Saturday, January 7, 2012
A posting on Plaintiff Trial Lawyer Tips (Dec.23) answers yes; a trial is a morality play in which the plaintiff should cast the defendant as the villain. Here is a summary:
- Sequencing” means starting with defendant first, let jurors concentrate on that story, making up their own reasons and forming their own ideas about this person before talking about the plaintiff.
- Jurors develop stories about what happened and look for evidence support their version of the story.
- Plaintiffs have complete control over the jury’s first impression of the case since they go first in opening statement and that impression should be of the “evil” defendant.
- Consider putting the defendant on the stand first and cast the defendant as the villain.
Friday, January 6, 2012
Technology abounds today’s law students. Laptops, iPods, iPads, and BlackBerrys are just a few of the newly developed modes of communication, note-taking, and music-storing devices that creep into our vocabulary – and students’ backpacks. Given the competitive nature of law school, students understandably bring laptops to class hoping to maximize their performance. Unfortunately for all involved, students use their laptops beyond the task of note-taking. The distractions that present themselves in class have led law professors to complain on various fora about the frequency of laptop use in the classroom. Some posit that students’ inappropriate use of laptops in the classroom has exceeded acceptable limits.
As a result, some law professors have banned laptop use in their classes, while others have allowed laptop use with restraint. Research reveals that laptops are beneficial for those whose learning style complements their use; laptop use may also slightly benefit all students, regardless of learning style. Because laptops appeal to both tactual- and visual-oriented learners and may additionally benefit the whole class regardless of learning-style preferences, I advocate a moderate position: Professors should permit laptops in the classroom, but subject to controls that can channel benefits and minimize distractions. Particularly for a skills class, such as Legal Research and Writing, it would be crippling to ban laptops. For casebook courses, some students, if not all, would benefit from continued use of laptops – within limits.
Several news outlets are covering the AALS conference in Washington, D.C. this week to report on what's being discussed during the largest, nationwide annual gathering of law profs concerning the "law school crisis." Here's a sampling.
From the Chronicle of Higher Ed Legal Educators Grapple With How to Meet a Changing Profession's Needs
From Inside Higher Ed Crisis of Opportunity?
Also from Inside Higher Ed The Elephant in the Room at AALS: The Law School Crisis.
From Thomson Reuters Association of American Law Schools kicks off annual conference.
From the New York Law Journal:
New York Law School and the New York Women's Bar Association last month announced the relaunch of the NYWBA Matrimonial Pro Bono Law Project. The program recruits matrimonial attorneys with a minimum of five years of experience to volunteer 25 hours a year to represent pro se litigants in contested matrimonial cases. More than 90 attorneys have signed up to assist in financial, child support, maintenance and equitable distribution issues.
The Diane Abbey Law Center for Children and Families at New York Law School, which provides legal assistance to families, will administer the program. Second-year law student Jessica Badt was selected to receive a $5,000 grant to coordinate the volunteer effort through September. Ms. Badt said she has received 11 referrals from Supreme Court justices since Nov. 1, and has assigned each case to volunteer attorneys using a random name computer program.
The program also provides New York Law School students an opportunity to work on the pro bono cases according to Carlin Meyer, professor and director of the Diane Abbey Law Center.
"It's great for students because they get some actual practical experience, but it's a limited demand on their time," Ms. Meyer said in an interview. Students will work on one case from start to finish, learning valuable skills including how to prepare court documents while also making contacts in the matrimonial field, she said.
Does a state’s long arm statute permit asserting jurisdiction over a defendant whose contacts with the forum state are minimal? Variations on this question are a staple of Legal Writing problems.
If you are looking for an up-to-date variation, you may want to take a look at DFSB Kollective Co. v. Tran, a recent decision by the United States District Court, Northern District of California. There, the defendant used social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to direct people to his websites, which invited access to internet content that had been unlawfully copied. In a detailed opinion, the judge held that sufficient minimum contacts existed. Of course, the decision turned on the specific facts of the case.
Because the defendant had never responded to plaintiff’s motion for a default judgment, the judge issued an injunction and assessed damages of $645,000.
Yesterday, one of my co-bloggers asked the question–Should you still be teaching IRAC? My answer is a qualified yes. We should still be teaching small-scale paradigms, but we should be putting greater content into those small-scale paradigms.
When I first learned IRAC in law school, it seemed like a building frame with no content, a recipe with no ingredients. In recent years, many writers have filled in this empty frame, especially the legal writing textbooks by Edwards; Shapo, Walter, and Fajans; and Neumann. We should continue to add content and detail to the small-scale paradigm. (see my article Legal Writing and Small-Scale Organization here)
Like the major legal writing texts, I stress small-scale organization in my classes. I do this mainly because clear organization makes writing readable and comprehensible. It is the writer's responsibility to communicate to the reader. Also, the small-scale paradigm helps the reader understand things in the proper order. How can one apply the law to the facts if the law is not clearly laid out first? Finally, the small-scale paradigm helps the writer make sure that she has not left out any steps.
I also teach the small-scale paradigm in connection with different types of legal reasoning–rule-based reasoning (deductive reasoning), analogical reasoning, distinguishing cases, policy-based reasoning, inductive reasoning–by showing how these types of reasoning work in the subsections of the paradigm. I also use exercises in these types of reasoning in connection with the paradigm’s subsections, so that students can develop their analytical abilities in connection with organization.
In sum, I agree that, after students master a standard model of the small-scale paradigm, we should encourage them to experiment with other organizations. However, we should continue to teach the small-scale paradigm and add greater content to it, as well as combining organization with analytical skills.
Therefore, I dissent in part and concur in part.
P.S. I will discuss the articles by George Gopen and Jessica Price mentioned by my co-blogger next week.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
E-textbooks are still very much a work in progress. We've reported before (here, here and here) that student surveys have repeatedly shown ambivalence at best toward the format with many students still preferring hardcopy when it comes to serious reading and class prep. Now comes a new study, as reported by the Chronicle of Higher Ed, finding that the cost savings to students (touted as a chief advantage of e-texts) isn't so great after all. (See a related story here). Part of the reason is that students can't sell e-textbooks at the end of the semester since they don't "own" them.
The study, conducted over four semesters, compared four different means of textbook distribution: traditional print purchase, print rental, e-textbook rental, and e-textbook rental with an e-reader device. It found that e-textbooks still face several hurdles as universities mull the switch to a digital textbook distribution model.
Perhaps the most surprising finding was the $1-dollar difference, which one course’s students encountered during three of the four semesters. The study’s authors attributed those slim savings to “publisher pricing decisions.” Making matters worse, the students renting e-textbooks could not sell the materials back to the campus bookstore when the semester ended. (In the second course surveyed, student savings were more significant, sometimes surpassing $40 per student.)
Survey results included in the study showed that students are clamoring for a cheaper alternative to traditional textbooks. Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they had avoided purchasing a textbook because of its high cost at least once, and nearly a quarter of respondents said they actually took fewer credit hours in a semester because of the cost burden of books.
Albert N. Greco, a professor of marketing at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business who studies trends in the publishing industry, said he’s not surprised that students did not always save money through e-textbook rentals. And at smaller institutions where the cost of attendance is relatively low, he noted, the price of a digital textbook could still be out of reach for some students.
The electronic rental model caused a few other headaches for students and professors at the college, according to the study. Some students struggled to use the e-textbooks, thanks to disparities in basic computing skills. Those problems led some professors to spend class time conducting their own in-class tutorials, and even afterward a few said it was unclear who should be providing continuing technical instruction—faculty, campus IT staff, or representatives from the publishers.
You can continue reading here.
Probably most Legal Writing professors begin their introductory courses by instructing students to structure their written analysis according to a formula known as IRAC, CRAC, or some variation. According to the IRAC method, the student should state the issue, then state the rule, then apply the rule to the facts, and the state the conclusion. CRAC requires stating the conclusion at both the beginning and the end.
This method may be a helpful in launching a student into written legal analysis; however, it is inadequate for the student’s future lawyering efforts. There are many ways to structure an analysis that do not conform to the IRAC straightjacket. Moreover, the formula gives the student no help in understanding that different issues require different analyses—what does the “A” entail?
My suggestion: Depending on the progress of the students, sometime this semester, you may want to give the students permission to move beyond IRAC.
Two articles critical of formulas like IRAC are George D. Gopen, “IRAC, REA, Where Are We Now, and Where We Should Be Going in the Teaching of Legal Writing,” Legal Writing: 17 The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute xvii (2011), and Jessica E. Price, “Imagining the Law-Trained Reader: The Faulty Description of the Audience in Legal Writing Textbooks,” 16 Widener L.J. 983 (2007).
One is for a clinical director of externships and the other is for a director of the small business and non-profit clinic. Here are the details:
I. Director of Externship Field Placement Clinic Director
Northern Kentucky University, Salmon P. Chase College of Law is seeking a tenure track, Assistant Professor of Law, for the position of Director of Externships/Field Placement Clinic Director. The director’s responsibilities include developing externship placement opportunities for students, conducting appropriate supervisory training and mentoring, and providing appropriate classroom instruction along with regular faculty scholarship and service obligations. We are looking for candidates with excellent academic credentials as well as practical experience. Prior teaching experience and scholarship will be looked upon favorably. Northern Kentucky University is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and encourages the application of minorities, women, and others whose backgrounds will contribute to the diversity of the faculty. Please send cover letter and resume to Professor Michael Whiteman (firstname.lastname@example.org), Chair Faculty Recruitment Committee, Chase College of Law, 216A Nunn Hall, Highland Heights, KY 41099. http://chaselaw.nku.edu
Electronic submission of these items is preferred.
II. Director of the Small Business and Non-Profit Law Clinic.
Northern Kentucky University, Salmon P. Chase College of Law is seeking a tenure track, Assistant Professor of Law, to coordinate and teach in the Small Business and Non-Profit Clinic. The director’s duties include conducting appropriate supervisory training, mentoring students, and providing appropriate classroom instruction. The director is also expected to meet regular scholarship and service requirements of a tenure-track faculty member. We are looking for candidates with excellent academic credentials as well as practical experience. Prior teaching experience and scholarship will be looked upon favorably. Northern Kentucky University is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and encourages the application of minorities, women, and others whose backgrounds will contribute to the diversity of the faculty. Please send cover letter and resume to Professor Michael Whiteman (email@example.com), Chair Faculty Recruitment Committee, Chase College of Law, 216A Nunn Hall, Highland Heights, KY 41099. http://chaselaw.nku.edu
Electronic submission of these items is preferred.
Google has launched an elections portal site that features news, calendars, maps and videos. There is also a Google+ page for the latest updates.
For more information, see the post from ReadWriteWeb here.
“The Google.com/elections site's navigation allows browsing by candidate or issue. It also features a "Trends" browser, showing how candidates are doing in Google search, Google News mentions and YouTube views, and an 'On the Ground' viewer showing stories overlaid on a map.”
But this new motion — in reality, the Legislature’s second collateral attack on the wisdom of the Court’s prior orders in as many weeks — is completely devoid of merit. In the Court’s eyes, this motion is nothing more than a third bite at an apple that the Court has twice explained is a bitter one to chew. In reality, the Court can deny the Legislature’s motion without reaching its merits; but, even quickly reaching the merits, it is clear that the Legislature’s motion fails. And, thus — for the third time — this Court rules that neither Mr. Handrick nor the documents he holds are protected by privilege. But, this time, beyond once again directing that the Legislature comply with the Court’s orders as related to discovery, the Court goes further, by sanctioning the Legislature’s attorneys.
. . . .
. . . [T]here is no good reason why any reasonable person, much less a lawyer, ought to have found themselves confused about the non-applicability of 28 U.S.C. § 2284(b)(3), noting that counsel for the Legislature could have easily contacted the chambers of any one of the three judge’s chambers to clarify the issue, rather than resorting to filing a motion, together with a 22-page brief and a declaration which the plaintiffs and the Court now find themselves obliged to address. Despite the Legislature’s arguments that it was justified in believing that the three-judge Court’s prior order were issued by a single judge (Leg. Reply in Supp. Mot. for Reconsid. 2–3), a much simpler path to clarification existed than that ultimately taken by the Legislature. Surely, all involved could have been readily spared the substantial time and effort in dealing with what the Court now concludes to be a frivolous motion.
The court promises more sanctions if the lawyers don't take the hint.
Baldus v. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, No. 11-CV-562 (E.D. Wis. filed Jan. 3, 2012) (Document 104)
Voces de la Frontera, Inc. v. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, No. 11-CV-1011 (E.D. Wis. filed Jan. 3, 2012) (Document 104)
Judith Davidoff, “Federal court sanctions, rebukes attorneys representing GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin redistricting lawsuit,” Isthmus, January 4, 2012 (online only).
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
According to this consultant interviewed by the blog Business Insider, 80% of LinkedIn members aren't using it correctly as a marketing tool.
"I think we're going to see in 2012 people engaging in the platform the way it's supposed to be. The power isn't the profile, it's the people," Ipri told us.
"I think there's so much emphasis on creating a dynamic profile that people forget LinkedIn is about outreach. It's about sharing information, viewpoints and becoming a thought leader in your own community."
Here are some tips for making better us of it to scare-up business.
1. Groups that are similar to you are your competitors and you won't get any business by just connecting with them. You want to join groups that are similar to you so that you can network and participate in discussion panels, but you don't want those groups to be your only connections because essentially those are your competitors.
"The main goal is to not stick with the pack because there's no business within the pack."
2. Just because LinkedIn allows you to join 50 groups doesn't mean you should. You can't actively participate in 50 groups. Ipri says eight to ten is plenty.
3. Always write your summary in first person, not in third person. Write it like you're speaking directly to your readers.
4. Always include your contact information. Most people say they want to be contacted, but a lot of people don't tell people how to contact them. They leave no contact information. Ipri says a lot of this is fear and that people are afraid, but this is pointless because your contact information is probably already accessible through a quick Google search.
5. When choosing a headline, use words that are relevant to your skills and words people would use to search for you.
You can continue reading here.
CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW invites applications for a litigation skills faculty position beginning in the 2012-2013 academic year. The successful candidate will be appointed as a Senior Instructor. Depending on experience and qualifications, the initial contract will be for a period ranging from one to three years. We seek candidates with distinguished academic records and extensive experience applying litigation skills in actual law practice. Candidates with prior litigation skills teaching experience will be strongly preferred. Minimum academic requirement: JD or equivalent from a US or foreign law school.
This faculty member primarily will administer and teach trial practice and/or pretrial practice courses. The candidate will be responsible for preparing syllabi and simulation exercises in our trial practice and pretrial practice courses and will coordinate and supervise adjunct instructors who also teach those courses.
In employment, as in education, Case Western Reserve University is committed to Equal Opportunity and Diversity. Women, veterans, members of underrepresented minority groups, and individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply.
Case Western Reserve University provides reasonable accommodations to applicants with disabilities. Applicants requiring a reasonable accommodation for any part of the application and hiring process should contact the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity at 216-368-8877 to request a reasonable accommodation. Determinations as to granting reasonable accommodations for any applicant will be made on a case-by-case basis.
Contact: Sharona Hoffman, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, 11075 East Boulevard, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, (216) 368-2085, firstname.lastname@example.org. Further information about the law school is available at http://law.case.edu.
New York Bar Ethics Committee rules that lawyers may advertise through "Groupon-like" website as long as no deception involved
The decision by the New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics, designated Opinion 897 (12/13/11), is in accord with a recent South Carolina Ethics Advisory Committee opinion that lawyers may market their services through "Groupon-like" or "deal of the day-type" websites as long as the advertisements are not deceptive. From the opinion:
1. A number of websites offer subscribers a “deal of the day” or “group coupon” which
enables the subscribers to purchase specified goods or services at a discount. For example, such a website might invite consumers to purchase a coupon which can later be exchanged for a described good or service, such as a spa treatment or a restaurant meal. The consumer buys the coupon from the website for an amount which can be significantly less than the regular price for the item in question.
2. The website negotiates the discount with participating vendors, who agree to provide the described good or service in exchange for the coupon or voucher which was purchased at a discount price. The coupon offer may involve a number of conditions or restrictions. Many times the offer is valid only if a certain minimum number of subscribers buy the coupon. Generally the coupon is valid for a specified limited time period after which it expires and is of no further value.
3. The website collects the cost of the coupon via credit card from the consumers who
purchase it. Upon the close of the “deal of the day,” the website deducts a percentage of the gross receipts as its compensation and pays the balance to the participating vendor.
. . . .
A lawyer may properly market legal services on a “deal of the day” or “group coupon” website, provided that the advertisement is not false, deceptive or misleading, and that the advertisement clearly discloses that a lawyer-client relationship will not be created until after the lawyer has checked for conflicts and determined whether the lawyer is competent to perform a service appropriate to the client. If the offered service cannot be performed due to conflicts or competence reasons, the lawyer must give the coupon buyer a full refund. The website advertisement must comply with all of the Rules governing attorney advertising, and if the advertisement is targeted, it must also comply with Rule 7.3 regarding solicitation.
Read the full opinion here.
Last November, four Houston trial judges joined in a roundtable discussion on motion practice. Here are just a few pieces of their advice:
1. Be very clear on what relief you want and why you are entitled to it.
2. Don’t forget to include a proposed order with the motion.
3. When there are numerous parties and entities involved or the facts are complicated, you can help the judge out by including a flowchart and a time line.
4. In the average case, a half page summary of facts is enough.
5. In motions in limine, skip the boilerplate.
Here is a link to the full discussion.
CALI’s eLangdell Press publishes free eBooks for legal education. More information can be found on the CALI eLangdell site here. One of the eBooks currently available for download is Introduction to Basic Legal Citation by Peter W. Martin.
“It was most recently revised in the fall of 2011 to take account of changes in the citation rules of a number of U.S. jurisdictions, having been revised the year before to reflect the appearance of the fourth edition of the ALWD Citation Manual and the nineteenth edition of The Bluebook, both published in 2010.
The eBook versions are based off of the 2011 online edition of Introduction to Basic Legal Citation by Peter W. Martin. Professor Martin requests that you donate to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law if you would like to show your support for this free work. “
Contracts: A Context and Practice Casebook by Michael Hunter Schwartz and Denise Riebe is one of the new type of casebooks that combines doctrine, skills, and professionalism into the same course. This book does this very successfully, and it can serve as a model for future casebooks.
The book is basically organized like any other contracts casebook with the expected chapters on contract formation, consideration, contract defenses, etc. The one departure from the norm is that the concluding chapter contains a number of problem solving exercises, including several think-aloud exercises, which I mentioned last week were good for developing problem-solving skills.
It is on the chapter level that Schwartz and Riebe depart from the usual model of casebooks. While each chapter still largely consists of edited cases, the authors have added other materials on problem solving and other miniskills. Each chapter begins with a real-world problem, which the student is required to solve at the end of the chapter. The solution can be an exam answer, an office memo, a client letter, contract clauses, etc. Unlike traditional casebooks, each chapter introduces the subjects of that chapter, often with visual aids that help the students organize the doctrine. The authors organize each subtopic around cases. They ask focused questions before each case and have follow up questions and exercises afterwards. The exercises are hypotheticals, synthesis exercises, and problem-solving exercises. Each chapter ends with professional development reflection questions. (Where better to teach contracts ethics than in contracts?) Not only do these questions deal with contract ethics, they include questions and exercises on student well-being.
After having thoroughly studied this casebook over the last few weeks, I believe that it accomplishes what it sets out to do. Not only does it train students in doctrine, it teaches the students to apply that doctrine, a skill that many law school classes don’t teach. It also teaches professionalism, a neglected skill in the first year. Most importantly, it provides contracts teachers with a tool they can use to change their teaching methods without a great deal of work.
According to Professor Schwartz, his methods have had the following outcomes:
"In 2002, the year after I first made wholesale changes to how I teach Contracts, I administered the same final exam I had given the previous year. My 2002 students, whose entrance credentials were indistinguishable from those of their 2001 peers, scored an average of 10% higher on the multiple-choice test and 33% higher on the essay test. In 2004, I designed and participated in a study comparing the law school performance of two sections of law students, one trained to be self-directed learners, and one that did not receive the extra training. The students trained to be self-directed learners had weaker entrance credentials than the students who were not so trained. Nevertheless, on their first semester exams, they scored 20% higher on a civil procedure multiple-choice test and 3% higher on a criminal law essay test. By the end of the year, the cumulative GPA of the students in the experimental group was 20% higher than the cumulative GPA of the students in the control group."
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Utah opinion notes "numerous" law students report employment is conditioned upon criminal misuse of free Wexis access
According to a recently released opinion from the Utah State Bar Ethics Advisory Committee, it is professionally unethical for a practicing attorney to ask a law student to use her free Lexis or Westlaw account for firm work. The big commercial legal research companies provide law students with free access to their services to help in the development of student legal research skills. Typically, students sign an agreement with the provider stating that they will use their free access only for educational and non-profit purposes.
The Utah Legal Ethics Advisory Committee considered whether an attorney who encouraged a student to breach her agreement by doing firm-related research had committed an ethical violation. The Committee answered in the affirmative finding that an attorney's misuse of a student's educational Wexis access is theft of services, a potential felony. Interestingly, the opinion notes that students are increasingly under pressure by employers to use their free Wexis access for firm matters. Indeed, the opinion notes that "numerous" students have reported that their "intitial or continued employment" has been conditioned upon a willingness to violate their user agreements with Wexis.
Though I didn't realize this was such a widespread problem, unfortunately I can't say it's very surprising given these difficult economic times. More surprising, however, is what this might suggest about the value these employers (who are presumably solos and smaller firms) place on the students they hire. Lexis, for example, charges a flat $175.00 per month for all you can eat state and federal research. If students are hired just for their free Wexis access, it certainly says something about the economics of the law clerk job market.
But I digress. Here's an excerpt from the advisory committee opinion:
Numerous students have reported that practicing attorneys have conditioned initial or continuing employment as a law clerk upon the student’s violation of the agreement with the research services. In other instances, lawyers have knowingly used information retrieved from the electronic services in violation of the student’s contractual agreement.
. . . .
When a lawyer hires a law clerk, the lawyer is hiring the clerk for the clerk’s services and not for access to the electronic database. The lawyer has no expectation that the law clerk will breach the contractual obligations for the benefit of the lawyer. Indeed, the lawyer’s obligation is to make certain that the law clerk not violate any of the contractual duties and responsibilities.
. . . .
Misuse of the student’s educational privileges is a theft of services. (Utah Code Ann. §76-6-409) The companies have specifically limited the use of their products to non-profit or educational uses. The lawyer hiring a law student has no reasonable expectation that the law student will violate her contractual obligation to refrain from the use of those services in a for-profit situation. A theft of services is a violation of Rule 8.4(b). It is a criminal act, which, depending upon the amount of services wrongfully appropriated, could range anywhere from a Class B Misdemeanor to a Second Degree Felony. (Utah Code Ann. §76-6-412).
You can read the full opinion here.
Hat tip to BNA (subscription required).
Please welcome our guest blogger Professor Rob Hudson, a stateside law librarian who recently took a position teaching legal skills at Qatar University in the Middle East. Rob's going to be writing a series of posts describing his experiences teaching legal skills at a foreign law school which is modeling itself based on American law school accreditation standards. As you may know, the ABA has considered licensing foreign law schools (here and here) which would allow the graduates of those schools to take American bar exams thus making it easier for foreign trained lawyers to represent their clients in this country.
Below is Rob's first report describing several programs the school has started - including legal clinics, moot court, legal research and writing courses, and even a law review - that will allow its students to compete with American trained lawyers in a global marketplace. (Japan is another country, among others, that has recently reformed its law schools to offer the kind of practical skills training that is characteristic of American legal education).
In a few posts I would like to describe my experiences as a new law lecturer and law librarian at the College of Law at Qatar University. I spent 10 years as an academic law librarian in the US and took my family to the Middle East in August 2011 for a law librarian adventure abroad extraordinaire.
To add some context Qatar is the located on the Gulf next to Saudi Arabia and between Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Qatar University was founded in the 1970s and the College of Law split from the College of Sharia to become two separate faculties within Qatar University just over five years ago. More than 50% of the law school courses are in English. The College of Law adopted an ambitious strategic plan to become the premier law school in the region benchmarked against International accreditation standards including ABA and SACS . Incidentally, ABA standards are entirely self-imposed and partially supported by ABA grants.
The resulting effort in incorporating legal skills at the College of Law includes for the first time advocacy, client and case management, moot court, clinic, a center for legal writing and research, a forum on energy and environmental law, instructional technology, and the first International Review of Law at Qatar University. Four North American law professors joined the College last year, including myself.
The challenge for me is to give the students key legal skills when English is a second or third language for most of them. As a specific example, last month I was teaching how to find cases by key words in a Utah database on Westlaw International using an Arabic-English law dictionary to students that do not customarily bring laptops into the classroom. All the female students wear black and all the male students wear white and very few faces are visible from the lectern. I’ll see if I made any impact when the open memos are submitted next week!
I’ll post about teaching in law school, living in Qatar, and building a law library collection.
Dr. Rob Hudson
Qatar University, College of Law
PO Box 2713
The ABA Journal organized a panel discussion of three former BigLaw partners who left to start their own practices (either as solos or partnering with someone else) who share advice on the benefits, pitfalls and lessons they've learned along the way. While the discussion is directed more towards the experienced practitioner looking to start her own firm, there's valuable advice for new law grads trying to get a new firm off the ground. You can click here to listen to the entire podcast or use that same link and scroll down for the transcript. Here's an excerpt:
[Moderator] Stephanie Francis Ward: Let’s switch gears a bit, and I’m curious about the aspect of finding office space and setting it up. Janice, I’m going to ask you first since you’ve had your own firm the longest. What would you do differently, do you think, or what advice would you give to lawyers about that?
[Janice P. Brown: The advice I’d give to lawyers is get yourself a great leasing broker because I did not understand that there’s a lot of space and office space and if you have somebody who understands that business effectively, they can help you get a better deal. The second thing, I think, is also know sorta what Victor said–is you can get a temporary space initially, and then, move into another space. And then, the third part I will say is that you don’t have to have the same type of environment that you left. You know, when you have big firms and, you know, they have the beautiful furniture and all that money that’s spent on tenant improvements, you don’t have to have that.
And, in fact, I’ve had clients say to me, “Well, now –” you know, I have a very nice office; don’t get me wrong. I’m very proud of the office. It’s clean. It’s really nice. It’s beautiful. You know, I really like it, but it’s not as rich in looking as the firm that I left. And people have said to me, “Well, you know, we like that because we feel comfortable that the rates are lower because the overhead is not as high.” And so, those are the kind of things that you take comfort in, but I would not do a lease negotiation now without the use of a really good broker.
Stephanie Francis Ward: Okay, John, what do you think?
John Ratnaswamy: Yeah, we had terrific brokers. The two guys I started out with, honestly, they visited most of the places–I visited more of the finalists–but boy, did they do a good job. I will mention one other thing though, which is the ABA’s General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division on LinkedIn has a discussion group, and there was a question last month about looking back at starting out: what would you do over? And I think two of the first three people said, actually, when they started out, they wished they had not gotten an office. They think they should have–I think both people starting as solos, so they wished they had worked out of their home first, and then, as they started to get more cash flow, then that they had opened an office.
Stephanie Francis Ward: Do you think, in this day and age, what clients think about that–of course, it would depend on the client–if you had a general solo practice for consumers? What do you think they would think of someone not having an office?
John Ratnaswamy: Well, not having had that practice, it’s hard for me to say because most of my clients are actually large companies. But at least these two people, and I think others who chimed in later on that blog–and not everybody agreed–said that that would have worked for them and that they wished they had done it.
Stephanie Francis Ward: Hmm.
Janice P. Brown: I think it depends on the industry and the type of law you practice. I think if you’re a family law attorney, perhaps you can go to your client’s offices or go to your client’s homes. I think having access to an office or access to a conference room, even if you don’t have an office, is probably a smart thing to do because depositions–people–you know, if you’re doing litigation. If you do transactional work, maybe perhaps not, or if you do work in IT or biotech because people there are much more accustomed to people who operate with computer system, and laptops, and more mobile. But for traditional litigation, I think it’s easier to practice with an office in a location that people are comfortable with traditionally.
Stephanie Francis Ward: Okay, now–and we’ve talked about office space. Do any of you have any tips on acquiring equipment and furniture?
Victor Henderson: Well, I would say, I think, whether it’s office space equipment or furniture, what my partner and I did, we went around and spoke to people who had left large law firms. So, we probably spent–ah, I don't know–six or nine months going around Chicago and talking about people about these very issues: office space, equipment, IT system, you know, all the kind of things that, at a large law firm, are just in place when you get there. So, we talked to–we sought out people who had left large firms to talk about these very issues to get as much of a sense as we could about how to do things because people will tell you, based on their experiences, including the bumps they have taken in the road.
You know, things like John was saying–well, what to do, what not to do. As Janice said, it was critical for us to be in the Loop. In my mind, in Chicago, you can’t be taken seriously–at least as a trial law firm–unless you have office space downtown. And so, you know, we might be in the very last corner of downtown Chicago, but we are here nonetheless, and ironically enough, the first week or two that we–after we opened our doors, we had a press conference and so needed a conference room. So, you know, being in a home office just would not have worked for us. So, I think what you wind up with in terms of equipment and office space and all those things are gonna be unique to your practice, but I think it’s critical to talk to other people who have left large firms so you can hear what they have to say, to be able to help you develop your own recipe.
John Ratnaswamy: And to illustrate that, for us, we needed IT as good as a big law firm, given our clients and our matters, so we got an IT consultant. On the other hand, furniture, not important to us, not important to our clients, so we were pretty economical about it.