August 11, 2012
ABA forms task force to study future of legal ed.
Several state and local bar associations (here and here) have already formed so-called "task forces" to try to figure out where the law practice is going which has obvious implications for those considering law school curricular reform. Now the ABA has formed its own task force to more directly focus on what changes law schools need to make to stay relevant given the rapid and profound changes overtaking the profession. From The National Law Journal:
The American Bar Association is the latest organization to launch a task force examining the changes roiling the law profession and legal education.
The 18-member Task Force on the Future of Legal Education plans to spend two years examining how well law schools are meeting the needs of the profession.
"The growing public attention to the cost of a law school education, the uncertain job prospects for law school graduates and the delivery of legal services in a changing market warrant substantial examination and analysis by the ABA and the legal profession," outgoing ABA President William Robinson III said in announcing its formation. "Legal education must be evaluated in the context of the marketplace and the nation's and world's unprecedented challenges in an ever-more complex global economy."
. . . .
Additional bar associations around the country have delved into the problems facing young attorneys. While these efforts have identified problems, no dramatic changes in career development have resulted. It remains to be seen whether the ABA's task force, which will be national in scope, will solve the problem of high unemployment for law graduates.
Former Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard, now an executive in residence at Indiana University's Public Policy Institute, will chair the panel, which counts lawyers, judges, law professors and general counsel among its members.
"The task force will solicit views in the widest way possible to help us identify how the bench, bar and legal education community can work together to provide meaningful opportunities for law students and graduates that benefit clients and the public at large," Shepard said.
Overcoming the Ennui of CLE
Living in a state that requires 12 hours of continuing legal education each year, I hear many resentful complaints from lawyers who find the programs boring and unhelpful. Attorney at Work offers some suggestions to lawyers who find CLE boring and unhelpful.
I offer a different type of advice for those of us who sometimes present CLE programs. My two pieces of advice:
- Show an inordinate amount of enthusiasm. An energetic voice and an occasional joke will make you welcome.
- Build in audience participation. Simple techniques. Give them the brief facts of a case and with a yes/no vote of their hands ask them to predict the outcome or ask whether they agree with the actual outcome. If you are presenting on drafting or writing, give them a sentence or two and ask them to redraft, either individually or in small groups.
August 10, 2012
Students talk about interviewing with BigLaw
The Careerist blog spoke with some Emory students about their experiences interviewing with BigLaw last week (yes, interviews for positions next summer now begin in August).
. . . .
“This whole process feels exactly like sorority rush,” said one Emory Law student who didn’t want to be named because of several pending interviews. “They used to call it ‘mutual selection.’ You have to like the sorority, but the sorority has to like you too. There are quick introductions, and then soon after, you’re asked to make a lifetime commitment.”
For New York Big Law firms, students are carefully prescreened. Candidates, who submitted applications for interviews in mid-July, had to be in the top 10 or 30 percent of their class. Participation on law review and moot court was a bonus.
The students ran through as many as 10 tense, 20-minute interviews with recruiters in hotel rooms—a newer, presumably cost-saving measure that one student said felt a little too close for comfort.
After the interviews, the students talked about their nerves and queried one another with their afterthoughts: Do you tell the recruiter that after she took a sip of her latte, she just got foam on her nose? Is it too risky to make a joke about your past job in the, ah-hem, waste industry? (“It’s really crappy!”) What do you do when you sit down on the hotel room recliner and you sink so low your knees are practically touching your nose?
. . . .
“It’s really easy once you get in,” said a student, who, like the others, preferred not to use her name because of pending interviews. “They have already preselected you. Now they just want to know who you are beyond paper.“
Read more about the students' perspective here.
What’s the Strangest Thing You Saw at the Bar Exam?
From the ABA Journal online:
We've heard many stories of bizarre occurrences at the bar exam, and not all of them were tall tales. Last year we reported about a Northwestern law grad who went into labor during the bar exam but stayed until she had completed the test–and she passed! Last week, Bloomberg Law went to Manhattan's Javits Center to talk to nervous bar exam takers, and interviewed the center's security guard. After sharing stories of multiple cheaters, the guard said that the strangest thing he's ever seen at a bar exam was an intrepid law grad trying to carry a pint of alcohol into the exam room. No mention was made of vomiting, hysterical tears or full-on nervous breakdowns, but we've heard of those, too.
The Comments following the story give many answers to the question.
Mental Health and Law Professors
Last week, I had a post on mental health and law students. Of course, mental health is an important issue for academics, too. Gregory Duhl has written an insightful article on how mental illness can affect law professors.
Abstract: This essay is about “madness” in higher education. In Mad at School: Rhetorics of Mental Disability in Academic Life, Professor Price analyzes the rhetoric and discourse surrounding mental disabilities in academia. In this essay, I place Price’s work in a legal context, suggesting why the Americans with Disabilities Act fails those with mental illness and why reform is needed to protect them. My own narrative as a law professor with Borderline Personality Disorder frames my critique. Narratives of mental illness are important because they help connect those who are often stigmatized and isolated due to mental illness and provide a framework for them to overcome barriers limiting their equal participation in academic life.
Those like Professor Duhl and Professor James T.R. Jones (my legal writing professor in law school), who also wrote an article on his struggles with mental illness a couple of years ago, deserve our praise for having the courage to share their stories.
August 9, 2012
Tips on free online legal research tools
This one comes to us from Matthew Braun, legal reference librarian at the Library of Congress, via our good buddy Joe Hodnicki at the Law Librarian blog.
Tips for making your writing more concise
One thing all good legal writers have in common is that they strive to trim the fat from their writing. To that end, here are some tips (avec examples) for doing just that from Lynn Gaertner-Johnston's Business Writing blog:
1. Reduce the use of sentence openers such as "There is" and "These are." Compare these sentence pairs:
- There is something you need to consider.
- Consider this:
- There are people listed on the roster who did not attend.
- Not everyone on the roster attended.
2. Cut sentence flab. When you finish writing a piece, cut the word count by at least 10 percent. It is easier than you may think. Compare these sentences:
- As of this date, the final rule has not been published.
- The final rule has not yet been published.
- Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions and concerns.
- Please contact me with questions and concerns.
3. Condense prepositional phrases into one word. Prepositional phrases can lead to flabby sentences. When possible, create sleek, concise sentences using single words rather than phrases. Compare these items, with prepositions underlined:
- She is of service to her community.
- She serves her community.
- We will end the presentation with comments from Dr. Davies.
- Dr. Davies' comments will end the presentation.
Check out more of Ms. Gaertner-Johnston's tips for concise writing here.
Another Successful Writers Workshop
Recently, I helped run another successful Writers Workshop sponsored by the Legal Writing Institute. Each year, a few experienced scholars meet with faculty in the Legal Writing community to help them publish great scholarship. We meet in a large group to share general advice and in small groups to give participants detailed suggestions on their manuscripts.
Thanks to my co-facilitators Linda Berger (UNLV) and Steve Johansen (Lewis & Clark) and to this year’s participant/scholars: Sarah Adams-Schoen (Touro), Rita Barnet-Rose (Chapman), Bob Brain (Loyola-Los Angeles), Kathleen Dillon-Narko (Northwestern), Dana Hill (Northwestern), Sherri Keene (Maryland), Cathren Koehlert-Page (Barry), Cristina Lockwood (Detroit Mercy), Wendy Shea (Southern), and Hillary Wandler (Montana).
Please think about joining us next year.
August 8, 2012
Print's not dead! Long live print!
Below are four reasons why print is not dead from the self-proclaimed web design and typography junkies at DesignrFix.com. While you're at it, you also might want to check out a book by Professor Robert Darnton, the director of Harvard's library system, called The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future who argues that scholars and others who read for a living will never give up print because it is a superior format for deep, engaged reading.
The tangible factor
There’s something very pleasant about reading a good old-fashioned paper book. If you’re stuck into Anna Karenina it feels good to actually ‘feel’ how far through it you’ve managed to get, rather than gauge your progress via a percentage bar. Plus, since all books are laid out differently and have different dimensions, they offer real variety between reads, unlike your thoroughly consistent Kindle. Then there are magazines, especially rich, glossy fashion ones; it’s hard to imagine them retaining their sleek finish in digital form.
Batteries not included
The battery life of your average tablet or eBook is being enhanced all the time. But there’s always the risk with them that readers will get stranded without any juice. The thought of having to locate a power supply to find out what happens when Gandalf meets the Balrog in Lord of the Rings is enough to put some avid readers off entirely. Similarly, you’ve got to hope that your electronic reading device doesn’t succumb to any accidents. While a paperback may survive a run-in with a cup of tea, an eBook probably won’t.
Vive la Resistance
As with all new developments, there will always be those who staunchly oppose these new-fangled reading gadgets. The printed word will doubtless survive as long as these stubborn non-adopters will. The acclaimed author Jonathan Franzen is one member of the resistance. He recently spoke out against eBooks at a literary festival, suggesting that they open the door to Orwellian-style censorship. Unlike printed books – he argued – a centrally-housed online text can be edited or deleted by authorities, allowing them to re-write history and culture on a whim.
Judging a book by its cover
Let’s face it, when it comes to reading classic literature or intelligent journals, half of the lure are the kudos you gain by association. With an eBook or tablet you’re reading anonymously, and your fellow commuters haven’t a hope of discovering how deeply intelligent you are. Bookshelves work in the same way. Walking into a room that’s presided over by a heaving bookshelf full of beautiful and varied literary tomes is always impressive. A little gadget measuring a few inches by a few inches doesn’t carry nearly the same amount of cultural clout.
The "Shadow Scholar" writes tell-all book about term-paper mill that helped students cheat
If you remember the story in the Chronicle of Higher Ed a couple years back in which the author, writing under the pseudonym "Ed Dante," described how he ghost wrote academic papers for everyone from college students to Ph.D. candidates (and everyone in between including law students), you're not alone. It was the most read and commented upon article in CHE history according to the preface of the author's new book "The Shadow Scholar: How I Made a Living Helping College Kids Cheat" due out from Bloomsbury on September 18. Here's the publisher's description:
Last fall, a writer using the pseudonym Ed Dante wrote an explosive article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, confessing to writing term papers for a living. Technically, they are "study guides," and the companies that sell them-there are quite a few-are completely legal and easily found with Google. For about $10-20 a page, Dante's former employers will give you a custom essay, written to your specifications. During Dante's career, he wrote made-to-order papers for everything from introductory college courses to Ph.D. dissertations. There was never a shortage of demand.
The Shadow Scholar is Dante's account of this dubious but all-too-relevant career. In stories embarrassing, absurd, hilarious, and ultimately sobering, he explores not merely his own misdeeds but the bureaucratic and cash-hungry colleges, lazy students, and even misguided parents who helped make it all possible.
With unemployment pushing 10 percent and many college grads living with their parents, the need for this book has never been more urgent. As this bitingly funny memoir reveals, colleges and graduate schools are victims not merely of tough economic times but of a profound sense of entitlement and apathy. Here is a searing, often maddening indictment of the big business of college.
Is a New Law School Building in Your Future?
At Villanova, we are about to begin our fourth year in our glorious state-of-the-art law building. For faculty, students, and staff, the comparison with our former out-of-date building is remarkable. We all are happier, and our building makes us more attractive to potential students.
A key figure in the planning was April Barton, our Director of Academic Computing. She now has written a book of great value to any school engaged in constructing a new law building, Best Practices for Building a High-Tech Law School: The Process of Designing Educational Spaces (ABA 2012). April is also available for consultations.
Teaching Legal Research: The New Technology
One of the biggest debates concerning teaching legal research is how much to teach printed sources and how much to teach on-line sources. Teaching legal research has traditionally began with teaching the books because legal writing teachers have felt that the fundamentals of legal research were in the print sources. However, legal research changed dramatically in the late 80s and early 90s with the appearance of Lexis and Westlaw and the Internet. Moreover, our students are accustomed to doing research on-line, rather than in books. Does this mean that we should be teaching legal research differently today than ten or twenty years ago. Two authors say yes.
Say Goodbye to the Books: Information Literacy as the New Legal Research Paradigm by Ellie Margolis & Kristen Murray
Abstract: Legal research technology has changed dramatically in the last fifteen years, and it is time for law school legal research programs to catch up. Students entering law school are increasingly less comfortable with using print materials, and at the same time, electronic search technology is no longer modeled on a print-based system. Current legal research pedagogy, developed in the context of a print-based research environment, is waning in utility and may soon be moot. In order to give law students the skills to conduct effective legal research, and to adapt those skills to future technological development, we need to rethink how we teach and assess legal research.
This article argues that we should make information literacy the foundation of legal research instruction. By reframing the goal of legal research instruction as increasing the information literacy (specifically, the legal information literacy) of our students, we will be able to leverage the research skills they already possess and instill in them skills that are transferable to the legal research tools of tomorrow. The article first traces the history of how legal research is taught and introduces the idea of information literacy as a new way of thinking about legal research instruction. It then presents the results of our survey of incoming law students’ research training, habits, practices, and beliefs. Finally, it discusses how the theory of information literacy and our survey results can be used to rethink the way legal research is taught. With this in mind, we can begin to develop methods of research instruction that result in an increased level of legal information literacy, no matter the students’ starting points.
Bankruptcy Code & Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure eBooks – Free from CALI
Are you teaching (or taking) a bankruptcy class? CALI has released the Bankruptcy Code and Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure in eBook format. You can download them for free at CALI’s eLangdell Bookstore (along with several other titles). You can download in ePub and Kindle formats.
This is a great resource you may want to share with your students/colleagues.
August 7, 2012
Tips for succeeding as a first year law student
From the U.S. News Law Admissions Lowdown blog:
1. Come prepared: In college, coming in prepared on the first day meant having a pen and notebook in hand, and maybe a book or two. In law school, you should instead enter with a solid understanding of your classes, having completed the required reading for the first day of class.
[Find out other differences between college and law school.]
While gaining an overview of all of your 1L classes in the summer before law school is not an official prerequisite, it will give you an enormous advantage from day one. If you have time this month, buy and thoroughly read course-specific study guides, trying to make sense of the challenging new concepts.
You may also want to obtain a pre-1L tutor who can help you more fully understand these sometimes esoteric concepts. I am spending much of the next three weeks getting my students ready by reviewing the toughest concepts, such as res ipsa loquitur, the Rule Against Perpetuities and Supplemental Jurisdiction.
2. Focus on finals: Final exams may seem far away, especially during the first few weeks of the semester, but for the most part, your 1L grades are determined solely by your performance on your finals. Thus, make sure to spend each day working towards success on the final exam.
Writing law school exams is completely different from writing essay exams in your undergraduate classes. In undergrad, you could earn an A, in many cases, by just regurgitating information. In law school, you need to apply the information you have learned to intentionally ambiguous situations. This is an entirely new and critical skill that you must hone before your first real 1L exams this winter.
[Read more about what to expect as a 1L.]
3. Make friends: Many students become overwhelmed in the beginning of law school because of the rigorous coursework, high stakes, and seemingly endless reading. But, to maintain your sanity, you must still make an effort to go out and meet both your classmates and others in the broader academic community.
Sometimes, you will need a break from the "law school bubble," where the workload and competitiveness can overtake you, so branch out every once in a while and make other connections through volunteer projects, university-wide student organizations, intramural sports, and dance classes, for example.
4. Remove distractions: As important as it is to take a brief and occasional break from law school, you do not want anything to distract you from your studies regularly.
Try to recognize early on the specific distractions that could derail you, so that you can address them before they impair your studies. For example, consider moving your television from your bedroom to the living room, if possible. If you are in a long-distance relationship, reduce the potential for stress by clearly communicating to your partner the energy you will need to put into law school, and how this may limit your time for phone conversations and visits during your 1L year.
Continue reading here to see other tips for succeeding in law school per US News law blog visitors.
Big hat tip to Above the Law.
Job interview tips for law students
These tips are from Grover Cleveland (yes, that's really his name), author of Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: The Essential Guide to Thriving as a New Lawyer - courtesy of Vivia Chen at The Careerist.
• Own the room. Greet the interviewer confidently. It may sound corny, but don’t slouch. Look the interviewer directly in the eye and give a firm handshake (but not a bone-crunching one). And smile. If you exude enthusiasm, you are likely to get it back from the interviewer, which will help put you at ease.
• Ask strategic questions. You don’t have much time, so the more time the interviewer spends telling you about the firm, the less time you have to highlight your attributes. Ask questions that show that you researched the firm and that you are enthusiastic about working there. You should be ready to answer the “Why do you want to work here?” question with an answer that is specific to each firm. On the other hand, if you ask how many offices the firm has, you will look lazy.
• Don't ask about the quality of life. Firms want to know what you can do for them. Initial interviews are not the time to address your personal concerns. For example, if you ask about work/life balance, the interviewer is likely to hear, “I am not interested in working hard.” Get that kind of information another way—or ask after you have an offer.
• Develop key messages. Come up with a list of points that you want to get across—regardless of the questions you are asked. Again, research the firm. If you understand the qualities that a firm values, you will do a better job of crafting answers to demonstrate that you will be an asset to the firm. Whenever you can, provide specific examples of your skills and show how they will benefit the firm.
• Listen closely to each question. If you are anxious, you may be tempted to blurt out the first answer that comes into your head or start talking before you have fully composed your answer. Don't fall into those traps. Pause for a second or two before answering. That may seem like an eternity, but it will become more natural if you practice. The time will give you a chance to compose your thoughts and hit the most important key messages in your answer. If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification rather than guessing at an answer.
• Be Memorable. Try to highlight an interesting fact or accomplishment—preferably one that took tenacity. If the interviewer remembers you as “the one who ran the marathon,” you are much more likely to make it to round two.
For more interview tips from Mr. Cleveland, continue reading here.
The Ethos and Ethics of a Disciplinary Defense Lawyer
The Ethos and Ethics of a Disciplinary Defense Lawyer
On his blog Kafkaesq, David Cameron Carr, who defends lawyers in disciplinary matters, states that following the formal ethical rules is not enough for a lawyer. The lawyer must also have an ethos. For his professional work, he states that the ethos is not getting bad lawyers off, but rather:
- Insuring that the process is fair.
- Making sure the Respondent’s voice is heard.
- Achieving a result that is just.
- Helping the client to rehabilitate themselves from their misconduct, if they have committed it.
- Educating the profession and public about attorney misconduct and legal ethics.
- Working to change misguided law.
Duty to Stay Current on Technology
The changes to the model ethics rules approved this week by the ABA House of Delegates require lawyers to understand the benefits and risks associated with technology. This article from the ABA Journal discusses the new ethics comment added to Rule 1.1 (duty to provide competent representation).
The changes are found in Resolution 105A.
August 6, 2012
Legal hiring was up for July, 2012
The Bureau of labor Statistics has released the employment figures for July showing that the legal sector added 1,400 new jobs last month. The bad news is that BLS has revised its legal sector job figure for June, 2o12 from the original estimate of 200 new jobs added to 200 jobs lost instead. And since July, 2011, the legal sector has added only 4,500. Keep in mind that "legal sector" is broadly defined to include paralegals and other support personnel.
From AmLaw Daily:
One month after experiencing a slight dip in employment, the legal sector managed to add 1,400 jobs in July, giving the industry its highest overall employment numbers in three years, according to preliminary data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Last month, The Am Law Daily reported that June represented the second straight month of modest job growth in the legal sector, based on the BLS's preliminary report for that month. But the BLS has since revised its numbers to show a 200-job loss in June, as opposed to the 200-job increase originally reported. Meanwhile, employment in the industry grew by only 300 jobs in May, based on revised BLS data for that month.
With June's uptick, the legal sector now employs more than 1.12 million people, the highest the overall total has reached since July 2009. BLS data also shows the sector with 4,500 more positions in July than it had at the same time last year. But the current total is still a far cry from prerecession numbers leading up to early 2008, when the industry regularly had tens of thousands more jobs on the books than it currently boasts.
You can check out additional coverage from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog here.
A primer on autocorrect
Ever wonder how autocorrect works? When you type "Kofee" how does it decide whether you meant the caffeinated drink or the United Nations secretary-general? Like a fine wine, does autocorrect improve with age as it gets to know the user? How do you make it stop? Check out this interesting, and humorous, essay from Sunday's Op-Ed page and then go to DamnYouAutoCorrect.com to find an archive of best autocorrect gaffes based on visitor submissions.
[Autocorrect is] [a]ctually . . . an assortment of competing algorithms . . . . Autocorrect is not a single entity but a hodgepodge, from different vendors, chief among them Apple, Google and Microsoft. All their algorithms start with the low-hanging fruit. They know what to do when you type “hte.” After that, their goals vary, and so do their capabilities. On most devices and applications, Autocorrect can be switched off, for those who prefer to go naked. It’s not always easy to find the switch.On mobile phones, where our elephant thumbs tramp across tiny keypads, the idea is to free us from backtracking and drudgery. The iPhone’s Autocorrect function loves to insert apostrophes. You can rely on it: type “dont” and get “don’t.” Type “cant” and get “can’t” — but is that what you wanted? Autocorrect is just playing the odds. Even “ill” turns to “I’ll” and “id” to “I’d” (sorry, Dr. Freud).
When Autocorrect can reach out from the local device or computer to the cloud, the algorithms get much, much smarter. I consulted Mark Paskin, a longtime software engineer on Google’s search team. Where a mobile phone can check typing against a modest dictionary of words and corrections, Google uses no dictionary at all.
“A dictionary can be more of a liability than you might expect,” Mr. Paskin says. “Dictionaries have a lot of trouble keeping up with the real world, right?” Instead Google has access to a decent subset of all the words people type — “a constantly evolving list of words and phrases,” he says; “the parlance of our times.”
. . . .
It uses a probabilistic algorithm with roots in work done at AT&T Bell Laboratories in the early 1990s. The probabilities are based on a “noisy channel” model, a fundamental concept of information theory. The model envisions a message source — an idealized user with clear intentions — passing through a noisy channel that introduces typos by omitting letters, reversing letters or inserting letters.
“We’re trying to find the most likely intended word, given the word that we see . . . ."
Continue reading here.
Is Teaching Law School a “”Real Job?”
No, according to House Speaker John Boehner. Speaking of former law professor Barack Obama on Fox News, Mr. Boehner stated,” But the President has never created a job. He's never even had a real job for [God's] sake.” I guess I haven’t had a real job in many years.
(I mean this posting to be nonpolitical.)