Saturday, December 17, 2011

The New York Times on the use of the Socratic Method in law school

In an opinion piece called Rethinking How the Law is Taught, a follow-up to an editorial on reforming legal education arguing law schools should replace the dominate Socratic-style pedagogy with a more apprentice-like approach to lawyer training, the Times asked several law profs whether they think the Socratic Method should continue to play a major role in legal education.   My opinion?  Yes, it should.  At least in the first year, the Socratic Method continues to be a great (perhaps the best?) way to instill the critical thinking skills needed to be a lawyer.  (And as software replaces lawyers for many routine tasks, those critical thinking skills may be the only way lawyers can continue to compete with the machines).

A legitimate criticism is that questioning one student at a time doesn't engage enough of the other students in the class.  Our assumption that the Socratic questioning of one or two students becomes a vicarious learning experience for everyone else is almost certainly false. The challenge to is to find a way to engage as many students as possible in a colloquy with the professor.

Beyond the first year, yeah, I agree that the Socratic Method produces diminishing returns and students will get much more out of teaching methods that incorporate practicums.  But enough of my yakking, click on the links below to read what the experts say.

Defining What's Socratic by Professor Guy-Uriel Charles at Duke.

Limitations to the Method by Professor Robert D. Dinerstein, Director of the clinics at American.

It Keeps Students Thinking by Professor Amanda C. Pustilnik at Maryland.

A Teaching Style of the Past by Professor Robin West at Georgetown.

Keep the Method, Not the Focus by Professor David B. Wilkins of Harvard.

Enjoy!

(jbl).

December 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Justice Ginsburg: An Inspirational Journey

We all need to learn about the inspirational life journeys of others. These stories help to energize us and our students.  From the Voice of America, here is a story and short video about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who entered the legal profession when it was far more male dominated than it is today and who made it her mission to further the goals of equality for all in life and in the law.

(ljs)

December 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Key To Legal Education Reform: Individual Effort

Paul Campos has a thoughtful post on his blog concerning legal education reform.  One of his correspondents asked,

"What would happen if every law professor (or even, say, 65%?) stepped up to the plate and devoted him or herself seriously to redesigning their courses in a way that would produce excellent professionals? What if those professors were willing to read the literature on professional development and to talk to other experts in the field? What if they were willing to treat professional education as a subject itself worthy of serious study and discussion?

And what if those professors were also willing to talk to one another about how their courses might fit into an integrated professional education? And if they also met with practitioners to discuss ways in which legal education could bridge into training during the early years of law practice? And thought of creative ways to integrate willing practitioners into legal education?"

Campos responded,

"These are good questions. The answers, I think, are that legal education would be improved significantly if something like this were to happen, both because the substantive quality of what goes on in law school classrooms would improve as a result, and because even asking these sorts of questions in a serious way would lead to further questions about how legal education could be restructured to be much more cost-effective and life-enhancing than it currently is."

He added, "Still in the long run trying to bring about reform at the level of individual behavior is a means to a greater end, which is to spur institutional and structural reform."

He concluded:

"What is needed are leaders within the group who will increase the pressure for change both within it and within society in general.  If you are a legal academic, you have the choice to be one of those leaders: to fight for institutional reform, fiscal responsibility, and justice for our students.  If you do so you will, I suspect, find allies in unexpected places.  Perhaps there will be very few of you at your particular institution, at least at first, It's even possible that you'll have to begin more or less alone.  But a leader is by definition and by nature the one who goes first."


I agree.  Only individual law professors can change legal education.  The major changes need to come from individual professors who are willing to make the changes
in their classes.  Individuals need to be brave enough to depart from traditional methods and provide examples for new approaches to law teaching.  Individuals need to produce new materials (like the Carolina Academic Press series: A Context and Practice Casebook) that will help other professors employ the new methods.

There are already a number of individuals who are doing this work.  I am lucky to be among a group that fosters innovation--legal writing professors, who, as I have written elsewhere, produce some of the most innovation legal education research.  We should not be afraid of innovation in our teaching methods.  We owe it to our students.

(Scott Fruehwald)

December 17, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 16, 2011

How to Spot a Liar

According to behavioral psycholgist Marc  Salem, here are the tell-tale signs that a  person is untrustworthy.

1. Inconsistent behavior
“If normally someone is very still, and suddenly they become very animated, or vice versa, that change-up is a red flag,” Salem says. The same goes if a person is speaking smoothly and rapidly, but suddenly their speech becomes more deliberate or clipped. “Shifts from the norm are red flags for deceit,” he adds.

2. A steady gaze
“When people think or contemplate, it’s natural for them to break eye contact and look around,” Salem explains. If a person’s gaze is too constant, they’re either not listening or consciously trying to earn your trust. Both are signs of insincerity.

3. Not enough mouth
Coughing, clearing the throat frequently, or any other gesture of covering the mouth can indicate that a person is trying to hide something, Salem says. The same goes for a shoulders-down, hunched-body pose. That’s a sign of caution, he adds, and indicates a person is not opening himself up completely.

4. A quick smile
A genuine smile changes a person’s whole face, Salem says. Their eyes light up, and their cheeks and eyebrows rise along with the corners of their mouth. That smile also takes a few seconds to fade. A fake smile appears in an instant, and disappears just as quickly.

The story is from MSNBC.com

(ljs)

December 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

An abundance of practice tips for law students and recent grads

Here are a couple of great posts by the blog attorney@work that you may want to pass along to your students or perhaps send to your career services office to supplement their existing "practice tips" database.  The first is called 25 Tips for New Lawyers which you can access in pdf form here.  A few highlights:

  • The answer should never be “No, you can’t!” Try “Yes, let’s figure out how you can.”
  • You are going to have to pay your dues. It may seem the work is beneath you. You may not enjoy it. Others may take credit for it. But to get to the really juicy stuff, you’re going to have to carry someone else’s brief bag.
  • Under-promise and over-deliver. Never the other way around.
  • There’s a difference between “telling” someone something and “communicating” it. In the first case, it left your lips. In the second, it left your lips, entered their mind and was understood. You are responsible for the entire cycle.
  • While people around you may be worried about their hourly rate in relationship to other lawyers in your firm, your clients is worried about it in relationship to the value the work has to them. Try to think like your client. Always.
  • When you complete a matter or a task, ask for feedback. Be clear that you’re not looking for flattery—you want to know how to improve next time.

That post led to a bunch more tips submitted by readers which attorney@work has summarized and published here.   Enjoy!

(jbl).

December 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to spot a narcissistic boss or colleague

Over the years I've read articles suggesting that narcissism runs high among both academics and lawyers.  The belief is that people with above average levels of narcissism tend to be drawn to the kind of careers that fulfill their need to be the center of attention, politics being another example.   If you work in either field, it's a safe bet you're going to encounter the narcissistic personality type at least a few times during your career.

True narcissists are toxic.  They tend to be very controlling, manipulative and vindictive bullies who retaliate against those they feel have slighted them or who threaten their grandiose self-image. The advice I've always seen says that the only effective way to deal with narcissists is to avoid them.  That is hopefully an option in your personal relationships, but what about if you work with, or for, someone who's narcissistic?

The following article from lawjobs.com (via the Texas Lawyer) tells us, first, how to spot the  narcissistic personality and then offers some advice for, if not neutralizing them, at least avoiding their bullying wrath.

Narcissus:  Alive, Well and Practicing Near You.

A cross-section of the narcissist ego will reveal a high level of self-esteem, self-focus and self-importance. Narcissists believe they are more physically attractive and intelligent than anyone else and would much prefer to be admired than liked. Narcissists can become enraged if they are told they are not as beautiful and brilliant as they believe, but they are not affected if told they are jerks.

Narcissism affects males more than females, but male and female narcissists share a keen interest in manipulating and charming the opposite sex. Opposite-sex promiscuity is common among narcissists, because they always are searching for a better deal.

Narcissists get angry when rejected, overreacting to small slights and punishing those who don't support their grandiose image of themselves. They can be entertaining and exciting. Narcissistic tendencies and leadership skills can go hand in hand.

Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder may come across as conceited or snobbish and often immobilize conversation. They belittle or look down on those they perceive as inferior. They also tend to seek others they perceive as equal to their own self-image, insisting on having the "best of" everything in cars, clubs and social circles.

Narcissists' constant need for admiration and praise drive their personal relationships and interactions. They value others according to how well they affirm their unrealistic self-image, and they can manipulate others to gain social influence. People with this disorder usually aren't capable of perceiving the needs or feelings of others.

Narcissistic traits are thought to have been learned from early childhood, usually as a culmination of parental coldness and excessive parental admiration. It is usually a situation where the caregiver gives indiscriminate praise as well as signals of coldness, which cause anxiety and a state of perpetual insecurity.

One of the most common questions from lawyers is whether they should adjust their practices to counteract the opposing counsel who displays narcissistic traits. The best advice I can give as a psychologist is not to engage a narcissist. It's generally a losing battle, because narcissists make things all about themselves.

When a lawyer deals with a narcissist, he or she should remember that a narcissist always communicates with a false sense of empowerment. The lawyer should start by acknowledging that the narcissist has a good point, thereby letting this person feel he or she is in control. It is not wise to get into a power struggle with a narcissist. The lawyer then should tell the narcissist how the lawyer sees things from the narcissist's perspective. Using this method allows the narcissist to feel a false sense of control and power over the other person.

The published data indicates that pro-position narcissism (when the narcissist thinks he does not have a problem) is difficult, if not impossible, to cure. The best way for a lawyer to deal with a narcissist is to understand the characteristics and avoid taking the behavior personally.

You can continue reading here.

(jbl).

December 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Does a Journalist Shield Law Protect Bloggers?

 According to an Oregon court, the answer is no. At least in this case, the blogger was not a journalist and therefore was vulnerable to a defamation suit.

Oregon law provides special legal protections against defamation lawsuits to journalists associated with traditional media outlets. Such publications are immune from defamation suits unless the defamed individual first requests a retraction. Journalists at recognized media outlets are also protected from revealing confidential sources. [Blogger Crystal]Cox argued that she was eligible for protection under both provisions and asked the judge to set aside the verdict.

But Judge Marco Hernandez disagreed. "Although defendant is a self-proclaimed 'investigative blogger' and defines herself as 'media,' the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system," the judge wrote. "Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the [Oregon journalist shield] law."

That result was apparently dictated by the text of the Oregon shield statute, which singles out those specific media technologies for legal protection. But later in the decision, Hernandez considered whether the defamation lawsuit ran afoul of the First Amendment more generally. First Amendment law sets a high threshold for defamation cases against journalists.

But Hernandez once again ruled that Cox was not a journalist. He noted the lack of "(1) any education in journalism; (2) any credentials or proof of any affiliation with any recognized news entity; (3) proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking, or disclosures of conflicts of interest; (4) keeping notes of conversations and interviews conducted; (5) mutual understanding or agreement of confidentiality between the defendant and his/her sources; (6) creation of an independent product rather than assembling writings and postings of others; or (7) contacting 'the other side' to get both sides of a story."

Stories like this encourage us to keep our blogging noses clean. Here is the link.

(ljs)

December 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

SOPA – Students, Educators, and Libraries

This post from Electronic Frontier Foundation gives a good summary of the fallout that could occur if the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is passed.   The law could have a negative impact on educational institutions, students, educators, and libraries. 

"Libraries represent another educational group that could face fallout from SOPA. The Library Copyright Alliance, a group whose members include the American Library Association and two other major library organizations, has written a letter to the House of Representatives raising major issues with the bill."

If you want to speak up like many of your colleagues in academia, the post provides a link to an action toolkit and gives several suggestions on how you can make a difference and try to protect open access for our educational communities.

Hat tip @librarianbyday

(dkh)

December 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Consortium

Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers has partnered with a consortium of law schools committed to innovation in the spirit of the Carnegie Report. Each member of the Consortium makes an annual contribution to the initiative, to support the mission and goals of Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers.  Twenty law schools are currently members of the consortium:  American, CUNY, Cornell, Dayton, Denver, Maurer, Maryland, Miami, UNH, New Mexico, Northeastern, Pitt, Seattle, USC, Southwestern, St. Thomas, Stanford, Suffolk, Vanderbilt, Washington & Lee.

Membership criteria:

To become a consortium member of Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers, a law school must:

  1. Be an ABA-accredited institution.
  2. Demonstrate significant institutional commitment to legal education reform along the lines proposed in the 2007 Carnegie Report, Educating Lawyers. Such commitment may take the form of a strategic plan, curriculum committee plan, or other administrative or faculty directive.
  3. Offer multiple courses that implement the Carnegie approach to legal education and focus on student-centered teaching. While we understand that there are a broad range of innovations, and a broad spectrum of progress in implementing such innovations, we are looking for schools that offer more than a trial advocacy course and a few clinics.
  4. Have responded to our 2011 survey of U.S. and Canadian law schools on the developments in legal education. And,
  5. Provide a short written description (150 – 250 words, to be posted on the website) explaining the school’s commitment to legal education reform and current Carnegie-style curricular offerings.

You can find more info here.

(esf)

December 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hot practice areas for lawyers - an update

Last year, National Jurist Magazine published a list of hot practice areas for lawyers.  Among those making the list were employment/labor, bankruptcy/foreclosure, health care, energy, intellectual property and emerging companies. Click here (or here) to get all the details as of October, 2010.  So which practice areas can expect to see growth in 2012 you may ask? 

Booyah, Jim Cramer! According to our good buddies at National Jurist (via robertdenney.com), healthcare, energy, intellectual property, employment/labor will continue to be "red hot" while  white collar crime, regulatory work, financial services, cyber crime, and even commercial real estate will either be "hot" or "getting hot" in the next 12 months.

Click here to read NJ's summary or click here to get robertdenny.com's full report.

(jbl).

December 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Social science research re "Statutory Construction Problem: What Presents Can Students Give to Teachers?"

In his posting on the statutory construction problem created by an Alabama statute limiting to “de minimis” value the size of gifts to public employees and officials, Lou Sirico quotes a newspaper account noting that most of the questions concern students giving presents to their teachers. Lou closes with this observation: “When I was in grade school, my mother saved empty coffee cans and used them as molds for fruit cakes. I am sure that the teachers were delighted.”

An article in yesterday’s New York Times confirms the likelihood of the teachers’ delight:

     “Our research shows that while gift-givers think they’re being more thoughtful by picking out expensive gifts, the recipients don’t appreciate the hefty price tag,” Dr. [Francis J. Flynn, an organizational psychologist at Stanford University,] said. His experiments have shown that the price of a gift matters more to the giver than to the recipient, and that people like a surprise gift less than cash or something they picked themselves through a gift registry like Amazon’s wish list.
     . . . .
     In one study, when people were asked to recall a birthday gift they’d given, there was a predictable correlation between price and expectation: the more someone spent on a gift, the more appreciation was expected for it. But when people were asked to recall a birthday gift they’d received, price didn’t matter. The recipients of expensive jewelry and gadgets were not significantly more grateful than those who had gotten T-shirts and books.
     This effect was also demonstrated when experimenters asked people to imagine giving or getting a graduation gift. The people who gave an iPod had higher expectations than those who gave a mere CD, but the recipients were equally grateful for either one.
     Why would price matter more to givers than receivers? Dr. Flynn and his Stanford colleague, Gabrielle Adams, attribute it to the “egocentric bias” of givers who focus on their own experience in shopping. When they economize by giving a book, they compare it with the bracelet that they passed up.
     But the recipients have a different frame of reference. They don’t know anything about the bracelet, so they’re not using it for comparison. The salient alternative in their minds may be the possibility of no gift at all, in which case the book looks wonderfully thoughtful.
     Similarly, the recipient usually doesn’t know how much time and effort you put into finding just the right thing, so it doesn’t necessarily strike them as particularly thoughtful. Instead, your idea of the right thing may strike them as just wrong, especially if their frame of reference includes the alternative that you ignored — something on their wish list.

John Tierney, “In Pursuit of the Perfect Gift? It’s a Lot Closer Than You Think,” N.Y. Times, December 13, 2011, p. D3 (New York edition).

(cgw)

December 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Statutory Construction Problem: What Presents Can Students Give to Teachers?

That’s the pressing question in Alabama:

The new law allows Alabama's public officials and employees to accept gifts of "de minimis" value when the gifts are given because of their official position, but it doesn't specify what that nominal value is. This is the first holiday season the law has been in effect, and most of the questions have been about students' gifts to teachers.

At the request of an education group, the commission issued an advisory opinion Dec. 7. The commission said items of nominal value from a student, such as homemade cookies, fruit baskets and coffee mugs, would be permitted. It said hams, turkey, and gift cards with a specific monetary value are not permissible from a single student.

State Senator Bryan Taylor thinks parents need more practical advice and suggests that the State Ethics Commission set a maximum dollar amount. The Commission, however, unanimously agrees that any set number would be arbitrary. Here is the link to the story.

The meaning of “de minimis” pops up in various areas of law and regularly generates disagreements in the close cases. One has to wonder if excessively expensive gifts is much of a problem in most school systems. In any case, teachers should have the common sense to gracefully return gifts that are expensive.

When I was in grade school, my mother saved empty coffee cans and used them as molds for fruit cakes. I am sure that the teachers were delighted. As I think about her efforts, I realize now how extensive they were. I was the oldest of eight children.

(ljs)

December 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Effective imagery

I don’t have a grand unified theory of useful verbal imagery, but I like to think I can recognize and appreciate when a writer offers up a telling image. Akin to the notion that writers can improve their work by reading the work of good writers, I think finding good examples of verbal images can improve a the ablility of a writer to develop original imagery that makes new connections between seemingly unrelated things or events and, as a result, imparts understanding.

In today’s print edition of the New York Times, science reporter Dennis Overbye offers, I think, a fine example. Overbye reports on a long-awaited announcement (long-awaited by physicists, anyway, and by those more than casually interested in the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything) about developments in physicists’ search for the elusive Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle.” He summarizes the Standard Model of matter, particles, and forces in which the as-yet-undiscovered Higgs boson plays a key role in physicists’ theory of how particles gain mass (“heft,” in Overbye’s word) and lead to the physical world we inhabit. If the Higgs boson exists, then something called the Higgs field exists. Physicists posit that particles acquire their mass as they pass through this field.

To explain the esoteric in understandable terms, Overbye presents the images that link seemingly unrelated things (emphasis added):

     The Higgs boson is the cornerstone and the last missing part of the so-called Standard Model, a suite of equations that has held sway as the law of the cosmos for the last 35 years and describes all of particle physics. Physicists have been eager to finish the edifice, rule the Higgs either in or out and then use that information to form deeper theories that could explain, for example, why the universe is made of matter and not antimatter, or what constitutes the dark matter and dark energy that rule the larger universe.
     The particle is named for the University of Edinburgh physicist Peter Higgs, . . . who suggested that a sort of cosmic molasses pervading space is what gives particles their heft. Particles trying to wade through it gather mass the way a bill moving though Congress gains riders and amendments, becoming more and more ponderous. It was Dr. Higgs who pointed out that this cosmic molasses, normally invisible and, of course, odorless, would have its own quantum particle, and so the branding rights went to him.

Of course, all of this invites the question (one of countless) of how the “heft” attaches to the visiting particles. (The image I conjure is pollen accreting on a bee’s knees.) But having read a few physicists’ books explaining for nonphysicists things like the Standard Model, multiple universes, and string theory, I found Overbye’s images — molasses and legislation — quite effective for explaining to nonexperts the mechanism associated with the Higgs boson and the Higgs field.

Dennis Overbye, “Data Hints at Elusive Particle, but the Wait Continues,” N.Y. Times, December 14, 2011, p. A12 (national edition).

Bonus link (humor):
Lewis Grossberger, “Tracking the Elusive Quark,” The New Yorker, May 10, 1976 [paywall for nonsubscribers].

(cgw)

December 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Learning (and Networking) Via Twitter – How to Find Useful “Follows”

This post on LegalProductivity.com provides some good suggestions for finding lawyers and legal professionals to follow on Twitter.   I am amazed at how Twitter has become an invaluable networking and current awareness tool for my work in legal education.  It is apparent that it is a useful tool for practitioners (and our soon-to-be practitioners).

The following tools and lists are recommended in the Legal Productivity post:

"Tools
- Wefollow – Enter a tag and find a relevant list of Twitter users. Lawyer returns a list of more than 1,800 users, and law students, 400+. Librarian turns up over 1,000.
- Twellow – Another Twitter directory, Twellow is divided into categories and subcategories. The Law subcategory has almost 79,000 users.
- Listorious – Many of us create lists of the people and accounts that we value. Listorious catalogs these lists covering over 2 million of the top Twitter users.
Lists
- JD Supra – Though somewhat dated, this list of over 700 lawyers and legal professionals to follow is golden.
- LexTweet – Follow legal community members who use Twitter to discuss the law and much more, proclaims this excellent curated list over at Kevin O’keefe’s LexBlog site.
- Legal Birds – This terrific directory from Justia is sorted by categories and practice area.

The post also recommends the following practices:

“Admire someone?  Follow who they follow…. and review and selectively follow back your new followers.”

Hat tip @AALL
Happy Tweeting (and following)!

(dkh)

December 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Teaching Law: A Reply to Stanley Fish

Stanley Fish has a piece in the New York Times in which he defends the graduate school approach to legal education.  He writes:

"In the course of the semester my students have learned how to read religion clause cases against the background of long-standing debates in philosophy and theology about the relationship between religious imperatives and the obligations of democratic citizenship. They have become adept at recognizing the arguments behind the arguments the justices are making explicitly. They can see how a case ostensibly about vouchers or school prayer or Christmas trees on courthouse steps is really about whether principle or history should inform a court’s decisions."

He continues:

"The question asked by an article and an editorial published recently in this newspaper is whether what my students have learned will be of any help to them when they enter practice. At first glance the answer seems to be “no,” . . . .  One can, however, make the case that the practice of law is more than a technical/strategic exercise in which doctrines, precedents, rules and tests are marshaled in the service of a client’s cause. The marshaling takes place within an enterprise that is purposive. That is, law is more than an aggregation of discrete tactics and procedures; it is an enterprise informed by a vision of how the state can and cannot employ the legalized violence of which it is the sole proprietor. That vision will come into view in the wake of a set of inquiries."

He concludes:

"The law is surely a practice but it is also a subject, and if it ceases to be a subject — ceases to be an object of analysis in classrooms and in law reviews — its practice will be diminished."

I so wish I could agree with Professor Fish.  It is so much fun to teach law as philosophy or to sit in the classroom as a student and discuss jurisprudential questions free from real world considerations.  Teaching jurisprudence was probably the most fun I had in my teaching career.

Law school, however, is not a philosophical undertaking like philosophy, musicology, or literature.  It is a profession that students learn to help clients and earn a living.  We should not say to our students that we are going to teach you the deep meaning of law and you can learn the practicalities on your own.  Law students don't spend tens of thousands of dollars or more to learn philosophy.  Clients do not pay lawyers  to consider the jurisprudence of their divorce or their will.

There is room in law schools for courses like Professor Fish teaches.  I do not mean to ban jurisprudence and theory completely from the classroom.  However, the majority of the law school education needs to be in practicalities.  By this, I am not saying that we should teach students to find the court house, where to file corporate documents, or how to fill out forms.  What I am asking is why can't we teach doctrine and skills together.  Students can learn doctrine by writing contracts clauses in contracts.  Students can learn doctrine by writing wills.  Students can learn doctrine by applying law to facts in problem solving exercises.  Why can't we teach students how to do a merger?

Lawyers practice in the real world, not in an ivory tower.  Law schools must provide their graduates with an education for that world.

(esf)

P.S. How many attorneys have cases that involve the religion clauses in their practices?   

December 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Three dots or four? Tips for correctly using ellipsis

This week, the lingua franca column from the Chronicle of Higher Ed website takes on the proper use of ellipsis in connection with quotations. First, the author provides a sample passage, below, and then offers examples of using ellipsis to quote excerpts in a sentence. 

Here's our guinea pig:

‘Hold up!’ said an elderly rabbit at the gap. ‘Sixpence for the privilege of passing by the private road!’ He was bowled over in an instant by the impatient and contemptuous Mole, who trotted along the side of the hedge chaffing the other rabbits as they peeped hurriedly from their holes to see what the row was about. ‘Onion-sauce! Onion-sauce!’ he remarked jeeringly, and was gone before they could think of a thoroughly satisfactory reply. Then they all started grumbling at each other. ‘How STUPID you are! Why didn’t you tell him- – - -’ ‘Well, why didn’t YOU say- – - -’ ‘You might have reminded him- – - -’ and so on, in the usual way; but, of course, it was then much too late, as is always the case.

And now some helpful "how-to" advice:

In the most simple instance of cutting words from the original passage, no punctuation accompanies the ellipsis. Three dots do the trick:

—“He was bowled over . . . by the impatient and contemptuous Mole.”

— “But . . . it was then much too late.”

This simple form may be used even if whole sentences are omitted, as long as the quotation is a readable (grammatical) chunk on its own:

—“The impatient and contemptuous Mole . . . was gone before they could think of a thoroughly satisfactory reply.”

Often, however, other punctuation is required, especially when the quotation is taken from more than one sentence:

— “Then they all started grumbling at each other. . . . But of course, it was then much too late.”

In the example just above, the period before the ellipsis dots marks the end of a sentence in the quote, whether or not the original sentence ended at that point. The word But is capped to signal a new sentence (grammatically speaking), even though in the original it appears midsentence, lowercased. Such changes help smooth the reading of the truncated version; to this end, there is some flexibility in punctuating bits of quoted text. We could have punctuated the last quotation this way, instead:

—“Then they all started grumbling at each other . . . ; but of course, it was then much too late.”

This time the dot after other is not a period; it’s the first dot of the ellipsis. Thus the space before it. The semicolon is positioned as it was in the original. Commas, exclamation marks, question marks, and colons work the same way as the semicolon, placed before the ellipsis and closed up to the word if they appeared that way in the original, or placed after the ellipsis if not:

—“The rabbit said, ‘Hold up! . . . Sixpence for the privilege of passing . . . !’ He was bowled over in an instant.”

You want more?  Keep reading by clicking here.

(jbl).

December 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

More sobering news about the economics of a legal education

Someone's analyzed how all that student loan debt affects a grad's ability to later buy a home, the supposed symbol of the American dream. From today's National Law Journal, an article entitled Law school, a ticket to economic security? Better run the numbers.

You've graduated from law school. You've landed a job as an attorney. Now you want to buy a house and cement your status in the professional class.

But can you afford it? Probably not — unless you can count on earning three times your annual tuition, assuming you're borrowing the money.

That's according to University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law Dean Jim Chen. In an academic paper, "A Degree of Practical Wisdom: The Ratio of Educational Debt to Income as a Basic Measurement of Law School Graduate's Economic Viability," Chen uses qualification for a home loan while paying off student debt as a measure of whether a legal education makes economic sense.

. . . . .

Using the debt standards set by mortgage providers as guidelines, Chen concluded that law graduates need to earn three times their law school tuition annually to enjoy what he termed "adequate" financial viability. That assumes they borrow only the amount of their law school tuition and lack additional debt — a conservative assumption, Chen said.

Thus, graduates of relatively low-cost schools charging annual tuition of $16,000 would need to earn $48,000; graduates of schools charging $32,000 would need to earn $96,000; and graduates of schools charging $48,000 would need to earn $144,000.

To maintain a "good" level of financial viability — meaning they could easily secure loans and would be very financially secure — graduates must earn six times their annual tuition, Chen calculates. That means graduates of $16,000-a-year schools would need to earn $96,000; graduates of $32,000 schools would need to earn $192,000; and graduates of $48,000 schools would need to earn $288,000.

To maintain "marginal" financial viability, graduates of $16,000-a-year schools would need to earn at least $32,000; graduates of $32,000 schools would need to earn $64,000; and graduates of $48,000 schools would need to earn $96,000.

According to the National Association of Law Placement, new law graduates earn, on average, $68,500. That means many would be unable to purchase a home and repay their loans, according to Chen's analysis. Lenders generally frown on educational debt that represents more than 8 percent to 12 percent of the borrower's monthly gross income, he wrote.

You can continue reading here.

(jbl).

 

December 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Michele Bachmann’s Creative Rhetoric

When I watched the latest Republican presidential debate a few days ago, I hoped to hear something new, but doubted that I would. In the end, I heard mostly same old, same old. However, Michele Bachmann’s  rhetorical contribution did amuse me. 

In arguing that she was distinctively different from the other candidates, she argued that front runners Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney were boringly interchangeable. She coined the name “Newt Romney,” and listed all the positions that “Newt Romney” had taken. Very clever. Representative Bachmann and her speech writers have given us a “current events” example that we can use in encouraging our students to enliven their writing.

(ljs)

 

December 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Last Minute Studying – Resource Suggestions from Law Students

Now that there is probably not enough time to read that Hornbook before your exam tomorrow morning, here are some suggestions for study aid resources – overheard recommendations from the library services desk:

CALI Lessons   (ask your librarian for your school authorization code)
Old Bar Exams
Bar Exam Study Guides, Podcasts, and Videos (Emanuel’s & BarBri)
Jury Instruction Guides – “great for evidence” and available on Westlaw & LexisNexis
Q & A Series (LexisNexis – download from iTunes) & Examples & Explanations (Wolters Kluwer)

I would also recommend that students check with their professors to see if they have put old exams on reserve in the library (or online).

Good luck on final exams!

(dkh)

December 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, December 12, 2011

A New Textbook Series: A Bridge to Practice

I am happy to announce that West is beginning a new series of books entitled Simulation Series: A Bridge to Practice.  "The books will supplement traditional casebooks in courses across the curriculum, and are designed to let students see how abstract legal rules work in practice."  The first book will be Criminal Procedure Simulations by series editor Dr. Mike Vitello.

From the Introduction:

"One way in which legal educators can respond to the demand for graduates who can add value to their employers sooner rather than later is by having them develop practical skills from the beginning of their legal careers. Rather than training students in abstract concepts, for example, those of us in the academy should teach our students how to apply those concepts in realistic settings.

That is the purpose of this and similar books in West’s Simulation Series. This book is designed for students enrolled in a Criminal Procedure course. This book consists of nine simulations, covering a wide array of issues arising under the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and Sixth Amendment taught in the basic Criminal Procedure course. Today, given the wealth of case law in those areas, most Criminal Procedure professors have limited their coverage to the issues arising during police investigation of crimes. I describe the simulations and different approaches that professors may take in using this material below."

I look forward to seeing the books in this new series as they are published.

(esf) (hat tip Mary-Beth Moylan)

December 12, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)