February 8, 2011
Force a Secure Connection in your Browser
These days, hackers are finding it easier and easier to prey upon web surfers who access websites through traditional, insecure means. You know what I mean here, right? A website has no special security when it has the typical "http://" in front of the address. If you're visiting a site that has confidential or private information, you want to make sure the address starts with "https://" - which means the connection is encrypted. Your browser will also show a padlock or change the color of the address bar to tell you that security is enabled.
More and more websites actually have HTTPS-enabled sites, to protect their visitors - however, they don't offer these sites by default, because typically they are slower to load, and can sometimes degrade the viewer experience. But if you want to "force" a secure connection to load when you visit those sites, there's now a way to do that. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has developed an extension for the Firefox browser called HTTPS Everywhere, which automatically enables a secure connection for the sites that have them. Some of the sites included in this extension are:
- New York Times
- Washington Post
....and more. Unfortunately, the extension only works for Firefox - when do we get versions for Internet Explorer and Chrome, EFF?
February 7, 2011
Job hunting advice for new lawyers
There's nothing particularly earth-shattering here - just your basic advice about looking for growth areas of law practice, being resourceful and showing a willingness to volunteer when necessary. But perhaps some of your students who are looking for work, or a recent grad you know, may still appreciate receiving this link. It's an advice column that ran in the New York Law Journal (subscription required) and is now available via lawjobs.com.
An interview with Washington & Lee Director of Admissions about why the school went transparent on employment data
We reported last week on the unprecedented move by Washington & Lee U. School of Law to release seventeen pages of employment data to prospective students illustrating the difficulty of the present job market. Here's an excerpt from an interview bewteen the W & L Director of Admissions and the Vault:
[The Vault]: What are the most important points that prospective students and current students should glean from this employment data?
[Director of Admissions]: We realize that this is a very dense assemblage of information, and it takes a while to unpack. But there are a few important points I hope all our students will glean from these materials:
1) The job search is changing. It is taking longer for law students to find jobs. The search requires more individual initiative than it did even a few years ago. Students are doing more to just get a foot in the door. This is an era of networking, and finding your first job will most likely require significant individual initiative. Relationships have always mattered in the legal world, but they are perhaps more important than ever. If you are coming to law school now, you have to be willing to hustle.
2) You may not have a job at graduation. This is tough, but it’s the truth. While we are fortunate to still have graduates who have great jobs when they graduate, they are fewer in number than they were a few years ago. With our students, we are increasingly finding it may take them six to nine months after graduation to find a job.
3) Times are tough, but we’re here to help. We feel W&L provides a more personal approach to law school, and we take a great deal of pride in the support we offer our students. This ethic absolutely applies to the wealth of resources provided by our Office of Career Planning.
4) You absolutely must be sure that law school is the right path for you well before you arrive in Lexington. It’s just too hard out there. Law school is not a default or a universal-educational experience. It’s the first step in a long, rewarding, but absolutely challenging career. Choosing whether or not it is for you requires thoughtful consideration.
You can read the rest of the interview here.
Hat tip to Above the Law.
New "skills" scholarship: "Preaching what they don't practice: why law faculties' preoccupation with impractical scholarship and devaluation on practical competencies obstruct reform in the legal academy"
This article is by Professor Brent E. Newton and is available at 62 S.C. L. Rev. 105 (2010). From the introduction:
We are at a critical juncture in the history of American legal education. Recent years have seen significant growth in the number of law schools, faculty members, and law students. Currently 200 accredited law schools exist in the United States with more than 10,000 full-time faculty and over 140,000 matriculating law students seeking J.D. degrees - the vast majority of whom will join the more than one million practicing attorneys in the United States. On the surface, these numbers suggest that the legal profession is thriving and that law schools are doing their jobs well. And the recent appointment of Elena Kagan, a former law professor and dean, first as Solicitor General of the United States and subsequently as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, might cause a casual observer to believe that the legal academy and the legal profession are working closely in step. But, as I discuss below, that is certainly not the case. The academy - both in terms of its preparation of law students to enter the profession and in the type of scholarship its professoriate is producing - has lost its practical moorings.
As discussed in Part I below, in response to years of complaints that American law schools have failed to prepare students to practice law, several prominent and respected authorities on legal education, including the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, recently have proposed significant curricular and pedagogical changes in order to bring American legal education into the twenty-first century - indeed, some would say simply into the twentieth century. The proposed reforms primarily call for more real-world and skills training and more effective teaching practices.
In this Article, I will not attempt to add substantially to such well-reasoned and constructive criticisms, with which I fully concur. Rather, as set forth in Parts II and III below, my thesis is that it will not be possible to implement such proposed curricular and pedagogical reforms if law schools continue their trend of primarily hiring and promoting tenure-track faculty members whose chief mission is to produce theoretical, increasingly interdisciplinary scholarship for law reviews rather than prepare students to practice law. Such "impractical scholars," because they have little or no experience in the legal profession and further because they have been hired primarily to write law review articles rather than to teach, lack the skill set necessary to teach students how to become competent, ethical practitioners. Indeed, law school faculties - excluding clinicians, legal research and writing (LRW) faculty, and adjunct professors - increasingly resemble graduate school faculties at major research universities, whose primary mission is to produce academic scholarship and whose secondary educational mission is to produce more academic professors. Especially at law schools in the upper echelons of the U.S. News & World Report (USNWR) rankings, the core of the faculties seems indifferent or even hostile to the concept of a law school as a professional school with the primary mission of producing competent practitioners. Attempts by law schools to compensate for the decreasing number of tenure-track professors with practical backgrounds or inclinations by allocating practical teaching to a discrete, small pool of clinicians and LRW instructors and also by outsourcing such teaching to adjunct professors have not achieved and will not achieve a healthy balance within modern law faculties. Rather, such practical components of the faculty possess a separate and unequal status in the vast majority of American law schools. The gulf between the main faculty and these second and third class members of the legal academy in terms of practical experience and inclination is widening at the very time when it needs to be shrinking.
The recent economic recession, which did not spare the legal profession, has made the complaints about American law schools' failure to prepare law students to enter the legal profession even more compelling; law firms no longer can afford to hire entry-level attorneys who lack the basic skills required to practice law effectively. In the coming years, hoards of ill-prepared law school graduates with huge debts will be realizing little or no return on their massive law school investments. In Part IV below, I propose significant changes in both faculty composition and law reviews aimed at enabling law schools to achieve the worthy goals of reformists such as the Carnegie Foundation.
Apple considers adding a "pen" to the iPad to make it a better note taking device for students
To make tablet computers more useful to students, a pen should be added that allows users to draw and take notes by hand according to Bill Gates, among others. And according to this story in the New York Times, Apple is considering doing just that for the iPad:
So why would Apple add a stylus to an already successful iPad? According to a person who works at Apple on the iPad and is not allowed to speak publicly about the company’s coming products, the reason to add the stylus is to reach a wider number of children in school. 'It’s one of the barriers for school kids and college students to purchase an iPad where they want the ability to take notes by hand and draw in class,' the individual said.
You can read more here.
Hat tip to Inside Higher Ed.
Yes,There Are Limits on Lawyer Advertising
The Fifth Circuit has upheld some Louisiana disciplinary rules restricting lawyer advertising and struck down others as violations of the First Amendment. Here are the highlights from U.S. Law Week online:
Louisiana's newly adopted disciplinary rules that prohibit lawyers from referring to their past results or depicting a judge or jury in their advertisements are unconstitutional, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit declared Jan. 31 (Public Citizen Inc. v. Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board, 5th Cir., No. 09-30925, 1/31/11).
In an opinion by Judge Edith Brown Clement, the court also struck down the state's rule that saddled lawyers with extensive disclaimer requirements in marketing their services.
But three other rules survived First Amendment tests. The court upheld lawyer conduct standards that prohibit promises of results or using nicknames or mottos that imply an ability to obtain results, and that mandate a disclaimer when lawyers use actors or reenactments in their ads.
Here is the full summary.
I wonder which nicknames are permitted and which are forbidden. That distinction could be an interesting one.
The Psychic Lawyer
Here’s an interdisciplinary practice. Check out The Psychic Lawyer.
Tiger Moms (& Dads): Tiger Teaching?
By now, we have all read about Professor Amy Chua and her Tiger Mom approach to raising children. The question arises: How should we conduct ourselves with our students? Should we take more of the Tiger Parent approach or a much softer approach? Personally, I heavily tend toward the paternalistic, avuncular end of the spectrum.
Here is another answer that we can apply to both parenting and teaching: “Instead of living through our children, I’m realizing that the question is less, “How do I help my kids succeed?” but instead, “Am I modeling the kind of person that I want my children to be?” This comes from “The Tiger Mother In Us” by Helen Lee on the Mommy Revolution, a religiously oriented blog.
February 6, 2011
The first law review published in e-book form - will it save declining circulation?
The circulation figures for law reviews have been dropping steadily for years (here and here). Some would suggest the numbers are plummeting. Maybe this will help - the Stanford Law Review is now being published as an e-book. It's compatible with Kindle, Nook, iPad and other, similar devices. The Stanford Law Review will continue to be available in hardcopy format too. You can read more about this story at the Legal Profession Blog.
E-Gadgets and work-life balance
Last week SCOTUS Justice Sotomayor told a group of U. Chicago law students that achieving a good work-life balance means occasionally unplugging and "chilling" with friends. This article from today's New York Times furthers that message by describing the ways in which mobile e-devices have affected the work-life balance. The good news is that these devices give us more flexibility than ever before by allowing us to do work anytime, anyplace. Unfortunately, that's the bad news too.
John Lilly, the former chief executive of Mozilla, maker of the Firefox browser, recently pondered publicly what it meant to be so connected and decided to initiate a temporary reprieve.
Mr. Lilly is by choice and necessity a power user of multiple gadgets and social media. As he prepared for his new role as a venture partner at Greylock Partners, the Silicon Valley investment firm, he announced on his blog that he was taking time 'to be a little more generative, to think bigger, more original thoughts.'
. . . .
Since he has slowed down, he says, 'I probably feel less twitchy — I don’t feel the need to check e-mail and Twitter feeds every five minutes.'
'But I don’t like going days without it,' he adds. 'I like being in touch with my friends, seeing what they are doing. I think of Twitter as my peripheral vision.'
The good news about technology, he says, is you can be anywhere and still work. The bad news, he says, is that 'anywhere you are, you have to work.'
Too much connectivity can damage the quality of one’s work, says Robert Sutton, author of “Good Boss, Bad Boss” and a professor at Stanford. Because of devices, he says, “nobody seems to actually pay full attention; everybody is doing a worse job because they are doing more things.”
Mobile devices and social media, he says, 'make us a little more oblivious, a little more incompetent.' Just recall those pilots who overshot their destination two years ago because they were using computers, he adds.
You can read the rest here.
Starting Your Own Practice
The January 2011 issue of the ABA Journal offers advice to lawyers who are planning to go solo. In “Starting Up,” attorney Susan A. Berson emphasizes good financial planning. Here is her advice. In the article, she elaborates.
1. Keep your overhead low.
2. Set your rates to be competitive with other legal providers.
3. Market yourself.
4. Keep your recordkeeping organized—taxes, cash-flow statements, balance sheets.
5. Save up money before you embark.
I asked my wife Patti for her suggestions. She went solo about 10 years ago and has made a success out of it. www.patriciabrennan.com Here is her advice:
Join your local bar association and become involved not only in the Young Lawyers Section, but also in sections relating to your practice areas. These could include the family law, probate, environmental and criminal law sections. It is a great way to meet other lawyers. The sections may offer seminars at much lower cost than the state CLE programs.
Failed Constitutional Metaphors
Shameless Plug Department: Louis J. Sirico, Jr., “Failed Constitutional Metaphors: The Wall of Separation and the Penumbra”, 45 University of Richmond Law Review 459 (2011). Here’s the abstract:
Metaphors do more than explain the meaning of statutes and constitutional provisions. They also create their meaning. Metaphors, however, have their drawbacks. They do not yield precise legal tests. In the words of Justice Cardozo, "A metaphor, however, is, to say the least, a shifting test whereby to measure degrees of guilt that mean the difference between life and death." As he further observed, "Metaphors in law are to be narrowly watched, for though starting as devices to liberate thought, they end often by enslaving it."
Because metaphors have inherent limitations, they can fail. This Article is about two metaphors that have failed: the wall that allegedly separates church and state and the penumbra that justifies the constitutional right of privacy. The first metaphor defines the Establishment Clause in a debatable way that does not always comport with judicial decisions. The second justifies a doctrine with questionable imagery that weakens its force and restrains its reach. The Article employs a historical lens to examine these metaphors and to ask why they have enjoyed such staying power.