Saturday, May 12, 2012

Tips for writing a better resume

From the Texas Lawyer.

Commentary: How to Write a Get-Noticed, Persuasive Résumé

1. Use graphics. Let's say a new attorney's grades in the first year of law school put him in that half of the class that makes the top half possible. Years two and three were break-out years, and his GPA increased. The employee-hopeful could list the three years of law school, with his GPA noted by each year. Snooze. That makes the reader pull out the information. Such a technique tells, but doesn't show, and telling is not persuasive. What about using a chart, like one that shows rising stock prices, outperforming from previous years? Instant understanding. First rule of persuasion: Show, don't tell.

2. Generic descriptions get a generic rejection letter. It is good to have experience as a summer law clerk at a firm or as a judicial or corporate law intern. Good, but not good enough. I see resumes with generic descriptions a la "drafted pleadings; researched cases; prepared discovery responses."

These tell the reader absolutely nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Instead, the resume drafter should put this information into an interesting context: describe the types of cases involved: a role on the deal team or why the motion in limine was important. I sometimes ask why the resume writer doesn't do so, and I hear answers that I group into the "I'm Not Worthy" category from the movie Wayne's World. Some examples: "I do not want to sound arrogant." "Why would someone find this of interest?" Want a reader to be engaged and interested? Follow the second rule of persuasion: Be vivid.

3. Schooling vs. education. People do not hire a piece of paper. They hire a breathing person, with blood pumping through her heart, and flesh hanging from his bones. Once I met a third-year law student at my weekend breakfast place to go over her resume. It gave a lot of information on her, but nothing about her. When I asked if she ever had a job, she told me about her family business and how she and her sister worked there every summer -- not behind some desk, but driving and unloading a delivery truck in the Texas heat; stuffing flyers into envelopes and, once, taking a crowbar to a warehouse that was being remodeled.

She learned a lot about life during those summers. A well-meaning counselor told her it wasn't "professional" to list this type of work experience. Mark Twain remarked that he never let his schooling interfere with his education. Prospective employers want to know about this life "education" that is separate from what someone learned in school. It tells them about the experiences that shaped the potential employee as a person. When you are going to work every day with a person, you want to know what they're made of. And it's our "education," not our schooling, that tells them. Third rule of persuasion: Use flesh and blood stories, not dry and routine facts.

4. Drop the references. Attorneys just starting out should keep their resumes to one page. Period. They should not waste valuable real estate on a "references" section. It is just empty calories. Knowing three people is persuasive of nothing. The reader does not care about a potential hire's minister or law school professor or a judge he knows but never worked for. (I have seen all three.) The resume writer is using the references as "proxies" for virtue or intelligence or connections. Fourth rule of persuasion: Avoid unnecessary filler in favor of truly impactful information (this one comes courtesy of novelist Elmore Leonard, whose secret to success is to go back and cut out the parts of the novel that he thinks readers will just skip).

5. Contact capital. Dropping useless references leaves room for a section that belongs on every resume, but which I never have seen. I call it "contact capital," aka "business development."

Contact capital is developed over time. The employer needs to know what the applicant is doing today to make sure he has the capital in the bank tomorrow. It is the web of relationships that generates business, enhances reputation and ensures a career. This section of the resume is not formulaic. It is different for everyone. The resume writer should ask questions to figure out what she should include: "Am I on social media, and why?" or "What organizations do I belong to and will I try for a leadership role in them?" or "How am I maintaining the relationships I now have?"

Let's be clear on what I am not talking about. Chris Barez-Brown writes in his new book, Shine: How to Survive and Thrive at Work, that he hates the interview question "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" As he says, "Who has a clue?" Rather, he writes you should have a "North Star" to guide you, because "it is important to know where you're moving toward: what kind of life you want and what kind of person you want to be. It is the quality of the vision that is more important than its precision." Fifth rule of persuasion: Be different. People remember different.

A persuasive resume is a resume that evidences a humble mind-set, not an arrogant one. It is about what a prospective hire hopes to learn and what he dreams about becoming. Attorneys should put these aspirations in their resumes, but only if they come from their hearts. New lawyers writing resumes should think about a story about being humble from Inner Excellence: Achieve Extraordinary Business Success Through Mental Toughness by Jim Murphy, the type of book I wish I had read 30 years ago. Murphy writes that Navy Seals are the most humble professionals he has ever met. For them, it is not about storming through the door; rather, it is about planning, practice, preparation and respect for the adversary. That's what makes a Seal. And, come to think of it, that's what makes the type of lawyer a legal employer wants to hire.

Hat tip to lawjobs.com.

(jbl).

May 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

California Bar Considers Requiring Practical Skills Training Prior To Taking the Bar

A state bar task force will soon begin examining whether new attorneys must attain a certain level of hands-on training before being admitted to practice in California. The discussion is still in the early stages, but ideas being kicked around include requiring an internship or mentorship program; a set number of skills-training hours; or a year-long course for 3Ls that covers real-world lawyering skills.

The Task Force on Admissions Regula­tion Reform is scheduled to issue its recommendations in December 2013. Whatever it decides, the repercussions could be major. California's bar is the largest in the nation, so the ripple effects would reach law schools and bar associations outside the state.

Needless to say, leading California law deans are critical.  Here’s the story from the National Law Journal.

(ljs)

May 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Iowa bar and local law schools team up to place students in small town practices

Finding good mentors is key if you're planning to launch a solo practice after graduation. Just ask this guy. The National Law Journal has a story from Iowa where the state bar, local law schools and small town practitioners have gotten together to arrange mentoring relationships that will help recent grads develop practices in underserved small towns.

Clerkships match students to small town law practices

The number of lawyers in rural areas across the country is in decline as aging attorneys retire. The relatively low pay and small-town lifestyle has made a solo practice in a rural area a hard sell to many younger attorneys.

The Iowa State Bar Association is launching an effort to introduce would-be lawyers to life as small town attorneys, which often entails being a legal jack-of-all-trades.

The bar has teamed up with the University of Iowa College of Law, Drake University Law School and Creighton University School of Law to match seven law students with solo practitioners or small firms in Iowa towns for clerkships this summer. The hope is that those students will develop a taste for the work and either return after they graduate or set up their own small-town practices, said attorney Philip Garland, co-chairman of the bar's rural practice committee.

"We want to keep people in small towns," Garland said, noting that many Iowans from small towns now travel to larger cities for legal services. "We want legal services to be accessible, and lawyers do a lot for the community."

You can keep reading here.

(jbl).

May 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Plain English in Government Regulations

Rep. Bruce Braley has proposed the Plain Regulations Act, which would require federal agencies to use plain language in all new and substantially revised proposed and final regulations. In the May 2012 issue of the Michigan Bar Journal, Dr. Annetta Cheek, a  veteran plain English advocate, counters arguments against the proposal—arguments that  one often  hears in any discussion of plain English proposals:

Criticism 1: A law requiring regulations

to be written in plain language would

be used to slow down or derail the

regulatory process by those who oppose

government’s role in regulating.

Criticism 2: It’s impossible to measure

compliance with the plain-language

requirement. Measurement will further

tie up the regulatory process.

Criticism 3: Plain language is imprecise.

Criticism 4: It’s too hard to write

regulations in plain language.

Senators Claire McCaskill, Tom Coburn, and Susan Collins have introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

(ljs)

May 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Institute for Law Teaching & Learning Summer Conference

The Institute for Law Teaching & Learning will hold its summer conference in Spokane, Washington on June 25-26.  I attended their conference in New York last year, and it was probably the most valuable conference I've ever attended.  More info here at p. 38.

(Scott Fruehwald)

May 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Joe Hodnicki on Nancy Rapoport

Joe Hodnicki has some nice commentary on a recent article by Nancy Rapoport on the Law Librarian Blog.  His final paragraph is worth repeating:

"Frankly, one has to wonder when rethinking will be replaced with reforming "(most)" of the legal academy. If professorial "talk therapy" doesn't lead to institutional corrective behavior, what's the point? There are plenty of good ideas "out there" that don't require all law schools to accept. Experimenting in baby step fashion, perhaps by some law school requiring additonal courses at the 2L and 3L level, just might be a good laboratory for testing some curricular reform proposals incrementally. I'm thinking well-meaning reform-minded law profs just might to touch base with their College of Education profs for some expert help."

This reminds me of a Dilbert cartoon.  The boss goes to Dilbert and says we need to set up a committee to fix the problem in our new software.  Dilbert makes two key strokes and says, "done."  The boss says, "good, now all we have to do is to set up the committee."

Is this how legal education is going to get reformed, by those who do it on their own without waiting for the committee meeting?  Maybe this wouldn't be such a bad thing. There are many professors out there you are doing new things without waiting for their curriculum committees to decide on a meeting date when everyone can attend.  Someday in the not to distant future someone will say to the ABA, let's set up a committee to study legal reform.  A person in the back will stand up and say, "done."

(Scott Fruehwald

May 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Advice for Life as an Attorney and Mom

This post from Westlaw Insider has some interesting advice for attorney moms. 

“Liberating Working Moms blog includes a reminder from contributor Law Momma:  The Art of Saying “No” identifies the right times, and the right ways, to point out the boundaries for yourself, family and colleagues.

A rare gem:  the working-mother community What to Expect details the typical morning schedule of Caroline73, a small firm attorney and mother of an infant.

Attorney Ann Fidler (@organistatlaw) notes that small daily decisions help you keep priorities in line, in and outside of work.  She tweets, “It’s all about prioritizing and engaging every second when I’m not at work. Family support is a must.”

Attorney Michelle Hartman spoke with Texas Rising Stars magazine, a SuperLawyers publication, about the importance of placing work and home life in positions to help one another, rather than placing them in conflict.

As an attorney at a smaller law firm, you have more flexibility to meet the varying needs of your clients and family.  Attorney-turned-Thomson Reuters employee Lise Freking offers insights that she gleaned from common experiences, in practice and here in service to the legal industry.”

Happy Mother’s Day!

(dkh)

May 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A major innovation in grading software that helps employers hire the best student for the job

This is pretty mind-blowing (and more than a little creepy too). New grading software that enables the professor to make a more nuanced and in depth evaluation of students and then export that assessment directly to employers (putting aside for the moment FERPA concerns) so they can pick the best candidate for the job.  From the Harvard Business Review:

The Next Digital Revolution in Education? Grading.

. . . .

The problem [with traditional grading as an assessment tool for employers] is that the grade is an aggregate statistic. A student who wrote a wonderful assignment, but botched a test under time pressure, could still earn an "A." So could one who rushed an assignment, but is quite good under pressure in an exam. Even worse, the conditions for earning a grade are, to a large extent, arbitrary, with different professors assessing students with different weightings for different courses. Much of that weighting is constrained by "university rules" that basically require that enough of the grade comes from things (like exams) where it is harder for students to cheat. That's useful for the university, but it isn't necessarily of the same value for employers.

Enter CoursePeer, one initiative designed to change that. CoursePeer was founded by two brothers, Marwan and Hadi Aladdin. One has graduated and the other is still going through the University of Toronto's engineering program. Somehow they have managed to set up this venture in their spare time.

CoursePeer is billed as a social academic talent management network, which is, of course, too many words. But here is what it does: it is a platform for professors to interact with students while they take a course, providing an online environment so that professors, tutors, and students can interact. Now that idea is not new. Indeed, last year, I used a blog to do the same thing with my students.

Here's the innovation: interaction gives professors (and tutors) the ability and opportunity to rate the interactions and activity along a variety of metrics. The basic mechanism is akin to "liking" or "not liking" a student's contributions. But this is nuanced along a variety of dimensions including innovation, research, leadership, problem solving, collaboration, and curiosity. Earn enough "likes" and the professor can award badges for these qualities. CoursePeer involves a mix of subjective and objective evaluation, but the point is that it is baked into the learning activity.

Here's where employers come in: CoursePeer has made those metrics and awards exportable so they can be communicated directly to employers. This system has the potential to remove the need for employers to engage in a separate evaluation. In other words, with multiple dimensions, especially on qualities that go beyond pure mastery of a course, employers can learn more about what type of student they are evaluating.

This is entirely new — from the type of information CoursePeer asks professors to provide to the notion of going beyond the grade in providing information to employers. The information is part of the natural activity of education, eliminating waste, not simply expense.

Yes, it's the early days — and I could spend another post discussing potential impediments — but the value for this type of innovation is clear. Moreover, if the future of higher education is going to be in massive online classes, then we can expect to see even more standardized testing. In that world, the need to go beyond the grade will only increase.

(jbl).

May 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

No correlation between blogging and profits for BigLaw

But it might be a different story for smaller firms that don't rely on institutional clients and instead have to hustle much more to find and keep the ones they've got. From the National Law Journal:

Biggest firms still not blogging

. . . .

Does having a large number of blogs help firms make more money? Or is it a useless distinction . . . ?



What relationship if any does number of blogs have to growth or profitability? There seems to be no direct correlation — six of the 10 firms have moved up in the AmLaw rankings during the past two years, while four have moved down the chart. However, acceptance of blogging seems to indicate something deeper within a firm's culture. Blogging firms appear to be more entrepreneurial. The more scrappy, middle-market firms were willing to take a chance on blogging early, as one component of a larger strategy.

This observation rings true for Mark Silow, managing partner of Fox Rothschild. "Every year we have over 13,000 clients that pay us fees. We do have extremely large clients, but our average client is middle market, and to succeed there, you need to be very entrepreneurial," he said. "This group of clients has been very resilient, so we have continued to grow. This is also a group of clients you need to replenish on a regular basis, so our lawyers are out there hustling."

. . . .

Asked about the return on investment from the blogs, Silow had this to say: "We have picked up a number of clients through the blogs, but the greatest value is that they serves as a validator of our expertise and our knowledge. We've received good external publicity as well — trade journals pick up blogs and point to them as great resources."

Of all the Am Law 100 firms, 74 have now launched blogs — 54 new blogs during the past year alone. Still, the top 10 firms continue to lag behind. These firms may be dipping their toes into the water, trying to figure out what most of the legal industry has already realized. Blogging works.

You can continue to read Adrian Dayton's article from NLJ by clicking here. You can also read a series of posts we wrote last year on the blogging and social media habits of attorneys based on law firm size by clicking here for BigLaw, here for mid-sized firms and here for advice to small firms and solos about how to build a social media presence.

(jbl).

 

May 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Can computers provide legal advice?

Sure.  If not for the most sophisticated "bespoke" legal problems, then it's certainly true for routine ones like a client's request for an estate plan.  Over at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, Greg Lambert explains that more than 20 years ago he worked on a software program that was capable of offering estate planning advice.  So why haven't more routine attorney functions like that been automated by now?  Greg thinks it's merely because attorneys haven't pushed especially hard for that kind of innovation.  That's not so surprising since these are innovations that threaten a lawyer's livelihood just as Orbitz and similar sites helped put travel agents out of business. But is there any doubt that we're soon going to see the automation of many attorney functions and that it's going to have a profound affect on the demand for the flesh and blood kind?

More from Greg:

The First Time I Saw a Computer Practice Law

Back in the 80’s while in graduate school I was a librarian at a branch office of a regional firm. I was in the room when they delivered the IBM XT PC and therefore became the expert on its use (a.k.a. the beginning of my legal tech career).We had purchased the PC as we were a beta site for a document generation system for wills and trusts. A partner at the firm was involved in the start-up efforts of what would become HotDocs. And since this software ran on a PC, we had to get one.

With the program loaded up we began playing with it (which we now call QC). I answered a series of questions about my personal needs related to an estate plan, giving what was essentially ‘the facts of my legal situation.’ Well in to the questioning a yellow screen popped up and ‘gave me advice.’ I do not remember the specific advice, but the gist was that based on the my situation, I should consider changing my answer to the last question about what I thought I would want, since that did not fit with my situation. I recall distinctly sitting back and thinking - Wow. I just witnessed something unique. A computer giving me real legal advice.

. . . we haven’t put much effort in to automating lawyers. This tells me there is likely numerous ways in which we can automate. . . . .  The ability for technology to perform lawyer tasks has been around now for 30 years. Isn’t about time we started using it?

(jbl)

May 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Teaching Students About Noncosmic Law

Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson (4th Circuit) has written a well-reviewed book, Cosmic Constitutional Theory, which  urges judges to abandon employing the big ideological legal theories as  guidestars  and instead favor  judicial restraint and  case-by-case decision making.

 The argument leads me to think about the typical cases that students read in law school. A significant number of law school cases deal with major policy decisions and major shifts in the legal landscape. Yet, in the day-to-day practice of law, lawyers typically deal with cases where the law is settled and the issue is about applying the law to the facts. Are the facts in this case close enough to the facts in a prior case so that we can use that case as precedent? Are the facts so different that we can distinguish that case? Is the legal rule ambiguous when applied to this set of facts?  

Given the nature of day-to-day law, are we misleading students about the practice of law?

To be sure, students need exposure to cosmic theory. However, they also need to learn more about handling noncosmic cases.

(ljs)

May 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

More on those pesky robots coming to a legal writing classroom near you

We know that robots are already replacing attorneys (and doing a better job) for routine tasks like document review. Heck, there's even software that will negotiate a divorce settlement better (and certainly cheaper) than lawyers.  Robots can best humans on the game show Jeopardy and perhaps write a better news story than a journalist.

Last week we mentioned a story suggesting that it's not whether robots will also replace professors but only a question of when (and in some parts of the world, they already have).  Here's a follow-up story from the Chronicle of Higher Ed on robots replacing profs:

Robot Writers, Robot Readers?

[C]an algorithms replace students? Professors?

To some extent, they already have. The story of robot reporters parallels with Marc Bousquet’s recent piece, “Robots are grading your papers“. Marc Bousquet points out that the substitution works in standardized situations: “Machines can reproduce human essay-grading so well because human essay-grading practices are already mechanical.” Certainly the essay-grading rubrics of standardized tests leave little room for interpretation. And with robots also writing, I can only wonder how their essays would score by the standards of their fellow machines.

It’s not a comfortable thought, but perhaps the entrance of robots into the fray can be a reminder of why the teaching of writing is so important: Rachel Toor wrote about the importance of deeper feedback (beyond what an automated tool, like the writing feedback in Pages, can do) in the teaching of writing. I plan to show EssayTyper to my freshmen to encourage them to be aware of when they are engaging in writing–and when they’re caught up in cutting and pasting, or taking the backseat to outside sources and automatic filler.

We can thus perhaps be reassured that humans are still the ones reporting on the robot reporters, and students writing those final essays will have to look a little further than an automated writing companion.

Yeah, but for how long?  Only until someone invents a better algorithm? Will we soon see the day when attorneys have robots draft most of their pleadings to be filed in cases that will be decided by a judicial algorithm?  In that event, the trick will be to get the robot to do the work while we humans still collect the paycheck. 

We certainly live in interesting times.

(jbl).

May 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Can Professor John Yoo Be Sued for Allegedly Authorizing Torture?

According to the Ninth Circuit, the answer is no.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that included two Democratic appointees ruled Wednesday that the former Bush administration lawyer cannot be sued personally for allegedly authorizing the torture and months-long detention of an American citizen deemed an enemy combatant.

The court ruled that 10 years ago, when Yoo was with Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, it was not "beyond debate" that suspected terrorists were entitled to the same constitutional protections as ordinary accused criminals. In fact, the court held, that law remains unsettled to this day.

According to the court, Yoo enjoys qualified immunity.  The plaintiff was Jose Padilla, who was denied access to counsel or his family for 21 months. “Padilla alleged that he was placed in stress positions, deprived of sleep, exposed to extreme temperatures and threatened with torture and death as part of a systematic program of abusive interrogation.”

Padilla is no saint. He is now serving 17 years for conspiracy.  Here’s the article from The Recorder.

(ljs)

May 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The “New Normal” for Lawyers – “Be Like a Symphony Conductor”

This post by Patrick J. Lamb with the ABA Journal gives some great advice for what business skills and client service is the “new normal” for lawyers, and thus skills that law students should develop.

“The profession has never grappled with the need to teach business skills to lawyers to help more develop into the elite role of trusted adviser. It seems unlikely that the profession will any more effectively grapple with the issues relevant to lawyers acting as general contractors or symphony conductors.”

The author suggests that lawyers learn the following skills:
-    How to read a financial statement.
-    Management risk analysis.
-    Project management and process-mapping skills.

(dkh)

May 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Introducing Bloom's Taxonomy

 Many writers in the legal education reform movement use Bloom's Taxonomy as the basis of their suggested reforms.  Carol Tyler Fox has written a clear introduction to its concepts here.

"'Bloom’s Taxonomy' was first published in 1956 as the result of an effort (headed by Benjamin Bloom at the University of Chicago) to establish standard terminology through which educators could discuss and clarify teaching objectives; design tests to measure achievement of the target objectives; and assess whether tests did actually measure such achievement."  Bloom found that "mid-twentieth-century testing from primary through post-secondary American schools tended to rely heavily on recall of factual material." "Bloom’s Taxonomy has fueled efforts among educators and curriculum designers to increase emphasis on more complex objectives, called 'higher order thinking skills.'"

Fox writes that "Bloom’s Taxonomy articulates six levels of cognition for teachers’ attention: 1) recall; 2) understanding;  3) application; 4) analysis; 5) synthesis; 6) evaluation."    Fox discusses how she uses Bloom's Taxonomy in detail here.

My main concern based on Bloom's Taxonomy is that law classes do not generally teach all six elements.  Most doctrinal classes use 1 and 2, but they often leave 3-6 to be learned by students on their own, if at all.  As I've said before, to be practice ready, students must be able to apply what they have learned to facts (problem solving).  They also need to know how to synthesis the law and what they have learned to be effective lawyers.  Finally, evaluation is an important skills for law students.  They need to evaluate their analysis, not just accept the first answer.  They need to think about what the opposing counsel will argue.  They need to be able to evaluate what they have learned to know if they are ready to be a lawyer.  Finally, they need to know how to evaluate how they learn so they can be life long-learners.

In sum, Bloom's Taxonomy helps us see the deficiencies in legal education and avenues for reform.

(Scott Fruehwald)  

May 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New lawyers - remember to check your local court rules

When I was in law school, our civil procedure professor never mentioned a little something called "the local rules" of practice.  So it wasn't until my first job as an associate that I learned the hard way such a thing exists (law school also didn't teach me about the existence of state regs or where to find them but that's a story for another day). Don't make the same mistake that so many greenhorn lawyers do by overlooking the local rules of civil procedure (also make a mental note to find out whether the judge you'll be appearing before follows any particular rules or practices specific to her courtroom. A quick call to the clerk's office should help with that).

The wonderfully practical blog Lawyerist summarizes the advice thusly under the title Three Things You’re Doing in Court that Make You Look Bad.

There are 67 counties in Pennsylvania. Each has its own local rules, motions procedures, and general policies.In addition, each county has numerous judges, who also each have their own way of doing things. The same is true of almost any state in the country. With so many small variations and local policies, it’s impossible to know how things are done in a place you’ve never been. Moreover, judges in one place don’t want to hear about how things are done elsewhere.

Luckily, there are two incredibly easy steps you can take to fix this problem. First, use the internet. It’s the twenty first century. Most local rules are online and accessible for free. But knowing the local rules only gets you halfway there. You also have to know about the judge you will be in front of. So either call the judge’s chambers and ask the staff, or contact the local bar association to get the name of a local attorney you can ask.

What are the other common ways you can shoot yourself in the proverbial briefcase during your first court appearance? You'll just have to click here to find out.

(jbl).

May 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New law school teaching scholarship: The role of peer mentors in student academic success

This article, entitled The social capital benefits of peer-mentoring relationships in law school is by professors Meera E. Deo (Thomas Jefferson School of Law) and Kimberly A. Griffin (Education Policy Studies, Penn State) and can be found at 38 Ohio N.U. L. Rev. 305 (2011). From the abstract:

Scholars have addressed the rigors of law school and suggest mentorship may help students better navigate their educational environments. However, literature largely addresses the role of faculty mentors, less often considering peer mentors in the law school context. This study explores first-year law students' motivation in forming peer mentoring relationships and the roles peer mentors play in students' lives. Analyses of survey and focus group data collected from 203 first-year law students at eleven institutions reveal that the majority rely on peer support, forming formal, informal, and “organizational” peer-mentoring relationships. Relationship formation is motivated by students' acknowledged need for help transitioning into law school, a lack of formal academic advising, and the discomfort associated with seeking faculty assistance. Mentoring relationships also represent an important form of social capital for new students, introducing them to the academic rigors of law school while also offering individualized social support.

(jbl).

May 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Paul Horwitz on Legal Education Reform

Paul Horwitz has several interesting posts on legal education reform here, here, and here.

Horwitz makes the following important points:

1. "First, I continue to agree with the broad point made in Brian Tamanaha's forthcoming book (see yesterday's post) that there is room for a plurality of approaches among law schools."

2. "Second, and I think relatedly, some of these reforms, if done right, ought to lead us to rethink the law school calendar altogether. Why must it follow the customary path of one or two weak weaks of introduction for first-year students and then six large block semesters?"

3.  "We have a duty as educators to make legal education sound and responsive, regardless of the current state of the economy. We shouldn't be misled into thinking that reforming our practices would help our jobless students; but neither, if the economy improves and some of the loudest voices for reform are softened, should we forget that this continuing duty still exists, in good times and bad."

4. "I am increasingly struck by how rarely the word 'client' comes up in some of even the best recent discussions of law school reform. Clients are a constituency too."

5. He "suggest[s] that we ought to be gathering that information in a more concerted fashion, and that it should be a faculty matter, not just one for the deans."

Horwitz also discusses a post by Frank Bowman: "He recommends, among other things, that we rethink the kinds of qualifications we look for in entry-level professors, and that we also rethink the role of scholarship in American legal education. . ."

(Scott Fruehwald)

May 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Steven Stark’s Writing To Win: New Edition

After more than 12 years, Steven Stark has issued an updated and revised edition of “Writing to Win” This is one of the best legal writing books available. I found his new chapter on using email (now the major vehicle for sending memos and letters) to be particularly helpful. Highly recommended.

(ljs)

May 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Text Messaging During Class

In the new study, University of Pittsburgh-Bradford undergraduates were asked to record how many text messages they sent or received during a 50- to 75-minute class, on average. They also rated themselves on specific learning variables regarding their class, such as sustained attention and perceived amount learned.

The average number of text messages students viewed in class was 2.6, Wei's team reported. Students sent, on average, 2.4 texts while in class. The students who frequently texted during class were less likely to sustain attention to their instructor.

Multitasking doesn't prevent learning, but it has an impact on optimal retention.

Are we surprised? Here’s the article from the Chicago Tribune.

(ljs)

May 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)