April 7, 2012
A Reply to a Question from the Law Schooled Blog.
The Law Schooled Blog has asked me to respond to their post Supply and Demand for Skills Courses: Some Clarification Please. They ask, "When reading Legal Skills Prof Blog‘s post on some steps we students can take to increase skills courses at our schools, one tip sounded both promising and confusing:
3. Take as many skills courses and clinics as you can. If students take more skills courses and clinics, your law school will have to hire more skills professors and offer more skills options.
This may have to do with the fact that I avoided business school and medical school because I have a certifiable phobia of numbers, but, I gotta ask: How does this work?"
My answer to this question is below. (I have also answered on the Law Schooled blog.) Law Schooled is also requesting comments from others concerning how to get more skills courses into law school course offerings. If you have some suggestions, you can post here.
You have asked a very difficult question. As you noted, the biggest problem is one of cost. Legal skills courses generally require smaller classes, and, thus, they are not as cost effective as large lecture courses. Consequently, the question is one of allocation of resources. Do law schools want to continue as they are doing now, or do they want to do what is best for their students and adopt better approaches to legal education? I believe that some schools will continue to do what they are doing. However, some schools will make the necessary changes, and, in fact, some already have.
The same thing concerning cost was said when legal writing classes and clinical classes entered the curriculum. Yet, the majority of law schools have developed strong legal writing and clinical programs. The same can be done for other skills courses.
To begin with, there are low cost ways to incorporate new approaches into doctrinal courses. Carolina Academic Press has published a series of casebooks (The Context & Practice Series), which incorporate legal skills and professionalism exercises with doctrine. Similarly, LexisNexis has published supplementary texts (The Skills & Values Series), which provide legal skills and professionalism exercises to incorporate into doctrinal courses. Accordingly, professors have easy ways of including skills in doctrinal courses.
Additional skills courses will require a reallocation of resources. Which is more important to you a shiny building or better instruction? A faculty known for their scholarship or a faculty known for their teaching?
You the students are the consumers. You need to make your preferences known to your administration. You need to sign up for skills courses. You need to go to law schools know for their legal skills offerings, such as those belonging to the Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers Consortium.(at http://educatingtomorrowslawyers.du.edu/schools/)(Look particularly at the Washington & Lee’s third-year program.), rather than obsessing over the U. S. News Rankings. It may take some time for your efforts to be felt and, in the meantime, you will may be lotteried out of skills courses. But, if enough faculty, students, alumni, and law firms demand better prepared lawyers, we will make significant changes in legal education.
I want to add that, in making your wishes known to your administrations, please do so in a polite manner. Adopting language like that of the scam blogs does no good; it alienates people.
P.S. Don’t forget that you will be alumni some day, and your law schools will be asking you for money. Not only can you let the fund raisers know what you want for your alma mater, you can make specific gifts to your law schools, such as donations for teaching grants or to fund clinics.
Happy Passover and Easter to All Our Celebrating Readers
Happy Holidays to all who observe Passover and Easter!!
And now for the answer to the eternal question: Why do these holidays fall on varying calendar days each year? Here is the answer from Infoplease:
April 6, 2012 to April 13, 2012:
Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, the holiday commemorating the Hebrews' exodus from slavery in Egypt, lasts seven days in Israel and among Reform Jews, and eight days elsewhere around the world. It begins on the 15th day of Nisan, which is the seventh month in the Jewish calendar. It ends on the 21st of Nisan in Israel (and for Reform Jews) and on the 22nd of Nisan elsewhere.
Since Hebrew days begin and end at sundown, Passover begins at sundown on the preceding day.
April 8, 2012:
Easter is calculated as the first Sunday after the paschal full moon that occurs on or after the vernal equinox. If the full moon falls on a Sunday, then Easter is the following Sunday. The holiday can occur anywhere between March 22 and April 25.
The Western church does not use the actual, or astronomically correct date for the vernal equinox, but a fixed date (March 21). And by full moon it does not mean the astronomical full moon but the "ecclesiastical moon," which is based on tables created by the church. These constructs allow the date of Easter to be calculated in advance rather than determined by actual astronomical observances, which are naturally less predictable. See also A Tale of Two Easters.
April 15, 2012
The Orthodox church uses the same formula to calculate Easter, but bases the date on a slightly different calendar—the Julian calendar instead of the more contemporary Gregorian one, the calendar that is most widely used today. Consequently, both churches only occasionally celebrate Easter on the same day.
Pew Institute on trends in e-reading
Below are the results of a recent survey reported by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in a study called The Rise of E-reading that looked at the reading habits of average Americans age 16 and up. The Pew Institute surveyed more than 2900 people about their recreational reading habits. Thus, the survey results do not reflect how people might vary their reading style and preferred format when it comes to the more serious reading that's done for school and work (here). And as I've said before (and here), most people who read for a "living" like students, lawyers and academics are likely to employ a hybrid style that uses e-books for rapidly skimming lots of material and hardcopy for "deep," more immersive reading.
With respect to the Pew findings on the reading habits of the average American, however, here are some key results:
- A fifth of American adults have read an e-book in the past year and the number of e-book readers grew after a major increase in ownership of e-book reading devices and tablet computers during the holiday gift-giving season.
- The average reader of e-books says she has read 24 books (the mean number) in the past 12 months, compared with an average of 15 books by a non-e-book consumer.
- 30% of those who read e-content say they now spend more time reading, and owners of tablets and e-book readers particularly stand out as reading more now.
- The prevalence of e-book reading is markedly growing, but printed books still dominate the world of book readers.
- There are four times more people reading e-books on a typical day now than was the case less than two years ago.
- Those who own e-book readers and tablets are avid readers of books in all formats.
- E-book reading happens across an array of devices, including smartphones.
- In a head-to-head competition, people prefer e-books to printed books when they want speedy access and portability, but print wins out when people are reading to children and sharing books with others.
- Those who own e-book reading devices stand out from other book readers and there are sometimes differences among device owners in their reading habits.
- Amazon’s Kindle Fire, a new tablet computer introduced in late 2011, grew in market share from 5% of the market in mid-December to 14% of the tablet market in mid-January. This change also grew as the overall size of the tablet market roughly doubled.
- Among those who do not own tablet computers or e-book reading devices, the main reasons people say they do not own the devices are: 1) they don’t need or want one, 2) they can’t afford one, 3) they have enough digital devices already, or 4) they prefer printed books.
You can get the full survey results here including some helpful charts and graphs that pull the data all together.
Hat tip to Legal Research Plus.
April 6, 2012
New legal "skills" scholarship: "The Seismic Shift in the Legal Profession and How Legal Writing Professors Will Keep Legal Education Afloat in its Wake"
By Professor Kirsten Dauphinais (N. Dakota) and available at 10 Seattle J. for Soc. Just. 49 (2011) and SSRN here. From the abstract:
2010 finds us in the midst of what commentators have called “The Great Recession” and the effects on the legal profession have been profound. Law firms have lost their immunity to recession and industry leaders are concluding that the recession has and will continue to have an enduring impact on the profession, including extensive layoffs, salary decreases, hiring freezes, firm closures, and even deaths.
Many observers have predicted that these changes may prove to be permanent, not only because of the magnitude of the economic downturn, but also because the present predicament is only an acceleration of the decline of an already failing system, including the fundamental erosion of the traditional large firm model organization for law practice, often referred to as the “tournament.”
Traditionally, legal education has, in many respects, patterned its offerings and teaching focus on the demands of large law firms and, as these law firms previously assumed the lion’s share of responsibility for the practical skills training of new attorneys, law schools felt comfortable putting that training on the back burner. However, the new economic imperatives of law practice now require law schools to alter their pedagogical methods to produce graduates ready to compete in this market.
Moreover, just as the traditional law firm tournament model was becoming unsustainable even before the onset of the recession, so too were many key facets of legal education, including the neglect of skills education, as noted by prominent works like Best Practices in Legal Education and the Carnegie Report.
This article will explore whether changes to the hiring and business practices of American lawyers in the wake of the recession are cyclical in nature or represent a fundamental transformation in the legal profession. The article will then go on to discuss the aforementioned changes to legal education already under way before the economic crisis and will explain why continuing this trajectory will be necessary to an effective response by the academy to the recession.
In particular, this article advocates for a revisiting of the academy’s customs and practices regarding legal writing professors, as these educators are key to the advancement of legal pedagogy and their lack of professional parity cannot be justified, especially now when the need for their expertise is nothing if not amplified. In advocating for an improvement of the status of legal writing professors, this article will raise and defeat various arguments that have been advanced over the years as to why these professors are undeserving of equal treatment and will explore the troubling impression of gender discrimination in this regard, as the field of legal writing is overwhelmingly dominated by women. Particular emphasis is given to describing the contribution of legal writing professors to a wide spectrum of law teaching, scholarship, and service, all of which contribute to law student preparedness for practice. Finally, the article will conclude with a review of promising future trends.
How About Alumns Funding Student Loans?
SoFi, a new start-up, seeks to avoid the standard and sometimes tortuous method of getting students education loans by having alumns fund those loans. From the NY Times:
A start-up that had a test-run at Stanford University’s business school last year aims to tap alumni as a source of funding for student loans at colleges across the country.
SoFi — short for Social Finance Inc. — is branching out and expects to begin taking applications for consolidation loans in April from recent graduates of five business schools, using funds raised from alumni of those schools (Harvard, M.I.T., Northwestern and the University of Pennsylvania, in addition to Stanford).
SoFi also aims to begin taking applications in June for new student loans for undergraduates and graduate students at about three dozen schools for the 2012-13 academic year.
I hope SoFi is successful.
April 5, 2012
Teaching Ethics in the First Year of Law School
As I have posted several times here, I believe that it is important to teach ethics and professionalism across the curriculum. It is much more effective to learn the ethical rules in connection with the corresponding doctrine. For example, Michael Hunter Schwartz and Denise Riebe include professionalism exercises in each chapter of their Contracts casebook.
Miriam Albert and Jennifer Gundlach have recently posted an article on SSRN, which advocates integrating ethics into the first year.
Abstract: "Law schools have begun to raise the bar beyond the baseline mandates and aspirational goals of MacCrate and Carnegie, and are looking seriously at how to implement the suggested methods of Best Practices and other innovative models. Facing increasing pressure to prepare law students to be ethical, competent practitioners, law schools must rise to the challenge of introducing a broad range of practical skills and ethical values across the curriculum and throughout the three years of law school. It is no longer reasonable that a single required course in professional responsibility will somehow suffice to instill the long-lasting and deep values in legal ethics expected by both the members of our profession, clients, and the American public. Instead, law schools are introducing more experiential opportunities throughout the curriculum that offer students the opportunity to integrate and apply the range of skills and substantive law that they have learned.
These opportunities seem to be entirely unavailable during the first year of law studies. This is a missed opportunity, since first-year courses are fertile ground for exposure to principles of professional responsibility. It is in this time period when students are in the process of learning foundational lawyering skills. Law faculty who teach first-year courses face unique challenges as they seek to orient law students to basic legal methods, analysis, and the concept of doctrinal law stemming from cases and statutes. The authors’ own teaching experiences and research have shown that offering students the opportunity to apply doctrine in a practical context through simulated client interactions leads to a richer and more complete legal education, which we believe better prepares students for the ethical and competent practice of law. As part of these simulations, students are given a chance to experiment with foundational lawyering skills such as client interviewing and counseling, problem-solving, drafting and synthesis of law and fact. While experimenting with these skills, students will also wrestle with the types of ethical dilemmas they will face in practice.
We share one approach of how a Contracts professor and a Lawyers’ Ethics professor are responding to these challenges in a first-year classroom and offer theoretical and practical support for the notion that providing students with the opportunity to develop and hone essential lawyering skills through simulations within the context of a doctrinal class will better prepare our students for the ethical and competent practice of law.
The Article offers support for the integration of ethical considerations into the first year of law school generally. We examine the learning objectives sought to be satisfied through the integration of ethics and contracts, and provide a description of this problem-centered exercise usable in any first year contracts class, with the fact pattern and other supporting documentation necessary to run the simulation attached as Appendices. The Article concludes with anecdotal results from the authors’ use of this exercise, and suggestions for assessment tools for faculty to use in evaluating the exercise. "
Three writing mistakes that hurt your brief
The following have been distilled by the Lawyerist Blog from The Lawyer's Essential Guide to Writing: Proven Tools and Techniques by Marie Buckley.
Using a Weak Opening Argument
The law is full of difficult burdens for litigants to overcome. Judges know this, and there is no need to remind them. But most importantly, don’t remind them at the top of your argument/analysis section.
At least once a week I read a brief where the attorney explains in the opening of his argument section how difficult a standard is to overcome. For example, here is a paraphrased example of what I see quite regularly:
A defendant has the “heavy burden” of meeting all three prongs of the Pierce test to allege ineffective assistance of counsel. Failure to prove any prong will result in the claim being denied. For that reason, the majority of claims of ineffective assistance of counsel fail. It is the rare defendant who is able to meet all three prongs, including the prejudice prong. This is such a case.
As you can see in the example, the attorney doesn’t say anything in favor of his client until the last sentence. The attorney made it crystal clear that he is fighting an uphill battle to win the case. He may as well have written “this is a really tough case and most people lose but I hope that my client is the one in a hundred that wins.”
Even when your client has the burden of proof, you don’t need to cower in front of the burden. As Buckley explains in her book, “your opening paragraph or opening sentence should lead from the top by stating your conclusion about that topic.”
Citing Old Cases
Nothing says “I’m copying and pasting this brief” like two pages of caselaw from 1989. The law is constantly changing. If the only cases you cite are from thirty years ago, it’s clear you didn’t do your work and research the current state of the law. That hurts your reputation.
When addressing some issues there may not be any new cases in the area. In that situation, just say so. Introduce the most recent case by stating “in the most recent case on the subject” or something similar.
Cherry Picking Quotes
There may be a sentence or two in a case that says exactly what you want to say. That’s great. Put it in your brief. But if you’re citing it as controlling law, you better explain where it came from. A few sentences can go a long way to help your credibility with the reader. Even a few words can make a huge difference. For example, instead of simply quoting a federal case in state court in a way that makes it sound controlling, use a brief introduction like “as the persuasive case of Tsakalakis v. Glover explains, Plaintiffs should win.”
Once you’ve told the reader what kind of case you’re using, spend at least a sentence or two dealing with the facts. Buckley succinctly explains: never discuss a significant case without explaining its facts. This includes harmful facts to your side. A judge may not read the cases you cite, but when she does, and there are clearly distinguishable facts, you’ve done your client a disservice by not addressing those facts.
Using String Citations
This may be a purely personal gripe, and readers may disagree, but I loathe the use of string citations. When I see a string citation I assume that the first case you cited isn’t as strong as you made it out to be. Either that, or you’re not confident it will carry the day. What other reason could there be to cite ten or twelve cases on the same issue?
I know, this is nothing new. But if I didn’t read at least one motion a week with a typo, the wrong name, the wrong case number, or some other simple error, I wouldn’t mention it. Unfortunately, I do.
How student loan debt may be hurting the economic recovery
From The Huffington Post:
The federal student loan program seemed like a great idea back in 1965: Borrow to go to college now, pay it back later when you have a job.
But many borrowers these days are close to flunking out, tripped up by painful real-life lessons in math and economics.
Surging above $1 trillion, U.S. student loan debt has surpassed credit card and auto-loan debt. This debt explosion jeopardizes the fragile recovery, increases the burden on taxpayers and possibly sets the stage for a new economic crisis.
With a still-wobbly jobs market, these loans are increasingly hard to pay off. Unable to find work, many students have returned to school, further driving up their indebtedness.
Average student loan debt recently topped $25,000, up 25 percent in 10 years. And the mushrooming debt has direct implications for taxpayers, since 8 in 10 of these loans are government-issued or guaranteed.
President Barack Obama has offered a raft of proposals aimed at fine-tuning the system and making repayments easier. Yet the predicament of debt-burdened former students has failed to generate much notice in the GOP presidential campaign. Instead, the candidates are dismissive of government student loan programs in general and Obama's proposals in particular.
Rick Santorum went so far as to label Obama "a snob" for urging all Americans to try to obtain some form of post-high-school education – even though some polls show over 90 percent of parents expect their children to go to college.
Front-runner Mitt Romney denounces what he calls a "government takeover" of the program. Newt Gingrich calls student loans a "Ponzi scheme" under which students spend the borrowed money now but will "have to pay off the national debt" later in life as taxpayers. And Ron Paul wants to abolish the program entirely.
Lifting student debt higher and higher is the escalating cost of attending schools, with tuition increasing far faster than the rate of inflation. And enrollment has been rising for years, a trend that accelerated through the recent recession, fueling even more borrowing.
Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, argues that government loans and subsidies are not particularly cost-effective for taxpayers because "universities and colleges just raise their tuition. It doesn't improve affordability and it doesn't make it easier to go to college."
"Of course, it's very hard on the kids who have gone through this, because they're on the hook," Zandi added. "And they're not going to be able to get off the hook."
It's not just young adults who are saddled.
"Parents and the federal government shoulder a substantial part of the postsecondary education bill," said a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. And some of the borrowers are baby boomers, near or at retirement age. The Fed research found that Americans 60 and older still owe about $36 billion in student loans.
Overall, nearly 3 in 10 of all student loans have past-due balances of 30 days or more, the report said.
Complicating the picture further: Like child support and income taxes, student loans usually can't be discharged or reduced in bankruptcy proceedings, as can most other delinquent debt. This restriction was extended in 2005 to also include student loans made by banks and other private financial institutions.
"This could very well be the next debt bomb for the U.S. economy," said William Brewer, president of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.
"As bankruptcy lawyers, we're the first to see the cracks in the foundation," Brewer said. "We were warning of mortgage problems in 2006 and 2007. The industry was saying we've got it under control. Nobody had it under control. Now we're seeing the same signs of distress. We're seeing huge defaults on student loans and people driven into financial difficulties because of them."
A report by his group noted that missing just one student loan payment puts a borrower in delinquent status. After nine months, the borrower is in default. Once a default occurs, the full amount of the loan is due immediately. For those with federal student loans, the government has vast collection powers, including the ability to garnishee a borrower's wages and to seize tax refunds and Social Security and other federal benefit payments.
Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight, said the student loan crisis may not torpedo the financial sector as the mortgage meltdown nearly did in 2008, but it could slam taxpayers and the still-ailing housing market.
"When student loans don't get repaid, debts are going to be transferred from the borrower to the taxpayer," further raising federal deficits, he said. And overburdened student-loan borrowers may fail to qualify for mortgages and "stay much longer in their parents' homes," Gault said. Young adults forming households have historically been the bulk of first-time home buyers – and their scarcity could dampen any housing recovery.
"When kids do graduate, the most daunting challenge can be the cost of college," Obama said in his State of the Union address, asking Congress to extend a temporary cut – due to expire in July – in federal student-loan rates. The reduced federal rate is now 3.4 percent. It the cuts aren't extended, it will rise to 6.8 percent.
You can continue reading here.
Comparing Universities in Australia
The Aussies seem to be doing a better job than a prominent U.S. publication. From the Chronicle of Higher Education:
A new Web site developed by the Australian government to allow students to compare data on the nation’s universities is drawing criticism from some higher-education leaders, reports The Australian. The site compares the country’s 39 public institutions in terms of the satisfaction of students, dropout rates, graduate employment, and other data. It is based on a site the government created in 2010 for public schools.
Most of the data is objective. And although the reader can compare universities, there is no overall ranking. If you dig a little more deeply, you can find numbers on student satisfaction.
E-Books on the Rise
The Pew Internet project released these findings about the rise of e-reading yesterday.
"The rise of e-books in American culture is part of a larger story about a shift from printed to digital material. Using a broader definition of e-content in a survey ending in December 2011, some 43% of Americans age 16 and older say they have either read an e-book in the past year or have read other long-form content such as magazines, journals, and news articles in digital format on an e-book reader, tablet computer, regular computer, or cell phone.”
One of the key findings shows that: “30% of those who read e-content say they now spend more time reading, and owners of tablets and e-book readers particularly stand out as reading more now.”
It is a great time to develop e-book content for your courses! Contact your law librarian for more information or assistance.
April 4, 2012
Interview with Dean Martin Katz Concerning Legal Education Reform
Paul Lippe has an interesting interview with Dean Matin Katz on Legal On Ramp. Some excerpts:
How is your school addressing the pressure faced by law firms to avoid staffing matters with recent law graduates?
"Law schools need to produce more practice-ready – or client-ready – graduates. . . . Fortunately, there is increasing consensus on the best way to teach adult students this type of mastery: experiential learning. The 2007 Carnegie Report, Educating Lawyers, suggests that, by integrating doctrine, skills, and professional identity in rich, experiential, problem-based courses, we can train our students to start acting like lawyers while they are still in law school. The result is that recent graduates, who have essentially been placed in practice situations while they are still in law school, come to resemble more traditionally trained lawyers with one or even two years of experience – lawyers that most clients would be happy to hire."
What about the automation of routine, repetitive tasks, such as discovery or basic contract drafting?
"[I]n an increasingly complex world, there will remain a large supply of legal and business problems for which clients will seek counsel. The key, therefore, is to train our students to become excellent problem-solvers. This means putting them in real and simulated problem-based courses, and having them act as members of problem-solving teams – optimally, alongside team members from other disciplines. If they have these capabilities, they will almost certainly find good, meaningful work."
How can law school faculty members, who tend to be insulated from the legal market, be motivated to embrace change?
. . . "ETL [Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers] provides a network for law professors across the country who are interested in innovative teaching along the lines suggested by the Carnegie Report (experiential learning that integrates doctrine, skills, and professional identity). Professors who develop innovative, Carnegie-style courses post rich information about those courses on the ETL website (www.ETL.du.edu). The course modules even include video of the courses in action. Visitors to the site can learn about a new, innovative course and how it worked, and can adopt techniques from the course – adapting them to their own classroom. Professors can also discuss the courses, either on line or at our annual ETL conferences.
ETL also provides an analogous network for law schools across the country that are committed to this type of curriculum. A consortium of 21 schools (which is growing) support the website, and meet annually to discuss how to implement and advance the type of legal education that will let us respond to the new normal. "
A new blog that follows a recent law grad who hangs his own shingle
This is an interesting new blog called HangingShingles I discovered though ATL that follows a recent law grad as he tries to start his own practice. The author is a 2011 grad of a "top 30" law school who, failing to find a job after 6 months of looking, decides to take the plunge by going into practice for himself using his apartment bedroom as an office. He's got $130k in educational debt and $3500 in savings. Can he make it?
His rent is dirt cheap - $250.00 a month (the author doesn't say but he must be sharing his apartment with roommates since even living in the middle of a Kansas cornfield will cost you twice as much). He's got his computer from law school and a decent printer. When he needs to meet clients, he can do so at the local courthouse. He's got access to free online legal research through his bar association. And after putting his name on lists for court appointed cases, after a few weeks he's got 4 (though two are pro bono). He invites readers to follow along and learn from his failures and triumphs as well as offer advice by way of comments. A blog that is definitely worth checking out from time to time to see how the author is doing.
Here's a representative entry called First case! (Day 14) from March 27:
I got my first case today, and it happened quicker than expected! Over the past week, I’ve been introducing myself to local judges, and I put myself on the court-appointed lists in several surrounding counties. Well, someone must have thought I could do a good job, because I have been assigned a felony defense case. Yeah, felony… thanks for easing me in like I asked judge!
This is a great development, because this means money will be coming, but it is also a big step because I can now say officially I have started my own law firm and am representing clients. So, there you go, it’s official.
Ok, I have to get to work now, I have a client!
Takeaway for the day: Preparation is key.
Third Annual Empire State Legal Writing Conference
Registration is now open. Here are the details:
The conference will be held all day on Saturday, June 23, 2012, at SUNY Buffalo Law School in Buffalo, New York. In conjunction with the conference, there will be a half-day ALWD Scholars’ Forum on Friday, June 22.There is no fee for the conference or the Scholars’ Forum, and we’ve arranged a conference rate at two hotels near the law school. You can find further details and register for the conference at the conference web site: www.law.buffalo.edu/empirestate2012We’re particularly excited about this year’s conference for three reasons.First, we once again have a terrific program. The conference will feature more than 20 presentations on a wide range of topics, including: implementing learning outcomes and assessment, conducting student-led conferences, teaching continuity and structure, developing advanced writing courses and specialized research courses, teaching visual persuasion, developing and placing scholarship, and teaching writing skills actually used in practice. And many of the presentations involve classroom-ready teaching exercises, including plain language skills, research skills, using local rules, and legislative advocacy.Second, we’re delighted to have Sarah Ricks from Rutgers School of Law – Camden as our keynote speaker. Sarah will address the overlap between legal writing programs and ‘experiential’ learning (such as hybrid clinical/writing courses), as well as collaboration between legal writing faculty and professors who teach in clinical, pro bono, and externship programs.And third, we’re pleased to offer an optional trip to Niagara Falls the day after the conference on Sunday, June 24. (There will be a small fee for the trip.)June is a wonderful time to visit Buffalo, and if you have an extra day or two there are many other fun things you can do, such as touring a Frank Lloyd Wright house (the Darwin Martin house), visiting one of the country’s best modern art museums (the Albright-Knox), or watching a play at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.We hope that you’ll join us in June. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.Stephen PaskeyLecturer in LawSUNY Buffalo Law School716email@example.com
Two Books for Future Lawyers
On my desk, I have two very practical books: one for all new lawyers and one for an aspiring lawyer in a specialized area.
The first is The Associate as Rainmaker by David King Keller. It’s never too early for a young lawyer to begin attracting and holding clients. An ABA publication and therefore an expensive $99.95. Ask your library to order it.
The second is Careers in Animal Law by Yolanda Eisenstein. According to the author, over 100 law schools offer courses in animal law, one of the fastest growing legal disciplines. Another ABA publication, and at $54.95, another book for your library to purchase.
The Importance of Mindfulness in a Digital Age
This post from MediaShift (PBS) discusses the importance of teaching mindfulness to our students in this age of digital distractions and multi-tasking.
“Recent brain imaging studies reveal that sections of our brains are highly active during down time. This has led scientists to imply that moments of not-doing are critical for connecting and synthesizing new information, ideas and experiences. Dr. Michael Rich, a professor at Harvard Medical School put it this way in a 2010 New York Times article: "Downtime is to the brain what sleep is to the body……
The direction in which education orients a person, to paraphrase Plato, will determine their future in life. While educational aims should be varied, an underlying goal should be in focusing student awareness in a metacognitive direction. If schools hope to prepare students for our hyper-connected world, it reasons that training students to be proficient with digital tools is only part of the equation.
Students must also be mindful of how digital tools and perpetual web connectivity are shaping their brains, perceptions and habits.”
Hat tip Errol A Adams,JD/MLS (@ErrolAdamsjdmls)
April 3, 2012
10 predictions about the future of law schools
Nothing too earth-shattering here. From OnlineUniversities.com:
1.It will look more like medical school: We’re likely to see an accelerated curriculum in law school, followed by more hands-on experience, much like medical school. Some schools like Northwestern have adopted this model, with a year of case method, a year of clinical, followed by a final year of externship in an area of focus. Experts believe this type of law school education would allow for a more practical legal education and a fast track to employment for law grads.
. . . .
2. There will be fewer law schools: The value of a law school education is dropping as salaries for graduates are not as high as they used to be and post-graduation jobs become harder to find. This is forcing the break-even point for graduates higher, where the resulting student loan debt becomes higher than the salary that follows. This may lead to fewer students enrolling in law schools, followed by fewer law schools altogether.
3. No frills: It’s entirely possible that the law school we see in the future will be a stripped-down version of the one we see today. Some experts have noted a trend in law schools that are less concerned with rankings and prestige than delivering a high level of value and quality for students.
4. Schools will be cutting costs: Along the same line of no-frills law schools, we can also expect to see schools cutting their costs. We can’t expect that students will continue to flock to expensive schools for much longer if they’re not getting a good return on their investment, so schools will have to find a way to keep tuition down. This means developments like bigger classes and an increased use of adjunct instructors.
5. An increase in grant funding: Another way schools will likely try to keep tuition down is by increasingly applying for grant funding.
. . . .
6. Alumni donations will drop: Another squeeze on law school finances is less support from alumni. As law graduates struggle to find high-paying employment, there’s simply less left over for their alma mater.
. . . .
7. Graduates will be practice-ready: In order to keep students from foregoing a legal education in favor of something making them more immediately employable, law schools have to keep up by graduating students that are reading to enter the legal profession with high-paying jobs right away. This means a focus on practice-ready graduates that are "ready on day one."
8. Schools may have to demonstrate employability: Rising tuition, difficulty in the job market, and an overall scrutiny of legal education means that when choosing their law school, many students will look at how likely it is that their degree will actually earn them a high paying job. Schools will not only have to demonstrate prestige and effective educational resources but also a track record of producing employable candidates.
9. Students will use e-books: Heavy, expensive legal tomes are well-known among law students. But new students may just get a break when it comes to lugging them around. With e-readers like the Kindle and Apple iPad, many law students are able to leave big books behind and read them digitally instead.
10. Accounting will be a little tricky: According to statistics, law school graduates are doing quite well: 93% of grads are working, and the median starting salary for law graduates in the private sector is $160,000. But in reality, law grads are not finding a plethora of jobs, and when they do, they are often not reaching six-figure salaries. How can these statistics and this reality both be true? Law professors say it’s "Enron-type accounting standards" that allow schools to game the rankings. In one statistic, which monitors how many of a school’s law grads are employed after nine months, a job at Applebee’s counts the same as a position as an attorney. As attracting legal students becomes a more competitive game, we can expect law schools to engage in more of these creative number crunches.
Read more here.
Tips for interviewing for a prosecutor's job
1) Prepare for a panel interview. Unlike most interviews with law firms, in which single attorneys meet with you seriatim, interviews with district-attorney offices may consist of “panel” interviews in which three or four members of the law enforcement community (or beyond) will talk with you at once. “Members of the law enforcement community (or beyond)” connotes that police chiefs, investigators, administrators, probation officers, or maybe even public defenders may sit on the panel, in addition to attorneys from the prosecutor’s office.
. . . .
2) Prepare for substantive questions. Back when I was a law student, interviews with law firms were extremely informal (especially compared to the interviews for management consultant positions that I had endured as an undergraduate; I still recall being presented with a calculator at the start of one of those sessions, and being told, “You’ll need this”). It seemed like 50 percent of these conversations, at least, dwelled on the material found within the “Additional Information” section at the bottom of my resume.
Not so with interviews with prosecutors’ offices, which tend to be more substantive. You’ll certainly be asked, “Why do you want to become a prosecutor?” (And here you should have a very good answer at the ready, one better than “I need a job,” or “What’s a prosecutor?”) And you’ll probably also be asked a couple of hypothetical questions.These hypotheticals can take the form of law-school criminal procedure fact patterns, in which, after the recitation of the facts, the call of the question is simply, “The officer calls you at home, asking what she should do–what do you tell her?,” ethical matters (“[X]: Do you disclose this fact to the defense?”), or questions that go to your views as to the merits of the underlying substantive law.
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3) Anticipate your interviewers’ needs. This is, I think, the most important piece of advice that I give. My sense is that an interviewer from a local prosecutor’s office, upon meeting a candidate, is asking her- or himself four basic, self-interested questions:
a) Will I (or my present colleagues) be happy to interact with this person on a daily basis?
b) Is this person capable of doing the job, which, again, will make my life easier, and thus happier? (Notice that I did NOT frame this question as, “Is this person a superstar?”)
c) Is this person going to have to be fired in six months (for any reason), or otherwise make my life more difficult?
d) Is this person going to quit in six months, such that I’m going to be sitting in this exact same chair within a year, interviewing their successor?
Professor Graham goes on to suggest that job interview candidates also keep in mind "best practices" you'd follow for all job interview which includes showing enthusiasm, being prepared to discuss anything on your resume, and doing your due diligence with respect to the particular job you are interviewing for and the people who'll be interviewing you.
For those budding prosecutors, you can read Professor Graham's entire post here.
50 iPad and iPhone Apps for Lawyers
The world of iPhone apps now exceeds 500,000. Overwhelmed? In the March issue of the Michigan Bar Journal, JoAnn Hathaway narrows down the list to the 50 that are most useful to the legal professional.
Be Nice or Risk Ethics Violation
This article from the ABA Journal discusses the issue of incivility among lawyers.
“Incivility among lawyers is not a new concern. But as the general tone of public discourse in the United States becomes more heated, the issue of civility—or lack thereof—within the legal profession appears to be moving to the front burner….Lawyers engaging in uncivil behavior run the risk of court sanctions, but in a growing number of jurisdictions, incivility also may land them in front of their state disciplinary bodies on charges of violating ethics rules.”
You can read the ABA’s endorsed commitment to civility (adopted at the 2011 annual meeting) here.
April 2, 2012
What Law Students Can Do To Further Legal Education Reform
As one of my co-bloggers mentioned a couple of days ago, there is now a new blog, Law Schooled, for students to discuss legal reform. We welcome this blog to the law school debate. It is especially important that law students participate in the discussion that will determine their futures.
With a new blog on legal education, it is time to ask what law students can do to help reform legal education.
1. Learn about the issues in legal education. Regularly read Law Schooled, our blog, and Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers. Read Best Practices in Legal Education (free download ) and The Carnegie Report. Post your ideas on Law Schooled.
2. When choosing a law school, look for law schools that stress the connection between theory and practice (legal skills courses, clinics, doctrinal courses with skills exercises). One place to look is Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers Consortium. There are also other schools who are not members of the Consortium but have good skills options, such as Vermont Law School’s General Practice Program.
3. Take as many skills courses and clinics as you can. If students take more skills courses and clinics, your law school will have to hire more skills professors and offer more skills options.
4. Suggest to your professors that they adopt textbooks that have skills exercises. Carolina Academic Press has published a number of casebooks, The Context and Practice Series, that include legal skills and professionalism exercises. Similarly, LexisNexis has published a series of supplemental books, The Skills and Values Series, that include skills exercises. Similar books will come out in the near future.
5. When your dean has an open forum, go! Don’t be afraid to express your views. (Respectfully, of course.) Let your deans know what courses you want. Work for change in the law school curriculum. Encourage law school transparency. Talk to faculty members about what you want from your law school. Participate in law school organizations, and, if your law schools has students on faculty committees, volunteer for those committees.
6. Show as much respect to your legal writing, clinic, and other skills teachers as you do to your doctrinal teachers. Meet with these teachers frequently. Legal writing teachers and clinicians love to interact with students. It is the best part of our jobs. Value your professors for their teaching ability, not their rank.
7. Be an engaged, active learner; be curious. Don’t just sit passively in the classroom–participate. Question what you read in your textbooks. Consider the implications of what you read in your textbooks and what your professors say. Don't settle for easy answers. Talk with your classmates about legal issues. Become excited about the law.
8. Take care of yourself. Don’t let law school get to you. If you are having a problem, discuss it with someone.