Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tips for becoming a more cost-effective legal researcher

As we've reported on this blog before (here, here and here), corporate clients are more frequently demanding that outside counsel eat the cost of commercial legal research services.  This means associates are under intense pressure to make the most efficient use possible of Wexis and similar "pay for play" services since, with increasing regularity, these services now reflect non-billable expenses.  Accordingly, you may find useful the following article published in the Student Lawyer Magazine entitled "Becoming a Cost Effective Researcher."  It's by Shawn Nevers who is the head of reference services at Howard W. Hunter Law Library, Brigham Young University.

Practice while you can afford it. A cost-effective researcher is one who gets the job done efficiently without sacrificing competence. Learning to be that kind of researcher requires practice. Sure, you’ll get practice over the summer and during your career as a lawyer, but why not learn to use Westlaw and Lexis efficiently while they’re free to you?

Too many law students take the “ignorance is bliss” approach. They don’t have to worry about the costs of legal research in law school, so they don’t worry about researching efficiently. Unfortunately, they’re missing out on a golden opportunity to practice. And, what’s worse, they develop bad research habits in the process. You’ll become a much better researcher if you take time in law school to practice researching efficiently. Start today.

Understand costs at your job. One of the keys to being a cost-effective researcher is understanding what you have to work with. Instead of just finding out that your employer uses Lexis, find out what databases on Lexis you’ll have access to. Your employer may only have access to federal and state primary material on Lexis. Knowing this can help you avoid getting into out-of-plan resources, which cost additional money.

It’s also a useful idea to find out how your employer pays for legal research and how they bill their clients. Does your employer have a flat-rate contract with Westlaw where they pay a fixed amount each month or do they pay by the search or by the minute? Do they bill clients for the research or do they eat the research costs themselves? Knowing the answers to these types of questions can help you navigate research costs and makes you a more cost-effective researcher.

Use free and low-cost alternatives. Despite what law school suggests, there are alternatives to Westlaw and Lexis. And they cost a lot less. These sources can be a great place to start your research and can help you find some good stuff before you head to the more expensive databases.

For example, Google Scholar has a good database of court opinions and a powerful search engine. This combination produces very good results that are likely to give you some good cases to begin a research project. Not to mention you can’t beat the price.

My experience has been that, so far, Google Scholar is underutilized for case law research in practice. I’ve had reports from several of my former students who taught their supervising attorneys about it last summer. The supervising attorneys were surprised it existed and impressed by the results it produced.

While Google Scholar lacks statutes, other free resources can help fill that void. Fastcase is a legal research database that provides iPhone/iPad and Android apps with free access to case law and statutes. These apps have been very popular with lawyers, especially those that do research on the go.

The full version of Fastcase is available for a low-cost subscription or may be available to you through your state bar association as a member benefit. Fastcase and Casemaker are currently competing for the state bar association market and nearly all state bars offer one or the other. That means wherever you practice it’s likely you’ll have access to one of these legal databases. Get to know them.

There are also a number of other free or low-cost alternatives to Westlaw and Lexis that you may want to look into. Some examples are Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, Loislaw, VersusLaw, FindLaw, and various state and federal government websites.

It’s impossible to break down the details of each of these resources because they are all unique. Some are quite basic, while others are more robust. Some are a joy to look at, while others could have been designed in a fifth-grade technology class. There are, however, some common tips about free and low-cost legal research resources that you should be aware of.

First, check your content and coverage. Free and low-cost sources never have the extent of content or coverage that LexisNexis or Westlaw do. Google Scholar, for example, has cases but not statutes. Most state court websites only contain cases from the mid-1990s to the present. You get the picture. Get in the habit of checking free and low-cost sources for content and coverage so you know what you’re searching.

Next, learn how to search. There are very few differences in searching between LexisNexis and Westlaw. Both offer natural language as well as terms and connectors searching. Both have nearly identical connectors, which allow you to move fairly easily between each service. That’s not always the case with free and low-cost options.

Take some time to understand how to search these resources. Look for a “search tips” link or some other document that explains how searching works and lists the applicable connectors. If you gain an understanding of how to search effectively on the free and low-cost sources, you won’t be as frustrated that you can’t use LexisNexis and Westlaw the same way you could in law school.

Finally, love them for what they are. Free and low-cost alternatives are simply not LexisNexis and Westlaw. They have their weaknesses. If you can accept their limitations, you’re more likely to be grateful for what they can offer instead of being frustrated at what they can’t.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

December 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Law School Marketing and Legal Ethics

Law School Marketing and Legal Ethics by Ben Trachtenberg.

Abstract: Law schools have misled prospective students for years about the value of legal education. In some cases, law school officials have engaged in outright deceit, knowingly spreading false information about their schools. More commonly, they have presented statistics—especially those concerning the employment outcomes of law graduates—in ways nearly guaranteed to confuse readers. These deceptions and sharp practices violate the norms of the legal profession, a profession that scrupulously regulates the advertising of legal services. The deceptions also violate ethical rules prohibiting lawyers from engaging in dishonesty, misrepresentation, and deceit.

This article exposes how pitches aimed at prospective students, including the seemingly straightforward recitation of statistics on law school websites, still paint an unduly rosy picture of the legal employment market. Focusing on Rule 8.4(c) of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the article explains that law school officials have exposed themselves to professional discipline, which may offer a solution to the pervasive problem of misleading law school marketing.

(Scott Fruehwald)

December 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” Offers Us a Model

My favorite character in “A Christmas Carol” is Fezziwig, the businessman under whom Scrooge served his apprenticeship. He offers us a model on how we should treat our colleagues, our staff, and our students. In the story, Fezziwig hosts a Christmas Eve party for his staff and for those who live nearby, often in straightened conditions. Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past hold this discussion:  

"A small matter," said the Ghost, "to make these silly folks so full of gratitude."

"Small!" echoed Scrooge.

The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices, who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig: and when he had done so, said,

"Why! Is it not! He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?"

"It isn't that," said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. "It isn't that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune."

He felt the Spirit's glance, and stopped.

"What is the matter?" asked the Ghost.

"Nothing in particular," said Scrooge.

"Something, I think?" the Ghost insisted.

"No," said Scrooge, "No. I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now! That's all."

(ljs)

 

December 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 21, 2012

New legal "skills" scholarship: "Use of Role Play and Interview Modes in Law Clinic Case Rounds to Teach Essential Legal Skills and to Maximize Meaningful Participation"

This article is by Professor Helen Kang (Golden Gate) and available at 19 Clinical L. Rev. 207 (2012) and SSRN here. From the abstract:

Case rounds are a common feature of the seminar component of clinical programs. This article describes using in the case rounds setting multiple design elements, including role plays and formalized interviews, to enhance student learning and engagement. In the rounds described here, a student presenter is asked to adopt the role of her opponent in her clinic case and to explain succinctly the opponent’s case, followed by an informational session in which the student presenter is allowed only to give short answers in response to questions from her clinic peers; and after the question-and-answer session, students and their professors debrief the role play. The role play aspect – where the clinic student adopts the role of an opponent in her clinic case – compels clinic students to better anticipate the other side’s legal strategy and arguments and to delve into facts that they might overlook without having assumed the other side’s role. Adopting the other side’s position also allows students to explore legal and policy issues deeply. In addition to providing these benefits, the question-and-answer format of the rounds allows students to develop presentation and interrogatory fundamentals. Having the opportunity to practice questioning the “opponent” also provides students with the prospect of learning how best to obtain information through experimenting with different modes of inquiry. For example, students can learn that hyperbole common to stereotyped exchanges between opponents may not be appropriate for gathering facts and exploring nuances in facts and areas of uncertainty. At the same time that students are learning these skills, preserving the essential elements of rounds (involving real cases, with real practice issues, and exchanges between students) means that students have the opportunity to learn to think like lawyers as they do in traditional rounds that do not use role plays or formalized question-and-answer structures. Students, for example, gain insights about professional reasoning, judgment, and values and engage in self reflection in preparing for and participating in the role play. Combining the elements of traditional case rounds – that are so critical in teaching clinic students how to think like lawyers – with opportunities to practice the essential lawyering skills of storytelling, counter-analysis, and interrogatory basics has many benefits worth exploring.

(jbl).

December 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Appellate Court Affirms Dismissal of Lawsuit against New York Law School

A New York appellate court has affirmed a decision of the trial court dismissing a fraud lawsuit against New York Law School (decision here).  The suit involved "the propriety of the disclosures of post-graduate employment and salary data by defendant New York Law School to prospective students during the period August 11, 2005 to the present. Plaintiffs allege[d] that the disclosures cause[d] them to enroll in school to obtain, at a very high price, a law degree that proved less valuable in the market-place than they were led to expect."

While ruling for NYLS, the court added,

"Given this reality, it is important to remember that the practice of law is a noble profession that takes pride in its high ethical standards. Indeed, in order to join and continue to enjoy the privilege of being an active member of the legal profession, every prospective and active member of the profession is called upon to demonstrate candor and honesty. This requirement is not a trivial one. For the profession to continue to ensure that its members remain candid and honest public servants, all segments of the profession must work in concert to instill the importance of those values. 'In the last analysis, the law is what the lawyers are. And the law and the lawyers are what the law schools make them.' Defendant and its peers owe prospective students more than just barebones compliance with their legal obligations. Defendant and its peers are educational not-for-profit institutions . They should be dedicated to advancing the public welfare . In that vein, defendant and its peers have at least an ethical obligation of absolute candor to their prospective students."

(Scott Fruehwald)

December 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law School Reform: a Conservative Approach

At ContractsProf Blog, Associate Dean and Professor Jeremy Telman has been posting a view on curricular reform that is more conservative than most (IMHO). Here is a link to the first of the series. You may be interested.

(ljs)

December 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Academic Scandal at the University of North Carolina

Two independent, outside reports have been completed concerning the academic scandal in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at the University of North Carolina.  The reports are available here.  The problems are even more extensive than previously reported.

Here is a summary of the findings from the UNC Website: 

"Martin said that the problems uncovered were academic in nature rather than athletic. His key findings, based on reviewing courses taken by all UNC undergraduates between 1994 and 2012, included:

The anomalous courses discovered in African and Afro-American studies extended as far back as fall 1997.

The percentage of student-athletes enrolled in the anomalous course sections was consistent with the percentage of student-athletes enrolled in all courses offered by the department.

No academic misconduct or anomalies were found outside of African and Afro-American studies in other academic departments or units.

The same two people previously implicated were responsible:  Professor Julius Nyang’oro, who resigned as the department’s first chair and was forced to retire last July, and former department administrator Deborah Crowder, who retired in 2009.

The Martin report review team spent about four months examining 18 years (1994 to 2012; 68 academic terms) worth of academic data about all undergraduate classes at the University. The team reviewed 172,580 course sections and more than 4.6 million data elements. They interviewed more than 80 faculty, staff, students and other stakeholders and analyzed information previously reported through the internal reviews."

 The main report (here) identified 216 course sections with proven or potential anomalies.  The report also identified 454 potential unauthorized grade changes (changes without approval of the instructor of record).  Academic anomalies included: courses where students completed work and received grades without the course being supervised or graded by an instructor of record, courses that were designed to include regular classroom time and instructor contact but were offered with limited to no classroom or other instructional contact, irregularities with independent study courses , and related to temporary grades and unauthorized grade changes, either temporary or permanent, and submitted student grade rolls or change of grade forms that instructors of record do not remember having signed or approved.

As an alumnus of UNC, I am very disappointed.  Universities and their personnel should be serving as role models to their students.  UNC has failed miserably at this task.  How can we teach ethics and professional identity to students if our institutions and their personnel so blatantly break the rules? 

Chancellor Holden Thorp’s Opening Remarks UNC Board of Trustees Meeting December 20, 2012  (full remarks here) are also troubling: 

"Carolina has always been the most important institution in my life, and I know that’s true for many of you too. So I approach this day with a mix of sadness, anger… and hope.

Sadness because of the toll that this has taken on the University and the people who love it.

Anger because of the irresponsible actions of two people."

What bothers me about this statement is the focus on the actions of two people.  The problems at UNC could not have occurred without a total absence of academic oversight within the Department and from the central administration.  The Chancellor does add, " We made mistakes in the past. We were complacent. We didn’t ask the hard questions that we should have asked. And we didn’t live up to our reputation. We have to acknowledge that we had an environment in which we placed too much trust in people and not enough emphasis on having the systems in place that would have caught these issues."  However, this statement grossly understates UNC's responsibility to its students, its alumni, and the community.  The UNC administration should take full responsibility for its mistakes and wrongdoing, rather than making self-serving statements like the above.

I hope that other universities, including law schools, learn from my alma mater's mistakes.

(Scott Fruehwald)

For more on the problems at UNC see this article in the Raleigh News & Observer.

December 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law school puts tuition on sale

The National Law Journal is reporting that New Jersey's Seton Hall University School of Law is offering what it calls a "tuition reduction" to help persuade "fence-sitting" applicants to attend next fall.

Seton Hall hopes tuition discount will persuade fence-sitters

The competition for would-be law students is heating up in New Jersey. Seton Hall University School of Law has unveiled a tuition reduction program that will bring costs for qualifying students in line with that of its nearest competitor, Rutgers School of Law–Newark.

Applicants accepted into Seton Hall who meet or exceed the national median academic standards—a Law School Admission Test score of 158 and a 3.5 or higher undergraduate grade-point average—will pay $22,330 a year in tuition, rather than the regular $47,330. That's better than half off.

Administrators said the discount would allow them to offer "a private legal education at a public school price." Seton Hall's website says the discount was based on the full-time tuition rate at Rutgers-Newark, a public law school.

. . . .

"The legal industry is going through substantial change, and for those who choose law, we have a duty to respond in a meaningful way—making legal education more practice-oriented and employment-focused as well as more affordable," dean Patrick Hobbs said.

Law schools have been hit hard during the past two years by declining enrollment. Nearly half of all American Bar Association-accredited law schools enrolled at least 10 percent fewer students this fall than last year.

Seton Hall's incoming class this year was 23 percent smaller than in 2011, in part by design—the school didn't want to produce more lawyers than seemed likely to find work, Hobbs said.

. . . .

Seton Hall's tuition discount represents a new approach to merit-based scholarships. Typically, law schools offer such scholarships to admitted applicants on an individual basis. With fewer applicants overall, law schools have been offered scholarships more aggressively, to persuade prospective students to commit.

Seton Hall administrators don't anticipate any boost in applications this year as a result of the discount, given that the number of people taking the LSAT has continued to decline, Hobbs said. However, he does expect that a higher percentage of the prospects who consider the school ultimately will apply. "We want to provide clarity and predictability about what student will ultimately pay," he said.

The discount is open to first-year applicants from any state, and they remain eligible for additional scholarship money. The reduced tuition will apply for up to three years, as long as the student stays in the top 75 percent of the class or maintains a cumulative 2.8 GPA.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

December 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do You Want to Be a Member of the New U.K. Supreme Court?

Sorry, but it’s too late. As the I-CONnect blog tells us:

I regret to inform you, should you have been interested in applying for one of the three upcoming vacancies on the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, that the deadline has passed.  Applications were due at 5pm on October 30.   The Selection Commission will hold interviews for leading candidates later this week.

Here’s more information:

The appointments process, like the Supreme Court itself, is a creation of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (Reform Act). In 2003, in the name of judicial independence, the Blair Government decided to remove the country’s highest court from the House of Lords and form a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.  The Court opened for business in October 2009, taking up residence in its own building on Parliament Square.  But what does it mean to be a “Supreme Court” within a parliamentary system in which parliamentary sovereignty remains the orthodoxy?  What is the Court’s role in the constitutional order?

First – the application. In a manner not unfamiliar to an American college student, the application requires the submission of: a CV, two references, and a personal statement, describing how the applicant meets the stated criteria for the job.  If the applicant is a serving judge, she also must “submit copies of three judgments only” that she believes “demonstrate [her] judicial qualities” and explain “why these judgments are of interest and importance.”  And all applicants are “asked to complete a diversity and equality questionnaire.”

In addition to statutory prerequisites, the stated criteria for appointment run from the obvious – “knowledge and experience of the law” – to the expected: good writing skills, ability to work under pressure, and collegiality.  The list is rounded out by requirements for:  “social awareness and understanding of the contemporary world”; “a significant capacity for analyzing and exploring a range of legal problems creatively and flexibly”; and “vision, coupled with an appreciation of the role of the Court in contributing to the development of the law.”

The blog posting offers more insight into the Court’s nature and the conflicting policies underlying its nature.

(ljs)

 

December 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ways to Help Newtown’s Victims

The Huffington Post lists 14  non-profits that are aiding those suffering in Newtown. If you are interested in contributing, here are some choices.

(ljs)

December 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

UC-Hastings Dean Frank Wu on what's right and wrong with legal education.

Below are a pair of editorials appearing in today's Huffington Post by UC-Hastings Dean Wu about what's right and wrong with contemporary legal education. Dean Wu has been ahead of the curve when it comes to taking action in response to the current crisis in legal education so perhaps his criticism of prestige-mongering among schools while praising efforts to better match course offerings with trends in legal practice suggests more positive changes ahead for his school.

The Problem with Legal Education.

. . . .

Here is what has happened [to law schools]. There is a sequence of steps. Each of them appears rational in isolation. But cumulatively they lead to consequences that no group of actors foresees much less intends.

Alumni and students, among others, want their school to be highly ranked. The value of their degree depends on it.

Deans and professors concur. Our career success and satisfaction is measured by progress in this regard. We move our school up, or we move ourselves up.

An important factor in rankings are peer surveys: you are only as good as other professors believe you to be.

To impress other professors, we aspire to be like them. Specifically, we as a collective body try to resemble the professors at the most prestigious schools. Either we imitate them or we hire them. Or, if we can't afford the famous names, we at least attempt to recruit as new colleagues the students whom they have mentored.

. . . .

The desire to avoid being perceived as a "trade school" becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. Professors have invented a metric for themselves. We assess our influence by "citation count." It's akin to Googling yourself. We track the number of hits for our names (and our rivals') in the database of law reviews.

People are rewarded on this basis: promotion, tenure, chairs, prizes, and raises. The number becomes not only a measure for merit but the primary means of defining it.

There is a school that symbolizes all of this. Yale.

. . . .

It isn't all the fault of one Ivy League institution. All of the selection mechanisms of faculty members favor geeks. (I know: I'm one of them.) These preferences coincide with, if they do not directly cause, a distinctly cerebral orientation of the resulting community. (The corresponding desire to produce the "best" law school by conventional metrics means admitting students who happen to possess the highest test scores and undergraduate grades.)

The effect ratchets. The more sophisticated the work, the more solipsistic it seems. To be sophisticated, one must know what "solipsistic" means. In this enclosed environment, they have an expert who has a Ph.D in addition to a J.D., and consequently we need a pair with credentials to match.

. . . .

There is another reason for the overwhelming mass of heavily-footnoted nonsense. Students at Yale and elsewhere are no less savvy than their teachers. They want to impress prospective employers. They know that a means of distinguishing themselves is that line on one's resume that says "Editorial Board" of XYZ journal. They have an incentive to found more journals.

Coupled to the boom in law schools (opening at a rate of more than one per year for a generation), the proliferation of student-edited publications, a true anomaly in academe, means an accelerating demand for material. Assuming the ratio of quality work to dreck has remained approximately constant throughout, the absolute quantity of lousy ideas mathematically must have increased. The signal is overwhelmed by the noise.

These dynamics are no accident. You want smart; we'll give you smart.

 In Praise of Practical Legal Education.
Lately there has been much talk about silly electives in law school. Like much of the angry discussion of legal education, this conversation confuses the issues. The risk is that we will mistake the obscure for the impractical. To the contrary, so much of what lawyers must understand to be successful in representing actual clients with real problems, requires that they acquire technical expertise.

Let me be clear. I agree wholeheartedly that legal education, and legal educators, must be meaningfully engaged with the bench and the bar, to say nothing of the general public. My point is that a legal education with the greatest value to the student and society is a legal education that continually adapts to our world and that turns out a graduate who likewise is constantly adaptable.

What once might have seemed marginal has become mainstream. Health law was arcane, but that was the field of the most important case the Supreme Court decided last term. When the first Internet law courses were offered only a few years ago, people scoffed at them. Yet as quickly as technology progresses, the supposedly fanciful topic has become complex enough to deserve sub-specialties such as privacy.

. . . .

Entire practices come into existence, because a professor gives a name to a casebook. By doing so, the teacher brings together various pieces of law that looked as if they were separate, but which through an original organization are unified. Elder law, consisting of components each more obscure than the next, is about as practical as could be. Any law student who plans eventually to move back to her hometown to set up shop should sign up for elder law; she will not lack for work.

The profound change that is occurring is the demand for interdisciplinary, strategic thinking. A lawyer must understand law of course: their primary skill sets are concerned with the interpretation of precedent of prior cases from time immemorial as well as the array of statutes and regulations that make up the modern state. The ability to perform legal reasoning is necessary, but it is not by itself sufficient. The law student who develops only their strengths in analysis of doctrine will not lead the profession.

The obvious example is the lawyer who also boasts a STEM background, meaning science, technology, engineering, and math. Even with a glut of lawyers on the market, there are not enough people who blend training in law with training in STEM disciplines. They are sought after for more than the intellectual property disputes that dominate headlines. The formulation of public policies ought to be guided by real knowledge of law and science, not assumptions about both that are demonstrably wrong.

All of this is also true in regular day-to-day practice. The lawyer who succeeds as a solo practitioner is a lawyer who understands business. In addition to being able to cross-examine a witness and draft a will, a new graduate of law school should be able to, at a minimum, read a balance sheet. Even if their aspiration is to be a civil rights trial lawyer, they will not advance their cause if they cannot determine whether a venture is making money or losing it. After all, they themselves are in business -- whether in their own firm or as a member of a larger enterprise.

. . . .

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

December 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Newsletter for the AALS Teaching Methods Section is Out

The AALS Section on Teaching Methods has published its newsletter. Of special interest is a listing of sessions at the AALS January meeting that would be of interest to those of us interested in teaching methods.  

Congratulations to Chair Barbara Glesner-Fines and Secretary Lisa Mazzie, who served as editor. If you go to this site, you can download the newsletter.

(ljs)

December 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bar Passage Rates for New York Law Schools

Bar Passage Rates for New York Law Schools

For most of New York’s law schools, the pass rate for first time takers was roughly the same. The schools with the big drops were New York Law School and Touro Law School. From the New York Law Journal, here’s the article, and here’s the accompanying chart.

(ljs)

December 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

NALP's "Bridge to Law Practice" survey report

The National Association for Law Placement has released an important survey of law school "bridge to practice" programs which for these purposes typically means school funded fellowships with outside employers in contrast to the in-house, solo incubator projects that have recently become popular. NALP surveyed schools this past fall and got responses from 84 of which 46, or 55%, reported having some kind of "bridge to practice" program. The survey provides an excellent snapshot of what a range of public and private schools are doing circa 2012 to provide students with practical skills training in their final year of law school.  You can read the full survey here while some of the key findings are excerpted below.

A "bridge-to-practice" program is defined as a program to provide recent law school graduates with an opportunity to develop and enhance their practical legal skills as they transition into the practice of law, generally by providing funding of some sort
for a period of post-graduate work in one of several kinds of legal workplaces.

Typically, third-year students or recent graduates may apply for funding for a defined term project with an approved employer. Fellowships are typically subject to pre-approval, may or may not require proof of hours or projects completed, and may be paid on an hourly, lump sum, or other basis.

Bridge-to-practice programs are generally funded in whole or in part by a law school, university, or related organization for work performed for a third party (e.g., public interest organization, government agency, member of the judiciary, or private employer). Bridge-to-practice programs are thus distinct from law school-funded jobs on campus, such as, for example, as research assistants.

Key Findings

  • Of the schools with a bridge-to-practice program, 22% have had the program since 2007 or earlier, 11% started in 2008, 22% started in 2009, 33% date from 2010, 6% started in 2011, and 6% started in 2012. The findings presented below are based on those 43 schools whose program started in 2011 or earlier.

  • These programs are typically run by the career services office (84%). In a few cases where the responsibility lies elsewhere than in the CSO, the public interest center was most often noted.

  • Fellowship opportunities are most often identified by both students/graduates and staff (65%). One-quarter of schools reported that only students/graduates identify opportunities, and just a handful reported that only staff identify the opportunities.

  • Fellowships are most often for 6 months or less, as shown in Table 1.

    Table 1. Duration of Fellowships

    3 months or less 47%
    4-6 months 53%
    7-9 months 9%
    10-11 months 7%
    1 year 19%
    More than 1 year 2%
    Not preset 7%

    Note: Percentages add to more than 100 because more than one option could be chosen.

  • Typically, a graduate who receives a full-time job offer before the end of the fellowship can terminate the fellowship without penalty. Generally, a minimum time requirement is not iron-clad, and the employer is well aware of the circumstances under which the graduate is employed. However, providing reasonable notice if the fellow finds a job is a typical practice, generally directly between the fellow and the employer, rather than between the fellow and the school. Not surprisingly, the fellow can expect to forgo any hourly pay or stipend remaining on their fellowship, or to return a prorated portion of the stipend if the stipend was paid in a lump sum, so that funds can be reallocated. Alternatively, the employer can be asked to return unused funds.

  • Comments on fellowship length revealed a variety of practices. Some schools noted a minimum hours requirement (assuming, as noted previously, that the fellowship runs it full course), and the time span over which those hours are met can vary depending on the timeline arranged between the employer and the fellow. There may nonetheless be a final deadline by which the hours must be completed. Some schools noted that fellowship extensions may be granted — e.g., month-to-month, for 10 weeks, or 3 months — for fellows who have not obtained full-time legal employment and who have demonstrated continued active job search activities.

  • As to when fellowships are obtained, just over half of schools reported that they are obtained after graduation. Most of the rest reported that they are obtained in a mix of before and after graduation.

  • Commentary on when fellowships start indicates that rolling start dates are most typical, with that time period usually starting no earlier than August (or after bar results) and sometimes later, such as November or December following graduation. Some schools noted a single start month, anywhere from September to January following graduation. A few schools indicated that fellowships can start any time after graduation, and a few described having two distinct start cycles, such as before and after bar results, or September and January.

  • Just a few schools, 7%, reported that they required bar passage to participate in the program.

  • About one-third of schools indicated that graduates may be considered for a second fellowship but often under specific circumstances, some of which have been noted above. For example, a second fellowship may be possible if the first placement does not result in a permanent job or is less than satisfactory and a second opportunity has more potential. A few schools noted that a second opportunity is available if, for some reason, the employer becomes unable to accommodate a fellow. Some schools said that a fellow may switch employers without necessarily receiving additional funding. In one case, graduates may apply for both a post-graduation and a post-bar fellowship.

  • Just over half of schools reported that their fellows work part-time; 37% said they work full-time, and the few remaining reported that the split is about even. Comments indicated that the fellowships are designed to provide part-time work specifically so that graduates have time to continue their job hunt activities. Consistent with other commentary, mutual understanding between the employer and graduate is key; for example the required hours may be met on a mutually agreed to schedule and timetable.

  • Fellows are most often paid on a stipend basis; two-thirds reported paying fellows a stipend, and one-third reported paying them on an hourly basis.

  • For those schools paying on an hourly basis, nearly all paid each of their fellows the same hourly rate. Reported hourly rates ranged from $10 per hour to $38 per hour, though nearly half the reported hourly rates were in the $15-20 per hour range.

Stipends

For those schools paying their fellows a stipend, most, but not all, reported that each fellow receives the same stipend amount. Schools most commonly pay stipends on a monthly basis (43%). About one-quarter pay a lump sum, and one-third pay on some other basis. For stipends paid on some other basis, descriptions provided suggest that two payments are most typical: one near the beginning or halfway through the fellowship, and one upon completion or verification of hours worked. Payments on a bi-weekly or twice-a-month basis were also noted, as was a quarterly payment, and an option for either a lump sum or quarterly payment. As Table 2 shows, monthly stipend amounts (which schools were asked to report regardless of payment frequency) varied a great deal.

Table 2. Monthly Stipends

Range of stipend amounts $417 - 3,666
Median amount $1,225
Average amount $1,558
Distribution (% of stipend amounts in each range)*
$750 or less 8.3%
$1,000 37.5%
$1,200 - 1,800 25.0%
$2,000 - 3,666 29.2%
# of stipend amounts reported 24
  • Fellows' paychecks were most often issued by the law school (58%), followed by the parent university (37%). A few schools reported that the employer or the law school foundation (or similar entity) issued the paychecks (12% and 9%, respectively). Percentages add to more than 100 because more than one choice could be checked.

  • It is more common, for tax purposes, for fellows to receive a Form 1099 (58% of schools) than to receive a W-2 (42% of schools).

  • Just 11% of schools reported that fellows could enroll in their school's health care plan at any cost.

Funding Levels

Of the schools reporting a bridge-to-practice program, 32 were able to report the total amount of funding for their Class of 2011 fellows. As in Table 3, funding levels varied widely, and although higher funding amounts generally correlate with larger numbers of fellows funded, this is not always the case. Collectively these schools provided almost $8.5 million in bridge-to-<->practice fellowship funding. Among schools whose program had been in place at least two years in 2011, just over half reported that funding for the program had increased since its inception. Among the rest, the number who indicated that the funding had stayed about the same only slightly outnumbered those who indicated that the funding had decreased (25% compared with 20%). However, the commentary revealed a variety of circumstances underlying these figures. For example, some schools noted increased participation, even as funding remained relatively constant. Some have experienced both increased funding and increased participation. In some cases funding for the Class of 2011 decreased, and for 2012 there was even less or none. Also noted was a drop in funding for 2011, followed by an increase in 2012.

Table 3. Total Funding for Class of 2011 (per school)

Range of funding $8,400 - 1,463,700
25th percentile $82,500
Median $175,000
75th percentile $346,500
Average $265,359
  • In response to a question about sources of funding for their program, the most common source reported was the law school's operating budget (67%), followed by an outside grant (such as a dedicated alumni gift or foundation grant) at 40%, and an endowment or other restricted funds at 33%. A few schools indicated an "other" funding source, such as other university non-restricted funds, the dean's discretionary fund, and SBA supplemental funding. (Percentages add to more than 100 because more than one funding source could be reported.)

  • Most schools (70%) require some type of report back from fellows during and/or at the conclusion of the fellowship. Commentary on the kind of reporting required revealed a wide variety of practices. For example, many schools require fellows to meet with their career counselor on a regular basis and to submit reports regularly, either in writing or via telephone. A report on job search activities may be required as part of the report. Some schools require timesheets signed by the supervising attorney. Some schools noted that they survey fellows at the end of their fellowship. Some ask for a memo reflecting on their experience, or just ask that the graduates report at the end of the fellowship if they have a job or will need further CSO assistance.

  • Of the 43 schools with a bridge-to-practice program, 37 were able to provide a count of fellowships awarded to graduates in their Class of 2011. Collectively, these 37 programs funded a total of 1,444 fellowships. The number of fellowships per school ranged from 1 to 111, with a median of 30 and an average of 38. Most figures were reported only once, that is, there was no "typical" or common program size. Four schools reported funding 15 fellows.

  • Of the 37 schools reporting a total number of fellowships, 34 were also able to report their counts by type of employer. Not surprisingly, and consistent with other findings on the Class of 2011, nearly half (47.9%) of the 1,229 placements accounted for were with public interest organizations. Second were placements with government (30.2%), followed by judicial clerkships at 12.4%. Law firms accounted for 7.2%, and the remainder were in corporate or other settings.

(jbl).

December 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Book on Counseling Clients

Let me recommend Client Science: Advice for Lawyers on Counseling Clients through Bad News and Other Legal Realities by Marjorie Corman Aaron (Oxford University Press 2012). Rather than offering a chronological guide to counseling a client, the book deals with specific challenging topics. How many books start by explaining how to give a client bad news? Here is the description from the publisher:

Client Science is written to provide insight and advice to lawyers on how to more effectively communicate with their clients with regard to legal realities and difficult decisions. It will help lawyers with the always-difficult task of delivering "bad news," which will result in better-informed and thus more satisfied clients. The book explains applicable social science research and insights and translates them into plain language relevant to legal practice and client counseling. Marjorie Corman Aaron offers specific suggestions related to a lawyer's ordering, timing, phrasing, and type of explanation, as well as style adjustments for the lawyer's voice, gesture, and body position, all to impact client counseling and to improve the lawyer-client relationship.

Features

 Provides insight and advice to lawyers on how to more effectively communicate with their clients, both as to legal realities and difficult decisions

   Explains the applicable social sciences and translates insights from these fields into plain         language

       Offers specific suggestions related to a lawyer's ordering, timing, phrasing, and type of explanation, as well as style adjustments for the lawyer's voice and gesture.

Please click here for a review from “Before It’s News.”

(ljs)

December 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Benchslap of the day: "District judges are not archaeologists"

Thanks to the ABA Journal blog for our benchslap of the day; a Minnesota Federal District Court judge dismissed the plaintiffs' job discrimination claim on the grounds that the record lacked sufficient evidence to proceed.  But in issuing her opinion, Judge Ann Montgomery referenced a number of procedural and technical transgressions by plaintiffs' counsel including the failure to properly serve the complaint, missing a pre-trial scheduling conference, incomplete sentences and missing or inaccurate citations to the record that left the court digging through thousands of pages trying to find the factual support for the plainitffs' claims.  The latter issue caused the judge to quip "District judges are not archaeologists."   

Here are some excerpts from Judge Montgomery's tongue-lashing, er, opinion:

As the Court held in a prior order, Plaintiffs’ counsel Christopher Walsh has repeatedly failed to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (the “Rules”) as well as the District of Minnesota Local Rules (the “Local Rules”). For instance, Plaintiffs never properly served the original complaint on Defendants. Plaintiffs eventually served the Amended Complaint, but only after Magistrate Judge Brisbois required proper service or dismissal of the action . . . .

Plaintiffs’ counsel’s compliance with procedural rules did not improve over the course of discovery. Unlike Defendants, Plaintiffs did not serve timely Rule 26(a) disclosures . . . . Mr. Walsh also failed to appear at the pretrial scheduling conference, “without notice or excuse.” Id. In addition, Plaintiffs did not respond to Defendants’ discovery requests until months after responses were due, and then offered only incomplete answers and failed to produce documents. Id. at 3. With regard to expert discovery, Plaintiffs Benford and Martin identified three experts nearly two months after the expert disclosure deadline had passed. Id. at 8. As of July 30, 2012, seven months after the expert disclosure deadline, Plaintiffs had still failed to disclose their experts’ putative opinions. Id. at 10.

. . . .

On July 15, 2012, Defendants brought this Motion for Summary Judgment against Plaintiffs, seeking dismissal of all counts brought against them. . . .  In response, Plaintiffs filed a memorandum and over four thousand pages of deposition testimony and exhibits. 

Plaintiffs’ memorandum is rife with incomplete sentences and blank citations to the record. Some of the citations which Plaintiffs chose to complete refer to irrelevant deposition testimony or documents, or to only a single page from a larger passage of relevant testimony. Although the Court has attempted to locate relevant portions of the record on its own, the task of sifting through several thousand pages of documents to support Plaintiffs’ claims is not the Court’s function. The Court will not advocate for Plaintiffs by mustering the evidence and making arguments when their counsel has neglected to do so. See Northwestern Nat’l Ins. Co. v. Baltes, 15 F.3d 660, 662-63 (7th Cir. 1994) (“District judges are not archaeologists.”)

Read the full text decision here.

Hat tip to the ABA Journal blog.

(jbl).

December 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Former Student Gets Disbarred

It isn’t the first time that a former student has gotten in trouble with a disciplinary committee, but these incidents are always discouraging to me. In this particular case, the student did something that was outrageous and his sanction was justified. (I’ll leave out the name and the incident—no reason to create more embarrassment).

 As a student, he was bright and hardworking. I never heard rumors that suggested he was dishonest or unbalanced.  I don’t think there was anything I could have done to strengthen his moral fiber. Still, I feel a great sense of disappointment in him and, I guess, in myself. Maybe my disappointment in myself is misplaced, but maybe there is something in the training we offer future professionals that is inadequate.

(ljs)

December 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting

From the American Psychological Association:

As a parent, you may be struggling with how to talk with your children about a shooting rampage. It is important to remember that children look to their parents to make them feel safe. This is true no matter what age your children are, be they toddlers, adolescents or even young adults.

You can read more here

(ljs)

December 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kristin B. Gerdy on Teaching Legal Research Through Learner-Centered Assessment

One of the pleasures of writing for a blog like this one is discovering articles I missed the first time.  Over the weekend, I found a gem by Kristin B. Gerdy entitled Teacher, Coach, Cheerleader, and Judge, 94 Law Library Journal 59 (2002).  (also here)

The article applies the latest in educational research to teaching legal research.  She uses David Kolb's experential learning model, which is a four-part cycle on how novices progress to experts.  She makes several key points:

1) "Experimentation through application of knowledge and skills to new contexts provides the foundation for more advanced experiences." (this relates to domain transfer, which I discussed on this blog last week)

2. "To complete the learning process, students must assess their learning and receive feedback about their performance. This requires teachers to change their role, becoming a judge—an evaluator—and, often, a remediator."

3.  "Evaluation and assessment are not only important for students who need an unbiased assessment of their progress and learning, they are critical for teachers as well. Effective, learner-centered assessment enables teachers to answer two key questions: What have my students learned and how well have they learned it? How successful have I been at accomplishing the goals and objectives I have set (for a single class period, a particular skills set, or an entire course)?"

4.  "Educational research indicates that while learners can master particular pieces of information or discrete skills, unless they have the opportunity to actively apply and use their new skills or knowledge to achieve a goal, they are able to apply them only in the context in which they were originally learned. Because their knowledge is inert, many students are unable to transfer that knowledge to new, even substantially similar situations." (again related to domain transfer)

5.  "In order to lead students from 'inert' to 'active' knowledge and skills, legal research teachers must consciously guide their students through the transition by using both well-defined and ill-defined problems and assignments."

Professor Gerdy also spends considerable time on how to develop effective research assessments.

(Scott Fruehwald)

December 17, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

New legal skills scholarship: "Putting Theory into Practice: Thoughts from the Trenches on Developing a Doctrinally Integrated Semester-in-Practice Program in Health Law and Policy"

This article is by Professor Michele Mekel (Southern Illinois) and is available at 9 Ind. Health L. Rev. 503 (2012) and SSRN here.  From the abstract:

With the employment market for attorneys currently in a subpar state, legal employers have the attention of both law students and law schools, and these employers are demanding practice-ready practitioners. In response, law schools are turning increasingly to experiential learning opportunities of various types. For law schools with concentrations, certificate programs, or centers of excellence, experiential learning presents synergies upon which to capitalize in offering students specialized, hands-on training that matches their interests and makes them more attractive employment candidates upon graduation.

(jbl).

December 16, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)