Saturday, April 27, 2013
Nothing in this video report is news to anyone with even passing knowledge of the law school "crisis" though the graphic employed by Bloomberg Law drives home the point especially well. The data, which shows law school tuition has increased 1000% since 1985 while average salaries have been in decline since 2009, is based on the work of Professor Jerry Organ (St. Thomas) and his forthcoming article Reflections on the Decreasing Affordability of Legal Education which is available here on SSRN.
If you go to the Supreme Court and wear a jacket bearing a controversial slogan, can you be arrested? From the BLT blog:
The high court visitor, Fitzgerald Scott, was wearing a jacket painted with the words "Occupy Everywhere." The authorities determined the clothing, with its accompanying message, violated a federal law that restricts certain expressive activity inside the Supreme Court. Scott refused to remove the jacket. He was arrested.
Scott alleges in his suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that the authorities had no ground to arrest him. U.S. Justice Department lawyers said in February, in court papers seeking the dismissal of the case, that federal law prohibited the political message on Scott's jacket. Police had ample cause to ask Scott to remove the jacket or leave the building, according to DOJ.
Scott's attorney, Jeffrey Light, a Washington solo practitioner, this week responded to the government's effort to end the case. How to resolve the dispute? Light pointed to a 1971 case in which the high court reversed the conviction of a man who wore a jacket that said "F---k the Draft" inside a courthouse in Los Angeles.
Light called the Supreme Court ruling in Cohen v. California "well-known to any law school graduate." The decision, he said, was "widely celebrated as one of the most important and influential First Amendment cases of the modern era."
Friday, April 26, 2013
A number of law professors use Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail when they explore rhetoric with their students. As we observe the fiftieth anniversary of that remarkable message, Sojourners magazine offers several articles that explore its context. You can access them here.
According to the American Lawyer, " The Am Law 100's modest gains hint that a fundamental recovery is taking root." The article states,
"In fiscal 2012, The Am Law 100 posted modest gains on our key metrics. For gross revenue, revenue per lawyer, and profits per partners, firms notched low single-digit year-over-year increases. But these averages belied the unevenness of the recovery. Only 76 firms reported gross revenue increases last year. And only 66 firms had profit per partner increases—down from 80 firms and 72 firms, respectively, on the previous year's Am Law 100 list."
In sum, "As a whole, The Am Law 100's revenue increased by 3.4 percent (or $2.43 billion) to $73.4 billion last year, a new record." You can read the rest of the article here.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Earlier this month, a New York appellate court affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by former students of New York Law School alleging the school had mislead them about their employment prospects based on inflated post-grad job data. And now another New York court has also tossed out a similar suit against Brooklyn Law School. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has the details:
A New York state judge has rejected a lawsuit by five Brooklyn Law School graduates who claimed they were misled by the school regarding the success of its graduates in finding high-paying legal employment.
The graduates, who sought a refund of tuition and other damages for a class of graduates, claimed they were duped into believing that it would be easier than they realized to obtain legal employment. The case is one of several brought against law schools across the country regarding their representations about post-graduate employment.
In an opinion earlier this week, New York State Supreme Court Justice David J. Schmidt in Brooklyn noted the school’s own data was sufficient to “enable a reasonable person to determine that most graduates were earning modest incomes.”
The judge also found that the school’s disclaimers about its salary and employment data were sufficient to warn potential students from “using the information as a springboard from which to derive his or her own expected income.”
Jesse Strauss, the plaintiffs' lawyer who has brought similar lawsuits against several other law schools around the country, told the WSJLB that he is deciding whether to appeal. Brooklyn Law School was represented by Skadden in the matter.
Continue reading here.
Recently, the ALI-CLE blog offered several links to articles on the topic. You can access them here.
As a male parent, let me offer my own thoughts:
- Take as long a maternity leave as you can.
- Recognize that the parent-child bond may be far stronger than you ever anticipated and that you will be devoting more of your time to parenting than you expected. And recognize that you will need to (and want to) reorder your priorities.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
This is a pretty incredible program. The law firm, D.C.'s Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, will even reimburse non-lawyer staff members who seek to better themselves by pursuing an advanced degree. And the better your grades, the more the firm pays. Nice!
From the Washington Post:
For many prospective students, the decision to go to law school means taking on a hefty burden of debt.
But not for future attorneys at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, a law firm that specializes in patent and trademark work. Finnegan has a generous reimbursement program that covers 100 percent of staffers’ law school tuition.
To qualify for the reimbursement, employees must work as “student associates” while they attend law school. These positions are typically part time, and the firm bills clients at a lower rate for the work.
“I signed some checks for Harvard and Stanford in the past year that nearly made me choke,” joked Barbara McCurdy, managing partner. But “the benefit for us is that we attract really excellent talent.”
Erin Sommers is an associate at Finnegan’s Washington office who got her law degree from Georgetown University. She started at the firm as a technical specialist with no legal experience, but she eventually wanted to go back to school. The reimbursement program, she said, helped make that possible.
Continue reading here.
ABA Journal Question of the Week: Is the Socratic method and lecture-based classes the best way to teach law students?
The ABA Journal question of the week is Is the Socratic method and lecture-based classes the best way to teach law students? The article invites debate in the comments.
The answer according to Shailini Jandial George is that " law students would benefit from the use of more visual aids, visual exercises, and assessments of their work during class time." (here) I agree, as long as the visual aids focus the students on what is to be learned, not the visual aids.
This is the best response so far:
"Teaching law students exclusively with the Socratic method is like teaching doctors to only practice medicine on the dead. The practice is so much more than just 'thinking on your feet' and law firm busy work. I’m surprised more students haven’t staged a revolt. Their time in law school consists of nothing more than weekly lectures and an exam with no feedback yet they still have to take a bar prep course and don’t know how to prepare jury charges." RutgersLawGrad
Here is the report of the Chronicle of Higher Education on the current meeting of the ABA’s legal education task force. According to the Chronicle, the significant proposals are:
- Shortening law school from three years to two.
- Allowing law schools to rely more on distance education.
- Testing students on a series of competencies as they progress through law school and allowing those who reach a certain level to work as legal technicians.
I hope the Chronicle is wrong. We need proposals that are far more creative.
Today, many law schools hire VAPs—visiting assistant professors. In theory, the VAPs get some experience teaching courses and some learning about the law school culture. They also get time to finish the writing project that seems necessary to succeed in today’s job market. In return, the law schools get cheap labor and the ability to avoid hiring expensive full timers to teach the courses that the VAPs will be teaching. (I think this is a fair description).
In this economy, however, there are not many full time jobs waiting for the VAPs. Some VAPs move from school to school, hoping that next year they will get that wonderful job.
If my analysis is right, then something is wrong. One might argue that the VAPs know what the risks are. However, they may not fully understand the realities of the job market. Their hopes may cloud their judgment. The economy may also cloud the judgment of the law schools in perpetuating the VAP system. If I am wrong, please educate me.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Illinois state bar panel recommends law schools focus more on practical skills and teaching, less on publishing and scholarship
Those are among several recommendations made by a special subcommittee of the Illinois State Bar Association that was charged with suggesting reforms in light of the current "crisis" in legal education. Other suggestions include asking Congress to limit the amount of money students can borrow to attend law school and granting law schools more leeway to try alternative models for training lawyers at less cost to students. The report has been sent to the ABA task force presently considering legal education reforms.
From the Springfield State Journal Register:
The Illinois State Bar Association last year created a special committee to look at the problem, and after a series of five statewide hearings has issued a wide-ranging report that recommends significant law school reform designed to focus on educating lawyers at an affordable price.
“The current model of legal education is unsustainable,” said ISBA president John Thies, an Urbana attorney. “That’s difficult for anyone to deny.”
“When lawyers graduate with six-figure debt, it is less likely they’ll be able to practice law in the areas we need lawyers,” he said.
The committee’s final report was accepted by the ISBA board of governors last month and will be considered by the ISBA assembly in June. It also has been sent to a national task force of American Bar Association that also is considering reforms, Thies said.
. . . .
Among the recommendations in the 53-page report:
* Congress and the U.S. Department of Education should place reasonable limits on the amounts law students can borrow from the federal government.
* Congress should restrict federal loan eligibility to law schools whose graduates meet certain employment and debt-repayment outcomes, rather than allowing all accredited law schools to enroll students receiving federal student loans.
* The government should ensure that funds available in the loan programs are targeted to the students most in need.
* Law schools must have the ability to experiment with new models of legal education to find the best ways to control costs while still delivering a quality education.
* The schools themselves must place more emphasis on practice-oriented courses and focus more in the second and third years on helping students transition to practice through apprenticeships, practical courses, etc.
* Law schools should put less emphasis on scholarship and publishing among their faculty members and focus more on teaching ability. The report also urges the use of more properly trained and supervised adjunct faculty.
Continue reading here.
In this world of electronic communication and social media, are business cards out of date? I don’t think so. I encourage my students to get business cards and also tell the students how to use them. At Attorney at Work, several consultants agree with me. Here is the advice of marketing director Tina Emerson:
Our digital interactions shouldn’t make all other forms of communication obsolete. Even though we live in an electronic world, there is something about a business card that stands the test of time. Yes, even in this age of phone bumping to share data, business cards continue to be a tangible way to professionally connect with someone very quickly. That card alone can communicate much more than your contact information—it allows you to share your firm’s brand, website or blog. If the design is right, a QR (quick response) code can be added to make that connection digital.
Remember that any form of marketing collateral “speaks” to the recipient, and when it comes to branding, your business card is an extension of your firm’s identity.
There is no arguing that electronic devices have opened up a wonderful, interactive world of business communication, but there is still value in things you can touch and feel as well. Without making use of the best of both digital and traditional methods, what have you missed out on sharing?
Monday, April 22, 2013
The Dean of Northeastern School of Law Jeremy Paul and Stroock Managing Partner Alan Klinger have co-authored an article in the New York Law Journal about the importance of teaching students the skill of strategic thinking.
. . . .
As the path to professional success is re-imagined, the starting point for lawyers hoping to flourish is that they be responsive to client needs and sensitive to public values. The question is how can new lawyers both within law schools and law firms be best trained to ensure that client concerns are paramount and that an appreciation for the public good informs legal advice. Of course, the hallmarks of great lawyering will always remain: knowledge of the law, rigorous analysis, strong listening skills, and clarity of written and oral communication. However, more is needed to educate tomorrow's first-rate professionals. Indeed, challenging and imaginative education in school and at work constitutes the best solution to the current struggles confronting our profession and America's law schools. Here are some ways to improve lawyer training.
. . . .
Strategic thinkers . . . must focus not just on resolving ambiguity, but on navigating uncertainty. In the rapidly changing economy in which clients function and lawyers seek to prosper, the only constant is that tomorrow will look different from today. Accordingly, the strategic thinker must begin by identifying achievable objectives and planning a course to reach them. Questions such as the meaning of a statute or the reach of a case feel very different from questions such as in what markets is success likely to be found; which areas of business (or practice) are likely to grow; in what locations should an enterprise expand; or how is technology likely to transform business. Lawyers confront the latter sort of questions every day, and must move swiftly to ensure that junior lawyers and law students become more comfortable addressing such strategic challenges.
Step one involves data. Lawyers have long been familiar with the painstaking work of building a case or negotiating a deal through careful assembly of relevant information. This differs greatly from what students see in law school classrooms, which is why clinical education and the immersive field placements Northeastern University School of Law and schools with similar programs employ are so valuable. But institutional leaders must go well beyond case preparation to determine what facts must be gathered to formulate a strategy. They must assemble teams to seek out such relevant information. The comfort of the appellate opinion gives way to the task of identifying potential customers and predicting their needs; selecting relevant competitors and measuring their tactics; and devising metrics to determine whether the institution is on track. The lawyers of tomorrow must be increasingly familiar with the tools for assembling and analyzing data that will be second nature for their clients.
The harder challenge is one of mindset. The tough, critical analysis demanded from attorneys makes it child's play for the lawyer on a project team to find holes in the links between data and strategy. When the business strategist suggests opening a branch office in a nearby city due to population growth, the lawyer may be the first to ask whether the buying habits of the newcomers can demonstrably be shown to warrant expansion. Lawyers by their very nature are often cautious about the sorts of inferences business people rely upon to move things forward. Young lawyers must be able to overcome such professional prejudice. In today's world, let alone tomorrow's, the better solution to problems lurking within available data is to gather more and better data. It's far cheaper and easier to obtain and analyze data than it was 20 years ago, and these costs will keep falling. Lawyers helping clients manage legal risks must embrace the need for quantitative assessments even as they retain their well-honed flair for qualitative analysis.
Continue reading here.
Most legal research classes focus on litigation. However, researching transactional law is also important.
Legal Research: Transactional Law Research by Shawn G. Nevers.
Abstract: The legal research curriculum in law schools has traditionally focused on litigation-based research. There is, however, a significant portion of the law student population that will become transactional lawyers and conduct a different type of legal research. Written for Student Lawyer magazine, this column introduces students to some key research resources used by transactional lawyers. These resources include EDGAR, in-house precedents, Practical Law Company, and Bloomberg Law. This column also encourages students to explore the many other resources used by transactional lawyers today.
From the WSJ Law Blog:
For more than five years, Ionia County’s chief district judge in Michigan has zealously enforced a “one strike, you’re out” policy. The rule applies to what he considers an inexcusable breach of courtroom decorum — the squawk of an unsilenced cellphone.
When he hears a ring, beep or chime, Judge Raymond Voet confiscates the phone, holds the owner in contempt of court, and makes the person fork over $25 to get it back. “I can’t stand cellphones ringing or making noises,” the judge told Law Blog. “I’ve taken phones from lawyers, cops, witnesses, members of the public, and the media.”
He can now add himself to that list. . . . .
You can read more here.
Villanova Law School is opening a new position for a Director of Academic Compliance. J.D. required. You can read more here. Here is the job description:
The Director of Academic Compliance is responsible for handling Academic Compliance issues, including “Character and Fitness” and attendance issues and will be the primary point of contact for student academic and compliance concerns. The Director will also be responsible for ABA Compliance and serve as the Questionnaire Policy Coordinator. The Policy Coordinator shall ensure compliance with established procedures and policies as well as the overall administration of the ABA Questionnaire submission.
This person will also serve at a strategic and tactical level for implementation of Distance Learning efforts at the Law School and coordinate efforts with appropriate offices on campus and outside partners.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Today’s law student enters law school as a digital native, constantly “plugged in” and accessing information at a moment’s notice, often during class time itself. Yet scholars agree that these students are entering law school with weaker reading and reasoning skills than prior generations, due in large part to the way students multitask through life. This article aims to address the problems caused by the intersection of these two issues by applying cognitive learning theory to the law school environment. Part One examines the characteristics of our current students by describing their skills and learning styles upon arriving at law school. Part Two examines cognitive learning theory insofar as it can inform our teaching andragogy: specifically, how do today’s students learn, how can we help our students learn better, and what effect does their multitasking have on learning? The final section suggests ways for students and educators to better translate the information offered in class into knowledge. Ultimately, this article suggests teaching students about metacognition and effective study techniques while also encouraging professors to design and plan their courses by adopting cognitive learning theories and using more visual aids, visual exercises, and assessments to help students better learn the material.
You can also read a short interview with the author here at the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.
THE LEGAL WRITING INSTITUTE
We are pleased to announce the tenth Legal Writing
Institute Writers Workshop to take place on June 29-July 2, 2013. The
workshop will give up to twelve Legal Writing faculty the opportunity
to spend time working on their academic writing projects and improving
their scholarly skills.
The Workshop will take place at the Lake Lawn Resort in
Delavan, Wisconsin. It will take place immediately following the ALWD
annual conference in Milwaukee (June 26-28). Lake Lawn is located
approximately an hour's drive from Milwaukee. From Chicago, Lake Lawn
is about a two-hour drive.
Who is Eligible to Attend?
All members of the Legal Writing Institute are eligible.
You must have a scholarly writing project well underway and beyond the
initial stages of performing the initial research and drafting a
tentative outline. You must at least have some sort of partial draft.
To be clear, we expect you to arrive with a substantial work product.
In most cases, a scholarly writing project should result in a law
We give priority to full time Legal Writing faculty for
whom scholarly writing is a prerequisite for retention, promotion, or tenure.
We will give priority to applicants who have not attended past Workshops.
What Will We Do at the Workshop?
Participants make presentations on their projects to small
groups of three and receive feedback. Each session runs about ninety
minutes. They also may take part in several guided discussion groups,
each on a different topic. Participants will also have time to work on
Will There Be Facilitators?
Yes. Lou Sirico (Villanova) and additional facilitators
(TBA) will organize the program and offer their guidance.
Where Will the Workshop Be?
The workshop will take place at the Lake Lawn Resort in
Delavan, Wisconsin. http://www.lakelawnresort.com/
This year, participants will need to pay (1) the $350
registration fee and (2) the cost of their daily meals (excluding a
final group dinner at the close of the Workshop). LWI will cover the
ground transportation to/from the hotel, facility costs (including
hotel rooms), and one group dinner on July 1.
If I Have Questions, Whom Should I Ask?
Please contact Lou Sirico at (610)Sirico@law.villanova.edu.
How Do I Apply?
Please fill out the following application and
submit it by email by noon, Friday, May 17 Sirico@law.villanova.edu
We will select participants as quickly as we can.
LEGAL WRITING INSTITUTE
Please return this application by email to Lou Sirico:
Law School Affiliation:
Are You a Full Time Faculty Member?
For How Many Years Have You Been Teaching Legal Writing?
Is Scholarship a Requirement for Your Retention, Promotion, or Tenure?
Please Explain Your Individual Situation.
Please describe your writing project and, in as much
detail as possible, describe how far along you are in completing your project.
For example, do you have a detailed outline, a first draft, substantial parts of a first draft? Please estimate how far along you will be by June 29, 2013.
Is there anything else you want to tell us?