November 12, 2011
Online Education Grows Dramatically
According to the ninth annual survey of online education, the number of students taking at least one online course now surpasses 6 million—that is nearly one-third of all students in higher education. The survey, the work of the Babson survey Research Group and the College Board reports these key findings:
- Over 6.1 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2010 term, an increase of 560,000 students over the previous year.
- The 10% growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population.
- Thirty-one percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.
- Reported year-to-year enrollment changes for fully online programs by discipline show most are growing.
- Academic leaders believe that the level of student satisfaction is equivalent for online and face-to-face courses.
- 65% of higher education institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy.
- There continues to be a consistent minority of academic leaders concerned that the quality of online instruction is not equal to courses delivered face-to-face.
For better or worse, law schools have not been in the forefront of this trend. And, for better or worse, it seems inevitable that they will not buck the trend forever. Here is the full story.
How do you get back into law practice if you've been on an extended sabbatical?
Over at the Careerist blog, Vivia Chen fields a question from a reader who's been away from the practice of law for ten years and is thinking about jumping back in. Should she? Could she? Ms. Chen asks several experts for their advice on transitioning back into practice after an extended absence. Click here to read their thoughts.
And check out this program from Pace law school that provides formal training and advice for lawyers trying to re-enter practice after taking a sabbatical.
November 11, 2011
Networking Theory Predicts How Supreme Court Justices Vote
The nine members of the US Supreme Court show patterns of common voting that have allowed researchers using network theory to guess how individual justices would have voted in past cases with an accuracy of up to 83 per cent.
According to two Spanish scientists, algorithms used in biology provide the predictions. They require no information about the Justices’ political leanings or the nature of the cases. But maybe “prediction” is not the most precise word. Because the predictions require knowing how other Justices voted in the case, the method cannot predict how the Justices will vote in future cases. Here is the article from the New Scientist.
November 10, 2011
Tips for making PowerPoint presentations better
Below is a recent post from the blog attorney@work but you may also want to check out this excellent article discussing effective PowerPoint use in the law school classroom based on cognitive science.
Too many lawyers think the purpose of PowerPoint is to repeat what they are saying orally. This may make it easier to make the handouts for conferences, but it does nothing for the audience. They can’t read your slides and listen to what you’re saying at the same time. It’s this presentation style that brought us the term “Death by PowerPoint.”
If you’re a lawyer who is a public speaker, let go of the idea that your slides are the outline for your talk. Instead, think of them as a tool for accentuating your message. Your message is the star. Your slides are merely an accessory.
Seth Godin’s rule of thumb is to never use more than six words on a slide. It’s better to use an image that embodies the concept or the feeling you are trying to convey instead of sentences or bulleted lists. Fantastic images are available in the public domain and under creative commons licenses. There’s no excuse for using cheesy images or clipart. Be creative!
Paul Arden said, “The more strikingly visual your presentation is, the more people will remember it. And more importantly, they will remember you.” This is absolutely true. While I barely remember any of the PowerPoint slides I saw during law school lectures, without exerting much mental energy I can remember over a dozen Ignite presentations I’ve seen in the past two years.
If you want an example of these rules in action, check out The Art and Science of Beatbox by Krystofer James and Brandon Willey.
You may think that these tips don’t work in your professional life because serious legal concepts can only be expressed in words, but that’s not true. Recently, I did a 90-minute presentation on the basics of copyright law at an art marketing class. Aside from the title slide, my contact information and photo credits, my slide deck had six words—total. And I didn’t give the students a copy of my slides. Instead, I gave them a one-page handout with all the pertinent information on it.
If you want more information on using PowerPoint effectively, I recommend Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte and Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds.
Friday Fun: Finally something robots can't do better than people
With all the talk about the impending automation of legal practice and the resulting loss of jobs, it's nice to know there are still some things humans can do much better than machines. Like pour a beer.
Teaching transactional legal skills via the internet
Transactional Law Instruction Takes to the Web courtesy of the National Law Journal:
The chairman of a company's compensation committee needs advice. The chief executive officer is leaving for another job, and the board of directors is worried that the highly valued chief financial officer will leave, as well. Should the company offer the latter a $50,000 bonus to stay, or should it draft a severance agreement offering one year's salary benefits if she is terminated within six months of the new chief executive's arrival?
The company and its dilemma aren't real, but rather a scenario offering law students from around the country an opportunity to act as transactional lawyers and advise the client about how to proceed.
This particular scenario is one of several "mini-meets" available on a new Web site geared toward teaching law students transactional skills — something most law faculties are struggling to do.
The Law Meets Web site was the brainchild of Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law professor Karl Okamoto, who in 2010 started the first transactional law competition. Law Meets Web takes the idea of an in-person transactional law competition — similar to moot court in that teams compete to craft a business deal for fictional clients — and expands it using the Internet.
The Web offers law students a simulated opportunity to act as transactional attorneys and receive feedback on both their substantive knowledge and interaction with clients.
"We've discovered that there is an enormous demand for this type of experience for students," Okamoto said. "We thought, "Maybe there is a way to do this using technology."
The Web site offers a range of business scenarios in which a client needs advice. Law students watch the client interviews videos online, then submit short videos of themselves advising that client, which are posted to the site. The students review the other submissions and vote on which they think are best.
The 10 submissions that gain the most peer endorsements are critiqued by a panel of experts, who offer comments and advice. Those critiques are also posted on the site, where anyone can watch them for guidance.
A new scenario is posted every two weeks.
The site is still in the pilot phase, but students from 14 law schools have submitted video responses thus far. University of Mississippi School of Law Professor Mercer Bullard is among the law faculty members who have used Law Meets Web in their classes. Bullard assigned a mini-meet to his corporations class this semester.
"It's bringing something new to the table," Bullard said. "Law schools generally do not do enough to train students on doing verbal presentations. This is a very efficient way to have students do a practical, verbal exercise."
Bullard said he plans to integrate the site into his future corporations classes.
While the Law Meets Web site is still in its infancy, the in-person transactional law competition Okamoto started in 2009 has grown exponentially. Instead of a single competition that Drexel has hosted at its Philadelphia campus for the past two years, there will be five regional meets this year. The top performing teams will compete in the final at Drexel in March.
Okamoto said that a single competition could not handle the growing number of teams that wanted to participate — even with new regional competitions, not every law student would have the ability to compete in person. But every law student can participate in the online mini-meets at no cost.
The site eventually will have to generate enough revenue to operate, Okamoto said, but for now it is primarily funded through a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for small business innovation and research.
The site has the potential to train law firm associates in addition to law students, Okamoto said.
University of Virginia School of Law Professor George Geis used a mini-meet scenario to help select the school's team for the regional transactional law competition.
"It's very promising," he said. "The ability to learn through an applied set of problems is something I strongly endorse."
One of the Virginia students who has competed in a mini-meet involving the company trying to retain its CFO was 2L Randy Barr. He advised the company to offer the severance agreement.
"I think it was very helpful, the fact that we submitted videos," Barr said. "You had to channel the information and make it understandable to a client, both verbally and visually. People don't necessarily want legalese thrown at them."
Another Article on Law School Employment Figures
There is another article on law school employment figures in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin. This may be the most detailed article on law school employment figures yet.
In-House Law Departments Are Growing
According to HBR Consulting’s annual survey, more jobs are opening up in in-house corporate department as the workload increases.
· More than 50% of participants reported an increase in the total number of legal staff worldwide between 2009 and 2010, while only 29% reported a decrease.
More than 80% of participants commented that their company’s legal needs are increasing.
More than one-third attached high importance to increasing the number of in-house lawyers; only 11% responded that they would increase the use of outside counsel.
More than 40% of companies expect to increase the number of lawyers in the U.S. and outside the U.S. during the coming year.
The median expected increase in lawyer staffing was 10%.
Part of the reason for the expansion: “The median fully-loaded inside hourly cost per lawyer is approximately 46% below the median average hourly rate of the company’s top three billing firms.”
Maryland State Regulations – Fee for Real-Time Access
The Maryland State Law Library (@mdstatelawlib) tweeted this news from the Maryland Reporter:
“Instead of a service that was once free, Maryland citizens and businesses will now have to pay a $190 annual subscription fee to the Secretary of State’s office if they wish to access the most timely government information published by the Maryland Register.
Updates to current and proposed state regulations, hearing notices, executive and legal opinions, and more, were available online to the public every other Friday for free, and had been for years.
Now, due to procedure changes at the Register – a bi-weekly, state-run regulations publication – those who can’t or won’t subscribe will have to wait about five extra days to view information that had been available in real-time for years.
The Register also eliminated an easy to use HTML viewing option that free users easily accessed. Users will now have to scroll through a roughly 60 page document to find an individual piece of information by using the remaining PDF option.”
Users can still access the Maryland Register free online – but the free version is only updated every two weeks (an eon in today’s world of real-time information). I hope this isn’t a trend for official publications!
November 9, 2011
Will the apostrophe become extinct?
As well as the semicolon, the hyphen and other forms of punctuation in the age of texting and Twitter? Maybe so says this article from the Wall Street Journal by Henry Hitchins, author of The Language Wars: A History of Proper English:
Punctuation arouses strong feelings. You have probably come across the pen-wielding vigilantes who skulk around defacing movie posters and amending handwritten signs that advertise "Rest Room's" or "Puppy's For Sale."
People fuss about punctuation not only because it clarifies meaning but also because its neglect appears to reflect wider social decline. And while the big social battles seem intractable, smaller battles over the use of the apostrophe feel like they can be won.
Yet the status of this and other cherished marks has long been precarious. The story of punctuation is one of comings and goings.
Early manuscripts had no punctuation at all, and those from the medieval period suggest haphazard innovation, with more than 30 different marks. The modern repertoire of punctuation emerged as printers in the 15th and 16th centuries strove to limit this miscellany.
Many punctuation marks are less venerable than we might imagine. Parentheses were first used around 1500, having been observed by English writers and printers in Italian books. Commas were not employed until the 16th century; in early printed books in English one sees a virgule (a slash like this /), which the comma replaced around 1520.
. . . .
In fact, Internet culture generally favors a lighter, more informal style of punctuation. True, emoticons have sprung up to convey nuances of mood and tone. Moreover, typing makes it easy to amplify punctuation: splattering 20 exclamation marks on a page, or using multiple question marks to signify theatrical incredulity. But, overall, punctuation is being renounced.
How might punctuation now evolve? The dystopian view is that it will vanish. I find this conceivable, though not likely. But we can see harbingers of such change: editorial austerity with commas, the newsroom preference for the period over all other marks, and the taste for visual crispness.
. . . .
Graphic designers, who favor an uncluttered aesthetic, dislike hyphens. They are also partly responsible for the disappearance of the apostrophe. This little squiggle first appeared in an English text in 1559. Its use has never been completely stable, and today confusion leads to the overcompensation that we see in those handwritten signs. The alternative is not to use apostrophes at all—an act of pragmatism easily mistaken for ignorance.
Defenders of the apostrophe insist that it minimizes ambiguity, but there are few situations in which its omission can lead to real misunderstanding.
The apostrophe is mainly a device for the eye, not the ear. And while I plan to keep handling apostrophes in accordance with the principles I was shown as a child, I am confident that they will either disappear or be reduced to little baubles of orthographic bling.
Hat tip to the Chronicle of Higher Ed.
Why Can't We Teach Courses Like This?
Here is a course that students will take this spring at Skidmore College:
HF200 001 Romanesque and Gothic/The Game of Kings: Chess in the
Middle Ages, is a 1-credit Honors add-on to AH233, taught by Jennifer Courts:
In the late medieval world, chess was more than game, it was an allegory for
diverse facets of society, including war, politics, and love. All of social
interaction could be temporarily played out over a game of chess, and while
the actual performances were ephemeral, evidence of these lost games survive
in literature as well as in the material playing field: chess pieces and game
boards. This Honors course explores the Islamic origins and varied social
functions of medieval chess through a combination of reading and viewing
primary materials, as well as a critical investigation of modern scholarship on
chess in the later Middle Ages. Incorporated within this course is a student
bus trip to the Cloisters to view the Lewis Chessmen, on loan from the British
Museum for a special limited exhibition. In addition to writing short
responses to articles discussed in class, students will collaborate on producing
their own chess manuscript, an illustrated compendium of the origins and
assorted meanings of the individual chess pieces.
This is a course in leadership anad social interaction--perfect of law students. By the way, one of my friends teaches a course to civil engineers and includes as texts Machiavelli's "The Prince" and Sun Tzu's "The Art of War."
(ljs) Thnx to Kathy Sirico
Interesting Request by Defense In Roger Clemens Trial
As many of you know United States District Court Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial in the first Roger Clemens perjury trial. Judge Walton granted the mistrial after finding prosecutors presented evidence to the jury that he previously ruled inadmissible. A retrial is scheduled for April of 2012.
Now, the Roger Clemens defense team is asking the Court to award attorney's fees incurred during the first trial based upon the prosecutor's conduct which caused the mistrial. At first blush, this appears to be a novel and creative argument. The U.S. Attorneys Office disagrees, arguing that Clemens is not entitled to attorney's fees because of the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The government further argues that even if sovereign immunity did not apply, Clemens would be required to show that prosecutors engaged in "sanctionable misconduct" which the Judge, in allowing a retrial has already decided they did not.
From a practioners standpoint what's noteworthy about the defense tactic is how it is clearly designed for no other purpose than to annoy prosecutors and attempt to stick it to the government. In the 2006 season Clemens pitched for the Houston Astros for three months and made a little over 12 million dollars. In the 2007 season he decided to pitch halfway through the season and signed a contract with the New York Yankees that paid him a total of 18.5 million dollars. It is estimated by no less a source than celebritynetworth.com that Roger Clemens' net worth is around 60 million dollars. While it's true that we don't have any idea what Clemens living expenses are, it's probably a safe bet that he can use some of his 60 million to pay his lawyers. Even if the government is made to pay, Clemens still has to go on trial. Getting reimbursed by the Justice Department when your worth 60 million dollars seems far less important than going to jail.
For a more through discussion of the legal issues see,
Persuasive Public Speaking – Practice and Feedback
This post from the Lawyerist.com provides some tips to help law students and lawyers with their public speaking skills.
"If you find it hard to find the time to practice your speeches before you give them, you’re not alone. A study found that attorneys tend to overestimate their performance in trials and the more experienced the attorney, the more the over-estimation....
No Help From Law School
The biggest reason for the study’s findings is that attorneys simply aren’t trained speakers. Yes, we get paid to speak and persuade, but the vast majority of attorneys pick it up on-the-job. For some strange reason, the American Bar Association requires that law students only learn how to write like lawyers. There is no similar requirement to learn how to speak, no comprehensive training on the tools and techniques available to advocates to capitalize on face-to-face opportunities."
The post suggests that the solution is practicing a speech or argument and getting feedback from others. There are many opportunities for law students to receive training in and practice oral advocacy. Public speaking is important for all law students, not just the ones who want to be litigators. Law students should take advantage of these opportunities to build their speaking skills.
New Legal Education Blog
There is a new blog at the National Law Journal site on reforming legal education entitled Law School Review. Bloggers include Brian Tamanaha, Erwin Chemerinsky, John F. O'Brien, Kyle McEntee, Lucille Jewel, Michael A. Olivas, and William Henderson. There are already a number of provocative posts on reforming legal education. For example William Henderson opens the first post by saying,
"I love lawyers, law students, and my colleagues in the legal academy. I participated in this forum because I thought it would be an effective way to protect the objects of my affection. My goal was to embolden my colleagues, within the context of faculty meetings or other forums of faculty governance, to squarely address structural change and hard choices affecting their institutions. And if these issues have already been raised (and they have at dozens of schools), to more vigorously push for a plan of action until the school is safely out of danger."
I look forward to what these insightful scholars have to say about reforming legal education.
hat tip: Sarah Ricks
November 8, 2011
Yet another major benchslap from the 7th Circuit for poor brief writing
Remember this one? The Seventh Circuit just benchslapped another attorney for filing a "wretched" brief that "massacred" his client's claim. The case, Cathleen R. Sambrano v. Ray Mabus, No. 10-3430, slip op. (7th Cir. Nov. 8, 2011), is an employment discrimination matter brought by a former employee of the Navy. When the plaintiff's lawyer let the case lay dormant for more than a year, the trial court, sua sponte, dismissed the complaint for want of prosecution. In response, plaintiff's counsel filed a motion for relief from judgment that the Seventh Circuit (C.J., Easterbrook) called "preposterous."
The motion asserts that Local Rule 41.1 is unconstitutional but does not contain a legal argument in support of that dubious contention. (Link v. Wabash R.R., 370 U.S. 626, 632–33 (1962), holds that the Constitution permits federal courts to dismiss dormant suits for failure to prosecute.) The district judge denied the motion under Local Rule 5.3 because Sambrano’s lawyer deliberately failed to serve the defendant.
An appeal followed including a brief that Judge Easterbrook called "almost unintelligible."
Here is the brief’s entire summary of argument:
1) Property interest in employment.
2) Due process of law.
3) Motion for judgment on the pleadings under FRCP Rule 12c.
That isn’t a summary of argument or even the conclusion of an argument. The “argument” section of the brief, which runs one and a half pages, is little better; it contains a few platitudes but does not attempt to show how the district judge erred. And here’s the brief’s statement of the standard of review: “The constitutionality or propriety of the District Court’s Local Rule 41.1 insofar as it relates to appellant’s right to due process under the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” That might be an effort to frame an issue for appellate review, but it has nothing to do with the standard of review.
But the court was just getting warmed up:
The remainder of the brief is similarly wretched. For example, the statement of appellate jurisdiction is incoherent. It invokes Circuit Rule 28(a)(3)(ii), which is not a source of appellate jurisdiction, and the Cohen collateral-order doctrine, even though the district court entered a final decision ending the suit. Counsel also violated Circuit Rules 30(a) and (d). Rule 30(a) requires the appellant to include, “bound with the main brief, an appendix containing the judgment or order under review and any opinion, memorandum of decision” or other equivalent statement of reasons.
This appeal is frivolous. It bypasses the only possible argument (that the district judge abused his discretion by dismissing the suit without first warning Joaquin about the risks of procrastination) while advancing an argument with no prospect of success (that Local Rule 41.1 is unconstitutional, a contention unsupported by argument or any attempt to address Link).
. . . .
We have no idea whether Sambrano had a good claim against the Navy—but we do know that, if she had, Joaquin massacred it.
His conduct in this case implies that Joaquin is not competent to protect the interests of litigants in the federal courts.
The court ordered plaintiff's counsel to show cause why he should not be subject to monetary sanctions as well as why he should not be "censured, suspended, or disbarred on account of his apparent inability to practice competently and diligently in the federal courts."
Hat tip to Chris Wren.
A guide to Twitter for law students
I still don't get it but maybe you'll find more use for Twitter than me. From a Girl's Guide to Law School:
Twitter is valuable for law students for several reasons:
- It’s an amazing way to meet people
- It allows you to (very rapidly) build a reputation as an “expert” in your specific niche
- It exposes you to new and useful ideas, carefully curated by someone who knows more than you do
- It gives you an instant “gut check” about what you truly find interesting
- It allows you to surround yourself with helpful, supportive people, who are doing what you want to eventually do
- It’s fun!
Click here to read a detailed explanation of each point.
Hat tip to ATL.
The best law schools for externships
A revised ranking list from National Jurist Magazine:
We published a list of the top schools for externship opportunities in our Fall issue of preLaw magazine and the October issue of National Jurist. We used the ratio of field placements to enrollment to rank the top 20 schools — with University of St. Thomas taking top honors. But we errored in that in the chart we listed it as full-time enrollment. While the data was total enrollment, we made the identification error because we had internally been debating whether to use full-time or total enrollment.
The difference, of course, are part-time students who presumably are working full-time and don't have the opportunity to take on an externship. So, we went back and looked at the numbers using full-time enrollment only. There is no change in the top four, and 19 of the 20 schools are still in the top 20. But Thomas Jefferson rises from 15 to 5 on the chart, and University of Denver rises from 12 to 6. Santa Clara University, another school with a significant part-time enrollment, also rises — from 16 to 8.
FT Enroll Rank
Total Enroll Rank
Law School 2011 FT Enroll 2011 positions
2010 & 2011 avg %
1 1 University of St. Thomas 475 609 131.8% 2 2 Northeastern University 629 483 81.8 3 3 University of Utah 402 278 62.2 4 4 Brigham Young University 443 252 50.2 5 15 Thomas Jefferson 687 368 44.8 6 12 University of Denver 768 324 44.3 7 5 Brooklyn Law School 1293 713 44.1 8 16 Santa Clara University 749 382 41.1 9 7 Arizona State 614 248 40.5 10 6 Earle Mack School of Law 440 222 40.3 11 8 Indiana Univ. - Bloomington 646 258 37.4 12 9 Appalachian School of Law 313 112 36.9 13 20 Southwestern University 741 267 36.5 14 18 University Nevada Las Vegas 347 125 36.3 15 10 University of Illinois 640 257 36.2 16 11 University of Colorado 546 199 34.9 17 13 University of Cincinnati 408 143 34.8 18 14 Valparaiso University 531 176 34.8 19 21 University of Maryland 734 230 32.7 20 19 Golden Gate University 616 171 32.6
Hat tip to the Tax Prof Blog:
Teaching with the Socratic Method: Can It Get you Fired?
Here’s the story of a professor who failed to get tenure because he used the Socratic method:
Some students didn't take well to Steven Maranville’s teaching style at Utah Valley University. They complained that in the professor’s “capstone” business course, he asked them questions in class even when they didn't raise their hands. They also didn't like it when he made them work in teams.
Those complaints against him led the university denying him tenure – a decision amounting to firing, according to a lawsuit Maranville filed against the university this month. Maranville, his lawyer and the university aren't talking about the case, although the suit details the dispute.
The article in Inside Higher Ed offers details, relates stories of other professors who used the Socratic method and hurt their careers, and offers some pros and cons of teaching this way. As for me, as a student, I never liked the Socratic method, and as a teacher, I am not particularly skillful in employing it. As a result, I use it sparingly and rely on other methods of teaching, including various interactive methods.
New Google Algorithm May Affect Search Results - Especially Government Websites
If you use Google to start (or supplement) your legal research, you may have to dig deeper in the results in order to find relevant, credible information. It may be more useful to get in the habit of starting with an official government website now that Google has tweaked the search algorithm. According to this article from Government Computer News, Google this week has released a new
“major tweak to its search algorithm, and this time analysts predict that some government agency websites might be among the losers. ….Websites with infrequently updated content are likely to be lower down the list in search results. That may include some federal government websites which, in the past, may have been updated weekly or less frequently.”
I think it is important to help our students understand how to use Google and government websites as part of their legal research toolbox. This change in the Google search algorithm may mean a change in search strategy for lawyers/law students.
November 7, 2011
Legal sector adds 400 jobs in October
Reversing a trend from the prior two months. From the AmLaw Daily:
The legal sector added 400 jobs in October according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics's monthly employment report released Friday. The modest rise was not enough to counter two consecutive months of job losses in an up-and-down year that has left the industry with substantially fewer positions than it had in October 2010, the BLS reported.
According to adjusted figures released Friday by the BLS, the legal sector shed 1,200 jobs in September and 300 in August. The last month during which the industry enjoyed positive job growth was July, when the legal sector added 4,100 jobs.
The national economy grew by 80,000 jobs and the national unemployment rate declined from 9.1 percent to 9 percent in October, according to Friday's BLS report. The New York Times reported that the figures fell below most economists' estimates.
Several Am Law firms have taken steps this year to reduce staff in favor of outsourcing work to professional services companies. Last month, O'Melveny & Myers said it would eliminate about 75 staff positions nationwide and send the staffers' work to legal outsourcer Williams Lea (The Recorder, subscription required). Also last month, The Am Law Daily reported that Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman has decided to relocate some back-office functions to a professional services center in Nashville in a move that may require cutting jobs.