Saturday, March 10, 2012
Rush Limbaugh’s apology did not put his recent controversy to rest. Why? He failed to follow the simple rules more making an apology:
1. Explain what happened.
2. Take full responsibility, owning up to your mistakes in a direct, compelling manner.
3. Explain how you are taking steps to ensure it will not happen again
In this article, attorney and consultant James Haggerty explains what was wrong with Rush’s apology and gives examples of effective apologies by actor Ashton Kutcher and Syracuse coach Jim Boheim.
Friday, March 9, 2012
This story, called Lean Times for Law Grads, aired last night on the CBS Evening News. In it, a recent grad from a third tier school, who says he graduated in the top 25% of his class, talks about how he works as a waiter because he can't find employment as a lawyer (there's a post-script in which we're told he eventually secured a part-time legal job). Mention is made of the pending lawsuit against 15 schools accused of misleading students about post-grad job prospects. And Professor Paul Campos is interviewed, telling the reporter that "many of the people who are going to law school right now are never going to be lawyers" because of structural changes in the profession resulting from outsourcing and technology that is replacing lawyers for certain tasks. The story is nothing new to lawyers and legal educators but it's still worth noting when the national press picks up on it.
Hat tip to ATL.
In his article, “Changing the Narrative of Child Welfare,” Professor Matthew Fraidin argues that focusing on the strengths of a client, rather than the client’s weaknesses leads to better lawyering and better advocacy. Here is the abstract:
In child welfare, the difference we can make as lawyers for parents, children, and the state, and as judges, is to prevent children from entering foster care unnecessarily. And we can end a child’s stay in foster care as quickly as possible. To do that, we have to fight against a powerful narrative of child welfare and against the accepted “top-down” paradigm of legal services.
In this essay, Professor Fraidin suggests that we can achieve our goals of limiting entries to foster care and speeding exits from it by looking for the strengths of the people involved in our cases, rather than their weaknesses. We can look for what they can do, rather than what they can’t. We can focus on their abilities, not the shortcomings over which we often obsess — like drug addiction, impatience, illiteracy, poverty. We can start from a premise that families involved with child welfare are bundles of assets, rather than collections of problems. If we can do all this, we can help families build, rather than watch them fall.
Here is the article on SSRN. It will appear in19 Georgetown Journal of Poverty Law and Policy 97 (2012).
Looking at other fields for ideas is one way to improve legal education. Yesterday, I posted about an article on changes in graduate medical education that I believe has many ideas that can be used in legal education.
Richard Neumann has recently posted a thought-provoking article, Comparative Histories of Professional Education: Osler, Langdell, and the Atelier, which compares education in law, medicine, and architecture and strongly criticizes aspects of legal education.
Abstract: "Almost simultaneously in the late nineteenth century, medicine, law, and architecture entered the university as subjects of serious study. But they entered in different ways and on different terms. This article traces the parallel histories of the casebook classroom, the teaching hospital, and the architectural design studio. The comparison shows how and why legal education diverged from norms being established in the other two fields. The divergence left legal education stronger within universities than it otherwise might have been, but it also left it relatively insulated from its own profession and vulnerable to later discontent."
Concerning the teaching of Contracts, Neumann declares: "The Contracts course today still resembles the one Langdell taught. It has little relationship to contracts as they are understood by transactional lawyers. Of the dozen or so chestnut cases that appear in nearly all Contracts casebooks today, about half teach issues that rarely occur in the modern experience of lawyers and courts." He continues: "Lawyers do, however, help clients create contracts. But students do not even learn how to interpret a contract, and they might be speechless if a client were to ask them what a particular contract provision means. Students do not study the inner logic of a contract; the permeating effect of standards and qualifications; the difference between a legal provision and a business provision; the differentiated ways in which covenants and conditions incentivize behavior; the effect of a contract’s assignability on its value; the comparative risk allocation efficiency of conditions, representations, and warranties; the reasons for obtaining simultaneous representations and warranties; the effect of the several ways in which representations blend tort law and contract law; the reasons why the law of remedies is almost always ignored by parties when resolving their disputes; or any of the other basic concepts needed to comprehend what contracts do and how they do it. Contracts students do not even read contracts, but instead only snippets quoted in cases."
Neumann also criticizes a faculty divorced from practice: "This represents the opposite of the Oslerian ideal — a faculty member who is simultaneously a first-rate teacher, researcher, and practitioner."
Finally, Neumann criticizes the "Langdellian Bargain." He points out that "Teaching would be so financially efficient that a profit could be generated each year. Eliot initially let Langdell keep the profit for law school use, but the bargain has since then evolved so that law school faculties and universities comfortably share the surplus." He notes, "It is not unusual for that percentage to equal one fifth to one quarter of the law school’s operating revenue, vastly exceeding the law school’s true share of overhead costs. In addition, the university typically will want a portion of the law school’s fundraising. Most law schools are thus operated by their universities as profit centers." (Emphasis added) He adds, "When a law school’s faculty, or even its accreditor, asks to see detailed financial records showing how much of the university’s share actually pays for the law school’s overhead costs and how much is treated by the university as profit, the university’s response rarely includes hard evidence that would clarify the matter." He remarks that "Law faculties today still consider themselves bound by and benefitting from this bargain, even though a transcript of a contemporary doctrinal class would typically reveal much lecturing and little Socratic questioning (which would have disappointed Eliot)." He concludes: "Whenever change is proposed in legal education, the threshold question is whether it would be consistent with the Langdellian bargain. If the proposal would significantly reallocate resources — either within the law school or between the law school and the university — in a way that would alter the bargain, the proposal fails because no one will voluntarily give up what the bargain has provided."
The above only scratches the surface of this important article. (You can read the rest of the article here.) I am especially impressed by Neumann’s discussion of the "Langdellian Bargain." You don’t see this discussed much in the scholarly literature. I am surprised the law school "scamblogs" haven’t picked up on it.
This post from the ABA Journal Consumer Law News reports on a class-action suit filed in Michigan.
“A class-action lawsuit filed by a movie fan in Michigan claims the snack prices at AMC Theaters are so high that they violate price-gouging provisions of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.”
I wonder if there be a “popcorn” defense? Happy weekend!
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Where to Begin? Training New Teachers in the Art of Clinical Pedagogy by Wallace J. Mlyniec.
Abstract: Legal educators and the legal academy have long made the mistaken assumption that new teachers have an intuitive grasp of teaching methodology based on their experiences as students, and that therefore they can begin and continue teaching throughout their careers without any understanding of teaching methodology. Clinical teachers in particular face unique pedagogical challenges relating to class goals, supervisory methods, feedback, and grading. These challenges are magnified by the existence of clients and by the need to engage with students regarding the ethics of legal practice and cultural difference.
This article attempts to set forth some of the critical questions new teachers must answer by describing the goals and content of a clinical pedagogy course designed by the Georgetown Law Center faculty to train graduate clinical teaching fellows and facilitate their entry into the academy. The article (and program it describes) rests on six fundamental beliefs: clinical teaching is different from and more expansive than doctrinal teaching or professional legal practice; clinical teaching is goal driven and based on backward design; faculty intervention must be intentional and based on making choices that further a student’s education; clinical education should be based on an expansive theory of justice; client and student needs are equally important in a clinical program and neither need be sacrificed for the other; and clinical teaching is personal and designed to accept students where they are and to maximize their learning potential.
The Georgetown training program emphasizes intentional and reflective supervision and creative and adaptive teaching methods. The major focuses of the course are the history of clinical education and its contemporary status in the academy; techniques of supervision and reflection; relevant values, ethics, and morals of clinical teaching; pedagogical methods for structuring classroom teaching; and the interrelationship of feedback, evaluation, and grading in clinical courses. The article provides the syllabus for the program and engages in an in-depth discussion of each element of the course to help new clinical teachers answer the question “where should I begin?”
From a series of practice tips published in New York State Bar Journal by New York criminal judge Gerald Lebovits, who is also an adjunct law professor at Columbia, Fordham and St. John's. The first one, Drafting New York Civil-Litigation Documents: Part XI — Interrogatories, is available at 83 New York State Bar Journal 9 (November/December 2011) and here on SSRN. Here's a brief excerpt:
In the last issue, [I] discussed the bill of particulars.The focus in this issue is on interrogatories. Similar to bills of particulars, interrogatories elicit detailed information about a case. Interrogatories are different from bills of particulars. Interrogatories are a disclosure device. Unlike bills of particulars, interrogatories aren’t part of the pleadings; they don’t bind the party to the claims the party is seeking. Also, interrogatories, unlike bills of particulars, can seek facts and evidence on the issues that the proponent and the responding party have the burden of proving at trial. Bills of particulars are meant to amplify the pleadings, limit the issues in a case, and prevent surprise. Interrogatories are meant to elicit evidence for trial. Interrogatories are written questions that one party draws up and serves on another party. You may probe any relevant, unprivileged subject in your interrogatories. The other party —the responding party — responds to, or answers, the interrogatories under oath and sends the responses to the proponent, the inquiring party. In federal court, practitioners use interrogatories. Bills of particulars don’t exist under the federal rules. In federal court, interrogatories are available to all parties in all actions. Unless the parties stipulate to more interrogatories or a court permits that to happen, each party is limited to 25 interrogatories in federal court. So much for federal court. This article will focus on interrogatories in New York state courts.
And here's a follow-up article offering advice on answering those interrogatories. Entitled Drafting New York Civil-Litigation Documents: Part XII — Responding to Interrogatories, it's available at 84 New York State Bar Journal 1 (January 2012) and on SSRN here. An excerpt:
After you’ve been served with interrogatories,you must respond. Here’s a step-by-step guide to responding to interrogatories:
• Determine your deadline to respond. As discussed in the last issue of the Legal Writer, you have 20 days to respond.
• Give your client a copy of the interrogatories. You’ll need your client to help you respond.
• Review the interrogatories.
• Determine which interrogatories seek information that’s burdensome or vague. We’ll discuss later in this column what you need to do when an interrogatory is burdensome or vague.
• Determine which interrogatories are objectionable. We’ll discuss later on in this article what objections to assert and why.
Keep reading Judge Lebovits' tips here.
Hat tip to the (new) legal writer.
I guess it's not exactly earth-shattering news that not getting enough sleep makes it more difficult to stay focused at work which, in turn, leads to more aimless web-surfing. But now there's empirical evidence to support your intuition. As reported by the Wall Street Journal:
At least in the white-collar world, loafing now looks, from a few paces, indistinguishable from hard work. Naturally, this presents fresh problems for managers even as March Madness pools run ever more smoothly.
Beginning with the assumption that loafing represents a lack of a mental discipline, and that discipline wears down when one’s resources are taxed, researchers recently explored whether cyberloafing (their term) was connected to a lack of sleep — as they suspected it was.
In a first test, they used the shift to daylight-savings time as a proxy for lost sleep: Using Google search logs, they looked at the proportion of Google searches for “YouTube,” “videos,” “music,” and “ESPN” — classic loafer fare —on the Monday after the shift to daylight-savings time, in 200 U.S. cities; then they compared the figure to the corresponding one for the previous and subsequent Mondays (when sleep would presumably be undisrupted). They did this for the years 2004 to 2009.* And, indeed, it turned out that entertainment-related searches were 3.1% higher on the Mondays when people were probably sleep-deprived than on the previous Monday, and 6.4% higher than on the next Monday.**
That’s a rough-and-ready look at the problem, to be sure, so the researchers added a laboratory component. They asked 96 undergraduates, who had worn a sleep-monitoring device the night before, to sit at a computer and pay close attention to a 42-minute lecture by a professor (whom they were told was being considered for a job). The students were left alone for this task, which required considerable concentration and patience, but any web surfing they did was monitored.
As predicted, the less students had slept the night before, the more they were likely to wander off from their assigned task. Conversely, every minute of sleep meant .05 fewer minutes surfing. The connection with disturbed sleep was also strong: “An hour of disturbed sleep would on average result in cyberloafing during 20% of the assigned task.”
Source: “Lost Sleep and Cyberloafing: Evidence From the Laboratory and a Daylight Saving Time Quasi-Experiment,” David T. Wagner, Christopher M. Barnes, Vivien K.G. Lim, and D. Lance Ferris, Journal of Applied Psychology (forthcoming).
Hat tip to ye olde Chronicle of Higher Ed.
From the National Law Journal:
On-campus recruiting picked up slightly at law schools last fall, but that didn't translate into major summer clerk hiring gains, according to data released on March 7 by the National Association for Law Placement.
The average summer associate class size remained at eight — matching the previous year's historic low. The median class size increased by just one summer clerk — from four in 2011 to five in 2012.
Summer associate offer rates ticked up modestly, from 40.6 percent in fall 2010 to 46.4 percent in 2011 for students interviewed by firms. But that figure was dwarfed by the 60 percent offer rate in 2007.
Relatively small summer associate classes indicate that firms don't plan to boost new associate hiring through at least 2013, since firms attempt to project their hiring needs nearly two years in advance.
This year's recruiting landscape may well represent a new norm, said NALP Executive Director Jim Leipold.
"This is not a hot recruiting market, but this sort of modest growth may well represent the best we can hope for with year-on-year comparisons going forward," he said. "I would anticipate volatility in the recruiting market for some time. For instance, 2012 is off to a slow start economically for law firms, and we may see that reflected in the recruiting numbers this August."
On a brighter note, law firms spent more time on-campus looking for summer hires, according to NALP's figures. They still didn't recruit as much as they did before the 2008 recession, however.
Continue reading here.
A report released Monday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York renews concerns about the growing debt load of college students and graduates.
The report suggests that as many as 27 percent of the 37 million borrowers have past-due balances of 30 days or more.
“In sum, student loan debt is not just a concern for the young,” the report said. “Parents and the federal government shoulder a substantial part of the postsecondary education bill.”
Grim news, especially when we realize that law students are accruing debt on top of their undergraduate debt. Here is the story from the New York Times.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
It's that time of year again at law schools across the country. Students are getting ready for the summative 1L experience; delivering an oral defense of a hypothetical client's case by weaving together the law and facts into a cogent argument. So what's the secret to good oral argument? There is no secret, just lots of time learning your case more thoroughly than anything you've studied before.
That's the message from this helpful post at the Lawyerist blog; preparation is key to success and you can't really overdo it.
Preparing for oral argument takes a deep understanding of the law, the facts, and the arguments. Then, you need to break up your argument into “modules.” You can organize your argument (not just outline it), and then you must practice making your argument in and out of order so that you can field questions and deliver your argument with skill and nimbleness instead of rigidity.
Ditch the outline
An outline isn’t inherently good or bad, but it encourages rigid thinking. Lawyers who rely on an outline alone tend to get thrown off by questions, which often results in repetition and skipped issues.
Worse, many lawyers also haul a binder (or several) full of cases, pleadings, exhibits, and briefsto the podium, which they try to rely on while delivering their arguments. I think this is because they rely on their stacks of paper in place of adequate preparation.
Of course you can use an outline if you really want to—I do—but it’s important to shed the rigid thinking an intellectual laziness that outline-as-preparation encourages.
Practice intense preparation
There are no tricks to good oral argument, and the single most-important component of great oral argument is preparation. I realize it is one thing to say Prepare! and another to do it with a full caseload, but it is a lawyer’s duty to prepare adequately, if not better. You must find the time.
You must know four things about your case for every argument:
1. The facts. Know the facts of your case backwards and forwards. Make sure you know which are actually in the record, too.
2. The law. Although you probably researched the law at various points in the litigation, including when you wrote the brief, you should review at least the key cases before your argument, and learn them well enough to talk about the nuances without the case in front of you. The same goes for any statutes or rules involved, which you should know inside out.
You also must be able to state the rule you want the court to adopt and apply, whether it is a rule from existing law or one you want the court to adopt.
3. Your argument. Make sure you can explain why your client should win. This ought to go without saying, but I have seen an astonishing number of attorneys who can’t seem to articulate a coherent reason why their client ought to win.
4. What you want. This should go without saying, too. You must be able to tell the court what you want it to do. By the way, as part of this, you should make sure the court cando what you want it to do. Your client won’t thank you for the time and expense of a motion hearing when the court doesn’t have the power to grant your motion.
Organize and practice your argument
Here’s how I like to organize my argument. I take each issue I want to discuss or point I want to make, and I write each one on a separate index card. Then, I take each index card and practice the argument around that topic or idea. Usually, the oral argument starts to organize itself as I do this, becasue I generally refer to other cards as I go. At that point, I start laying out the cards on the floor to sort them.
I lay all the cards out on the floor (this works great for organizing the topics you want to discuss with a witness on direct examination, too) and I put them in the order that makes the most sense. Group them into the two or three main topics you need to argue. Even if your argument is going to be complicated by necessity, group it into a few main topics, if you can.
Now, turn those main topics into a roadmap. This is really helpful for the court, because the judge will know if she is likely to get an answer to her questions, or if she should just go ahead and ask them now, because you aren’t likely to cover them.
Spreading out index cards on the floor works for me, but you could also just do an outline, if you prefer. I think it works better to start with something more flexible, and convert it to an outline as it starts to come together.
Whether you do an outline or not, you should also practice your argument as a single, cohesive unit. You might get a cold bench, after all. I usually run through my argument this way a few times, then set my index cards and outline aside and go for a walk. Bring your dog, if you are preparing at home.
With no prompts in front of you, go through your argument several more times from memory. Work through it without resorting to your outline or notes. This will force you to learn your argument much more thoroughly than if you are always relying on your notes.
Practice your argument with non-lawyers, too. If they look bored, you aren’t doing a very good job. Keeping a non-lawyer interested forces you to boil down the facts, issues, and arguments to their essentials. You can always go into the nitty-gritty (boring) details if you need to, but it’s generally better to get to the point—especially with judges.
Commit your argument to memory
Outlines, binders full of reference material, and other paper and props are distractions, not performance aids. The best way to argue is from memory (although it won’t hurt to bring your index cards or outline with you, just in case—or just for show).
If you have followed my advice so far, you have essentially committed your argument to memory. Deep understanding of the facts and law will give you the ability to discuss the issues without an outline to guide you. Practicing your argument “out of order” helps dissociate each issue from your outline. Getting out of your office and walking as you practice will help you embed your argument in your brain. As you walk around, your brain will associate your argument with your surroundings, which will make it easier to remember your key points when you are under stress at the podium.
Your goal is not to remember your argument word-for-word; that is counterproductive. Your goal is to know what you want to say whether or not you are interrupted. If you are interrupted, you must be able to locate the question in your argument, then segue gracefully back into your argument after you answer. In other words, know what you want to say, and then cover at least the key points whether or not you are interrupted with questions.
If you have followed the steps above, you should have your argument sufficiently “memorized.”
If you can, moot your argument
Not every argument merits the time and expense of a moot session—or several. But if you can moot the issue, you will get invaluable information and feedback. If your “judges” do a good job, you will have a good idea of what you may hear from the bench. You will also get great feedback on the way you argue so that you can improve.
I’ve had the opportunity to conduct several moot sessions on both sides of the bench, and it has been well worth the effort. Do it if you can.
Last-minute prep on the day of your argument
Here is what works for me on the day of my argument. What you do is not as important as having a routine that quiets your nerves and gives you one last refresher of the facts, law, and your argument.
I usually get dressed, then go walk the dog. (My oral arguments tend to be first thing in the morning.) While we walk, I run through my argument—out loud—two or three times (wear aBluetooth headset if you don’t want to look crazy). I keep it up in the car on my way to court. I don’t have my index cards or outline out when I do this.
When I get to court (always at least fifteen minutes early), I sit down and jot down my main “talking points” on a legal pad, referring to my outline if I need to. When my cases is called, that’s all I take to the podium. I don’t try to review cases or the facts at this point. If I don’t know them by the time I am sitting in the courtroom, I’m not going to learn anything in those few minutes before I stand up to argue.
Preparation is key. If you have done enough, you will be confident behind the podium, and you will rarely be surprised by what happens in the courtroom. Don’t half-ass your preparation; it is always better to be over-prepared.
Members of the Roberts Supreme Court have spent more time as professors and judges and less time as practitioners than any previous court. They average 6 years in private practice compared to an average of 17 years for prior courts. According to Professor Benjamin Barton, the author of the study, this limited practical experience may limit their opportunities to gain practical wisdom. Here is the abstract of his article, “An Empirical Study of Supreme Court Justice Pre-Appointment Experience":
This study compares the years of experience that preceded appointment to the Supreme Court for each Justice. The study seeks to demonstrate that the background experiences of the Roberts Court Justices are quite different from the Justices of earlier Supreme Courts and to persuade the reader that this is insalubrious.
The first proposition is an empirical one and the difference in Justice backgrounds is demonstrable. To determine how the current Justices compare to their historical peers, the study gathered a massive database that considers the yearly pre-Court experience for every Supreme Court Justice from John Jay to Elena Kagan. The results are startling and telling: the Roberts Court Justices have spent more pre-appointment time in legal academia, appellate judging, and living in Washington, D.C. than any previous Supreme Court. They also spent the most time in elite undergraduate and law school settings. Time spent in these pursuits has naturally meant less time elsewhere: The Roberts Court Justices spent less time in the private practice of law, in trial judging, and as elected politicians than any previous Court. The article argues that the change is regretful for multiple normative reasons, including the way these experiences lead to legal complexity in Court decisions, the lack of litigation or trial experience on the Court, and the lack of what virtue ethics calls “practical wisdom.”
Major changes are coming in how medical-residency programs evaluate their students.
New Accreditation System Will Require Medical Residents to Show Skills and Traits by Katherine Mangan.
"Medical-residency programs will be required to demonstrate that their trainees have the skills and personal attributes they need to be competent, empathetic doctors under a new accreditation system unveiled last week."
"The new system will also provide more regular, detailed feedback to medical residents, who will be assessed twice a year on how well they are mastering about three dozen skills and behaviors."
"The new system will focus instead on outcomes—"the actual behaviors you should see in order to be confident that resident physicians are progressing to the point where they will be ready to practice on their own," she said."
"Residents will be able to progress at their own pace, moving more quickly through the skills that come easily to them and spending more time and remediation in areas they find challenging."
""We're not trying to create cookie-cutter doctors," said Thomas J. Nasca, the council's chief executive officer. The goal, instead, is to identify a set of core skills that physicians must master to show that they have the skills and behavior to be good doctors."
"The specific skills, which are being developed by each medical specialty, will cover six core areas: patient care, medical knowledge, practice-based learning and improvement, systems-based practice, professionalism, and interpersonal skills and communication. Programs will have to develop and publish specific learning outcomes that residents must demonstrate as they progress through training."
As most of you know, the Carnegie Report stresses this kind of outcome assessment for law students. For example, why can't law schools test their students' skills at the beginning of their third year and then have the students work on the skills they are deficient in during their third year?
This post from the Daily Infographic includes a useful list of 15 common grammar mistakes.
The mistakes listed include:
7. Me, Myself, and I
8. Improper Use of the Apostrophe
9. Could of, Would of, Should of
15. The Dangling Participle
The graphic included with the post is great and would make a useful tool for your students.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Gene R. Nichol has posted an insightful article on SSRN on legal education entitled Rankings, Economic Challenge, and the Future of Legal Education. He writes,
"I believe, given the economics, that we are in for more than a modest dose of change in legal education—public and private, national and regional, elite and virtuously middle-tier. I also think that we are not as well positioned as we should be to deal with the unfolding challenge. We have gone far, in the last twenty-five years or so, toward breaking the bank, pushing costs beyond both call and sustainability. I doubt that we have done so to good end, that we have made optimum investments. I am quite sure that we have failed to bolster a mission in the common good. Now that our options are constricting, these choices may come back to bite us. They may have bitten a lot of our fellows already."
"I am fearful that we have pushed to the edge economically, past sustainable standards, towards breaking the budget, without dramatically improving, or perhaps even paying close attention to, the actual learning experience of our students. I hope we haven’t weakened that experience but I don’t think we’ve marched over the hill to lift it up either."
"So I am worried that we have exploded an economic model, or cracked it, without dramatically improving legal education in the process. We have undoubtedly made life better for ourselves. We’ve managed, broadly speaking, to assure the highest faculty salary levels, or at least among the very highest, in the academy. Our research support, leave policies, and teaching loads have become extraordinarily, and unnecessarily generous."
"So I am worried that we have exploded an economic model, or cracked it, without dramatically improving legal education in the process. We have undoubtedly made life better for ourselves. We’ve managed, broadly speaking, to assure the highest faculty salary levels, or at least among the very highest, in the academy. Our research support, leave policies, and teaching loads have become extraordinarily, and unnecessarily generous. We have, in short, made certain that legal education works powerfully for us."
"My hope is, as we necessarily adjust to the changes coming over the next decade, that we will focus far more meaningfully, pointedly, and successfully, on the actual experiences of our students. We must remind ourselves that our institutions are essential components in an essential system of justice. Access to the legal profession has, historically, been a powerful democratizing influence on the corridors of power and persuasion in the United States. The last thing any of us ever went into this line of work to accomplish was to merely replicate and fortify privilege—whether that privilege belongs to our most economically-blessed students, or to us."
Once you've got a job offer, the next question is whether you should accept it. According to ATL's Lateral Link column, here are the top three considerations when evaluating that job offer:
1. Compensation and benefits. Everyone wants to get paid what they think they are worth. And depending on the job, you may be able to negotiate your salary. But if a new job ends up offering you a salary that is significantly less than your current job, consider whether there are additional benefits that will compensate for the drop in pay.
For example, if work-life balance is important to you, inquire about flexible working arrangements such as flex-time and telecommuting. If you’re in search of a more family-friendly place, then the benefits at the top of your list may be a generous parental leave policy, a phase back into work with reduced hours, and an on-site child-care center. Sometimes the benefits, like a job with no billable hours or working in a city with a better quality of life, are less tangible but still substantial. Only you can determine for yourself if the non-monetary benefits outweigh a lower paycheck.
2. Fit. Fit encompasses everything from the work culture, personalities of prospective coworkers, and the employer’s values. You may be able to get some sense of whether a job will be a good fit from an interview, such as whether you jell with the attorneys with whom you would be working and how casual the work environment is.
But if you feel you don’t have enough information from the interview alone, ask to speak with additional attorneys, and don’t be afraid to ask candid questions. However, you should refrain from asking awkward questions like, “Are people happy here?” If you really want to know how hard people work, it’s better to ask targeted questions about hours billed vs. hours worked, what time people generally leave the office, how much vacation time people use, face time requirements, etc. For some people, a new job will be just another job with the same salary and same type of work, so fit can make a big difference in terms of job satisfaction.
3. Career path. If you haven’t given much thought to what your career goals are, now would be a good time to do so. Once you have a clearer idea of where you’re heading, you should be able to identify which jobs will give you the skills and experiences you need to get there. For example, if you plan on going in-house at a major corporation but lack any securities experience, make sure that your new job will enable you to grow in that area by providing you with that type of work. There’s no point working at a firm that has a well-known securities practice if it limits you to M&A work only. And although there are no guarantees that you’ll ultimately make partner or become general counsel in the future, you can increase your chances for advancement by choosing jobs wisely.
Do your research about the firms you are interested in and find out what the partnership prospects are, if there’s a strict up-or-out policy, and how well the firm keeps associates apprised of their progress towards partnership. Or if working your way up to GC is your goal, you may want to pass up a position at a company where the current GC is young and unlikely to retire in the near future.
For more advice, continue reading here.
From National Jurist:
Elon University School of Law has partnered with The Washington Center to provide its students, and in the future those from other schools, with full semester or summer legal externships in Washington, D.C.
Located in Greensboro, N.C., Elon was founded in 2006 with the goal of preparing students to be leaders at regional, national and global levels. It plans to place students in executive and legislative branches of the federal government, as well as in non-governmental sectors in Washington, D.C.
Its current externship program offers opportunities for students to serve in dozens of state executive, legislative and judicial branch offices, as well as in a number of nonprofit organizations in North Carolina.
The new program will also be made available to students at other ABA-approved law schools that join a consortium. Students, second- and third-year law students in good academic standing, will receive academic credit from their home law school.
The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars is an independent, nonprofit organization that serves hundreds of colleges and universities. It has more than 50,000 alumni since it was founded in 1975.
“Organizing a consortium of universities to participate in a legal externship program is a milestone for The Washington Center,” said Mike Smith, President of The Washington Center. “We’ve partnered with Elon University for 24 years and now, together, we are embarking on a new initiative that will give law students across the country access to externships in the nation’s capital.”
Participating students will work approximately 36 hours per week at their placement beginning in the summer 2012 term. Students will also take a legal externship seminar and one or two law classes taught by adjunct faculty members of Elon Law. The program will offer students between 12 and 15 academic credits toward their law degree. The Washington Center will manage the operations of the program. Margaret Kantlehner, associate professor of law and director of externships, preceptors and capstone leadership experiences at Elon Law, will serve as faculty supervisor for the program.
“The program will provide a unique experiential educational opportunity for law students who are interested in law practice in government, federal agencies and non-governmental organizations,” Kantlehner said. “It will provide valuable work experience for Elon students and enable the School of Law to develop and strengthen relations with prospective employers of Elon Law graduates in the D.C. area.”
In an article I wrote a few years ago, Legal Argument and Small-Scale Organization, I pointed out that there is more to case synthesis than rule synthesis: "the rule explanation is an important part of the synthesis." "The rule explanation is also a synthesis of all relevant cases."
Michael D. Murray has written an article, Rule Synthesis and Explanatory Synthesis: A Socratic Dialogue between IREAC and TREAT, that discusses explanatory synthesis in detail.
Abstract: This Article explores the theory and process of explanatory synthesis in comparison to rule synthesis and case-to-case analogical reasoning as a method of demonstrative legal reasoning and analysis and legal rhetoric. The Article takes the form of a Socratic dialogue to discuss the analytical and rhetorical advantages of explanatory synthesis. Explanatory synthesis provides an important option for inductive reasoning and argumentation within the deductive paradigm of legal analysis, and has rhetorical advantages over other forms of analogical reasoning when examined using the tools of modern argument theory and the rhetorical canons of law and economics. "