Saturday, October 6, 2012
Thanks to brother Mitch Rubinstein over at the Adjunct Law Prof blog for the link to the newly published 2012 New York style manual setting forth the recommended citation form and other style conventions for briefs filed with New York state courts. From the preface:
For more than 50 years, the New York Law Reports Style Manual has been issued by the Law Reporting Bureau with the approval of the Court of Appeals as a guide for New York judges and their staffs in the preparation of opinions for publication in the Official Reports. It also prescribes the style applied by the Law Reporting Bureau in editing the opinions for publication in the Reports. Although not binding on them, many lawyers find the Manual useful in preparing papers for submission to New York courts. The Style Manual provides a guide for opinion writers and editors in five primary areas: citation, abbreviation, capitalization, quotation, and word style and usage. Additionally, it specifies for editors the format and typographical standards for the Reports.
The [style manual] provides the approved "cite-as" case name, official book citation, slip opinion citation, decision date, court, Judge and docket number for each decision. In addition, a listing of each Third Series decision that cites to your retrieved decision will also be displayed. Each Third Series record is hypertext linked to the full text of the decision on the Law Reporting Bureau's website.
Well, actually it was this past week.
Brush off your copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, because it's 30th Annual Banned Books Week. Organized by the American Library Association, Banned Books Week celebrates open access to information, while issuing a call to action against censorship.
Friday, October 5, 2012
Here's an job post from Craiglist's by a California firm that's inviting applicants to "compete" for a position "Survivor" style through a two week competition that will eliminate a candidate each day until only the "winner" is left standing. Yikes.
You must subject yourself to a rigorous, competitive evaluation process.
The Firm utilizes the following hiring process:
* All candidates are allowed to begin a paid contract legal assignment at $20.00/hour. If you apply you will be given an assignment.
* Each day the candidate with the weakest work product will be cut until one candidate remains. This process will take one or two weeks until the final candidate is offered on-going employment. If you have seen reality television shows where contestants are cut from episode to episode such as Top Chef, Top Shot or Project Runway -- it will be like this. Do you have what it takes to be Top Associate?
* If you want to participate you will come to the first day of hiring with your laptop ready to begin. You will be given a group orientation, and then an individual interview. You should be free to work 8 hours per day for the next two weeks to participate in the evaluation.
At Teacher in a Strange Land, college professor Josh Bolt criticizes teaching the 5 paragraph essay.
College writing teachers hate the five-paragraph essay. According to Writing Analytically, the writing guide used by my first year composition department, a faculty survey conducted prior to publication indicated a consensus among college writing professors that "students are coming [to college] prepared to do five-paragraph themes and arguments but [are] radically unprepared in thinking analytically."
The writing guide takes a sharp stance against the five-paragraph essay, claiming that its "rigid, arbitrary, and mechanical organizational scheme values structure over just about everything else, especially in-depth thinking." The text completely dismisses the form, arguing that any value it holds as a helpful learning strategy is negated by its damaging long-term effects on creative thought.
The 5 sentence paragraph is open to the same criticism. And so are IRAC, CREAC, and the variations. I suppose these formulas are helpful to the beginning writer who needs some sort of structure. But, pretty soon, it’s time to permit students to move on to less rigid structures that may be more suitable to various writing projects.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Whether looking for value or prestige, law schools rankings help applicants make better informed decisions
Professor Rob Steinbuch (Arkansas) authored this editorial from the National Law Journal on why, though many academics abhor them, law school rankings are a good thing insofar as they help students make decisions about which school to attend.
[M]y school recently received the admirable grade of "A-" under the National Jurist's assessment rubric for the "Best Value Law Schools"—placing the school in the 21-to-35 range. Because U.S. News & World Report's overall law school ranking does not consider affordability and evaluates several key factors not considered by the National Jurist, under U.S. News' metric, my school garners the 119th spot. Both measures, among others, are useful to informed consumers.
In contrast, some eschew law school (and other) ranking systems. I find unsupportable claims against quantifying and then comparing complex matters. Rankings naysayers tend to prefer finger-in-the-air analyses or concealed, and often less rigorous, methods; and to the extent that these cynics are in the system under evaluation, their crypto-pseudo-evaluative tools frequently tend to inure in their own favor. . . . .
Of course, as a law professor, I'm required to rank complex matters all the time, as I grade law students. I'm never sure whether when academics attack the notion of rankings, all along grading students, they realize their hypocrisy. Of all the academically related rankings, grades are the most ubiquitous and likely have the most dramatic impact on students' lives. Yet some professors take this process for granted, while questioning the legitimacy of even pursuing such an endeavor in other contexts—be it ranking law schools, academic scholarship or something else. And, unfortunately, grading is often far less scientific and disciplined than the systems under greater critique by some in the academy.
. . . .
Law students should be particularly informed consumers; they are learned and investing considerably in further education. Rankings are one sound resource available to assist them in this search for knowledge. These metrics should be evaluated—dare I say, ranked—and used appropriately.
Read Professor Steinbuch's complete remarks here.
Any number of authors have penned a set of rules for writing. Here is a collection from Brain Pickings (Sept. 28):
In the winter of 2010, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing published in The New York Times nearly a decade earlier, The Guardian reached out to some of today’s most celebrated authors and asked them to each offer his or her commandments. After Zadie Smith’s 10 rules of writing, here come 8 from the one and only Neil Gaiman:
- Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
- Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
- Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
- Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
- Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
- Laugh at your own jokes.
- The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
For more timeless wisdom on writing, see Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 rules for a great story, David Ogilvy’s 10 no-bullshit tips, Henry Miller’s 11 commandments, Jack Kerouac’s 30 beliefs and techniques, John Steinbeck’s 6 pointers, and Susan Sontag’s synthesized learnings.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Professor Brian Leiter conducted a survey the other day in which he asked his blog readers how many law schools they think will close in the next decade before taking the survey off-line when it started drawing a non-academic audience. Fifteen percent of the total 323 respondents think no schools will close in the next ten years while a 61% majority expect one to ten law schools to close. Professor Leiter's question assumes no change in the availability of federally-funded student loans. Of course if that changes, you'll likely see widespread, immediate closings of many (most?) law schools.
Here's the survey question followed by the results (click here to see a nice chart).
How many currently accredited ABA law schools (there are about 200) do you think will close over the next ten years? (Assume that there are no changes to federally guaranteed student loans and that there is a modest improvement in the job market for lawyers.)
None - 15% (47 votes)
1 to 10 - 61% (196 votes)
11 t0 25 - 17% (55 votes)
26 to 50 - 6% (19 votes)
More than 50 - 2% (6 votes)
Click here to read Professor Leiter's comments about which schools he thinks are most vulnerable to closing.
Law school aspirants have been sold a bill of goods; a robust legal job market is a thing of the past and is never coming back. From The Huffington Post:
Law schools must reduce their J.D. class sizes. They should do so immediately and permanently.
The data are compelling. There are simply too many lawyers and too many law students in the United States nowadays. Only about half of recent graduates of law schools, of which there also are too many, are securing permanent full-time employment in the legal profession at this point.
There, I've said it. Indeed, my law school has taken action. Lest observers speculate, we announced our decision as part of comprehensive strategic planning, well in advance of seeing how the applicant pool looked for this academic year.
If anyone doesn't know the news, there were fewer people aspiring to join the bar in the admissions season that ended a month ago when we welcomed the one-L class -- again. This runs opposite to the previous pattern: When the economy slumps downward, law school applications spike upward. Worse, it appears that the supply of the strongest candidates is decreasing at the greatest rate.
The only issue is whether these trends are an anomaly, blip, or cycle. I'm convinced they signal a permanent and profound structural change.
Sure, the economy will recover. Yes, law firms will too.
But look at the law firms that already have come back. Many of the so-called BigLaw firms -- the most prestigious, constituting only a fraction of the bar -- are making more profits per partner than they ever have. The same is true of some of their mid-size counterparts and specialized boutiques.
Except those establishments are doing what they do after surviving a round of layoffs. They are not rushing to recall the people they showed the door.
A few of these thriving operations even have flat revenues. They have managed to adjust their model so they do more work with fewer people. Thanks to technology, outsourcing, and the commodification of service professions, as institutions they have come to resemble the corporate clients they serve.
I say all of that as a description of what has happened, not a judgment about it. We can lament the situation all we wish, but we are compelled to adapt in any event.
I'll go further. Law schools should have reduced their class sizes long ago. Or at a minimum, we ought to have done our part to set realistic expectations. Even in a boom economy, only a minority of graduates from a minority of law schools were competitive for the entry-level slots at the one hundred largest law firms.
There are hyperbolic claims from people who seem to have no greater desire than to burn down the law school from which they recently graduated. They cannot be ignored if only for public safety.
Some -- but not all -- of their concerns are about the economy more generally.
Young people feel they have been sold on a false promise. They are not wrong.
Continue reading here.
Apps come to law school administration, and Valpo leads the way:
A law school at an Indiana university has just released a mobile app specifically to help its students get through the arduous steps of earning their degrees and planning their careers.
The Valparaiso Online Law Tracker (VOLT) mobile website from Valparaiso University is a new tool designed to help students with career planning. VOLT, which works on Android and Apple devices, offers a sequence of career planning steps for first year law students. It includes the following functions:
- An overview of career planning milestones;
- A graphical measurement integrated with the law school's recruiting system, so students can view their progress;
- An interface designed to encourage students to complete each milestone; and
- A one-page overview of the student's current year-to-date status.
You can read more here at Campus Technology..
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
From today's New York Times Dealbook:
But the brick industrial building, in San Francisco’s SoMa district, is not the home of Twitter, Zynga or another up-and-coming Internet company. It’s the office of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, the half-century-old law firm.
“There’s a marketing benefit,” said Yoichiro Taku, a partner at Wilson Sonsini who represents many early-stage companies. “It definitely makes us hipper.”
Wilson Sonsini’s new outpost reflects the firm’s evolving mind-set as lawyers jockey for the attention of start-ups. In an effort to build credibility among new technology companies, Wilson Sonsini and others are employing a broad set of tools, including offering free services, cozying up to incubators and writing blogs.
Such efforts are critical. While early-stage ventures represent just 20 percent of the firm’s business, those companies can generate hefty fees as they mature. Wilson Sonsini and other firms also make small investments in young start-ups, which can pay off in later years.
“Small deals would not have interested these firms a few years ago,” said Joseph A. Grundfest, a Stanford law professor. “Now, it’s the new normal.”
. . . .
For big law firms, courting young companies is something of a balancing act. On the one hand, a firm wants to reach the highest number of top-shelf start-ups. But it has limited resources, so it has to be choosy.
To that end, many have taken steps to reduce the cost of early-stage venture financing for entrepreneurs, while automating the process to make it easier for lawyers. Fenwick & West has been at the forefront of this trend. Two years ago, the law firm created and posted standardized deal documents online for free downloading.
Earlier this month, Wilson Sonsini teamed up with AngelList, a network for investors and entrepreneurs, to also offer free standardized deal documents online. Although start-ups can use any law firm to process the forms, Wilson Sonsini has offered to do it pro bono if a start-up becomes a client.
“We’re trying to show we can add value to the community.” said Mr. Carpenter, who worked on the AngelList project with Mr. Taku and Mr. Bochner. “So hopefully, when these start-ups need a lawyer, they think of us.”
Continue reading here.
According to the USNWR law blog, here are some reasons you should not.
Here are five reasons a JD/MBA may not be right for you:
1. Cost: Most JD/MBA programs are four years long and cost at least $50,000 more than a law degree alone.
In addition to the cost of tuition and living expenses, you also have the opportunity cost of the income you will forego during this program. Since JD/MBA programs sometimes require summer classes as well, you have even less opportunity to supplement your income.
2. Time: Going to business or law school means taking a two- to three-year break from the working world. Gaining a dual degree such as a JD/MBA often means even more time out of the workforce (though there are now three-year JD/MBA programs offered at schools including Columbia University, Yale University, and Indiana University).
3. Challenging curriculum: Law school is notoriously challenging, and often business school is equally as demanding. As a result, dual degree programs that pack extra classes into your schedule make good grades even more difficult to attain.
Since your grades in law and/or business school will likely be a deciding factor in your job search after graduation, if you are pursuing a dual degree, you must not let your grades suffer at either school.
4. Admissions competition: Both law school admissions and business school admissions committees can be slightly skeptical of applicants to dual-degree programs. They want students who are committed to their disciplines, not students who are simply hoping to add on another degree while they are at the school.
Overcoming this skepticism is a key part of the work I do when advising JD/MBA applicants on admissions strategy. The admissions committees' wariness makes the application process significantly more competitive, since at most schools you need to be separately admitted to both the law and business school.
5. Career imperative: Almost no job absolutely requires a JD/MBA. You should only pursue this dual degree if you know that both the JD and the MBA will be essential for your career path (though the two degrees may be relevant in different ways or at different times throughout your career).
For example, if you are positive you want to practice law throughout your career in a law firm, an MBA may not be as useful—unless you want to focus in corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, or bankruptcy, where an MBA could be very valuable.
If you are unsure of your future career path, gaining a JD/MBA just to "cover all your bases" may also not be the best investment. Take the time to first consider your future and what educational background you will really need to accomplish your goals.
Here’s a quick diagnostic test from Helen Sword. You provide a short sample of your writing and get immediate feedback:
The Writer's Diet
Is your writing flabby or fit? The Writer's Diet will help you energize your writing and strip unnecessary padding from your prose. First, diagnose your verbal fitness levels by taking the online WritersDiet Test. Next, follow the no-nonsense advice in each chapter of the book to strengthen and tone your verbal muscles
Writers at every level, from students to professionals, will benefit from the Writer's Diet workout. Before long, you will find your self producing stylish, energetic prose every time you put pen to paper.
Monday, October 1, 2012
The National Law Review is an online legal magazine "dedicated to providing legal consumers with authoritative legal analysis written by lawyers from many of the nation’s premier firms." Each year it sponsors writing competitions for law students that provide the opportunity for national exposure in front of an audience comprised of experienced practitioners (and potential employers). Here are the guidelines for the fall competition should you want to pass this along to your students.
Rules and Submission Guidelines
The National Law Review (NLR) consolidates practice-oriented legal analysis from a variety of sources for easy access by lawyers, paralegals, law students, business executives, insurance professionals, accountants, compliance officers, human resource managers, and other professionals who wish to better understand specific legal issues relevant to their work.
The NLR Law Student Writing Competition offers law students the opportunity to submit articles for publication consideration on the NLR Web site. No entry fee is required. Applicants can submit an unlimited number of entries each month.
- Winning submissions will be published according to specified dates.
- Entries will be judged and the top two to four articles chosen will be featured on the NLR homepage for a month. Up to 5 runner-up entries will also be posted in the NLR searchable database each month.
- Each winning article will be displayed accompanied by the student’s photo, biography, contact information, law school logo, and any copyright disclosure.
- All winning articles will remain in the NLR database for two years (subject to earlier removal upon request of the law school).
In addition, the NLR sends links to targeted articles to specific professional groups via e-mail. The NLR also posts links to selected articles on the “Legal Issues” or “Research” sections of various professional organizations’ Web sites. (NLR, at its sole discretion, maydistribute any winning entry in such a manner, but does not make any such guarantees nor does NLR represent that this is part of the prize package.)
. . . .
Content Guidelines and Deadlines
Content Guidelines must be followed by all entrants to qualify. It is recommended that articles address the following monthly topic areas:
October Suggested Topics:
- Immigration Law and
- Election Law and Campaign Finance Reform (ex. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 50 (2010))
- Submission Deadline: Monday, October 15, 2012
November Suggested Topics:
- Submission Deadline: Monday, November 19, 2012
Articles covering current issues related to other areas of the law may also be submitted. Entries must be submitted via email to email@example.com by 5:00 pm Central Standard Time on the dates indicated above.
Students are not required to transfer copyright ownership of their winning articles to the NLR. However, all articles submitted must be clearly identified with any applicable copyright or other proprietary notices. The NLR will accept articles previously published by another publication, provided the author has the authority to grant the right to publish it on the NLR site. Do not submit any material that infringes upon the intellectual property or privacy rights of any third party, including a third party’s unlicensed copyrighted work.
- Format – HTML (preferred) or Microsoft® Word
- Length – Articles should be no more than 5,500 words, including endnotes.
- Endnotes and citations – Any citations should be in endnote form and listed at the end of the article. Unreported cases should include docket number and court. Authors are responsible for the accuracy and proper format of related cites. In general, follow the Bluebook. Limit the number of endnotes to only those most essential. Authors are responsible for accuracy of all quoted material.
- Author Biography/Law School Information – Please submit the following:
- Full name of author (First Middle Last)
- Contact information for author, including e-mail address and phone number
- Author photo (recommended but optional) in JPEG format with a maximum file size of 1 MB and in RGB color format. Image size must be at least 150 x 200 pixels.
- A brief professional biography of the author, running approximately 100 words or 1,200 characters including spaces.
- The law school’s logo in JPEG format with a maximum file size of 1 MB and in RGB color format. Image size must be at least 300 pixels high or 300 pixels wide.
- The law school mailing address, main phone number, contact e-mail address, school Web site address, and a brief description of the law school, running no more than 125 words or 2,100 characters including spaces.
To enter, an applicant and any co-authors must be enrolled in an accredited law school within the fifty United States. Employees of The National Law Review are not eligible. Entries must include ALL information listed above to be considered and must be submitted to the National Law Review at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any entry which does not meet the requirements and deadlines outlined herein will be disqualified from the competition. Winners will be notified via e-mail and/or telephone call at least one day prior to publication. Winners will be publicly announced on the NLR home page and via other media. All prizes are contingent on recipient signing an Affidavit of Eligibility, Publicity Release and Liability Waiver. The National Law Review 2011 Law Student Writing Competition is sponsored by The National Law Forum, LLC, d/b/a The National Law Review, 4700 Gilbert, Suite 47 (#230), Western Springs, IL 60558, 708-357-3317. This contest is void where prohibited by law. All entries must be submitted in accordance with The National Law Review Contributor Guidelines per the terms of the contest rules. A list of winners may be obtained by writing to the address listed above. There is no fee to enter this contest.
I have often told my students that small differences in facts can significantly affect a case's outcome. I also tell them to tell a story with the facts.
Competing Stories: A Case Study of the Role of Narrative Reasoning in Judicial Decisions by Kenneth D. Chestek.
Abstract: Within minutes after President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (derisively referred to by some as the “Obamacare” law), the lawsuits started flying. Literally dozens of suits were filed all across the country. Some were frivolous, but many others raised serious issues of federalism and the reach of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause.
Of the initial spate of lawsuits, ultimately six were decided by various trial courts on the merits of the Commerce Clause issue. Three judges found the law constitutional, and three others found it unconstitutional. But since the issue is almost purely a question of law (it is the same Commerce Clause and the same body of Supreme Court precedent interpreting it in all six cases), the question arises: why did these cases come out differently?
The mainstream media has seized upon a political explanation: the three judges who found the law constitutional were appointed by Democratic Presidents, while the three judges who found the law unconstitutional were appointed by Republican Presidents. This article challenges that assumption, and suggests a more nuanced explanation: each of the plaintiffs in these cases had different stories to tell. The article explores narrative reasoning (defined as norm-based thinking instead of pure rule-based reasoning) as a possible explanation for the divergent results in these cases.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
New legal "skills" scholarship: "Navigating the Uncharted Waters of Teaching Law with Online Simulations"
This article is by Professor Ira Steven Nathenson (St. Thomas) and has been published at 38 Ohio N.U. L. Rev. 535 (2012) and is also available here from SSRN. From the abstract:
The Internet is more than a place where the Millennial Generation communicates, plays, and shops. It is also a medium that raises issues central to nearly every existing field of legal doctrine, whether basic (such as Torts, Property, or Contracts) or advanced (such as Intellectual Property, Criminal Procedure, or Securities Regulation). This creates tremendous opportunities for legal educators interested in using the live Internet for experiential education. This Article examines how live websites can be used to create engaging and holistic simulations that tie together doctrine, theory, skills, and values in ways impossible to achieve with the case method. In this Article, the author discusses observations stemming from his experiences teaching law courses using live, online role-playing simulations that cast students in the role of attorneys. The Article concludes that such simulations have significant benefits for law students and can also benefit scholars who use simulations proactively to deepen the synergies between their teaching and scholarship. However, the resources required for simulations may also exacerbate long-standing systemic tensions in legal education, particularly regarding institutional resources as well as the sometimes conflicting roles of faculty as teacher-scholars. Because the American Bar Association will almost certainly, and appropriately, require law schools to expand their simulation offerings, the benefits and tradeoffs of simulations teaching must be addressed now.
The overall default rate for college students has increased to more than 9%, a new record according to this story from USA Today. This article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed pegs the 3 year default rate at more than 13%. (query whether this will further shrink the law school applicant pool on top of the well-publicized concerns about the value of a law degree that are already causing students to stay away in record numbers). Unlike previous years where many of those who defaulted were graduates of dubious for-profit schools, the Department of Education is reporting that many of those included in the new figure are graduates of more traditional, private and non-profit colleges. Also keep in mind that DOE only reports the default rate for two, and for the first time with this report, three years after the borrower has graduated which might understate the true depth of the problem. From USA Today:
Student loan defaults have risen for the fifth straight year, as students from traditional non-profit universities have an increasingly difficult time paying off their college debt.
Numbers released by the Department of Education Friday show that of the 4.1 million borrowers who began making payments in late 2009 and early 2010, 9.1% defaulted within two years, up from 8.8% the year before.
"Student loan defaults still continue to plague too many borrowers," said Debbie Cochrane, research director for the Institute for College Access & Success. "The numbers are distressing, and they needn't be so high."
Experts credited the combination of skyrocketing student debt, the poor economy and a lack of borrower education for the increase. Unlike previous years, when default rates rose because borrowers at for-profit universities were having trouble paying off their loans, this year's rise was attributed to borrowers who attended more traditional non-profit public and private universities. Public school borrowers defaulted at a rate of 8.3%, up from 5.9% just four years ago.
For the first time in four years, the two-year for-profit school default rate dropped from the previous year, to 12.9% from 15%. Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Finaid.org, a financial aid website, said the drop indicated that new reforms had worked.
Politicians and finance advocates have long been critical of for-profit schools, saying they lure in unqualified students and didn't disclose enough about employment or debt rates. In the past few years, they've implemented new regulations on student recruitment and advertising, and made some changes to financial aid.
"This is a sign those rules are somewhat successful," Kantrowitz said. "All the criticism has lead to these colleges trying to clean up their house."
He added that he expects default rates have hit their peak, and expects them to drop next year based on reforms, a reduction in interest rates and an improving economy.
The two-year default figures released Friday count borrowers who began their repayment in fiscal year 2010 -- meaning they are mostly graduates of the 2009 class -- and measures the percentage who fell a year behind in their payments by September 2011. The data don't measure borrowers who default later in the life of the loan.
The Department of Education for the first time also released an official three-year default rate, which showed that given another year of payments, last year's 8.8% default rate ballooned to 13.4%. The department is in the process of changing its standard to look only at the three-year rate, which critics say gives a more accurate picture of the scope of loan defaults.
The three-year default data showed that nearly half the borrowers in default had attended for-profit colleges, despite comprising only 28% of the total borrowing pool, and 13% of enrolled college students.
Continue reading here.
Last Thursday, our blog posted advice on dealing with the callback interview. Here's more advice for your students. For them, the callback is the big one that might lead to the job. A number of schools have handouts to advise their students on what to do and what not to do.