Saturday, April 28, 2012

"No bucks, no Buck Rogers!" Once federal student loan money dries up, some law schools will close.

That's the prediction Professor Nancy Rapoport (UNLV) made to a Bloomberg Law reporter during the recent American Bankruptcy Institute meeting in D.C.  When asked if Congress might amend the bankruptcy laws to allow heavily indebted law students to discharge their educational loan obligations, Professor Rapoport, who also serves on a Congressional committee considering changes to the bankruptcy code, said that's unlikely. So what government relief, if any, can debt-burdened law grads expect?  Professor Rapoport says that Congress could provide some debt relief to those who work in under-served, rural legal markets as a more palatable compromise but at present that's speculation on her part.

On the other hand, Professor Rapoport does expect that some law schools will close as a consequence of the student loan crisis. Demand will remain high for the elite schools that possess  the "right stuff" but marginal schools will see their revenue stream dry up as students decline to take on lots of debt in exchange for the limited job opportunities these schools offer.

Hat tip to the TaxProf Blog.

(jbl).

April 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are College Students Majoring in The Best Subjects for the Job Market?

No, according to a New York Times article by Frank Bruni.

"The thing is, today’s graduates aren’t just entering an especially brutal economy. They’re entering it in many cases with the wrong portfolios. To wit: as a country we routinely grant special visas to highly educated workers from countries like China and India. They possess scientific and technical skills that American companies need but that not enough American students are acquiring."

While this article is on college graduates, I think the same thing is true of law school graduates.  I wonder how much applicants and law students actually think about what they want to do when they graduate.  Do they pick the right law school for what they want to do (or do they just rely on U.S. News)?  Do they take the right courses to prepare them for practice?  Of course, the students over at Law Schooled might reply that they haven't been given the opportunity to take the right courses.

In any event, applicants and law students need to think more about what they want to do with their lives, and law schools need to help them.

(Scott Fruehwald)

April 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Next Generation of Lawyers: Project Managers

At the Legal Whiteboard blog, Professor William Henderson summarizes his recent essay. According to his chronology, lawyers have gone from being generalists, to become specialists, and now are moving to be project managers. Here’s his summary:

A simple framework for understanding the U.S. legal profession is gradual progression through three generations of lawyers: the generalist, the specialist, and the project manager. The transition from one generation to the next is driven by the familiar story of supply and demand. The generalist era (colonial period to the end of World War II) gave way to the specialist era (post-War to early 2000s) because of a shortage of sophisticated business lawyers capable of serving the needs of large, growing, and increasingly regulated industrial and financial clients. Over a period of several decades, leading local practitioners with business expertise transformed their small local practices into regional and national powerhouses. The common feature of all these transformations was an associate-partner training model, which enabled firms to build sufficient human capital to keep pace with -- and thus profit from -- the legal needs of their clients.

In contrast, the U.S. legal profession is now in transition from the specialist to the project manager era. This era is driven by the need for clients to obtain more and better legal work at a lower and more predictable cost. To keep pace with these new client needs (i.e., demands), lawyers working for large corporate clients will increasingly layer their specialized legal knowledge with the skills of the project manager. To the extent that outside lawyers and law firms resist this gravitational pull -- perhaps because they are too wedded to the success and prosperity of the specialist era -- they will lose their seat at the economic table. Thus, as the project manager era unfolds, old hierarchies in the U.S. legal profession will fall and new hierarchies will be created.

(ljs)

April 28, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Article on Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers

LawWeek Colorado has a story on Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers here.  This is the most important paragraph of the story:

"The challenge for the program is communicating to law firms that students with this kind of training are farther up the scale than those who haven’t had this training," Kourlis said. "We’re hoping firms will see people from these schools often enough to seek them out for jobs."

(Scott Fruehwald

April 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Are Lawyers Happy?"

This is Professor Richard Delgado's review of the book The Happy Lawyer: Making a Good Life in the Law by Professors Nancy Levit and Douglas O. Linder. It's titled Recent Writing on Law and Happiness and can be found at 97 Iowa L. Rev. 913 (2012).

From the introduction:

Are lawyers happy? If not, what can they do about it? Is unhappiness an inherent risk in the practice of law--at least as carried out today?

Lately, these questions and ones like them have been very much in the public eye. A 2011 Gallup Poll asked Americans if they were happy and ranked the results state-by-state on a numerical scale. Perhaps sensing a scoop, the New York Times displayed Gallup's information in the form of a map of the entire country showing happy states in a cheerful orange, middling-happy states in pale yellow, and glum or miserable ones in gray or black. An accompanying article identified America's happiest man: a five-foot-ten, sixty-nine-year-old, Chinese-American, Kosher-observing Jew, married with children, and living in Honolulu.

Drawing on a different set of studies, another New York Times writer concluded that those who waited longest to have sex and took the smallest number of partners were happier than their precocious or bed-hopping counterparts, while a third analyzed whether Internet searching made one happy or unhappy. (Answer: It depends.) On the other side of the Atlantic, England's Prime Minister David Cameron announced the creation of a national happiness index that would provide quarterly measures of how his countrymen were feeling about their lives.

Not to be outdone, a number of legal writers, including Deborah Rhode, Mary Ann Glendon, and Anthony Kronman, have weighed in with books on happiness and its opposite in the legal profession. Perhaps sobered by some of their findings, students at one top law school took things into their own hands and signed a pledge refusing to work for law firms that overwork associates and make them miserable. As though sensing a trend, the American Bar Association Journal devoted several pages of a recent issue to the “happiness movement,” while two sections of the Association of American Law Schools (“AALS”) weighed in with a joint session at its 2011 annual meeting on this very subject, drawing an overflow crowd.

In short, people are talking about happiness and its opposite. The Happy Lawyer: Making a Good Life in the Law, by Nancy Levit and Douglas O. Linder, thus arrives at a propitious moment when many lawyers, as well as ordinary citizens, are considering the hedonic quality of their work lives and what can be done to improve them.

Part II of this essay outlines the Levit and Linder book, paying particular attention to its treatment of topics that other books on the subject rarely cover, including the social-scientific and neurological foundation of happiness, as well as prescriptions for a happy life in the law. Part III critiques the book, while Part IV puts forward my own analysis of what the debate on lawyers' happiness needs to include in order to secure lasting gains.

(jbl).

April 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Environmental Justice Blog

Mustafa Ali, Associate Director of Communications for EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, has launched the Environmental Justice in Action blog. He writes:

My goal for this blog is to make this a resource for you and to provide an opportunity for everyone to join the conversation on environmentalism.  So, it is important that we hear from you! Let us know what types of information would be most useful and interesting to you. What do you want to learn more about? Please post your thoughts and comments here and on future posts to help us better design this blog to meet your needs. While the government can provide support and assist in building capacity in communities, putting environmental justice into action takes you!

The blog provides this standard disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Best wishes!

(ljs)

 

April 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dare to Dream – Innovation and the Legal Profession

This column from slaw (Canada’s online legal magazine) caught my eye.  Paula Black encourages legal professionals to innovate and looks to other industries for examples.

“Think outside the box. Look to other industries for inspiration. Challenge the status quo. And show your open-mindedness EVERY SINGLE DAY. YOU my friends will lead the way to new business models… Yes, I do mean MODELS. It is my belief that there will be several… not one size fits all.”

She recommends the following book: "Best Practices are Stupid… 40 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition" by Stephen M. Shapiro.

Hat tip Greg Lambert (@xlambertg)

(dkh)

April 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Are There Too Many Lawyers?

Earlier this week, one of my co-bloggers posted an article from Bloomberg Busines Week, which argued: "[There is a] fundamental challenge facing the legal profession: At all levels, the industry suffers from excess labor."  Later, it stated: "We have a lot of decrepit bridges in this country, factories that could use modernization, and clean-energy technologies that need inventing. It’s a moment for more engineers and entrepreneurs, not more lawyers."

This article has missed the fact that many segments of our society are underserved by the legal profession.  While there may be too many corporate lawyers, the poor are going without legal advice.  The poor have as many legal needs as the middle-class (and one could argue that the middle class is not well-served, too), but they can't get help because of the high cost of legal representation and the government's failure to properly fund legal programs for the poor.

(Scott Fruehwald

April 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The old law firm paradigm versus the new one

Here's an interesting table from Paul Lippe, the forward thinking commentator behind the ABA Journal's "New Normal" column, reflecting old law firm methods and values versus new ones.


Old Normal New Normal
Information location File cabinet. “Cloud.”
Most important tool “My” brain + pen. Connected brains + Web-based collaboration.
First instinct Make things more complex. Make things more simple.
Metaphor Brain surgeon. Utility.
Center of gravity Law firm library. General counsel’s office.
How often is law relevant to clients? Occasionally. Systematically.
Geography National. Global and online.
Orientation Every matter is unique—to think otherwise is to devalue, “commoditize”  the profession. Every matter is similar to other matters—start with similarity, and refine with unique elements— “reinventing the wheel” leads to mistakes, excess costs and clients avoiding lawyers.
Approach to negotiation, conflict Win-lose. Win-win.
Cost Expensive. Reasonable, consistent with other services.
Effort Maximum—any less is unethical. Appropriate—focus on outcomes, not inputs.
Most common metric Hours. Outcomes assessment.
Organizational norm Hierarchy. Distributed authority based on accountability.
Intellectual style Reasoning. Inquiry.
Most common phrase “Avoid risk.” “Achieve opportunity.”
Most common billing method Billable hours. Billable hours—but with more performance kickers.
No. 1 source of law firm profits E-discovery work in jumbly investigations. Success-based bonuses.
Meeting place Law firm conference room. Cyberspace.
Law firm strategic objective Maximize this year’s profit per partner. Maximize cash flow in 3-5 years.
Key young lawyer skill Legal research. Project management.
Where work goes if it doesn’t go to law firm Legal department headed by former firm partner. Legal department headed by executive who worked in firm only briefly, and legal process outsourcer.
Iconic figures  Christopher Langdell, Nick Katzenbach and  Thomas Barr Richard Susskind,  Mark Chandler and Fred Bartlit
Second most highly paid person in legal department Head of litigation. Head of legal operations.
“Unit of production” Individual expert. Team.
Rare and high compliment “Ethical.” “Operationally excellent.”

Read Paul's commentary about the above here.

(jbl).

April 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Avoid the Summer Associate Pitfalls"

Good advice via the New York Law Journal:

These are challenging times for the legal market. The market for summer associates has retracted significantly from its peak in the 2006 to 2008 time period. Most firms have not gone back to the size of the summer associate classes they used to hire and are remaining conservative with their class sizes for the 2012 summer and beyond. Consequently, becoming a summer associate and obtaining an offer is highly competitive. Therefore, you have to approach your summer associate position with a healthy amount of trepidation and be the best version of yourself at all times. Your mere presence at the employer for the summer will not guarantee an offer—it has to be earned. The standard length of a summer program (eight to 12 weeks) is not a lot of time to prove being worthy of a permanent offer. To make the most of this experience, here are few things to keep in mind during the summer.

Be Social, but Not Too Social

A summer associate program is almost never without a social component. The social activities may be presented to you as optional, but in the interest of your future employment, these activities are actually mandatory. If we want to distill the entire purpose of a summer associate program down to one word, it might be "fit." The entire purpose of social activities as a part of a summer associate program is to integrate "Summers" into the culture of the firm and make sure they are a good "fit."

. . . .

Work Hard

This seems like an almost laughable thing to mention. Of course, Summers are going to work hard during the few weeks they will spend with the firm, right? Summer programs are rigorous programs designed to give a real world experience of what being an associate at that firm really means. Summers need to do excellent work at all times. The first thing to do is be prepared. When asked to go into a lawyer's office to take instruction on an assignment, show up with pad and pen ready to take notes. Appear eager and pay attention. Lawyers (as most people) hate having to waste time and repeat themselves. Summers must manage and juggle assignments professionally.

One of the biggest complaints from partners is that young associates often do not know how to prioritize their work.
. . . .

Find Champions

In other words, get one or more mentors.

Play Nice

Always remember that there are people lined up for your position. If you are difficult in any way, the employer simply won't keep you. No one wants to work with someone who is nasty or difficult. Keep in mind that your attitude towards support and administrative staff counts.
. . . .

Read the rest here.

(jbl).

April 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

No More Grades at U Toronto Law School

They held a day before exams where stressed-out law students could play with dogs.

They offered yoga and foot massage to these future titans of trials.

Now the University of Toronto’s law school could become the first in Canada to scrap the often nerve-wracking letter grades of A, B, C, D and F for the kinder, gentler ratings of Honours, Pass and Fail.

Less stressful grading work for the professors as  well.

You can read all about it here (and see  photos of the dogs as well).

(ljs)

April 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The future in law ain't what it used to be

Today’s edition of The New York Times includes a Q&A with Michael H. Trotter, “a partner at Taylor English Duma in Atlanta who, in addition to a five-decade career as a corporate lawyer, has written two books about the economics and management of law firms.” Among other things, he addresses the “grim environment” at Big Huge & Gargantuan LLP:

Law firms expect associates to put in 1,800 to 2,000 billable hours, and at some firms it’s up to 2,500. That’s 50 hours a week, 50 weeks a year. And that’s just the billable time. Every lawyer has to make an investment every day of time that’s not billable. You have to study and learn, improve your skills, administer to your practice. If you’re working 50 hours a week of billable time, you’re probably working 65 to 70 hours of total time. So the burden is tremendous. Now, with the Internet and cellphones, you’re in demand possibly every hour of every day of every week.

He also answers a question about whether he would advise his grandchildren to go to law school:

I would not. It’s extraordinarily competitive. We are turning out 45,000 or so law school graduates a year. The quality is very high, and there aren’t jobs for them. Roughly half the lawyers in the country are sole practitioners. Seventy percent practice in firms with fewer than 20 lawyers, and for the most part they do not have the very high levels of income enjoyed by the major firms. Making a go requires three years of your life and $150,000 for a legal education. If you get a job at an elite firm, the odds of becoming a partner are probably less than 10 percent. So, it’s a very rough row to hoe, and much of the work that’s done is not challenging and interesting work.

Peter Lattman, “Dewey & LeBoeuf Crisis Mirrors Legal Industry’s Woes,” N.Y. Times, April 26, 2012, p. B7 (national edition).

(cgw)

April 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Professional Development – Important Resume Building

This post from the ResumeBear blog offers some useful tips for building a resume through professional development.  


“In an unsettling job market, professional development is critical to boosting your resume and becoming more marketable. Look at it as building your personal brand; give your potential employer a reason to want you around, trust that you have a lot to offer, and see you as a valuable asset to their team. Professional development shows that you’ve taken time to hone your skills and focus in on areas that are critical to your career success.”

The tips, which would certainly be applicable to law students, include:

-    Continuing education –  law students could attend bar association seminars as well as look for online opportunities;

-    Volunteering; and

-    Personal learning – it never hurts to keep working on building research skills!


(dkh)

April 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

AAUP study finds that jump in college tuition not caused by faculty pay

Faculty salaries comprise the largest component of law school overhead and thus it's where most student tuition goes.  Consequently it's always been reasonable to assume that jumps in tuition are directly attributable to the cost of finding and retaining good faculty. But this new study from the American Association of University Professors ("AAUP") found that's not the case when it comes to undergraduate faculty.  The rise in college tuition of late has far outstripped faculty salary increases in some cases by a factor of four.  So what's the explanation? 

According to the AAUP study there are several factors responsible including the need to subsidize students who can't pay full-freight, the recurring costs of improving the technology infrastructure, the growing ranks of non-teaching staff and executive pay. Of course the AAUP has a vested interested in these findings so you have to read the excerpt below with that in mind.  And before Elie Mystal and Paul Campos rip me a new one for even suggesting that law school faculty salaries aren't to blame for why our students have debt loads they can never repay, I'm just reporting the story - it doesn't mean I sympathize with the conclusions.

2011-12 Report on the Economic Status of the Profession

This year’s report begins with a summary of the findings of the annual AAUP survey of full-time faculty compensation. We then go on to consider a hot topic in policy debates about higher education: the rising price of college tuition and the questions about what’s driving it. (Spoiler alert: it’s not faculty salaries!) Following that, we take another look at what college and university presidents are earning—a topic about which we receive questions every year. In the final sections of this year’s report we touch on new topics. We provide a fresh analysis of the impact of unionization on full-time faculty earnings across different institutional sectors. We anticipate the release of new data on part-time faculty pay that will enable a much more complete description of faculty compensation. And in light of the issues raised by the emergence of the “Occupy” movement, our final section goes beyond our usual focus on higher education and looks at the broader US income distribution.

. . . .

Two variables are relevant to the analysis of college tuition: published tuition price and net tuition cost. Published tuition price is the “sticker price” colleges and universities print in their admissions materials. It’s the price paid by students who aren’t receiving any financial aid. Net tuition cost is the published tuition price minus grant aid, tax credits, and tax deductions; it represents the out-of-pocket tuition costs for students and families. Colleges and universities have learned to set tuition in much the same way that airlines set ticket prices, charging different people different rates for the same service. (In economics this would be referred to as “price discrimination.”) Students who pay full price help subsidize the grants that lower the costs for students receiving need- or merit-based aid.

Parents, politicians, and the press tend to focus on increases in published tuition prices. Although that measure overstates the rate of increase, it does contribute to the “sticker shock” that may discourage some students from pursuing higher education. According to the College Board’s Trends in College Pricing 2011, for the most recent five-year period between 2006–07 and 2011–12 average published tuition and fees at four-year colleges increased by 5.1 percent more than inflation. But net tuition and fees increased by just 1.4 percent above the inflation rate during the same period, and some two-thirds of all students receive at least some form of financial aid. Tuition prices are rising and are a source of anxiety for many middle-class families, although the net effect may not be as great as many people think.

So, why is the price of college tuition rising? AAUP survey data demonstrate that, contrary to a persistent myth, full-time faculty salaries are not the cause of rising tuition prices over the last three decades, as shown in table B. During the 1980s, increases in inflation-adjusted published tuition and fees at private four-year colleges and universities were more than double the increases in full-time faculty salaries. Tuition prices increased at three times the rate of faculty salaries in public four-year colleges and at more than four times the rate in community colleges. And this was during a decade when full-time faculty salaries were rising to compensate for significant losses against inflation in the previous decade.

During the 1990s, increases in both tuition and fees and full-time faculty salaries slowed somewhat. Nonetheless, the pattern of tuition prices rising several times faster than faculty salaries continued. Tuition and fees in four-year colleges once again rose three or four times as fast as full-time faculty salaries, on average. And the inflation-adjusted published tuition and fees in public two-year colleges increased by 5.4 percent, even while real faculty salaries declined by 2.1 percent.

In the most recent decade the tuition trends at public and private institutions diverged substantially. As figure 1 illustrates with data from the independent Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability, state and local appropriations for public higher education declined between 1999 and 2009 after adjusting for inflation and increasing enrollment. Public colleges and universities had little choice but to raise tuition prices to make up for the decline in government support, and figure 2 indicates that at public colleges and universities net tuition revenues per full-time equivalent (FTE) student increased between 35 and 50 percent between 1999 and 2009. By the end of this period, tuition was nearly as large a source of revenue as state and local appropriations for public research and master’s universities, although it had reached only about half the level of appropriations in community colleges.

AAUP data clearly indicate that full-time faculty salaries have not been driving up the costs of higher education over the last three decades. But figure 3 provides additional compelling evidence that the revenue from increased tuition prices is not being invested in faculty members. As has been discussed repeatedly in this annual report, the proportion of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty members has been falling precipitously. During this period the proportion of faculty members working part time has increased substantially, at rates of pay that are only a fraction of what full-time faculty members receive.

The evidence is unequivocal: faculty pay is not the source of rising tuition prices. And we’re not the only ones reaching that conclusion. The Delta Project concluded in its Trends in College Spending, 1998–2008 that “over the 1998 to 2008 period, the share of instruction spending declined against increased spending for academic support (libraries and computing), institutional support (administration), and student services. . . . The common myth that spending on faculty is responsible for continuing cost escalation is not true.”

You can read the full report here.

Hat tip to Brian Leiter's Law School Reports blog.

(jbl).

April 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Millennial Juror

So who has thought about the ramifications of presenting a case to a jury including millennials? The Lord Chief Justice of Great Britain has:

In November 2008, the Lord Chief Justice of Great Britain,

Sir Igor Judge, sounded a warning about the generational

shift occurring as web-savvy citizens accustomed to getting

their information online entered the jury box. Noting the

consequences of this shift for the system of trial by jury, the

Lord Chief Justice observed, “If a generation is going to arrive

in the jury box that is totally unused to sitting and listening

but is using technology to gain the information it needs to

form a judgment, that changes the whole orality tradition with

which we are familiar.

In an  article in the Texas  Bar  Journal, authors John G. Browning and Professor Wendy A. Humphrey discuss the issue and conclude:

In short, the majority of these Gen Y representatives clearly

favored the use of technology in the courtroom and indicated

that they would be in a much better position to absorb information

that was presented visually as well as verbally. Yet even

among the multitasking members of Generation Y, the picture

was by no means clear when it came to the possibility of too

much technology in the courtroom and the risk of sensory

overload.

(ljs)

 

April 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Law School in Savannah

Atlanta's John Marshall Law School is opening a new branch in Savannah this fall.  Their website is here.

Update: More info here.  "The Savannah Law School’s first class will be limited to 95 students with plans to increase enrollment to 400 to 450 in following years. The school has received more than 400 applications since Dec. 15, 2011."  And here.

(Scott Fruehwald) (hat tip: Lucy Jewell)

April 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (2)

A New Course Portfolio on ETL: Litigation and Transactional Immersions

As most of you probably know, Washington & Lee emphasizes skills in the third year of law school.  James Moliterno has recently posted a portfolio on the Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Website, which describes W & L's Litigational and Transactional Immersions.   The portfolio is very detailed, so it is worth reading as a whole.

He summarizes the courses as: "There are two immersion courses in our new 3L experiential curriculum, which is required of all students. The fall two-week immersion is litigation oriented while the spring two-week immersion is transactional.  The two immersions are offered as one portfolio because both are required of all 3Ls as part of W&L’s third year curriculum and because they share the same overall structure and teaching methodology.  While each of the immersions provides the respective foundations upon which the rest of each semester is built, each is separate from the other as well as separate from the rest of the practicums, clinics and externships subsequently offered each semester of the third year."

"The two-week Litigation Immersion occurs in the fall of students’ third year. Each student represents either employer or employee in a simple, wrongful discharge matter.  Throughout the Litigation Immersion, students play the role of the “clients”, and also represent a client in a separate but similar case.  Students were told in advance that their experiences in the immersion program would be free-flowing, and somewhat more realistic and unpredictable than their prior law school experiences, with new issues arising and changes of course taking place as the litigation developed."

"During the two-week Transactional Immersion in the spring, each student represents either buyer or seller in a friendly, business transaction: the purchase of a small, family-owned manufacturing business (the “deal”).  Throughout the Transactional Immersion, instructors play the role of the “clients” (buyer or seller), with pairs of student “lawyers” being assigned to represent their client, working with a pair of students representing the other side.  Students were told in advance that their experiences in the Immersion program would be free-flowing, and somewhat more realistic and unpredictable than their prior law school experiences, with new issues arising and changes of course taking place as the transaction developed."

He notes, "When students learn law in this and other experience-based courses at W&L, they learn law as lawyers do rather than as students do. They learn law to solve a client’s problem or provide a needed service. That is how lawyers engage law.  Students, by contrast, learn law to take an exam. That, too, has value, but the transition to a lifetime of engaging law as lawyers do is necessary for adoption of the professional role and mind-set.  This is what a third year of experiential education accomplishes."

I especially like Professor Moliterno's comment on experential education: "Experential education is not, as some would belittle it, merely skills teaching. Instead, it is the primary vehicle for professional enculturation and a valuable vehicle for teaching law and theory. Learning by doing is more than mere activity-based exercises. Learning by doing is a role transition, in this instance from student to lawyer. Guided activities in role allow students to test and adopt the professional role, with the guidance of an expert mentor and teacher."

Kudos to Washington & Lee for their immersion programs and emphasis on skills.

(Scott Fruehwald)   

April 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New York attorney suspended for writing bad briefs

This week's benchslap comes to us from the New York Appellate division which suspended an attorney for two years (!) for filing briefs of "shockingly poor quality" that, among other things, spelled clients' names wrong and including facts not in the record. As our sister publication the Legal Profession blog reports, the court imposed the sanction as "reciprocal discipline" based on a finding by the Second Circuit regarding the attorney's filings. An excerpt from the state court decision:

The Departmental Disciplinary Committee ("DDC") now seeks an order pursuant to 22 NYCRR 603.3, imposing reciprocal discipline on respondent based on an order issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, dated July 8, 2011, publicly reprimanding him and suspending him from the practice of law for a period of two years. The Committee requests that this Court suspend respondent for two years, or impose whatever discipline it deems appropriate. Respondent, appearing pro se, consents to the imposition of reciprocal discipline.

The Second Circuit proceeding concerned charges that respondent: (1) submitted deficient briefs in seven immigration matters; (2) failed to comply with numerous scheduling orders, including failing to submit briefs in support of immigration petitions; and (3) filed with the Second Circuit petitions that involved immigration proceedings completed in other circuits. Respondent, pro se, submitted a response in June 2009, offering a variety of explanations for his lapses: a large influx in immigration petitions arising from family planning laws in China; the onset of glaucoma in 2008; his inability to bear the expense of filing briefs where clients had abandoned their cases; law office disruptions due to his moving his law office and problems with receiving mail; and procedural changes in the Second Circuit's management of its immigration docket.

When respondent informed the Second Circuit's Committee on Admissions and Grievances that he waived his right to appear at a hearing and did not intend to present witnesses on his behalf, but would rely on his July 2009 response, the Committee issued a report without holding a hearing, relying on court records and respondent's submissions. It concluded that respondent had submitted briefs of "shockingly poor quality," replete with defects such as incorrect clients' names, inclusion of irrelevant boilerplate, and reference to evidence that had not been submitted. It observed that respondent's explanation that he had relied on a paralegal for some of his work, and had filed that work without reviewing it, constituted an admission that he had aided the unauthorized practice of law in violation of DR 3-101(A) and failed to supervise non-lawyer staff acting at his direction, in violation of DR 1-104[C] and [D]. It found that respondent had neglected numerous matters in violation of DR 6-101(A)(3), resulting in the dismissal of seven petitions. It also found that most of his filing of petitions in the wrong circuit resulted from a failure to read the records and, in any event, showed a lack of respect for and lack of candor toward the court. The Committee on Admissions and Grievances recommended a two-year suspension, with respondent required to present evidence of attendance at CLE classes in brief-writing and law office management before being permitted to resume practice.

The Second Circuit adopted the Committee's recommendations, publicly reprimanding respondent and suspending him for two years, and imposing the recommended reinstatement requirements.

. . . .

In deciding on the appropriate sanction in reciprocal discipline matters, it is generally accepted that great weight should be accorded to the sanction imposed by the jurisdiction in which the charges were originally brought (see Matter of Jaffe, 78 AD3d 152 [2010]; Matter of Jarblum, 51 AD3d 68 [2008]). The two-year suspension imposed by the Second Circuit does not deviate significantly from our precedent, in which we have suspended attorneys who have neglected client matters and failed to handle caseloads appropriately (see e.g. Matter of Cohen, 40 AD3d 61 [2007]; Matter of Leavitt, 291 AD2d 37 [2002]).

Accordingly, the Committee's petition should be granted and respondent suspended from the practice of law in the State of New York for a period of two years, and until further order of the Court.
All concur.

Whoa, Nellie!

(jbl).

April 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Georgetown law students create new apps to answer client questions

Thanks to the TaxProf blog for this story about a student competition at Georgetown to develop new apps that provide access to more affordable legal advice on issues like copyright, same sex marriage and immigration law. The competition was held in conjunction with a seminar called Technology, Innovation, and Law Practice: An Experiential Seminar in which students were asked to design a program that would solve a real life legal problem.

Kudos to the students for coming up with some great innovations.  But are they putting themselves out of a job by creating software that does the work for them?  "No" say the students; software is their ally. It helps clients by lowering the overall transactional cost and helps the attorneys by eliminating some of the grunt work so they can instead focus on creative problem solving.

Check out this video of students talking about their apps and find out which one the judges liked best.

(jbl). 

April 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Pathology of Those Working in the Nonprofit Sector (Some of Us?)

Entrepreneur Dan Pallotta offers a possible pathology of many who work in the nonprofit sector, a sector that includes many of us:

 Maybe people get into the compassion business full-time not because they're more compassionate than others but because they're codependent. Maybe the driving force is really inverted narcissism — an unhealthy and unexamined addiction to care-taking or to self-neglect.

Pallotta seems to be thinking of others in the nonprofit world and particularly educators. Still, it’s worth pondering why we do what we do, why we have made the financial choices we have. He writes:

I see people sacrificing their children's quality of life as they burn themselves out doing the jobs of two or three people, for wages that don't support the kind of life they really want. And while they lament it, they have no commitment to doing anything about it. There's a sense of pathological contentment.

If the work becomes more about satisfying a pathology than actually making progress, that's going to affect our progress. Thomas Merton, the Christian Mystic, wrote, "There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist fighting for peace by non-violent methods most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. . . . He concludes by saying, "to surrender oneself to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone with everything, is to succumb to violence...The frenzy of the activist neutralises his work for peace."

Here is the posting at the Harvard Business Review blog.

(ljs)

April 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)