August 18, 2012
"What is ‘Good Legal Writing’ and Why Does it Matter?"
By professor Mark Osbeck (Michigan) and available at 4 Drexel L. Rev. 417 (2012) and SSRN here. From the abstract:
Law schools face increasing pressure to improve instruction in practice-oriented skills. One of the most important of these skills is legal writing. The existing literature on legal writing contains various rules and suggestions as to how legal writers can improve their writing skills. Yet it lacks an adequate theoretical account of the fundamental nature of good legal writing. As a result, legal writers are left without a conceptual framework to ground the individual rules and suggestions. This article attempts to fill the theoretical void in the literature by offering a systematic analysis of what it is for a legal document to be well-written. It starts by examining a foundational conceptual issue, which is what legal writers mean when they say that a legal document is well-written. It argues that legal readers judge a document to be well-written if the writing helps them make the decisions they need to make in the course of their professional duties. The article then provides an analysis of the fundamental qualities that enable legal writing to do this, concluding that there are three such qualities: clarity, conciseness, and the ability to appropriately engage the reader. The article explains why each of these qualities is essential to good legal writing, and it examines the tools good writers use to make their writing clear, concise, and engaging. Lastly, the article examines what it is that distinguishes the very best writing in the field, arguing that great legal writing is not just writing that is especially clear, concise, and engaging, but is instead writing characterized by a separate quality, elegance, that is aesthetic in nature. The article then goes on to explore what it is that makes such writing elegant, and whether it is desirable for legal writers to strive for elegance in their own writing. The article concludes by briefly considering the pedagogical implications of the analysis discussed in the previous sections.
Accrediting Overseas Law Schools
Recently, the ABA’s accrediting body declined to permit accrediting overseas law schools. The debate, however, will surely continue. Mary Campbell Gallagher, bar exam coach and member of the New York Bar Association Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, sent a letter to the National Law Journal listing some additional reasons against accreditation (in her personal capacity). She also serves as chair of her committee’s subcommittee on ABA accreditation of overseas law schools.
To the Editor:
Accreditation of a law school by the American Bar Association is a necessary condition for that school’s graduates to sit for most state bar examinations in the United States.
The New York State Bar Association Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Profession has opposed ABA accreditation of overseas law schools. (“ABA again wades into the fraught issue of accrediting overseas law schools,” National Law Journal, August 1, 2012)
First, according to statistics from the National Conference of Bar Examiners, in 2011, New York State examined 4,427 foreign-trained candidates, while California, with the next-largest number, examined only 764, and a few other states had a handful of foreign-trained applicants. The Court of Appeals of New York State, with assistance from the staff of the Board of Law Examiners, gathers experience as it evaluates programs of study from overseas law schools and U.S. law schools with overseas programs. Schools wishing their graduates to sit for the New York bar examination can seek recognition of their programs under Rule 520.6(1)(i) or petition for an exception to the specifics of that rule.
To have two forms of approval, one national and the other exclusively for New York State, would be inefficient and confusing.
Second, securing licenses for the graduates of one foreign law school does not justify disrupting established systems of legal licensing world-wide. Under Rule 520.6, New York State already has among the most liberal rules in the world for permitting foreign law graduates to take its bar exam. Foreign law schools should be able to figure out a way to make their programs consonant with Rule 520.6.
Third, the New York State Bar Association Committee has already expressed to the ABA its view that New York does not require (or welcome) the involvement of the ABA in the decision about the circumstances under which an education obtained at a non-US law school is sufficient to allow the candidate to sit for the New York bar examination, or about what further study might be required. We are not aware of the California Bar requesting assistance from the ABA in this regard either. Hence we view the repeated pushes for the ABA’s involvement, spear-headed as these always are by representatives of foreign law schools, rather than by the bar examiners of the states involved, to be an attempt by those local schools to get around the established procedures of the bars of the various states, including the procedures set up by our own Court of Appeals. I see no reason for the ABA to take that role.
August 17, 2012
Legal services prognosticator sees poor growth for law firms in 2012
Citi's Private Bank Law Firm group predicts poor growth for law firms in 2012 as well as continued pressure to lower billing rates. These predictions are based on surveys distributed to 176 firms including 79 Am Law 100 firms, 47 "Second Hundred" firms, and 50 smaller firms along with "extensive discussions" with law firm managers. Here are some highlights of the Citi report courtesy of AmLaw Daily:
Based on our read of the results for the first half of 2012, we're now concerned that this year the legal industry may be unable to match 2011's low single-digit profit growth. There are three reasons for our concern: demand growth slowed during the second quarter from an already tepid first-quarter level; inventory as of June 30 had grown little from the prior year, not a good omen for future collections; and signs that realization will decline again in 2012, squeezing profit margins even further.
. . . .
The Am Law 1–50 and non–Am Law 200 firms saw demand decline, and for The Am Law 1–50, the second quarter saw an acceleration of the decline experienced during the first quarter. Though the Am Law 51–100 and Second Hundred firms saw demand growth for the first half of this year, it slowed from the first quarter to the second quarter.
. . . .
With billable hours well below historical levels for all segments, we see the continuing trend of firms feeling pressure to discount their fees. We have already seen declining realization during the first half of 2012, as reported to us in the Law Firm Leaders Survey we conducted in July of the managing partners of 57 Am Law 100 and Second Hundred firms. In response to the question, “How has realization changed in the first six months of 2012 [compared to] the same period in 2011?,” 55 percent indicated a decline—more than in either of the prior two years’ survey results.
Looking ahead, a weak increase in inventory (1.8 percent growth in mid-2012, compared to 6.3 percent growth seen in mid-2011) does not augur well for third-quarter collections. With weak demand growth and the continuation of expense growth, it is likely that expenses will continue to grow at a faster pace than revenue, squeezing margins and making it tricky to achieve even low single-digit profit growth.
Australian Profs Object to Using Student Evaluations in Performance Reviews
ALMOST 1000 teachers at one of Australia's leading universities are being told to make their students happy at the expense of confronting their fledgling thinkers with rigorous lessons, according to the union representing lecturers.
Teachers at the Australian National University now need to explain themselves if too many students are not pleased with them and colleagues must argue why courses with student satisfaction rates of less than 50 per cent should be kept.
One teacher emailed the union: ''I feel under pressure to lower standards and make the student experience more comfortable so I don't end up before the head of school to explain myself.''
I stick to a standard view. Assuming that these poorly designed evals have any validity, high evaluations mean the professor is doing a great job or is fooling the students. Low evals mean the professor needs to do something differently. Evals in the mid range: the professor is probably doing fine.
What Legal Writing Professors Do
There has been a great deal of controversy the last few days concerning a post on the Yale Law School admissions blog, which states that legal writing professors are not good resources for writing letters of recommendation for students to transfer to Yale. (Here, here, here) Ralph Brill has suggested that the problem is that many doctrinal professors do not know what legal writing professors do. He proposes that we educate the law school community on what we do. Below is my contribution. I urge other legal writing professors to post their views on other blogs and to make comments on this one.
Legal writing professors teach law students legal analysis and how to communicate legal analysis to readers. Unlike most doctrinal professors, we teach legal analysis explicitly. We teach the details of careful case analysis, case synthesis, statutory analysis, deductive reasoning (syllogisms), inductive reasoning, analogies, distinguishing cases, etc. (here) After our students learn to analyze and synthesize cases and statutes, we teach our students how to apply the synthesized law to facts. We then teach them how to effectively communicate their analysis in client letters, objective memos, trial court pleadings, appellate briefs, and oral argument.
Legal writing is not like the types of writing that most students learned in college. Legal writing is a kind of problem solving. In persuasive writing, students learn how to solve a problem in a way that will favor their client, then they must convince the court that their solution is the best one. This requires that the students learn the best way to organize their arguments on both the large-scale and small-scale levels, to communicate effectively, and to write persuasively.
Legal writing professors meet frequently with their students, both in conferences and in office hours. (At busy times in the semester, I have met with my students for thirty hours a week.) We also answer e-mails from students, often late at night. Such individual attention is necessary to help students understand the details of analysis and writing.
We give similar attention to correcting papers. At most law schools, legal writing professors provide more formative assessment than the first-year doctrinal faculty combined. I spend at least two hours with every major paper, and some papers require more time. This is important because students need to know in detail what they are doing right and wrong. We also hold oral arguments, and we carefully critique the students, both on substance and presentation.
In sum, legal writing professors teach more than grammar. Legal writing is as intellectually challenging as any doctrinal course. In fact, it is more challenging because, not only do the students have to analyze statutes and other materials, they have to apply that knowledge to facts and communicate that analysis to readers.
While I intended this post to concentrate on teaching, legal writing professors do much more for their law schools. We participate in faculty meeting and serve on committees. We attend conferences, where we publicize our law schools. We write many letters of recommendation for our students. (This is because we know the students better than their doctrinal professors. Also, employers like to get letters from legal writing professors because we know how our students analyze and write). We also advise student law review notes and independent projects. We teach other classes, including first-year classes. (At Hofstra, several of the first-year doctrinal courses have been taught by legal writing professors.) Legal writing professors fight for social justice in their communities.
Finally, legal writing professors produce scholarship, both in the skills area and theoretical area. (Here, here, here, here, here) This scholarship has appeared in top law reviews, and much of it is very innovative. In particular, legal writing professors are at the forefront of legal education reform.
In conclusion, what legal writing professors teach is as intellectually challenging as what doctrinal professors teach. We know our students better than doctrinal professors, and we work as hard or harder than doctrinal professors. Legal writing professors have made great contributions to their law schools and legal education.
P.S. In writing this post, I am demonstrating what legal writing professors do and their contributions to their law schools and legal education. I do not intend it as a criticism of first-year doctrinal professors. I am merely pointing out the differences.
August 16, 2012
Lawyers accused of filing motion plagiarized from internet sites
Lindsay Lohan's lawyers are being accused of plagiarizing a "motion" they filed in a case brought against the rapper Pitbull for using Lohan's name in a song. Pitbull's attorneys claim the plagiarized document constitutes a violation of professional ethics and thus they are seeking sanctions against Lohan's legal team.
From the New York Daily News:
Lawyers for Lindsay Lohan, who’s suing Pitbull for using her name in a song, are bailing out of the case amid accusations that their legal arguments were plagiarized from Internet sites.
“Ms. Lohan's and her attorneys' course of conduct demonstrates that they commenced this action in bad faith, looking to make a quick buck through an expected settlement," Pitbull's lawyer Audrey Pumariega said in papers filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.
The rapper, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, wants sanctions against the lawyers and dismissal of the suit — which seeks “substantial” monetary damages for uttering LiLo’s name in “Give Me Everything.” They also want the lawyers sanctioned for plagiarizing
Law school deans express concern about New York rule requiring grads to log 50 hours pro bono work before admission
And it's not just deans from New York law schools. Deans around the country are voicing concern that the proposal requiring new law grads to have logged 50 hours of pro bono work before being admitted to the bar will place the financial burden on schools to provide that training if they hope to have their grads land jobs in the Empire state. For elite schools in particular, which send a lot of their grads to NYC, this could be a problem.
From Thomson Reuters News:
When New York's Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman first revealed his intention in May to require all newly minted New York lawyers to perform 50 hours of pro bono work, it looked like the burden would fall directly on New York law schools.
But with details of the measure still spare, deans around the country are saying they're worried the proposal could have a much wider impact, affecting not only local institutions but law schools nationwide and abroad that send their graduates to practice law in New York.
"It's ambiguous whether the hours have to be (done) in New York state, which is crazy from our perspective," said Robert Post, the dean of Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut. Post also complained that the measure could "amount to free labor" for New York at the expense of other states and potentially "impose a significant barrier to entry to anyone who is getting their legal education outside New York state."
. . . .
the measure sparked immediate debate among New York law deans and administrators who said that for practical purposes, the task of implementing the requirement would fall on law schools, since that is where attorneys prepare for the bar.
Some applauded Lippman for tackling what he has dubbed the justice gap, the fact that criminal defendants are guaranteed free legal services but civil defendants are not. Others voiced concern that the measure would pose financial and administrative burdens on their schools. Most simply asked for details, which Lippman has said he will provide in late fall after an advisory committee reports back to him with feedback from legal services providers, schools and students.
As word of New York's novel approach to pro bono has spread, deans and administrators from out-of-state schools have begun to weigh in, asking what kind of administrative and financial obligations the measure might pose for their institutions.
The question is not merely academic. More than one-third of the 15,063 applicants to the New York bar last year came from out-of-state law schools, according to the state's Board of Law Examiners. Among University of Pennsylvania graduates, 44 percent take the New York bar. For Rutgers law graduates, the number is around 60 percent. More graduates of the University of Connecticut Law School apply to the bar in New York than any other state except Connecticut.
"Technically this is a requirement for the bar, but it's going to have to become a part of the planning for all law schools," said Kim Diana Connolly, director of clinical legal education at SUNY Buffalo Law School.
Out-of-state law schools such as Harvard and Duke have been some of the most publicly outspoken over Lippman's proposal. Kimberly Bart, assistant dean of public interest and pro bono at Duke University, this week sent a letter on behalf of seven schools, asking the advisory committee to count pro bono hours performed outside New York.
. . . .
A key question for schools both inside and outside New York is how Lippman will define pro bono for purposes of the requirement. Many schools already have some sort of pro bono program in place, but they said they worry that whatever they have will fall short.
Schools that offer clinics, for example, are waiting to see if that work will count as pro bono, since they typically award participating students academic credit, and such credit could be considered a form of payment. Schools that arrange for their students to volunteer at non-legal groups like Habitat for Humanity are waiting to see if volunteer work for such organizations will qualify.
At schools in which programs don't meet Lippman's criteria for what constitutes pro bono work, administrators could be on the hook for designing new courses and hiring staff to supervise the work. Given the current economic climate and pressures on law schools to slow tuition growth and share more of their revenues with their parent universities, law deans have said they are worried about how the pro bono rule will affect their bottom line.
Stewart Schwab, dean of Cornell Law School, would not estimate what the cost of implementing the proposal could be to his program but said, "This is a time when law schools are trying to look carefully at their expenses and not add to them."
Elon Law School opens elder law clinic
From the ABA Journal blog:
Elon University School of Law announced this week that it plans to open a student-staffed Elder Law Clinic this fall and will begin reviewing cases Wednesday.
The clinic will provide free legal counsel to low and moderate-income area residents aged 60 and over, according to a post on the North Carolina school's website.
"The clinic will provide excellent educational opportunities for our law students by exposing them to a broad range of law and client circumstances," Associate Professor of Law Margaret Kantlehner, who will direct the clinic, is quoted saying.
The clinic, which will operate under faculty supervision through the school's Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic and Wills Drafting Clinic, expects largely to address civil issues such as power of attorney, end-of-life planning, contracts, consumer issues, benefits, housing and grandparent rights matters.
Client Intake Via Video Chat
“Startup online legal service LawZam announces the launch of its web application connecting consumers with attorneys by video conference. LawZam provides a platform for people to find lawyers quickly and receive “face-to-face” online legal consultations–for free.
“LawZam is like speed dating for the legal world,” says Co-Founder Claudio Dunkelman. “Our unique platform gives you the ability to video chat with a lawyer, and keep talking if it’s a match. If not, you are able to initiate chats with different lawyers through the site until you find one that fits your needs.”
LawZam differentiates itself from online legal services that help consumers prepare and file legal documents. “Most legal problems are too complicated to be automated,” says Dunkelman. “Areas like criminal and injury law require personal counseling, and our video conference technology helps to establish a level of trust.” The LawZam service provides consumers with free initial legal consultations from participating attorneys. The website will be supported by advertising, and LawZam plans to announce premium services in the future.”
I wonder if video chat skills and etiquette need to be added to the curriculum?
August 15, 2012
In Praise of Support Staff
The best advice I got when I started practicing law was to be considerate to my secretary and the support staff. Of course, the same advice applies to law schools.
Staff Matter(s) by Darby Dickerson.
Abstract: The most important resource any law school has is its people. Most times, you hear about the faculty students, and top administrators. But rarely do we talk about and praise our other staff-the hourly employees.
Without hourly employees, most law schools would cease to function. The facilities would be ramshackle, trash would not get collected, library books would not be updated, our paychecks and benefits would not get processed, mail would not be sent or received, and the list goes on and on. Our staff members are the people who make the law school run. Displaying leadership and appreciation in these ranks is just as important as it is with the faculty, students, senior administrators, and external constituencies.
As the Interim Dean, one of my goals is to increase the recognition given to hourly workers and, hopefully, to also increase employee morale. High employee morale leads to better customer service, which means happy students, faculty, administrators, alumni, and donors. At a recent conference of the Association of Legal Writing Directors, Dr. Susan Baile, a senior consultant with Franklin Covey, explained that, across professions,
Gallup research has identified 12 factors that are highly correlated with a strong, vibrant work force. Organizations in which employees strongly agreed that these factors characterized their immediate work environment reported greater productivity and profitability as well as higher levels of employee retention and satisfaction. Of the 12, six are even more significant in terms of their ability to discriminate between strong and average work environments.
The six top factors, in descending order, are: I know what is expected of me at work. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. In the last 7 days, I have received praise or recognition for doing good work. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
These findings support what most of us know instinctively-that communication and recognition are important to building and maintaining a strong work environment.
Stetson started to consciously improve its system of employee communication and recognition about two years ago. This essay explains those initial efforts and some newer initiatives that are in their infancy. The programs are divided into two categories-communication and events, and awards and recognition. After discussing these two categories, this essay will then explain how one department in particular excels because of outstanding communication and regular staff recognition.
Tips for improving your resume
From the Employment Insider:
Focus on their needs
Typically, job seekers will focus on their own goals in their resumes and cover letters (“I hope to gain meaningful experience from your internship”). I would suggest you do the opposite. Picture the overworked hiring partners reading your resume. The firm approved a new hire and they are sifting through stacks of resumes. What do they want? Someone smart, who writes well, is easy to work with, and doesn’t need a lot of training, right?
Whatever practical experience you have that matches their job description (paid, or unpaid), is what they are looking for; focus on that. Tweak your resume so you have a detailed description of your experience in their practice area, or courses you have taken that match the skills they are seeking.
Make it look pretty
I have seen a lot of ugly resumes. Text jammed together, tiny margins, distracting boxes and lines — you get the picture. The aforementioned tired hiring partners want to pick resumes out of the pile that are easy to read. I would stick to one page if possible. Pick a nice looking font: Times Roman is fine, but try another font, such as Garamond. Your whole resume will instantly look more attractive. 10 or 11 point is good; below that, and you are risking someone not reading your resume.
Bullet points or not? It’s up to you. If you go with bullet points, make sure your descriptions are detailed enough. I’ve read resumes with bullet points that just read “Researched and drafted memoranda of law.” Boring? You bet.
Should you include your personal interests like reading or mountain climbing? Click here to see what the Employment Insider recommends.
August 14, 2012
In Defense of Legal Writing Teachers
I have received permission from Lisa McElroy to republish her post from LRWPROF-L:
A friend recently turned me on to the Yale Law Admissions blog, which is hilarious and fabulous and great reading for almost anyone, but particularly for those who (like I do) have an interest in admissions.
So, after my FIRST DAY OF CLASS today (yes, all of you who teach at law schools that don’t start until next week, or the week after, or even the WEEK AFTER THAT, you read that correctly), I decided to relax and kick back by reading some of the very funny and insightful posts on said blog.
And here’s what I think: Wow. Just . . . wow.
Here’s what the Yale Associate Dean of Admissions, Asha Rangappa, has to say about recommendation letters for transfer students. (Some of you may know that I transferred law schools after my first year, so I dug in happily to read this post. Let’s just say I’m not quite as happy as I thought I’d be.)
“The other part of your application that is going to carry a significant amount of weight is your law school recommendations (we require two). We use these references to place your grades in context and also to determine what kind of student you are. A common mistake on this front is to make one of your two required recommendations from a legal writing instructor -- most students do this because they've usually had much more one-on-one interaction with their legal writing instructor than with their other professors, and so the instructor usually knows them well. There's nothing wrong with this per se, but the Admissions Committee generally likes to have at least two letters from one of your first year core subject area professors, who can speak to your ability to keep up with the subject material, contribute to class discussion, and think through difficult concepts (a third letter from your legal writing instructor is fine). Letters from professors who went to YLS -- who as you probably know are ubiquitous in the legal academy -- are often especially helpful, since they usually discuss why the applicant would fit into the academic and cultural experience here. But don't go stalking a Yale alum just for this purpose -- just pick professors from classes in which you have performed very well and you'll be on the right track.”
So, let’s see if I have this right:
1) LRW is not a “core subject area”?
2) We don’t teach “subject material,” or at least none that’s hard to keep up with?
3) We don’t have class discussion? Or none that requires contribution?
4) We don’t teach difficult concepts? Or ask students to think through them?
5) We are “instructors”?
6) We didn’t go to Yale? Or we aren’t in the legal academy?
You can read the whole post here: http://blogs.law.yale.edu/blogs/admissions/archive/2011/06/09/back-by-popular-demand.aspx
Oh, and by the way, the first day of class was wonderful. Sure, I’ll admit it, it was hard for the summer to end, but my students really dug into the subject material. We had a great class discussion, and most of them contributed, even though I was asking them to think through the difficult concept of the intersection of law and justice. I am proud to teach at a school that considers LRW to be THE core subject area.
And I am proud to be a law professor. We truly have the best job in the entire world.
My comments: These comments from a Yale Dean demonstrate a shocking amount of ignorance. Legal writing professors are the hardest working people in the law school. Instead of teaching their classes then shutting their doors so they can work on scholarship, they leave their doors open so they can meet with students. They give individual attention to their students through face-to-face meetings and e-mail. They spend hours carefully correcting their students memos and briefs. They deal with complicated constitutional and statutory issues in their assignments. And, yes, they still manage to publish scholarship and make other contributions to their law schools.
To Ms. Rangappa: Legal writing teachers know their students better than any other first-year professor. This is because they work carefully with their students, and they provide their students with individual guidance on their writing. Doctrinal professors teach large classes, and they rarely meet individually with their students. Generally, the only indication they have of how their students are doing is the final exam--a method of evaluation that has been criticized strongly over the last few years. I know you mean well, but legal writing professors are the most knowledgeable sources for how first-year students are doing.
P.S. Most legal writing teachers today are not called instructor; they are called professor just like everyone else on the fulltime faculty.
Former industrial factory mill converted to onshore legal services center
Further to yesterday's post about Michael Trotter's forthcoming book predicting major change coming to BigLaw due to competitive pressures that are driving down the cost of legal services comes this story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about a BigLaw firm that has converted a former West Virginia factory mill into an outsource legal services center staffed by contract attorneys. (Hat tip to Elie Mystal at ATL). Here's how the operation is described by the news blog:
[San Francisco's] Orrick estimates the Wheeling [West Virginia] facility generates cost savings of $10 million to $15 million annually, primarily as a result of lower salaries and real estate expenses than it would pay in San Francisco or other major metropolitan cities.
Another cost-reduction step taken in 2009 was creation of a program for law school graduates who are on a non-partner track at the firm. Because Orrick is not licensed to practice law in West Virginia, the 17 career associates handle duties such as witness preparation, memos and drafts for associates and partners throughout the firm. Another 26 attorneys work in the document review division . . . .
Orrick's managing partner says that creating the West Virginia facility is "one of the smartest decisions we've ever made for the firm and our clients." The Post-Gazette article goes on to note that Pittsburgh's Reed Smith has done similarly by opening its own outsource center staffed by attorneys at less than half the going rate for BigLaw associates. "Instead of hiring a $130,000-a-year new lawyer, we get these people for less than half that number" a firm spokesman told the news blog.
Check out Elie's thoughts about what this tells about future job prospects with BigLaw by clicking here for Above The Law's coverage.
The Vault ranks summer associate programs based on "best preparation for practice."
The Vault.com released today its second annual ranking of overall best summer associate programs including which programs best prepare students for practice. The rankings are based on survey responses from more than 17,000 first through third year associates who were asked about the summer programs they attended while law students.
1. Williams & Connolly
2. Hughes Hubbard & Reed
3. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
5. Dickstein Shapiro
6. Linklaters / Kasowitz (tie)
7. Shook, Hardy & Bacon
8. Ropes & Gray
9. Baker & Hostetler
10. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner
And here are the top ten firms survey respondents said best prepared them for practice:
1. Williams & Connolly
3. Cravath, Swaine & Moore
4. Hughes Hubbard & Reed
5. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
6. Baker & Hostetler / Dickstein Shapiro (tie)
7. Carlton Fields
8. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
9. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner
10. Holland & Knight
Reference Letters for Students: A Suggestion
Reference Letters for Students: A Suggestion
With the deadline looming for OSCAR letters (federal judicial clerkships), many of us are composing reference letters. Letters to state judges will come later. I would like to repeat a suggestion.
I tell my students that my secretary does the heavy lifting on distributing my reference letters. I encourage them to say thank you, by giving her a small gift—a box of candy, some flowers, for example. And most do. I am encouraging my students to continue to treat their future secretaries and paralegals well. Staff members work hard and get paid less than attorneys. At the least, they are entitled to a supportive work environment.
Social Media and Ethics
This post from Robert J. Ambrogi at Law Technology News is a good overview of ABA ethics requirements and social media.
Here are some tips from Ambrogi on how to stay out of trouble:
1. Remember that the same rules apply.
2. Do not betray client confidences.
3. Avoid inadvertently forming attorney-client relationships.
4. Do not solicit.
5. Steer clear of unauthorized practice.
6. Understand the rules on recommendations.
7. Remember the rule on trial publicity.
8. Make no false or misleading statements.
9. Become competent in technology and social media.
10. Use common sense.
You can find more information from the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 here.
August 13, 2012
New book predicts major changes coming to BigLaw
Former BigLaw partner, law professor and law firm management expert Michael Trotter has a new book set to be released this month called Declining Prospects - How Extraordinary Competition and Compensation Are Changing America's Major Law Firms in which he predicts, much like Richard Susskind, that increased competition from low cost legal service providers, the commoditization of legal services and pressure on corporate America to do more legal work in-house will lead to declining growth and opportunities in BigLaw. Below is a summary of the book (it's being self-published by Mr. Trotter) and by clicking here you can read an interview he gave to the New York Times a few months back in which he spoke about his predictions regarding the declining BigLaw opportunities.
Declining Prospects - How Extraordinary Competition and Compensation Are Changing America's Major Law Firms tells the story of growth and change in the legal services industry in United States during the last two decades and how they are affecting the major business practice law firms, their clients, their clients' law departments, and all of the lawyers serving the legal needs of business in America. The equity partners of the major firms have become extraordinarily well compensated over the past 17 years, but the financial prospects of the firms and their lawyers are declining while corporate law departments have become the dominant force in the corporate legal world. The book explores how greatly increased competition and costs along with the emergence of powerful and capable corporate law departments, the commoditization of many legal services, and the impact of new technology and "New Model" law firms are now affecting the structure and future of America's most important law firms.
Mr. Trotter is also the author of the very well received Profit and the Practice of Law: What's Happened to the Legal Profession.
Job opening for clinical director of trial advocacy
Here's the job posting from St. John's:
ST. JOHN’S UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW is seeking an outstanding candidate to join a dynamic faculty as Professor of Legal Practice and Director of the Trial Advocacy Program. The position is a full-time, non-tenure track appointment with faculty status and a long-term renewable contract. The Director’s responsibilities will be three-fold. First, the Director will coordinate the overall Trial Advocacy Program, managing adjunct faculty and teaching courses in Trial Advocacy and Evidence. Second, the Director will supervise the law school’s award-winning mock-trial student organization, The Polestino Trial Advocacy Institute. Finally, the Director will develop trial advocacy training programs for practitioners. Candidates should have excellent academic and professional credentials, including trial experience, must demonstrate a commitment to outstanding advocacy skills training, and must have the ability to work effectively with others in a collaborative setting. The School of Law is part of St. John’s University, a Catholic, Vincentian, and metropolitan institution committed to academic excellence. As an Equal Opportunity Employer, St. John’s encourages applications from women, minorities, and others whose background and experience would contribute to the diversity of the faculty. Applicants should submit a cover letter and curriculum vitae to Associate Dean G. Ray Warner, Chair, Faculty Appointments Committee, St. John’s University School of Law, 8000 Utopia Parkway, Queens, NY 11439. (E-mail responses should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org )
Does Tenure Mean Continuous Employment?
No, according to the Sixth Circuit. From the Chronicle of Higher Education (excerpts)”:
A federal appellate court has sided with a private law school in a case brought by a professor who contends she was wrongly fired, and both sides say the ruling is important for how it defines the concept of tenure.
The decision, issued on Monday by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, upholds a lower court's ruling that the termination of Lynn. S. Branham, former associate dean and professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, was not improper.
Ms. Branham had held a one-year teaching contract with the Michigan law school and was dismissed in December 2006, the final month of her contract year. A U.S. District Court decided the case in the law school's favor.
On appeal, Ms. Branham had argued, among other things, that the lower court had erred in concluding "that the tenure granted under her contract does not afford her rights beyond those specified in her employment contract."
She pointed to a law-school policy and to a guideline from the American Bar Association to support her assertion that, under her contract, "tenure means a lifetime appointment or a guarantee of continuous employment."
The Sixth Circuit panel rejected her arguments. Its opinion states that her contract referred to "the concept of tenure" but did not define tenure as a right to continuous employment or "create an obligation" of such.
The Chronicle article gives more of the facts, but I suspect that there is a back story here, though I don’t know whom it would favor.
August 12, 2012
Wall Street Journal talks to chair of new ABA task force on future of legal ed.
Yesterday we told you about the ABA's decision to form a task force to examine the future of legal education in light of the rapid changes overtaking law practice. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog recently interviewed the new committee's chair, the Honorable Randall T. Shepard - former Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, about several topics including what the committee hopes to accomplish, what skills law schools should be teaching students and what factors to consider when deciding whether to attend law school in the "new normal."
Some relevant excerpts:
[Law Blog]: What is the concrete product the task force hopes to produce?
Mr. Shepard: I expect we will produce a report and a series of recommendations that will be in the end reviewed by the governing body of the American Bar Association. It’s our assignment to do our best to understand these trends and devise as many solutions or sensible actions as we can identify and put those on the table for the profession as a whole to debate and to accept or not.
. . . .
LB: Law school deans are increasingly talking about and making changes to better prepare students for the more practical aspects of practicing law. What are the skills law schools ought to focus on most heavily?
Mr. Shepard: The first thing to say about that is the emphasis on skills and hands on experiences has been underway very seriously for at least 15 years and has been promoted by the American Bar Association. I would say the most dramatic change in the American legal education in the last 15 years has been expanding the opportunities students have for real life experiences in clinics and internships. Everyone I know thinks that’s a good thing and it has made a difference.
. . . .
LB: What are the major factors law school applicants should weigh when choosing a law school?
Mr. Shepard: I think someone who has made the basic decision that he or she wants to become a lawyer ought to pay attention both to learning the substance of law and getting a head start on the practice of law. Put another way, I think clients are best served by lawyers who both know the law of contracts or torts or criminal law, and also have had some introduction as to how one deploys that law in advising or representing clients. Law schools are both places where you sort of learn the basics of legal doctrine and also acquire some understanding of what it is lawyers do all day. The best law schools try to give students a healthy dose of both.
Read the full fireside chat here.