Saturday, October 15, 2011

Seven Deadly Sins of Student Writers

Several years ago, writer and English professor Ben Yagoda wrote an article identifying the seven deadly sins. He limited himself to usages that do not fully comport with the writing rules of standard English. In the article, Professor Yagoda offers a thoughtful discussion. Here the deadly sins:

1. Dangling modifiers.

2. Omitted commas.

3. Gratuitous commas.

4. Semicolons (almost always used improperly).

5. Use of the word “they.”

6. Spell-check errors.

7. Wrong word.

I wonder why the misuse of apostrophes failed to make the list.


October 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

NYLS moves to dismiss scambloggers' lawsuit

By "scambloggers," I mean the lawsuit filed by recent law grads who claim New York Law School misled them about employment data (similar suits have been filed against Cooley and Thomas Jefferson).  From the National Law Journal:

New York Law School on Oct. 13 filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by three former students who claimed the school inflated its post-graduate employment rates and salary data in order to lure students.

In its motion, the law school argued that the plaintiffs haven't backed up their claims and that they are focusing on much larger issues in legal education than anything specific to the school.

"The allegations are not only baseless, but also belied by the plaintiffs' own complaint, which demonstrates this case has nothing to do with New York Law School and everything to do with a crusade against the entire law school industry," said Venable partner Michael Volpe, who represents the school.

The motion argued that the job data published by the school complied with American Bar Association rules, and that the plaintiffs have not established a link between the reported job statistics and any alleged harm.

It said that two of the three plaintiffs are in fact working in law-related jobs, and that all three decided to attend New York Law School before the publication of the allegedly misleading jobs data.

Attorney Jeffery Strauss, who with David Anziska represents the plaintiffs, said on Oct. 14 that the motion to dismiss did not address the crux of the suit, which was filed in August.

"We are still digesting [the motion to dismiss], but the fact remains that when our clients paid their $40,000 to attend New York Law School, they did so based on New York Law School's misleading representations that they had an over 90% chance of getting a job and that those jobs paid certain salaries," Strauss said. "That representation is demonstrably false. Their motion fails to address that basic fact."

The plaintiffs seek class status, tuition refunds and additional remedies.

Strauss and Anziska have filed a nearly identical suit against the Thomas M. Cooley Law School on behalf of its graduates. Cooley's lawyers were expected to file their response by Oct. 21.

New York Law School's response was similar to that offered by the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, which was sued by a graduate in May.

Earlier this month, Strauss and Anziska said they were seeking plaintiffs for class actions against an additional 15 law schools, and predicted that nearly every law school in the country will have been sued by the end on 2012.


October 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 14, 2011

On-demand contract lawyers

A new service in the U.K. that offers clients a cheaper, more nimble alternative to full-time hires. From

Eversheds is set to enter the fast-growing contract lawyer market with the pilot of its own ‘on demand’ legal business.

Graham Richardson, who leads the firm’s consultancy business, is heading up the pilot, dubbed ‘Eversheds Agile’, which began last month and has already seen contract lawyers hired out to GE’s Watford arm as well as a global financial services firm in Hong Kong and a financial services company in the UK.

The service will offer Eversheds’ clients a temporary alternative to additional permanent recruitment, as well as helping to manage unforeseen cost pressures and fluctuating workloads.

Eversheds is aiming to sign up 10-15 lawyers to the service during the year-long pilot, predominantly through recruiters and the firm’s alumni network. The firm also has a pool of six full-time lawyers who are sent out to clients on 
strategic secondments.

The move will draw comparisons with Berwin Leighton Paisner’s Lawyers on Demand business, which was set up in 2008 and now comprises more than 80 lawyers.

Eversheds is also planning to leverage its international network to roll out the service across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and the operation will also offer temporary project managers, human resources consultants and company secretaries.

Richardson (pictured) said: “This is an entirely new offering to the market in that it’s a flexible service with the backing of an international law firm and all the resources that entails. We will review the pilot in a year but every indication is that this is a long-term solution for our clients' counsel staffing needs.”

The service will be run in conjunction with the firm’s consultancy arm, Eversheds Consulting, which was launched in September last year.

Richardson added: “We see it as something that is complementary to our consultancy arm. Flexible lawyers in the field will be able to spot opportunities where our consultancy arm 
can be of service and as our consultants see a need for more resources then flexible lawyers will be a part of that too.”

Hat tip to the ABA Journal blog.


October 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Moneyball for Law Firms?

The current movie “Moneyball” celebrates the way general manager Billy Beane selected and developed baseball players for the Oakland As. Is there a lesson here for law firms? According to a recent article, law firms often rely on the wrong criteria for hiring and developing new lawyers. The focus should be return on investment.  Law firms may be mistaken in overly focusing on law school grades and other traditional indicia:

Consider grades, law firms' primary filtering device when making hiring decisions. It turns out that grades (like home runs in baseball) do matter for success, but that there are other Moneyball factors that typically matter more and, as suspected, some that matter less. When a firm focuses excessively on grades—which only explain a small fraction of associate performance—it often systematically overlooks better performing candidates.

What are the factors beyond grades that are positively correlated to success at firms? The answer depends on the firm. In some Am Law 100 firms, lawyers with blue and pink collar work experience tend to be among the top performers. While at other Am Law 100 firms in the same profit bracket, associates with blue and pink collar backgrounds tend to underperform. Similarly, with educational credentials, JD-MBAs have thrived at one firm, but at another competing firm only a Masters or Ph.D. in a science or technical field is correlated with success. Performance of homegrown versus lateral associates varies by firm. There are also "non-factors" at many firms that don’t rank as positive or negative predictors of success, including participation in moot court, mock trial competitions.

According to the article, which factors merit the most attention depend on the personality and culture of the firm. As for evaluating lawyers, good grades should go to those who engage in proactive client and team focused behavior that delivers value to clients in excess of costs—giving clients good value is the way to attract and maintain them.


October 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Federal Court Opinions Collection Online Through FDSys

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has been working on a pilot project to make lower Federal court opinions available through FDsys.

The project is available for review (beta) and the developers are looking for any comments or suggestions you may have regarding the U.S. Courts Opinions Collection.

You can find more information here.


October 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Are the Best Undergraduate Majors to Prepare for Law?

Karin Mika has recently studied this in Do Undergraduate Majors and Other Factors Correlate Highly with Success in Legal Writing Classes?

This paper examines approximately 19 years of data from Legal Writing classes in determining whether there are any characteristics that contribute to the success (or lack of success) in Legal Writing. The paper focuses primarily on categorizing undergraduate degrees, but touches upon age as a potential factor in determining potential for success. The paper also notes that the majority of students who earn the highest grades in Legal Writing also have the highest grades across the board in other law school classes.

She concludes: 

1. Success in Legal Writing is a predictor of success in law school overall.  

2. There is no one major that is a predictor for a lack of success in law school.

3. Although a student having any type of undergraduate major can do well in law school, an Economics undergraduate major is a valid predictor of success.

4. Students who had any type of double major in undergraduate school tend, on the average to do better than students with a single major.

5. Students with MBAs tend to do very well in Legal Writing.

6. Age is neither a predictor of success or lack of success.

7. Attending a public or private undergraduate school plays no role in predicting success.


October 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Friday Fun: Do you like to type?

Then try this wicked cool game.




October 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legal Sector Shed 1,300 Jobs in September

The overall economy outpaced analysts' predictions last month by adding 103,000 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics's preliminary September employment report released Friday. But the uptick didn't carry over to the legal sector. It lost 1,300 jobs last month, according to the report.

In September, the legal sector lost 300 jobs; in July, it gained 4,100 jobs. But, in the last year, it has shed 3,500 jobs. Yet, overall employment statistics are on the upswing, despite a 9.1 percent unemployment rate. Here is the article. Hang in there.


October 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

International Plain Language Day

Today is the first annual International Plain Language Day and is also the first anniversary of The Plain Writing Act (Public Law 111-274).  For more information, see the Law Library of Congress Blog here.

“The purpose of International Plain Language Day is to celebrate the achievements of those persons around the world who are working to make materials available to the public that are clear, concise, usable, and written in plain language.”

It might be a fun exercise for classes to take a contract or other document full of legalese and rewrite it in plain language.

Happy drafting!


October 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Blogging and social media helps small firms compete

From the National Law Journal:

Social media and blogging are helping the smaller firms [compete with BigLaw]. This is due in part to "information democracy," Dion Algeri of Great Jakes Marketing Co. explained recently during a conference in New York City organized by Hildebrandt Baker Robbins. Online, the content you create — whether blog posts, newsletters or alerts — speak for themselves. Good information is passed along, while poorly written and unhelpful information is ignored.
"Social media is a great equalizer for smaller firms," said Jasmine Decarie, director of marketing and business development at Foley Hoag. This is partly due to search engines like Google, which rank the most helpful and most popular content first. They could not care less whether your firm has an office in New York or Washington.
Two of the most powerful stories that came out of the session were, fittingly, from lawyers at small firms — one a litigator and the other a criminal defense lawyer. Both had experience in AmLaw 200 firms, but now are partners in their own firms. Both have generated well more than $1 million in business from their blogs and are consistently winning business that normally would go to much larger firms.
Why have they been so successful? They each found a niche and they have aggressively blogged about the issues relative to that niche.
One of them shared a story about an e-mail he received from a Russian company that wanted to engage his firm for U.S. litigation. He initially discounted the e-mail as spam, but sent a short reply requesting a retainer, and it turned into a major piece of business. The Russian company found his blog through a Google search.
Other attorneys shared stories about the success they have enjoyed by using LinkedIn in a strategic way. One example was Chris Colvin, a partner at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel in New York who started a LinkedIn group called "Ivylife," allowing graduates of Ivy League colleges to network online. This grew organically, and now has more than 50,000 registered members and holds monthly networking events in New York and in dozens of cities worldwide. Members now have a password-protected community, and the group continues to grow. Colvin's online exercise has turned into profitable connections offline and a thriving networking organization.
The other success story was that of Ram Sunkara, an associate at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, who works his LinkedIn connections like an old-school salesman used to work his Roledex. He exports his LinkedIn contacts to an Excel spreadsheet, prints it out and spends a few hours in the evenings working on building those relationships. As a result, Sunkara has brought in well more than six-figures in business from his LinkedIn connections alone. (Note: Sunkara couldn't attend the conference, but his story was shared there by Amy Knapp of Knapp Marketing).

October 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do Judges Really Find Plain English More Persuasive?

According to one empirical study, the answer is yes. In the September 2011 issue of the Michigan Bar Journal, attorney Sean Flamer summarizes the results of his study Persuading Judges: An Empirical Analysis of Writing Style, Persuasion, and the Use of Plain English,16 Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute 183 (2010).

Flamer mailed a variety of judges three versions of a response pleading: all judges received one in the conventional style, half received one in plain English, and half received one in informal plain English. The results:

A total of 292 judges returned the surveys—a response rate of 37%. Overall, the judges preferred the plain-English version to the original by 66% to 34%. More specifically,the rates for federal trial, federal appellate, state trial, and state appellate judges were 52%, 73%, 72%, and 65%. The judges’ location (rural versus urban area), age, gender,and years of experience did not correlate with which version they preferred.

Finally, the informal plain-English version did not fare quite as well, but 58% still preferred it. I believe, based on several judges’ comments, that the liberal use of contractions (most of them in the Introduction) may have been the reason for the 8% fall off.


October 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Which is Harder--Teaching Skills or Teaching Substance?

Teaching skills, according to Hillary Burgess in her article Why Skills Ain't Easy: The Deceptive Difficulty Discovered in the Cognitive Taxonomy of Legal Learning Objectives.

Abstract: When looking at many courses that are dubbed “skills” courses, many law professors have the initial reaction that they are “easier” than doctrinal courses. In my forthcoming article, The Taxonomy of Legal Learning Objectives and Outcome Measurements, I demonstrate that skills are both more difficult to teach and more difficult to learn than concepts. Concepts include doctrine, policy, theory, and facts.

Many law professors might be reticent to accept this hierarchy of difficulty. However, there is general consensus across the most widely accepted educational taxonomies that skills are harder to learn and harder to teach than concepts. So, the question becomes, why do law school “skill” courses appear easier to teach and learn than courses that teach doctrine and theory?

This article explains both why skills courses appear to be easier, but aren't. The article also discusses the factors that force professors who teach skills to create skill learning objectives that are sometimes entry-level skills.

Professor Burgess also has another new article on SSRN entitled The Challenges of 'Innovative' Teaching.



October 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Has the misery of being a law firm associate been overstated?

From the Careerist columnist Vivia Chen at

Now that everyone and his mother has weighed in about the misery of young lawyers, I'm going to propose something radical: They're not that bad off.

Take that much-dissected Am Law midlevel associates survey, which showed satisfaction scores plummeting to a seven-year low. Industry critics, including Steven Harper, have been lambasting the profession for not caring enough about morale.

Their criticisms are on target, except for this: If lawyers were truly despondent, why did firms still come out with an average satisfaction score of 3.729 ("5" being the high score) on the survey?

Wouldn't you expect the score to be scraping bottom--at least something closer to a 2.5?

Put it this way: If law firms were rated like hotels, they'd come close to getting four stars. So maybe working at a big firm is not a Four Seasons experience, but it's comparable to staying at the Hilton. Which is to say that the setup, while hardly sybaritic, is not all that dreadful either.

Why the disconnect between how unhappy lawyers say they are and how they rate their actual experience? The explanation is quite obvious: Lawyering is not much fun, but it pays well--damn well. And money buys some modicum of morale.

Continue reading here.



October 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How attorneys can stay ahead of the coming lawyer-bot revolution

By understanding what legal tasks software can do better than humans, ceding that territory to the machines and then specializing in other skills like trial advocacy. (For more on the coming lawyer-bot invasion, read here and here).

What's interesting about this post from last March warning of the threat to lawyers by software in light of Watson's Jeopardy debut is that the author recommended family law as a speciality immune from the impending lawyer-bot take-over.  But that was before the prospect of negotiation software was on the horizon which will help parties optimize the terms of their matrimonial settlement while avoiding the added transactional costs of lawyers.  Sigh. . . looks like I picked the wrong week to become a divorce lawyer.

From Constitutional Daily via the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.

The new technologies are now better able to analyze documents for relevance than first year associates and TTT grads.  They don’t just rely on simple search terms, but are now independently pulling in related terms, and analyzing documents in bulk to identify patterns, and deviations.  Plus, they’re better looking than the other basement dwellers.

The above-ground lawyers also have cause for concern. There is nothing magical about the legal/non-legal distinction that will prevent a robot from taking your job.  If you can go from a skull full of mush to thinking like a lawyer in a mere three years, surely computers will soon be able to perform the task as well.

Just consider the Jeopardy-conquering computer Watson.  Jeopardy does not ask purely straight-forward questions.  Often the questions (or “clues” to be precise) are written as riddles, or with puns and other hints that need to be deciphered to find the correct answer.  Now, imagine a robot plugged into Westlaw, scanning through all of the headnotes to deduce the likely answer to a legal question.  That would be some very powerful analysis.

But, it won’t just be on Westlaw.  It will also be using Lexis, Bloomberg, Google, and every single news article, white paper and best practice memo ever published.

It will know about every resource available and utilize them all simultaneously.  It will never forget to Shepardize.  It will remember the answer to every question it has previously been asked.  It will not get tired, it will never need a coffee break, and it will not bitch about the size of its bonus.

Technology is advancing so fast that the iPad is more powerful than the computers on the space station.  And, the progress is only getting faster as computers take on a bigger role in their own innovation.  On the other hand, you are still running the same software as your caveman ancestors.  It will be hundreds of thousands of years before you get an upgrade, and since alcohol and social services have undermined natural selection, those upgrades will become fewer and further between.

Many people who hear about the impending legal robot revolution will try to argue that what they are doing is simply too intellectual a task for a robot.  But, much as bumblebees aren’t dissuaded by evidence that they ought not be able to fly, the robots will cast aside your arguments as they cast aside your jobs.  Arguing that the revolution is not coming will not stop it.

Instead, you must get ahead of it.  Learn what area computers are conquering next, and abandon that territory. Do you handle incorporating business entities?  Robots will soon be doing that.

Look for things that are much further out of reach.  Trial advocacy is a good area, and I mean actual advocacy.  Being in a court room, in front of a judge, not “litigation,” which is just being locked away in a library doing research. Get into family law. While corporate accountants will leap at the opportunity to have robots perform diligence on the cheap, few people will want a robot advising them on child custody or a living will.

But never forget, if a computer can answer Jeopardy’s questions, answering a judge won’t be too far behind. People will become more accepting of advice given by robots, just as they accept robots building their cars or filling their prescriptions.

You cannot fight the revolution, you cannot hide. Your only option is to run.


October 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

One prof says going to law school is still a very good investment

Not everyone believes the sky is falling when it comes to the job prospects for prospective law grads as this article from National Jurist magazine points out.

The plight of new lawyers in this economy has been a topic of frequent discussion. According to the National Association for Law Placement, “class of 2010 graduates faced [the] worst job market since [the] mid-1990s.” Only 87.6 percent of graduates in that class were employed within nine months after graduating — the lowest rate since 1996, and down from 91.9 percent in 2007. Again, lawyers are not immune to the effects of larger economic malaise — new lawyers less so. In fact, the 1996 rate was in the aftermath of the recession of the early 1990s. But these statistics show that even in bad times, the vast majority of law school graduates secure employment shortly after graduation. Moreover, logic dictates that employment rates increase with the passage of time, and history dictates that bad times don’t last forever. 

Salary data show that the vast majority of lawyers earn relatively high salaries. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, lawyers boast the fourth highest median salary behind medical doctors, dentists and CEOs (some of whom have law degrees). While the majority of occupations have median salaries between $20,000 and $49,999, the median for lawyers in 2010 was almost $113,000. Again, this was the median — the actual midpoint — which means the majority of lawyers made six-figures. 

Predictably, starting salaries for new lawyers tend to fall below the median for the profession as a whole, but they still tend to be relatively high. According to NALP, the class of 2010 had a median starting salary of $63,000, a respectable living for a new entrant into any profession. On the downside, the 2010 median was $9,000 lower than the year before. But declining wages have buffeted the entire economy. Fortunately, as the economy sputters back to life, salaries are unlikely to continue falling at the same rate — if at all.

The decline in salaries for new lawyers is attributed in part to a decline in private-practice jobs.  About 21 percent of 2010 graduates got jobs in large law firms, compared to about 26 percent in 2009. Because these jobs are among the highest paying — typically starting well above $100,000 — the decline in this sector affected overall salary data for new graduates. This shift, however, does not render law school a bad investment. Even with the 5 percent decrease in BigLaw jobs, the overall employment rate for graduates fell less than 1 percent between 2009 (88.3 percent) and 2010 (87.6 percent). Again, the vast majority of law school graduates find employment paying relatively high salaries — even if it’s not the type glamorized by popular culture.

. . . .

In terms of outlook, there is some optimism that the legal job market is thawing, albeit slowly.  The legal sector has added about 900 jobs so far in 2011. Law schools are reporting increased employer participation in on-campus interviews. And there are signs that law firm hiring will increase in 2012. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that jobs for lawyers will grow about as fast as jobs overall. So larger economic trends will influence, if not determine, the speed at which the legal job market recovers. But one thing seems certain: workers with legal training will fare better than most in this economy, no matter what happens. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, lawyers make up one of the 10 smallest professions. This finding calls into question the “too many lawyers” memo, especially when you consider the prominence of the legal process in this country. In reality, lawyers are still relative rare — and with rarity comes demand and a wage premium.

Continue reading here.


October 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Despite some optimistic voices, enrollment at regional law schools is down

For those keeping track, here's the second report in nearly as many weeks from a local newspaper reporting on the decline in applications at regional law schools. This time it's the Ohio law schools feeling the chilly winds of change. From the Dayton Daily News:

Enrollment Down at Ohio Law Schools

Fewer people are applying to law schools in Ohio, a sign that some students are uncertain of job prospects after graduating and lack faith in the ability of legal careers to pay off the substantial debt often required to get a law degree, according to state and national legal associations.

The number of applicants to the University of Dayton School of Law fell 18.4 percent this year to 1,751, and the school is admitting fewer students in order to maintain the academic quality of the student body, UD officials said. UD School of Law Dean Paul McGreal said the job market
for legal professionals should improve when the economy rebounds, but a shrinking demand for lawyers could lead to changes
in the number of law schools or graduates. “If, in the long term, there are going to be fewer legal employment opportunities, then the legal education market will have to contract the number of graduates,” he said.

“That happens in one of two ways: Either each law school accepts fewer students and has a smaller class size, or there are fewer law schools — and the market will dictate which it will be, and maybe it is a combination of both.”

Limited prospects for law students

About 2,311 Ohioans applied for the fall semester to U.S. law schools accredited by the American Bar Association, down 12.5 percent from 2,641 applicants in 2010 and down 19 percent from 2,853 applicants in 2009, according to preliminary data from the Law School Admission Council.

Nationally, the number of people who applied for the fall semester to ABA law schools was 78,900, a decrease of about 10 percent from fall 2010, according to the council. The drop came after law schools nationwide saw two years of growth in the number of applicants.

The number of applicants to UD School of Law was 1,751 this year, down from 2,147 in 2010, 2,097 in 2009 and 2,230 in 2008, according to the school. The school enrolled 177 students this year, a decrease from 207 in 2010.

UD School of Law enrolled fewer students to adjust to the decrease in applicants, McGreal said. He said this was necessary in order to maintain the bar-passage rate and academic quality of the new classes.

The declines in applicants reflect the weak state of the job market for legal professionals, which has been battered by the economic crisis, said Carol Seubert Marx, president of the Ohio State Bar Association.

Seubert Marx said big firms are hiring fewer lawyers and laying off others,
 because the businesses they represent are reducing their legal costs and performing more legal services in-house.

She said also more people are choosing to represent themselves in court or opting not to sue because of the expense involved in hiring an attorney.

The employment rate for new law school graduates in 2010 was 87.6 percent, the lowest percentage in 14 years, according to the National Association for Law Placement.

Even more alarming is the fact that 27 percent of the jobs were temporary and 11 percent were part time, said James Leipold, the association’s executive director. Only about 68.4 percent of graduates obtained jobs where passage of the bar exam was required.

With the job market for legal professionals contracting, some students are weighing the costs of law school with the prospective earnings from a legal career and deciding it is not worth the money, Seubert Marx said.

“You can make a comfortable income, but if you factor in that debt, which kids are having to do now, it all of the sudden becomes a mortgage on your future,” she said.

You can continue reading here.


October 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

In Memoriam: Keith Aoki

The late Keith Aoki touched many lives with his creativity and generosity.  Here and here I am posting two memorials by Professor Hari Osofsky (Minnesota). Hari tells me that she wanted to honor Keith and encourage people to follow his example by treating one another better. Here are two passages from the memorials:

 While it would be difficult to overstate the intellectual debt that I owe Keith and I appreciated the opportunity to reflect on the tremendous insights of his written work and on his scholarly legacy, what I value most about Keith and miss most about him was his capacity to be there for me and others when they are most vulnerable. He had this unique capacity to lift people up and make people find the best inside themselves, and a knack for knowing when they needed it most. Keith was there for me during my hardest moments over the last several years, as a friend and mentor, and I would not be where or who I am without him.

One of the things that makes people so vulnerable as they go through the legal academy is that there is a sense in which our colleagues are not just judging our work, but judging us. In each of our institutions, right now, there are students, staff, and faculty who feel vulnerable, who feel like they cannot be public about their vulnerability for fear of being judged, and who feel lonely and afraid. It is hard to reach out when you feel that way. And the world tends to surround us with support and affirmation more easily in our less vulnerable moments. Keith knew that and was always there to lend a hand.


October 11, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Justice Clarence Thomas: 20 Years on the Supreme Court

It’s hard to believe, but this term marks 20 years for Clarence Thomas as a Supreme Court justice. With Justice Thomas, three matters come to mind. 1. his tumultuous confirmation hearings, 2. his extreme conservative jurisprudence, and 3. his puzzling silence on the bench. Here is a well balanced article from the Los Angeles Wave.


October 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Researching an Expert Witness

A question this morning from a student law clerk inspired this post.  Law clerks (and recent law graduates) will be asked to do factual research (such as finding information about expert witnesses) in addition to true legal research. While we teach this a little bit in legal research (and more in an advanced legal research course), it becomes “real” to the student when they are faced with this type of assignment in a setting where they cannot use their “free” Westlaw and LexisNexis access.  This is a great opportunity for them to discover not only what is available for a fee on Westlaw and LexisNexis, but what is available through free resources.

Here are some guides and links to resources for researching an expert witness:

Zimmerman’s Research Guide – Expert Witnesses

Cleveland-Marshall College of Law – Library research guide  (includes good descriptions of available fee and free resources to use for expert research) 

Research Tip - a Google search for “expert witness research guide” may lead you to similar resources (maybe your library has one online).

Justia’s guide to Expert Witness Research and Search

Finding and Researching Experts and Their Testimony (white paper from 2009 – contains great information about the types of information to look for where to find it)


October 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

The AALL on law student legal research competencies

This is a draft report from the Association of American Law Libraries Executive Board. The board is now soliciting comments from members.

From the introduction:

AALL Law Student Research Competencies and Information Literacy Principles

The Law Student Research Competency Standards Task Force of the American Association of Law Libraries (hereinafter Task Force) presents this paradigm of general research competency principles to foster the development of different models and eventually best practices.

There is a growing body of literature and a lively discussion among members of the legal academy and the practicing bar about the research competency skills of law school graduates. This dialogue among stakeholders is essential to forge change. In our discussions, we determined that continuing communication and collaboration between law schools, legal employers, and the law school accrediting body.

To this end, law school programs should reflect the realities of the legal field. In particular, an understanding of the many varied legal practice business models is vital. In today’s environment, law firm success hinges on billable time, effective time management, effective communication, effective peer collaboration, and cost recovery. Similarly, efficient research habits in governmental and nonprofit settings ultimately benefit those employees and the public. Highly competent research skills, effective problem solving skills, and critical thinking skills are keys to success in all areas of legal practices of today and the future. is fundamental to any efforts to address and improve the research skills of law students.

The Task Force is confident that this paradigm of general research competency principles will engage more stakeholders in the dialogue about the need to establish benchmarks in this area. These benchmarks should include the development of a detailed list of required skills to reflect the needs of the legal employers of the 21st century.

We offer our five Law Student Research Competency Principles for consideration, and for use in the following discussions:

• law school curriculum development and design;
• law firm planning, training and articulation of core competencies;
• bar admission committee evaluation of research skills of applicants;
• continuing legal education program development;
• law school accreditation standards review.

Read the full report here.

Hat tip to Professor Eric Young.


October 10, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)