Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Free eBooks – Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure & Evidence

CALI and the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School  have teamed up to bring you useful free resources.

“Introducing eLangdell Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence ebooks. Powered by Legal Information Institute (LII) at Cornell Law School, and published in partnership with the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI).”

More information and links to download here.  


September 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Time Wasters for Lawyers – Law Students Beware Too

I picked up a Tweet from RealPractice (@RealPractice) that has some great advice not only for practicing lawyers, but law students as well.  The post, entitled “Top 7 Time Wasters for Lawyers to Avoid” is here.

The problems that I think law students (and even law faculty/staff) struggle with are the following:

1. Not enough time off – REAL time off – unplug so you can recharge;
2. Lack of planning, prioritizing and focus;
3. Procrastination;
4. Interruptions; and
5. Lack of organization and tidiness (just speaking from my own experiences of what I’ve seen in the library and some faculty offices).

Time management is such an important key to success especially in our world of technology/distractions.  It’s a good conversation to have and behavior to model for our students.


September 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cooperation In Legal Education

The most important thing I have learned in studying behavioral biology is that individuals and society prosper by using reciprocal altruism (cooperation or tit-for-tat).  Those individuals and groups that cooperated on the savannah obtained more resources, improving their survival chances.

Cooperation is often missing in legal education today.  The law school atmosphere is much more tense than it was when I started teaching in 1995.  Students are antagonistic to professors because of grades; professors are impatient with students because they have seen the mistakes so many times before and because they think the students are not listening.

More cooperation between professors and students could help with some of the problems in legal education.  Despite what certain blogs might say, most professors want to help the students learn and most students do want to learn.  Professors need to more patient with students, friendlier, and more giving with their time.  Students need to understand that professors want to help them,  grades are part of law school, and when they have problems, they should go see their professors, instead of getting angry.


September 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mid-level associates feel more pressure, less job satisfaction and pessimism about partnership chances

From The American Lawyer:

Midlevel associates put their noses to the grindstone in 2010, and they didn’t like it. While demand for legal services rose, staffing at the biggest firms still lagged behind prerecession levels. As a result, third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates had their most demanding year since the downturn began, averaging 2,037 billable hours in 2010, compared to 1,957 in 2009. Adding the equivalent of two extra weeks of work may not sound like much, but it marked the highest number of associate billable hours since 2007. That probably helps explain why our survey of 5,361 midlevel associates from 149 law firms showed the average firm composite score declining for the second straight year to the lowest associate satisfaction score since 2004. As one DLA Piper associate told us: "Firms got too lean [after the recession] and consequently realized that associates will work more and more if asked. Quality of life has therefore decreased."

Click here for the results of an AmLaw survey showing associate job satisfaction by firm.
Click here for a report showing pressure on associates is up but so are salaries.
Click here for a chart showing that 3/4's of midlevel associates don't think they'll make partner.

September 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The ABA Journal blog asks readers: "What courses would you take if you had to do law school over again?"

As we blogged last week, GW Law School polled its alums to find out which upper level courses they would take if they had to do law school over again. That's inspired the ABA Journal blog to ask its readers the same question. Putting aside those who said that if they had to do it over again they wouldn't go to law school, I don't see any overarching pattern in the responses. But here's a sampling of some of the answers in rough order of popularity:

  • Business planning, marketing and client development
  • Statistics and accounting for lawyers.
  • Advanced civil procedure.
  • UCC
  • Administrative law
  • Government contracts
  • Tax
  • Trusts and estates

Contribute your own suggestions in the comments below or scoot on over to the ABA Journal blog and leave your comments there.


September 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Negotiations Lesson: Michael Vick’s $100 Million Football Contract

Philly Eagles quarterback Michael Vick just made news by signing a $100 million, 6 year contract. Not so fast. The intricacies of the contract indicate that Vick may get a whole lot less.  Discussing these intricacies may be a good lesson for students taking courses in Sports Law, Negotiations, and Contracts. Here is Dan Graziano’s summary at the ESPN blog. Here is Andrew Brandt’s detailed analysis at the National Football Post blog.


September 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 6: The Mayflower Leaves Plymouth, England

391 years ago, the Pilgrims departed for the New World and, after 66 difficult days, arrived at Cape Cod.  Wikipedia notes:

The Mayflower has a famous place in American history as a symbol of early European colonization of the future United States. With their religion oppressed by the English Church and government,[6] English Dissenters called Pilgrims who comprised about half of the passengers on the ship desired a life where they could practice their religion freely. This symbol of religious freedom resonates in U.S. society and the story of the Mayflower is a staple of any American history textbook. Americans whose roots are traceable back to New England often believe themselves to be descended from Mayflower passengers.

The American Revolution began 156 years later, and the Constitutional Convention took place 167 years later. And, of course, Virginia was settled earlier, in 1607. Thus this country had a long colonial history.


September 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fortune/CNN runs story on the law school scam

While the underlying story is not new, it's another example of the popular press taking an interest in the so-called "law school scam."  Interestingly, unlike those who comment on the blogs devoted specifically to the subject, many who commented on this CNN/Fortune story blame applicants for not doing their due diligence before matriculating. Some of the commenters say that even if schools cooked the books (and it looks like some did), prospective students should have known that self-reported data is inherently untrustworthy. Two years ago, even the most skeptical law school applicant would have had little reason to question the job stats reported by law schools. But today, you'd be hardpressed to claim you didn't know that law school is a poor investment for some as even a cursory Google search reveals.

    Law grads take their jobs frustrations to court.

Budding law school students are still coming in droves, tuition coffers are plentiful, and faculty still receive generous six-figure salaries. And some top-performing graduates continue to land the golden $160,000 first-year law firm job.

But law schools are no longer the pathway to a secure, tony professional future they once were. The legal job market is undergoing shifts that could upend the way law schools do business and even how the public thinks about a legal diploma.

Anger has been building as more law school graduates are facing five or six-figure debt loads from their legal education but are either unable to find a legal job, or any work for that matter, or taking low-paying legal drone jobs.

Fed up, several groups of graduates are going to court to stop law schools from engaging in what they argue is fraudulent advertising. Job placement figures are misleading or are outright wrong, claim some of the newly degreed students who have struggled to latch on to jobs as the traditional legal hiring structure erodes.

Alexandra Gomez-Jimenez, 30, was so frustrated with her job search after earning her law degree in 2007 that she decided this summer to sue her alma mater, New York Law School, for fraudulent advertising. She and other graduates of the Manhattan-based law school filed a lawsuit claiming they were duped by exaggerated job placement stats that law schools publish to attract students.

"When I was applying, New York Law School said employment right out of school was high," says Gomez-Jimenez, who worked as a paralegal after graduating from college.

New York Law's school literature, she says, claimed that alumni would find jobs with $70,000 to $80,000 salaries, and that 90% found jobs within six months of graduating. "I looked at it as their having a network of connections that would get me a job. But I never got help, or even an interview."

5 bright spots in a dim jobs picture

New York Law School's dean, Richard Matasar, has publicly defended the school's practices but did not respond to a request for comment for this article. Matasar also happens to be the head of the American Law Deans Association, which was formed to change law school accreditation practices and policies.

Gomez-Jimenez says that she still had no job six months after earning her law degree and was facing her first payment on $190,000 in loans for tuition, books, and living expenses. She found a temporary job reviewing legal documents. Eventually, she hung a shingle as an immigration lawyer but decided to join the class action suit after seeing a Craigslist ad looking for plaintiffs.

Other Frustrated American law school graduates also have filed lawsuits against Thomas M. Cooley Law School, which has four campuses in Michigan and is opening another near Tampa, Fla., and Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.

These schools turn out large numbers of graduates, but it's not just diploma-mill law schools that are in this particular game, says David Anziska, a lawyer for Kurzon Strauss, the New York law firm that represents the plaintiffs in the New York Law School and Cooley law school cases.

"Law schools all make it a secret, but it's not just the recession. This has been going on for a long time," Anziska says, noting that many law schools are portraying the dearth of jobs as a blip due to the poor economy. "Law schools need to adopt rigorous methods that tell you the extent of full-time legal employment."

Continue reading

September 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge Stuffs Condoms into Acorns

From the newsletter (August 2011) of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania:

 In an opinion filed August 17, 2011, the Court [of Judicial Discipline] dismissed charges against Lancaster County District Judge Isaac H. Stoltzfus for handing hollowed-out acorns stuffed with condoms to two female state employees while attending a conference in Harrisburg.[1] Without endorsing the conduct,[2] the Court looked to the case of In re Cicchetti, 697 A.2d 297 (Pa.Ct.Jud.Disc. 1997), upheld 743 A.2d 431 (Pa., 2000), to determine whether the conduct violated Canon 2A of the Rules Governing Standards of Conduct of Magisterial District Judges, which states:

Magisterial district judges shall respect and comply with the law and shall conduct themselves at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

The Court concluded that since the conduct did not occur in the course of his judicial duties,[3] and did not violate the law, it was not a violation of Canon 2.

Although the context of the decision is odd and in some (but not all) eyes humorous,[4] the Court’s decision is a substantial discussion of the application of ethical rules to conduct outside one’s official role, a serious issue with which both the judicial and attorney discipline systems have often struggled.

Here are the footnotes to this report:

 [1] We are certain that the following finding of fact is unprecedented in the annals of judicial discipline: “Respondent has collected, hollowed out, and placed unwrapped condoms inside thousands of acorns during his tenure as a Magisterial District Judge. Occasionally, Respondent utilized some condom-filled acorns in his courtroom to raise awareness of the efficacy of condom use against unplanned pregnancy and disease. However, Respondent did not hand condom-filled acorns out in his courtroom.” Finding No. 22, Page 5.

 [2]The Court states at Page 7, “We must say that Respondent’s purpose here and his preoccupation with acorns is mystifying to the Court. It is not funny and we strongly disapprove of this conduct. Although it does not rise to a violation, it certainly lacks good judgment and must not be repeated.”

 [3] “There wouldn’t be a violation of Canon 2 unless the conduct took place in the decision-making process, which it didn’t. Which it obviously didn’t.” Footnote 4, Page 8.

[4] In deference to the gravity of the matter, we have resisted the temptation to exploit the humorous potential of this story. And you thought we couldn’t.

 [5] Rich Site Summary. A/k/a Really Simple Syndication. Really.


September 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Does technology really improve student learning?

Thomas Edison once predicated that film would revolutionize teaching by replacing textbooks since he believed that all classroom lessons could be taught "through the eye." With the benefit of hindsight (and a better understanding of cognitive science) we now know Edison was way too optimistic about the transformative effect of film on student learning. But that hasn't stopped every generation of teachers since then from making equally utopian predictions about new classroom technologies.

Cognitive scientists like Daniel Willingham remind us that learning is really hard and thus shortcuts don't exist. That doesn't mean technology can't help - film is indeed an excellent, supplemental teaching tool (as are computers) - just don't expect miracles.  And that is the theme of this story from today's New York Times entitled "In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores." Here's an excerpt:

Amy Furman, a seventh-grade English teacher here, roams among 31 students sitting at their desks or in clumps on the floor. They’re studying Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” — but not in any traditional way. In this technology-centric classroom, students are bent over laptops, some blogging or building Facebook pages from the perspective of Shakespeare’s characters. One student compiles a song list from the Internet, picking a tune by the rapper Kanye West to express the emotions of Shakespeare’s lovelorn Silvius.

The class, and the Kyrene School District as a whole, offer what some see as a utopian vision of education’s future. Classrooms are decked out with laptops, big interactive screens and software that drills students on every basic subject. Under a ballot initiative approved in 2005, the district has invested roughly $33 million in such technologies.

The digital push here aims to go far beyond gadgets to transform the very nature of the classroom, turning the teacher into a guide instead of a lecturer, wandering among students who learn at their own pace on Internet-connected devices.

“This is such a dynamic class,” Ms. Furman says of her 21st-century classroom. “I really hope it works.”

Hope and enthusiasm are soaring here. But not test scores.

Since 2005, scores in reading and math have stagnated in Kyrene, even as statewide scores have risen.

To be sure, test scores can go up or down for many reasons. But to many education experts, something is not adding up — here and across the country. In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.

This conundrum calls into question one of the most significant contemporary educational movements. Advocates for giving schools a major technological upgrade — which include powerful educators, Silicon Valley titans and White House appointees — say digital devices let students learn at their own pace, teach skills needed in a modern economy and hold the attention of a generation weaned on gadgets.

Some backers of this idea say standardized tests, the most widely used measure of student performance, don’t capture the breadth of skills that computers can help develop. But they also concede that for now there is no better way to gauge the educational value of expensive technology investments.

“The data is pretty weak. It’s very difficult when we’re pressed to come up with convincing data,” said Tom Vander Ark, the former executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an investor in educational technology companies. When it comes to showing results, he said, “We better put up or shut up.”

. . . . 

Many studies have found that technology has helped individual classrooms, schools or districts. For instance, researchers found that writing scores improved for eighth-graders in Maine after they were all issued laptops in 2002. The same researchers, from the University of Southern Maine, found that math performance picked up among seventh- and eighth-graders after teachers in the state were trained in using the laptops to teach.

A question plaguing many education researchers is how to draw broader inferences from such case studies, which can have serious limitations. For instance, in the Maine math study, it is hard to separate the effect of the laptops from the effect of the teacher training.

One broad analysis of laptop programs like the one in Maine, for example, found that such programs are not a major factor in student performance.

“Rather than being a cure-all or silver bullet, one-to-one laptop programs may simply amplify what’s already occurring — for better or worse,” wrote Bryan Goodwin, spokesman for Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, a nonpartisan group that did the study, in an essay. Good teachers, he said, can make good use of computers, while bad teachers won’t, and they and their students could wind up becoming distracted by the technology.

You can read the rest here.


September 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Top law schools for clinical opportunities

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


September 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)