice? Oh my god. Unbelievably so."

As I have written frequently on this blog, I believe that legal education needs more changes, especially more skills exercises in doctrinal courses, writing in every semester, and more transactional courses.  However, ignoring the changes that so many have worked so hard on, as Mr. Campos has done, is insulting.

(esf)

P.S.  I wonder if Mr. Campos has read the Carnegie Report, the McCrate Report, or Best Practices?  Has he read the many articles on legal education?

August 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

To improve your legal writing, read lots of good (non-legal) writing

My co-blogger, Professor Fruehwald, made this point in a previous post and now it's been reiterated by the blog Lawyerist.  And when Professor Michael Hunter Schwartz asked me for similar advice to pass along to his incoming legal writing students, I said they should read well-written newspapers like the NYT or WSJ. Great minds think alike, I guess.

From the Lawyerist:

Do you want to improve your writing? I mean, really improve (and clarify) your writing? If so, the first thing to do is read good stuff. And by “good stuff,” I mean the work of short fiction masters like Edward P. Jones and Raymond Carver.

The second thing to do is actually write.

So, to keep things really simple, here are three easy steps you can take to dramatically improve your writing:

  1. Read
  2. Write
  3. Read

If you’re ready to follow the steps, read on:

 Read

My advice? Don’t read anything “legal.” Borders Books might be bankrupt but you can still get your hands on paperback books. Go to the library or the bookstore or pull out your Kindle and download a copy of Lost  in the City by Edward P. Jones, or Cathedral by Raymond Carver. These authors are masters of the short story. You can learn a tremendous amount about writing just by reading a few of Carver’s minimalist short stories.

Write

If you followed Step 1, you finished a story or two in the hour before you went to bed last night. Good. Now sit down at your desk, take a pen and paper, and copy down long-hand the entire opening paragraph of one of the stories you read. Do it word for word. Then read it over. What do you notice about the first sentence? How does it pull you in? How does the opening paragraph work as a whole to get you engaged? One thing a short story writer does is get the hook in. And remember: It doesn’t have to be a big hook.

This exercise will help you get inside the mind of a master writer, if only for a brief moment.

Read

Now that you’ve had a chance to read and write and absorb, pick up the work of Jones or Carver again and get lost in the fictional world they’ve created for you. Finish another story or two, and give yourself some time off.

Start Again

When you’re ready, return to Step 1, and read those same stories again, except this time try to notice what the writer does with his or her opening sentences and paragraphs, as well as the words—simple, clear, direct words—that the writer uses. Then pick up your pen or get behind your computer and write your brief.

See a pattern?

Read, write and read. And it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. The benefit of short stories is that they’re short. Follow these three simple steps and your writing should improve. You might not win a Pulitzer, but at least you’re learning how to write—I mean really write—by reading the work of those who have.

(jbl).

August 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Some good apps for lawyers on-the-go

Courtesy of the Lawyerist:

Instapaper – Every day we come across heaps of interesting posts and articles. Some we skim and share on Twitter and Facebook, and others we save to digest later. The free Instapaper browser extension provides the opportunity to save web pages with 1-click. And it syncs to mobile devices with offline access to articles during a flight or a subway ride.

Evernote – From recording ideas as they occur to creating blog posts, this application does it all. And, it syncs across the desktop, mobile and web. For a more in depth look, check out the recent discussion on Lawyerist about this invaluable (and free!) tool.

Buffer App – Just about everyone who uses Twitter in a meaningful way will tell you that a third party app is essential, and although I’ve tried many, including TweetDeck and HootSuite, I keep coming back to the beautifully simple Twitter.com web interface. Now, with the new Buffer App, I don’t have to leave.

With a simple browser extension download, you can tweet from inside Twitter. Have a busy day ahead with little time for Twitter? Queue or Buffer your tweets and they’ll go out at evenly spaced intervals throughout the day. Or, if the idea of scheduling tweets make you gag, then access your Buffer during free moments throughout the day and click on “Tweet now” since you’ve already queued the meaningful posts you want to share.

Analytics App – Most of us have a blog or web presence and need to track metrics to determine what’s working and what’s not. Or to feed our ego about that awesome post that garnered viral worthy traffic numbers. There’s no better way to track these number than with the free Google Analytics. Throw in an additional $6 and get the terrific iPhone app.

Zosh – this mobile app eliminates the nuisance of printing, signing and faxing documents. And for those of us who truly went paperless and ditched the printer, it’s essential. I’ve used this app less since I bought the pricey Adobe Acrobat that allows me to fill-in forms, append signatures and create PDFs, but it still comes in handy on the road or when I don’t have access to my computer.

Google Apps – This is by far the most important suite of applications that I use — from email to documents, spreadsheets and presentations. It’s all stored in the cloud, allows for collaboration on projects…and it’s free! Upgrade to Google Apps for Business for only $50 a year and get additional storage along with a few other perks.

Dropbox – For the few documents that I store on my local hard drive, I gain some peace of mind by synching it to the cloud with Dropbox. Paid versions provide 100GB of storage and  more, but I’ve only used the free 2GB version as Google Docs and other cloud storage applications pick up the slack.

Read more here.

(jbl).

August 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)