Saturday, October 8, 2011

Could You Survive a Social Media Background Check?

This past September, corporate paralegal Vivian Luckiewicz explained how employers scour social media to learn about potential employees. She offers a methodology for the potential employee who wants to offer employers a clean internet history. She also warns employers about the legal limits on using social media history:

Some legal experts warn employers that if they turn to these sites to find out more about potential employees, they need to be aware of potential federal and state discrimination claims and invasion of privacy claims. Hiring managers are not supposed to use social media searches to make hires based on age, religion, disability, race and gender. If employers search the Internet for general information about a potential hire, it could lead to inadvertent discrimination based on characteristics that, by law, should not be considered as part of the hiring process.


October 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Advice for teachers on how to stay fresh during the mid-semester grind

This is directed at secondary school teachers but the advice holds up well for law profs too, especially those teaching skills courses who have heavy grading burdens. Myself? At present I'm staring into the gaping maw of first semester student papers.

From Education Week:

Take time for yourself. Exercise, eat healthfully, and relax. Care for yourself so you that you can care for those who are important to you. Set aside time each day to pursue a passion, whether it is gardening, reading a fun novel, or walking your dog. Meanwhile, reach out to your family, colleagues, and social networks for healthy go-to dinner recipes so you don't succumb to the takeout temptation after a long day's work. Those healthy dinners can also make healthy lunches to keep you fueled all day! (And if you can't face the task of packing a lunch in the morning, consider getting it ready before you go to bed.)

Be proactive about your health. Wash your hands frequently—especially when you know your students are sneezing and coughing, generously sharing their germs. Consider a flu shot. Know the signs of the flu, and tip off the school nurse and/or parents when students are exhibiting symptoms. When you do succumb to the inevitable bug, stay home, rest, and go to the doctor. Don't try to tough it out at school. Often, this only leads to a more serious illness, and more time away from school.

Keep family time sacred. Teaching can be an all-consuming career choice, with hours spent planning, grading, and worrying about students. While these tasks are important, your own relationships must come first. Set aside a predetermined limit on how much time you will work on evenings and weekends and stick to it. If that means those essays wait another day to be graded, your students will forgive you. Your family and loved ones deserve undistracted attention every day.

Exalt the positive. Find the good in every student who walks in your door—and share your observations with the student, his peers, and parents. Often students have a preconceived notion of who they are. Seeking out the positives will help that child reinforce his worth. Sharing such observations with parents will set the stage should you need help or support later in the year. When parents feel you value their child and her uniqueness, they are more likely to understand when you ask for their help in solving a problem. Appreciating your students as individuals will help you deal with discipline issues and motivate students academically.

Build a support network for yourself. Find like-minded colleagues in your building or online, with whom you can share your successes, bounce around ideas, and vent on the tough days. Build your network with a variety of others—newbies, veterans, those with similar teaching assignments, as well as those teaching in completely different subjects and grades. These diverse viewpoints (and shoulders to lean on) will make a significant difference in dealing with the rough patches of teaching.

Take time to laugh. Every day, find a way to laugh with your students. Maybe you share a laugh about a mistake you made, a joke or cartoon you've shared, or even something a student has shared. Whatever it is, enjoy it together. When you're feeling low on appropriate "material," look for it: email forwards (don't we all have that person who fills our inboxes?), the Sunday comics, the Daily Funny. Your students will appreciate the laugh—and may even give you more attention than they ordinarily would.

Choose happiness. We all have good days. We all have bad days. In the end, it is our personal reaction to what is thrown at us that sets a happy teacher apart from a grumpy one. Choose to be a happy teacher in your students' days. The benefits will accrue not just to them but also to you.

As the school-year honeymoon fades into routine, remember to make time for these small things that make a big difference. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll also teach better. Your students will appreciate your positive attitude—and, hopefully, will share it.


October 8, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Attorney Sanctioned for Wasteful Depositions

Meandering depositions have cost an attorney $6,400 in sanctions. Despite warnings from the federal district judge, New York lawyer Michael Q. Carey conducted eight depositions that the judge did not find meaningful or productive:

 "Despite these warnings, Mr. Carey made no attempt to target his inquiries or proceed in a deliberate manner," the judge said in his decision. "Indeed, he seemed to proceed in the opposite direction, beginning with those who knew the least, before proceeding with the key witnesses."

In the case of some of the witnesses, the judge said, "minimal time was spent on Vioni's services," and one witness was never even asked about her.

On one witness, he said, "Mr. Carey took up 60 pages on background questions," about the employee's "personal employment history, asking follow up questions about previous jobs on a fishing boat, a shrimp business and a noodle factory.

Here is the full story from the Daily Business Review blog.


October 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Study Finds Problems with Students' Study Time

A new study reveals that while access to education is increasing, students are not learning what they need.  In Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, Josipa Roksa and Richard Arum claim that many college students do not measurably improve in the areas of complex reasoning, critical thinking, and written communication.  One of the problems is that students don't study enough.  While colleges recommend 25 hours of studying a week, students average only half that amount of time.  (When I went to college, it was three hours of study per credit hour.)  Students are coming to college unprepared to work hard, and they choose courses with the lowest amount of required reading and writing.  Moreover, many professors come to class with low expectations of students and require little work of their students.  The book concludes that parents, faculty, and administrators must not cede academic rigor to parties and other activities that subtract from student's study time.

Those of us who teach law school see these problems in our entering students.  Many of our students cannot write, and they are versed in regurgitation rather than complex thinking and critical reasoning.  While I agree that poor study habits are part of the problem, I believe the problem is more fundamental.   Colleges are not teaching critical thinking and written communication.  I have had many legal writing students come to me and say that they didn't write a single paper in college or only one or two.  Colleges need to rethink what they are teaching in each individual class room.  Of course, this is also true of us at law schools.


October 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How speaking ideas aloud can help with your writing

A good tip that some of your students may find helpful. From the Harvard Business Journal Blog:

Writers have long known that speaking aloud what they have written in silence helps them to shape their ideas. In a Wired article on voice recognition, Clive Thompson tells of 16th-century French essayist Michel de Montaigne and 19th century American writer Henry James, both of whom wrote by dictating their work to their secretaries. Moving to the present, Thompson cites the example of writer and critic Tim Carmody, who "found himself staring at an empty page, not knowing where to begin. He had no problem talking to friends about his ideas, so Carmody booted up Dragon (voice recognition software from Nuance) talked aloud for hours, and got past the block."

Carmody was experiencing the front end of a spectrum of benefits that comes from combining the written words with the spoken. At the back end of the creative process — reviewing and polishing — speaking aloud provides perspective. Many professional writers read their work to themselves (rather than to their secretaries as Messrs. Montaigne and James did).

Giving sound to what had been a silent process puts writers in the role of their readers. This extra step gives writers an objective view of their content. Bestselling author Nicholson Baker calls his version of the verbalizing process "speak-typing," in which he dictates to himself and types as he speaks. In an interview with the New York Times about his new book, House of Holes, Mr. Baker explained that "the words come out differently. The sentences come out simpler, and there's less of a temptation to go back and add more foliage. I'm trying for a simpler kind of storytelling."

Presentations are of course all about speaking aloud. Preparing for them should involve talking, too. As a coach, I recommend that presenters rehearse their presentations by displaying their PowerPoint slides in the Slide Sorter view (also known as Storyboard) and then running through their narrative aloud, assuming the role of their audience.

But giving voice to ideas also helps that challenging front end of the creative process. Just as Carmody did, you can jump start your own creative process by speaking your presentation aloud and recording it using Dragon software or the voice record function on your smart phone. Play back the recording afterwards to shape or reshape your ideas and words, but the key to breaking the logjam is to start talking. (This technique also can help you eliminate meaningless words.)

Writer's block occurs because the prospect of starting from scratch is daunting. Even if a writer has a clear idea of a new story — or a presenter has a clear idea of a new presentation — the prospect of choosing which of all the available ideas to include or how much detail to provide overloads the writer's mind. However, writers and presenters alike, having lived with their subject matter, know it intimately and have no difficulty chatting about it. Extend that facility into having a conversation in private with your recorder. You'll find the process liberating and productive.

Thompson's article tells us how much Montaigne valued the process: "'The things I say,' Montaigne dictated, 'are better than those I write.'"


October 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

When it's good to use the passive voice

From Ken Adams's "Koncision" blog (covering all things related to contract drafting):

For purposes of general writing, it’s best to be wary of using the passive voice. That’s even more the case when it comes to contracts. To quote MSCD 2.17:

There are three drawbacks to using the passive voice. First, using the passive voice and including a by-agent unnecessarily adds a couple of extra words. Second, using the passive voice and omitting the by-agent obscures who the actor is. And third, the passive voice disrupts the normal subject-verb-object order of a sentence. Those drawbacks apply to any form of writing, but in contract prose, the stakes are particularly high—the consequences of obscuring who the actor is can be drastic. So in contract prose, you should always use the active voice unless it’s clear that the passive voice represents an improvement.

MSCD 2.18 provides as an example of appropriate use of the passive voice If any Necessary Project Approval is revoked. If various organizations might revoke an approval, it would be counterproductive to insist on the active-voice version, If any Person revokes any Necessary Project Approval.

Here’s another example one of my Penn Law students recently pointed out to me: After the Closing Acme will remain bound by article 6 of the Shareholders Agreement. Yes, that’s in the passive voice, but I don’t see any point in saying instead After the Closing article 6 of the Shareholders Agreement will continue to bind Acme. The reader is more interested in Acme than in article 6 of the Shareholders Agreement, so it’s appropriate to put Acme first.


October 7, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

7th Circuit bench-slap redux - LitigationWorld "pick of the week"





Thanks to LitigationWorld for recognizing the Legal Skills Prof Blog.

Updated with new link - thanks to a reader for letting us that the opinion has been removed from the original site.

The 7th Circuit really tee-ed off on this plaintiff's attorney for filing an "incomprehensible" complaint and then writing an appellate brief that is so bad, according to the court, that the attorney has been ordered to show cause as to why his license to practice before the 7th Circuit should not be revoked.

The case, Stanard v. Nygren, No. 09-1487, slip op. (7th Cir. Sept. 19, 2011), [try this link if the previous one is dead] involves an alleged violation of the plaintiff's civil rights because the local sheriff apparently required him to hire county deputies as a private security force for an outdoor performance venue the plaintiff had constructed. After giving the plaintiff's attorney three tries at filing an "intelligible" complaint at the trial level, the district dismissed the action with prejudice. The plaintiff then appealed and the 7th Circuit affirmed making things worse for the plaintiff's attorney by ordering him to show cause as to why his license to practice before that court should not be revoked. In addition, the attorney must send a copy of the court's order to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. 

Here are some excerpts:

Slip op. at 2 [or here]:

      "We affirm. The district court was well within its discretion to reject the second amended complaint and dismiss the case with prejudice. Each iteration of the complaint was generally incomprehensible and riddled with errors, making it impossible for the defendants to know what wrongs they were accused of committing. Maksym's persistent failure to comply with basic directions from the court and his open defiance of court orders amply justified the judge's decision to dismiss with prejudice. Moreover, like his pleadings in the district court, Maksym's appellate briefing is woefully deficient, raising serious concerns about his competence to practice before this court. Accordingly, we order Maksym to show cause why he should not be suspended from the bar of this court or otherwise disciplined under Rule 46 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Finally, we direct the clerk to send a copy of this opinion to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission."

 Slip op. at 13 [or here]:

      "Applying these principles here, the district court was well within its discretion in refusing to accept Stanard's proposed second amended complaint. We agree that it crossed the line from just 'unnecessarily long' to 'unintelligible.' Though the complaint was far longer than it needed to be, prolixity was not its chief deficiency. Rather, its rampant grammatical, syntactical, and typographical errors contributed to an overall sense of unintelligibility. This was compounded by a vague, confusing, and conclusory articulation of the factual and legal basis for the claims and a general 'kitchen sink' approach to pleading the case. This was Maksym's third attempt to draft a comprehensible pleading, yet his effort to comply with the court's earlier directions was half-hearted at best; the proffered second amended complaint was rife with errors. We include a sampling to provide an understanding of its shortcomings: [omitting list on pp. 13-16, including footnote 7, which reproduces a 345-word sentence and runs about 1.5 pages in the slip opinion]"

 Slip op. at 20-21 [try this]:

      "One final note: Compounding the problems he exhibited in the district court, Maksym failed to file a reasonably coherent brief on appeal. All the deficiencies that plagued the various versions of the complaint also infected his briefs here. Maksym never directly addressed the issues before this court, relying instead on cases of marginal or no relevance. In the table of authorities in his opening brief, he cites 81 cases, but almost all of them are completely irrelevant to the issues presented here. In his reply brief, after the defendants had crystallized the issues, Maksym again failed to meaningfully-or even comprehensibly-articulate an argument. His appellate briefing was characterized by a reliance on irrelevant, conclusory, and often incoherent arguments of which the following is a representative example: 'Plaintiffs claims were not "intelligible"- no "needle in a haystack" as Appellees' claim.'"

A big hat tip to our own Twitter brief-writing champion Chris Wren for this story.


October 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pro Bono Service – Streaming White House Event Oct.13

The White House will stream a live event on the afternoon of Oct. 13 to 100 law schools aimed at encouraging pro bono service.  The event is meant to represent “a historic conversation about what lawyers can do to close the justice gap, and an exciting opportunity to encourage thousands of law students to step up their own pro bono efforts.”  More information can be found here.

The White House event will stream live on the internet on Thursday, October 13, from 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. EST.

Hat Tip Michelle Olsen (@AppellateDaily)


October 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Senator Boxer sends another letter to the ABA demanding more oversight of law school employment data

This is the latest exchange in the ongoing dialogue between Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) and the ABA over the accurate reporting of law school data. In her letter today, Senator Boxer is asking ABA president William Robinson to take action on three fronts: 1. More transparency from law schools regarding grad employment stats; 2. the "overwhelming need" for oversight to ensure law schools accurately report applicant stats in light of the recent U. of Illinois USNWR  scandal; and 3. ensuring law school applicants have accurate data about merit scholarship retention.        

October 6, 2011

Wm. T. Robinson III, President

American Bar Association

321 North Clark Street

Chicago, IL 60654-7598


Dear Mr. Robinson:

Following the previous correspondence between your predecessor and me concerning law school reporting practices, I am writing to address some unresolved issues.  While I applaud the American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education for addressing other deficiencies with current post-graduation employment and salary reporting requirements, I was very disappointed to learn that the Section decided not to require that law schools report the percentage of their graduates working in the legal profession or the percentage of graduates working in part-time legal jobs in its upcoming questionnaire. 

In my two previous letters to your predecessor, I indicated my strong belief that the ABA should ensure that post-graduation employment data provided to prospective law students is truthful and transparent.  His responses appeared to indicate a similar interest, but unfortunately it is difficult to square those previous statements with the Section’s recent decision. 

According to The National Law Journal, a Washington University law professor has determined that for the Class of 2009, at least thirty law schools had 50 percent or fewer of their graduates in jobs that required a law degree.  Data published by the National Association for Law Placement indicates that since 2001, only two- thirds of graduates from all ABA-approved law schools obtained legal jobs.

However, we know that most law schools report that nearly all of their students have jobs shortly after graduation.  The difference between the information reported by schools and the real legal employment rate for recent graduates is very troubling.  That is why requiring law schools to accurately report the real legal employment rate of their graduates is so important. 

In a year when a number of lawsuits alleging consumer protection law violations have been filed against ABA law schools, when major newspapers have devoted thousands of words to problems with law school reporting practices, and when two United States Senators have encouraged significant changes to your policies, it is surprising that the ABA is resorting to half measures instead of tackling a major problem head on. 

I also continue to have concerns about the lack of transparency for prospective law students in other areas:

Independent Oversight

The Section of Legal Education failed to address the overwhelming need for independent oversight and auditing of statistics reported by law schools.  In September, the University of Illinois was found to have been inaccurately reporting law school admissions statistics, the second such school to have done so in recent months.  In addition, many lawsuits have been filed alleging that law schools are violating various state consumer protection laws and false advertising laws.  

These developments are very troubling, and without independent verification of the information reported by law schools, the opportunity to file inaccurate reports will remain. 

Merit Scholarships

As I noted in a previous letter, the New York Times has detailed the recent increase in the number of merit scholarships offered by law schools and demonstrated how scholarships are being used to convince students with high LSAT scores to attend lower-ranked law schools. 

While the opportunity to earn a very expensive law degree at a fraction of the cost can be an attractive option for many students, the Times exposed a major problem with scholarship transparency.  Many law schools fail disclose how the school’s grading curve and scholarship conditions can combine to prevent the student from understanding the scholarship’s real value.   

 It was reported that at one school, 57 percent of first-year students in one class year received a merit scholarship, but only one-third of the students in that entire class could  receive a GPA high enough to maintain their scholarships.  Students should have more information about the risks of accepting merit scholarships so that they can make fully-informed decisions about their future.  

 I appreciate the ABA’s willingness to make some changes to its reporting requirements, but I believe it is in the best interest of law students everywhere for the ABA to address these remaining issues as soon as possible.  I look forward to your response.


Barbara Boxer

United States Senator


October 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

States May Be Getting Aggressive in Collecting Unpaid Student Debt

In this difficult economy, some students are not keeping up with their payments toward college loans that they have incurred. And state attorneys general may be obligated to pursuing the defaulting debtors. For example:

In the past three years alone, tax-supported colleges and universities statewide have turned over more than $140 million in uncollected bills to the Ohio attorney general’s office.

For example, Ohio State University has turned over $10.3 million in uncollected bills this year, twice what it certified in 2010. Cuyahoga Community College’s debt has grown from $1.8 million last year to $3 million so far this year. Kent State University’s debt is poised to be close to the $3 million it certified last year.

Here is an article from the Columbus Dispatch.


October 6, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Student with ADD successfully sues for more time to take bar exam

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune (the same paper that helped break the story last week about the sharp decline in law school applicants):

After being denied twice, a 22-year-old University of Minnesota graduate with attention deficit disorder and a learning disability won the extra time and other accommodations he sought to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), the federal government announced Tuesday.

The Justice Department said last week's settlement with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) is the first under revised regulations covering examinations and courses under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

"National testing entities must ensure that the standardized tests they administer allow persons with disabilities to demonstrate their aptitude and abilities on tests, rather than being placed at a disadvantage because of their disabilities," said B. Todd Jones, U.S. attorney for Minnesota.

The unidentified complainant from Minnetonka took his Law School Admission Test over the weekend and is awaiting the results, said Chris Jozwiak, his attorney. The standardized exam is required of all applicants to American Bar Association-accredited law schools in the United States.

Jozwiak described his client as a "great young guy" who was "excited that he could work something out."

Joan Van Tol, the council's lead attorney in the settlement, would not answer specific questions, saying, "I'm not sure there is anything newsworthy" in the deal.

Van Tol did say the Pennsylvania-based company is "fully compliant with the ADA" and its practices "will not change because of this settlement agreement."

As part of the settlement, the council agreed to double the standard testing time on each section and to allow the complainant breaks between sections, a separate and quiet testing area, permission to use his own computer for the writing section, permission to use scratch paper and use of an alternative answer sheet.

The complainant has received testing accommodations from elementary school through his graduation in three years from the University of Minnesota in 2009, including on national standardized tests such as PSAT, SAT and Advanced Placement exams.

Hat tip to the ABA Journal Blog.


October 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

LegalZoom files suit in N. Carolina arguing it's not engaged in unauthorized practice of law

A suit filed against LegalZoom in Missouri raised a similar issue although the case was ultimately settled after the court ruled on summary judgment that while the sale of legal forms is not UPL, helping customers fill them out might be.  This time around, it's LegalZoom that has filed a lawsuit, against the North Carolina bar, seeking a declaration that it is not engaged in UPL in that state.

From the ABA Journal Blog:

The online legal document company LegalZoom has sued the North Carolina State Bar in an effort to gain registration for its legal services plan.

The suit also seeks a ruling that its business model doesn’t constitute the unauthorized practice of law, according to a press release and the Raleigh News & Observer.

The bar had issued a cease-and-desist letter to Legal Zoom in 2008, and later cited the letter when it refused to register the company’s legal services plan.

The News & Observer quotes LegalZoom’s Raleigh lawyer A.P. Carlton Jr., a former ABA president. “This is the first time in their history they have filed a lawsuit," Carlton said of his client. "They did not want to do this, but after being rebuffed at every turn, they had to take a look at their options from a business perspective. What this lawsuit is about is the principle of being able to engage in business in North Carolina free of unlawful government restraint."

Continue reading here.


October 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New scholarship: "Training Tomorrow’s Lawyers: What Empirical Research Can Tell Us About the Effect of Law School Pedagogy on Law Student Learning Styles"

This is an article by Professor Eric A. DeGroff (Regent U.  School of Law) that I learned about though Google Scholar.  At present it's unpublished but you can still download it here.

Of course the whole "learning-style" thing is now a matter of debate (here, here and here) but the discussion of "experiential" learning is a nice fit for this blog so enjoy!

From the abstract:

Training Tomorrow’s Lawyers: What Empirical Research Can Tell Us About the Effect of Law School Pedagogy on Law Student Learning Styles

Though the legal academy is a relative newcomer to the field, questions concerning law school pedagogy and law student learning styles have gained increasing traction among legal scholars in recent years. This article reports on the results of empirical research concerning the effects of the law school experience and of disparate pedagogical approaches on law student learning styles.

In what appears to be the first research of its kind in a law school context, the article reports the results of a longitudinal assessment of law student learning styles, and documents a statistically significant shift in learning styles among first-year students over the course of the academic year. Though not conclusive, the research findings further suggest that classroom pedagogy may influence the development of law students’ analytical skills.

The author believes that experiential learning theory may hold a key to reaching students whose learning styles are not a perfect fit for the demands of a legal education. Having demonstrated through this and previous research that learning styles may be relevant to law school success, the author recommends additional study to further assess the effect of an experiential teaching approach in enhancing the learning proficiencies conducive to legal analysis.


October 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why Judges Should be Appointed and Not Elected

Decide for yourself. Here is a series of quotes from an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The city's Democratic Party organization invited 27 Philadelphia judges to a buffet breakfast this week and asked them to pay $10,000 each to assure party support when they face yes-or-no retention votes in November, according to judges who attended.

And the request was reportedly delivered with a warning from the party treasurer, former State Rep. Frank Oliver, that Democratic ward leaders would "cut" - withhold support from - judges who failed to pay, according to several witnesses.

"It's Godfather II," one judge told The Inquirer, comparing the situation to the heavy-handed political pressure that convinced an Atlanta company to walk away from a multimillion-dollar

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, the party chairman, invited the 27 judges facing retention votes to the Wednesday-morning breakfast at Finnegan's Wake on Spring Garden Street.

Brady intentionally left the room before Oliver's remarks, to comply with federal restrictions on Brady's fund-raising activities.

Complaints about Oliver's remarks reached him later that day, Brady said, and he tried to reassure judges that none of those facing retention votes would lose party support for not making the requested donation.

For decades, the city's political parties have sought significant contributions from endorsed candidates in competitive judicial elections running against each other in what's usually a crowded field. This year, Democrats asked for $35,000 from each judicial candidate.

The City Committee typically uses money collected from slated candidates for a variety of Election Day expenses, including printing sample ballots, providing transportation to voters, and food and cash payments - known as "street money" - to party workers.

The chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, Rudolph Garcia, said he had heard about the breakfast meeting.

"I think it's outrageous that the party is, as I understand it, asking for $10,000 per judge," Garcia said. "I don't see why printing costs for sample ballots should be anywhere near that amount. This is one of the things wrong with our system, and why we shouldn't be electing judges the way we do."


October 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Resources to Help Prepare for Oral Argument

It’s mid-term time and the moot court teams and 2Ls (in an appellate advocacy assignment) are gearing up for oral arguments.  If a student has not had the opportunity to see an oral argument in person, there are some great online resources they can use to prepare (and help alleviate their nerves).

U.S. Supreme Court – audio playbacks of arguments are online here.

The Oyez Project at Chicago Kent Law School hosts a multimedia archive “devoted to the Supreme Court of the United States and its work. It aims to be a complete and authoritative source for all audio recorded in the Court since the installation of a recording system in October 1955.”  Access here.

 Many states have video archives of oral arguments.  The Minnesota Courts archive is here
- check your jurisdiction to see what may be available online. 

Here are some additional resources (likely to be in your law library’s collection):

Bryan A. Garner, The Winning Oral argument: Enduring Principles with Supporting Comments from the Literature (2nd ed., Thomson/West 2009).
Edward D. Re & Joseph R. Re, Brief Writing & Oral Argument (9th ed., Oceana Publications 2005)

David C. Frederick, Supreme Court and Appellate Advocacy: Mastering Oral Argument (2nd ed., Thomson/West 2010)

A quick search of your library catalog (subject search: Oral Pleading – United States) will turn up many additional useful resources. 


October 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Finance prof finds excessive number of lawyers is hurting U.S. economy

Dr. Steve McGee, a professor of finance at U. of Texas (Ph.D., M.I.T.), writes that the U.S. has more lawyers per capita than almost every other country on earth and that 1/3 of those lawyers have a negative effect on the economy. The remaining 2/3 contribute to economic growth. From the "Academic Minute" column courtesy of Inside Higher Ed:

The Dean of the Harvard Law School once joked that by the year 2023 there would be more lawyers in the United States than people.

The truth is that the US does have too many lawyers: out of 50 countries only Uruguay has more lawyers per capita than the US. Why so many? Lawyers have always lobbied Congress and state legislatures to artificially increase the demand for lawyers and to permit frivolous lawsuits. We know that lawyers have excessive political influence: 41% of the US Congress are lawyers, the 2nd highest percentage in the world, which is eight times greater than the lawyer percentage of the US professional labor force.

Unfortunately, there are negative economic consequences of having too many lawyers. My research shows that there is an economic optimum ratio of lawyers to population. That research across 27 countries and over a 40 year time period shows that the US has 1/3 too many lawyers. As a result, spurious lawsuits and excessive litigation, subtracts 7 percent a year from US national income, which is $1 trillion a year from our $15 trillion economy.

In contrast, 2/3 of US lawyers add positively to our economy by protecting property, facilitating transactions and reducing crime. This 2/3 of American lawyers adds 36% a year to our economy, Which is $5 trillion a year in a $15 trillion economy.

W.C. Fields once joked that some lawyers are good and some lawyers are bad but we don't need any of them. Well, he was wrong: two-thirds of American lawyers are a positive force in the US economy.

You can listen to a podcast of the column here.


October 5, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Paralegal is the "most underrated job" whle law clerk is among the worst

Forbes Magazine is reporting on the most underrated jobs in America and the worst. Paralegal tops the first list while judicial law clerk lands squarely among the 10 worst jobs. First, paralegals:

Paralegals and legal assistants make an average annual income of $47,000, and over the past three years the average unemployment rate in the field has been just 3.1%. The job is also relatively low-stress, involves little contact with the public, and doesn’t require employees to breathe in toxic fumes or lift loads of 50 lbs. or more. Those factors land paralegal in the number one spot on’s new list of most underrated jobs. Second on the list: accountant, with an average income of $60,000 and an average three-year unemployment  rate of 4.8%. Loan officer ranks third, with income of $55,000 and a three-year unemployment rate of 4.4%.

Each January CareerCast, the three-year-old Carlsbad, Calif. jobs website, releases a list of America’s ten best and ten worst jobs after evaluating 200 professions using five core criteria: pay, hiring outlook, work environment, stress and physical demands. (My colleague Jacquelyn Smith covered the last best and worst lists here.) The data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and an array of private compensation surveys, trade association studies and state statistics. (A CareerCast team did the number crunching that resulted in the compensation and unemployment figures above.)

. . . .   While they don’t pay the six- or seven-figure compensation of hedge fund managers or heart surgeons, these underrated jobs allow workers to enjoy a decent standard of living and a relatively bright employment outlook. “We tried to come up with a list that’s relevant to most working people,” says Lee.

So what makes working as a judicial clerk # 7 among the top 10 worst jobs?  According to the report in Forbes,although they are sought after positions, . . . "law clerks still report high levels of dissatisfaction. The hours are long and grueling, and the clerk is subject to the whims of sometimes mercurial personalities."

For the list of the nine other bad jobs, click here.


October 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tough job market for lawyers pre-dates the present recession

That's according to this post by Professor Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.) at the blog Balkinization.

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about the remarkably high number of graduates of the class of 2009 who failed to obtain jobs as lawyers. When confronted with data like this, law schools respond that the dismal job placement rate is a recent phenomenon, a product of the current recession, suggesting that things were fine before and all will be well once again when the legal market rebounds. It’s wrong to isolate on and condemn law schools, they say, for results that reflect a historically bad time for jobs across the economy.

The problem with this response is that it is not true.

While it is correct that the recession exacerbated matters, things were not fine before, as demonstrated by the following chart, plotting the year before the recession, 2007 (in red), alongside 2009 (in blue). Notice that at many law schools--including schools ranked in the top 100--twenty percent or more of graduates of the class of 2007 failed to obtain jobs as lawyers (nine months after graduation).

Although the overall placement rate in lawyer jobs was indeed higher in 2007, prior to the implosion of the legal market that nailed the class of 2009, the same basic pattern held: ninety percent or more of the students at top law schools landed lawyer jobs while a significant percentage of graduates at many schools outside the elite did not.

NALP data on rates of employment across law schools tells us that this pattern extends at least as far back as 2001 (a change in data collection prevents comparisons with earlier periods). Here are the percentages of graduates who obtained jobs as lawyers in those years : 2001 (68.3 percent); 2002 (67 percent); 2003 (65.5 percent); 2004 (65.1 percent); 2005 (66.7 percent); 2006 (68.3 percent); 2007 (70.7 percent); 2008 (67.2 percent); 2009 (62.5 percent). (Throughout these years law schools listed on their websites and US News profile employment rates ranging from the high eighty percent range to the high ninety percent range.)

On a fairly consistent basis, almost one third of law graduates in the past decade have not obtained jobs as lawyers, and the above chart suggests that this is disproportionately the case at the lower ranked law schools.

There is every reason to believe that graduates of lower ranked law schools, if they had the chance, would gladly take lawyer jobs in the same 90 percent range as occurs at elite schools. The results show, obviously, that their degrees do not put them in a strong position to land jobs as lawyers. And this will not change even if the legal market undergoes a miraculous recovery.

Law schools frequently assert—and have said so for decades—that graduates who do not obtain jobs as lawyers often successfully use their law degree to advance their careers in other ways, usually citing the examples of graduates who obtain jobs in accounting firms and as FBI agents. Even if that is true in a number of instances, it cannot account for the large numbers of graduates who annually fail to get lawyer jobs. (More than 95 percent of law graduates sit for the bar exam, a substantial commitment of time and money after graduation which indicates a desire to at least be eligible to work as a lawyer.) Perhaps twenty years ago, or as late as ten years ago, a law graduate who did not land a job as a lawyer might still have come out okay financially. But with the high level of debt carried by law graduates today--nearly one third will graduate with debt in excess of $120,000--that can no longer be asserted with blithe confidence.

Law schools wooing the next crop of incoming students will no doubt use the line that the employment situation is bad now because of the recession, but things will get better when the legal market turns around. And they will tell prospective students that three and a half years between now and their anticipated graduation is plenty of time for the job recovery to take place.

Don't buy it. There is no sign that the legal market will improve. And even if it does, at many law schools one-out-of three or one-out-of four graduates will not get jobs as lawyers.

Hat tip to the TaxProf blog.


October 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hate being a lawyer? Here are some alternative career choices.

Courtesy of U.S. News & World Report's "Money" column:

Advocacy work. Lawyers often have experience advocating on someone else's behalf, which means a shift to working for an advocacy group could make sense. "Those are directly transferable skills to a nonprofit [organization]," [Heathe] Krasna [director of career services for the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Affairs] says.

Entrepreneurship. Particularly if you oversee your own law practice, consider running a business or nonprofit organization unrelated to law. Your skill set likely puts you in a good position to head up a new venture; lawyers understand the value of the billable hour, know how to negotiate contracts like leases, and often have a client-focused thought process, which can benefit new businesses, [Caroline] Dowd-Higgins [director of career and professional development at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law] says.

Therapist. Because lawyers often enter the profession with the goal of helping others, some transition into a field that seems unrelated: therapy. This could require earning another degree, says Dowd-Higgins, who has seen lawyers become therapists. Consider a job as a marriage and family therapist, which made our 2011 list of Best Careers.

Teaching or coaching. Having a professional degree makes you more marketable as a teacher or professor, and many lawyers find they're good at explaining what they've learned to others. Teachers benefit from solid verbal communication skills, and this job, too, falls into the helping-people category.

Public speaker. Since lawyers are often practiced at making their case in front of a group—a skill that's valued in many industries—you might be a good fit for a position that's heavy on public speaking. If you go into consulting or another form of self-employment, consider public speaking on the side to earn some extra cash and visibility.


October 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Hate Law Censorship Gone Wild, Part II

A few days ago, I posted the story that appears below. Update: The  University has come to its senses and is permitting the professor to rehang his posters. (Oct. 4). All's well that  ends well, I guess.


From the Chronicle of Higher Education online:

U. of Wisconsin Professor and Administrators Clash Over Posters Called Threatening

September 28, 2011, 2:23 pm

The University of Wisconsin-Stout has come under fire from free-speech advocates for refusing this month to let a theater professor decorate his office door with posters described by some administrators as threatening. The conflict over speech began when the professor, James Miller, hung a poster from the science-fiction television series Firefly that referred to killing. The campus police chief took it down, telling Mr. Miller in an e-mail exchange that he could face a criminal charge if he rehung the poster or another one similar to it. When Mr. Miller hung a second poster denouncing fascism as leading to violence, the campus police took it down, as implying a threat, at the urging of a campus threat-assessment team that had conferred with the university system’s office of general counsel. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a free-speech advocacy group, has accused the university of censorship, but top campus officials argued in an e-mail to the faculty and staff that they had “a responsibility to promote a campus environment that is free from threats of any kind.” As discussed in a July 31 Chronicle article, colleges have struggled to balance free-speech and security concerns in dealing with complaints that faculty members have somehow threatened others on the campus.

Good  grief.

October 4, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)