Saturday, June 29, 2013
The move is not entirely unexpected in light of the staff cuts announced last November. According to a VLS spokesman, these most recent faculty cuts were made through a combination of attrition and converting some full-time positions to part-time. The downsizing affects both tenure/tenure-track faculty as well as contract faculty which I presume includes legal writing and clinical professors. Here are the details courtesy of the Tax Prof blog (the story was first reported by the Vermont Digger):
After some correspondence with Peter Glenshaw, Director of Communications at Vermont Law School, I’ve learned that the precise numbers involved are:
(1) Four tenure/tenure-track faculty have gone from full to part-time. Two tenured/tenure track faculty left the school, and their positions were eliminated. Together this represents a 21.4% reduction in the number of full-time tenure track faculty.
(2) Four contract faculty have gone from full to part-time. This represents 13% of the contract faculty. Thus the number of full-time positions on the teaching faculty (TT and contract) has been reduced by 17.2%.
Mr. Glenshaw wishes to emphasize that the eight faculty members who have gone from full-time to part-time status will, in his words, “continue to teach or work at VLS in the coming years. We are thrilled that every faculty member who participated in this voluntary program will remain involved in our community as teachers and educators, and we look forward to their contributions in the coming years.”
Friday, June 28, 2013
Here's a new article by Professors Megan Boyd (Mercer) and Adam Lamparello (Indiana Tech) entitled Legal Writing For The "Real World": A Practical Guide To Success. It's available at 46 J. Marshall L. Rev. 487 (2013). From the introduction:
One of the most significant complaints among practicing attorneys is that newly admitted lawyers are not effective writers. Many young attorneys also express concern that their law school experience did not adequately prepare them to be good legal writers. This Article is designed to bridge the gap between the law school classroom and the law firm experience. In so doing, this Article is more practical rather than pedagogical, based on experience rather than theory, and founded upon “real-world” examples rather than abstract constructs. We hope this Article will be a valuable resource not only for law students, but for practicing attorneys, who should work to improve their writing skills throughout their legal careers.
In law school, your goal is to prepare yourself for the “real world.” What does that mean? During law school, you should develop familiarity with and expertise at “doing the things that lawyers do.” Perhaps the most important skill you will learn and develop throughout your career is the ability to write effectively. In the “real world,” writing matters because, whether it is a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a motion for summary judgment, a trial or appellate brief, or an arbitration statement, writing is an important vehicle by which you advocate for your client. Consequently, your ability to write persuasively and convince a court that your position is justified by the facts, consistent with the law, and based upon principles of fairness is critical. Of course, while other skills, such as oral argument, negotiation, and trial practice are very important as well, your legal arguments are presented to the court primarily through written advocacy. When you develop outstanding legal writing skills, you evolve as both a lawyer and communicator.
This Article is designed to prepare you for the “real world” and teach you the skills that matter--both inside and outside of the courtroom. The principles below are based upon our experiences as lawyers, litigators, and advocates for our clients. If implemented, they will assist you not only in becoming an effective legal writer, but also by ensuring your credibility and reputation as a lawyer. We hope this Article will be an important resource for you as a new attorney and as your writing skills evolve throughout your legal career. Part II focuses upon principles that will maximize the persuasive value of your legal arguments. Part III concentrates on style, explaining, through examples, and how things such as grammar, tone, and clarity can directly affect the outcome of your case. Finally, Part IV offers additional practical tips for the “real world.”(jbl).
Attorney Teresa Beck has collected this advice from experienced mediators. Here are the headlines:
Things Lawyers Should Do for Successful Mediation:
Exchange mediation briefs.
Exchange at least one demand and one offer before mediation.
Have a pre-mediation telephone conference with the mediator.
Request early mediation if warranted.
Things Lawyers Should Not Do During Mediation:
Don't engage in surprise negotiations.
Don't reject a proposed mediator because you are not familiar with her or him.
Don't say “take it or leave it” unless you mean it.
Don't burn bridges
Additional Tips from Counsel
Interestingly, none of the mediators interviewed for this article stated that attorneys should disclose their client’s bottom line to the mediator. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that this information is not helpful to mediators, and this conclusion is consistent with my experience. When the mediator knows what authority there is to resolve a case, cases often settle at that number. For counsel trying to settle for less than their authority, disclosing the bottom line to the mediator is not a good idea. Further, disclosing full authority can result in a situation where counsel loses control of the process, and all the work is on the mediator to make the numbers work. This is not a good plan for quick resolution.
You can read the full article here
Thursday, June 27, 2013
ABA task force on future of legal ed suggests making students "practice ready" not sole responsibility of law schools
As you may know, the ABA has appointed a task force to study the current "crisis" in legal education and make recommendations for change. While a draft report is not due until the end of next month, during a meeting on Monday, some committee members expressed the view that preparing law students for practice is not solely the responsibility of law schools. Bar associations, bar admissions organizations and state supreme courts must also participate.
While one might quibble over how to apportion responsibility among the various stakeholders - law firms included - I don't think anyone seriously believes that no matter how much the curriculum is reformed, students are actually ready to practice on their own after three short years of law school. The skills and judgment necessary to represent clients effectively take much longer than that to hone.
From the ABA Journal blog:
The task force, which met Monday for the last time before it issues its initial recommendations next month, identified several broad themes that will guide it through the drafting process, including the current system for financing a law school education, the highly uniform structure of most law schools and whether the schools are doing enough to prepare graduates for the actual practice of law.
Task Force chair Randall T. Shepard, retired chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, said after Monday's meeting that the discussion reflected an "earnest concern" among task force members over the rising costs of a legal education and an "earnest interest" in trying to identify steps that schools and the legal profession can take that might reverse that long-term trend.
"I think while there's no silver bullet, a number of the proposals under examination by the task force have the potential to alter the cost picture in ways that are worth pursuing," Shepard said.
Shepard also said that Monday's discussion reflected a widely-shared belief among task force members that legal education is not solely the responsibility of law schools.
"I think the task force recognizes that there are things that bar associations, bar admission bodies, state supreme courts and others can do that might improve graduate readiness and address some of these cost issues," he said.
Most of the group also seems to agree that law schools should be freer to experiment with the curricula than the current accreditation standards allow and that the recent trend toward more experiential learning should be continued if not accelerated. They also want the task force to be bold and innovative in its proposed solutions.
. . . .
From the National Jurist:
• Research each firm carefully.
• Be enthusiastic. Firms often keep candidates on “hold” for a little while if they are not sure whether to make an offer. If you would definitely accept an offer from them, let them know they are your first choice, and keep in touch with them to reiterate your interest.
• Make sure your resume, cover letter and thank you notes are absolutely perfect
• Any time you can get make additional connections through networking, to find someone to forward your resume to a law firm, such as an alumni of your law school, do so.
• Be ready during the interview to give specific examples of how you have solved problems, showed initiative, and acted as a “team player.”
• Cast a wide net. Apply on your own firms in other cities, and apply to smaller firms and government agencies.
• Know the different times of the year when large firms, small firms, and government agencies hire
• Become a student member of your local bar association, and volunteer for committees
• Network with other lawyers throughout your years in law school
• Emphasize leadership roles you have held on campus, or even as an undergraduate.
You can read the full article here.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Oxford University Press has just published James E. Moliterno, The American Legal Profession in Crisis: Resistance and Responses to Change (2013).
Description from website:
"Throughout history, the American legal profession has tried to hold tight to its identity by retreating into its traditional values and structure during times of self-perceived crisis. The American Legal Profession in Crisis: Resistance and Responses to Change analyzes the efforts of the legal profession to protect and maintain the status quo even as the world around it changed. James E. Moliterno argues that with striking consistency, the profession has resisted societal change and sought to ban or discourage new models of legal representation created by such change. In response to every crisis, lawyers asked: "How can we stay even more 'the same' than we already are?"
The legal profession has been an unwilling, capitulating entity to any transformation wrought by the overwhelming tide of change. Only when the shifts in society, culture, technology, economics, and globalization could no longer be denied did the legal profession make any proactive changes that would preserve status quo. This book demonstrates how the profession has held to its anachronistic ways at key crisis points in US history: Watergate, communist infiltration, waves of immigration, the explosion of litigation, and the current economic crisis that blends with dramatic changes in technology and communications and globalization.
Ultimately, Moliterno urges the profession to look outward and forward to find in society and culture the causes and connections with these periodic crises. Doing so would allow the profession to grow with the society, solve problems with, rather than against, the flow of society, and be more attuned to the very society the profession claims to serve."
Professor Deborah T. Eisenberg (Maryland) has compiled a list of law school textbooks by subject matter that incorporate practical problem solving and legal skills. You can access it via the Best Practices For Legal Education blog here. It looks like it's an ongoing project so if you know of a textbook that's not yet on the list, you may want to get in touch with Professor Eisenberg here.
Contradicting yesterday's post that at least one legal consultant predicts more Biglaw layoffs will follow after those announced by Weil Gotshal on Monday, today's AmLaw Daily carries a story in which several representatives from "peer" firms say that Weil's situation is unique and thus unlikely to be repeated elsewhere.
Despite speculation that others might follow in Weil, Gotshal & Manges’s footsteps after it laid off 60 associates and 110 staffers Monday, the leaders of several large law firms tried during conversations with The Am Law Daily Tuesday to distance themselves from the possibility that they will make layoffs, pointing out that Weil's situation may be firm-specific.
The leaders of six Weil peer firms who agreed to speak say they are not currently considering lawyer layoffs, and five of the six said they are not looking at staff cuts either. Leaders of 15 other Am Law 100 firms either did not respond to calls on the topic or said they had no comment. Several firm leaders said they did not want their names attached to a story about layoffs, citing their experiences during the last season of layoffs in 2008–09, because the layoffs received negative press attention.
“We are not planning any layoffs,” says the managing partner of one top New York firm. "We don't have excess capacity. But that said, it's a very fragile environment."
. . . .
Several firm leaders note that the stresses facing Weil may be the result of its focus on bankruptcy and restructuring, a practice in which it dominates the market. That practice, these managing partners say, generated heaps of work for both corporate lawyers and litigators during the downturn. But several huge mega-bankruptcies in which Weil has played a role have either ended or are winding down. They include Lehman Brothers, General Motors, General Growth Properties, and Washington Mutual Inc. “An enormous percent of their revenues come from bankruptcy,” says one firm leader. “It has kept the whole firm busy."Despite Weil's status as an elite firm—it ranked 17th in profits per partner in 2012, according to The American Lawyer's latest Am Law 100 survey—the layoff news "didn't shock me," says another leader of a top national firm, "not because I anticipate that more firms will begin laying off people, but because of the unique nature of Weil's bankruptcy practice. You tend to have one mega-bankruptcy at a time. Weil had more than one. So you end up pulling in your corporate lawyers, your litigators. And that work ends, and if you don't get lucky enough to have other matters come at the same time, you've got a problem."
Continue reading here.
I have started a new website entitled Legal Education Reform Central. This website is a central storehouse for materials on legal education reform. It contains a bibliography of scholarship on legal education reform and general education scholarship, as well as original material. Among the original material is The Main Elements of Legal Education Reform.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
As you may have heard, NYC white-shoe law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges announced yesterday that it was laying off 60 associates, 110 support staff and reducing the pay of some partners due to a decline in business. In an article covering the story in the New York Times, the Chairman of the Citi Private Bank law firm consulting group noted that Biglaw in general has not fully recovered from the Great Recession and that there are still too many lawyers chasing too few jobs. He predicts we'll see more layoffs from several firms in the not too distant future.
An excerpt from the article:
. . . .
The “new normal,” in the view of Weil’s management and echoed by legal industry experts, is that the market for high-end legal services is continuing to shrink. Dan DiPietro, chairman of the law firm group at Citi Private Bank, said he believed that the profession could experience a wave of job cuts. He said that there were too many lawyers at the country’s largest firms, estimating the excess capacity at as much as 10 percent of the lawyer population.
“My guess is that a good number of firms have been thinking about right-sizing and waiting for someone to provide them cover and we’ll see more of these moves,” Mr. DiPietro said. “As difficult as layoffs are, it seems that they will be necessary for some firms to get in sync with the current market dynamics.”
Those market dynamics have shifted starkly from the boom years leading up to the financial crisis. Pre-2008, profitability exploded and the number of lawyers grew at the country’s top firms as demand increased about 4 percent a year. But demand has been flat to down for the last five years, according to several industry reports, and shows little sign of picking up.
. . . .
Among the main factors hurting law firm profitability is that corporate clients have become stingy. Until recently, pricing pressure barely existed for premium legal services. Decades ago, clients would receive a bill with only a lump sum and the statement “for professional services rendered.”
But today, big corporations, facing pressures of their own, have clamped down on legal expenses. They have beefed up their in-house legal staffs and perform much of the work themselves. They are demanding that for routine assignments like document discovery, work be sent to outsourcing firms and contract lawyers rather than given to expensive associates. And they ask for discounts or capped fees at places like Weil, which charge more than $1,000 an hour for some partners’ work.
. . . .
Mr. Wolf of Weil said that while layoffs would help the firm’s profits, the move was not motivated by reducing expenses to enrich partners.
“This is not about cost-cutting but about the future of the firm and strategically positioning us for the next five years,” Mr. Wolf said.
Several industry experts applauded the move. Peter Zeughauser, a law firm consultant, said that many firms were in denial about slack demand, and Weil’s cutbacks could pressure them into getting leaner.
“We have been telling our clients about these economic realities for some time,” Mr. Zeughauser said. “Weil is a bellwether firm, and this will be a real wake-up call.”
Continue reading here.
Once again, Vault has ranked the 100 most prestigious law firms. Here is the list. Vault bases its rankings on a survey of nearly 17,000 associates. Here are the top 10.
1. Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz
2. Cravath, Swaine & Moore
3. Sullivan & Cromwell
4. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
5. Davis Polk & Wardwell
6. Weil, Gotshal & Manges
7. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
8. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
9. Kirkland & Ellis
10. Latham & Watkins
Do they have anything in common? Yes, they are big city law firms that are largely interchangeable, at least to the outsider.
Monday, June 24, 2013
Lexis/Nexis has published a new legal writing text, Skills & Values: Lawyering Process - Legal Writing and Advocacy by David Thomson, as part of its Skills & Values Series. Professor Thomson describes his book (here):
"Skills & Values: Lawyering Process is an entirely different sort of legal writing textbook. . . . First, it is a hybrid text, which means only a portion of the entire text is printed, with the rest residing on the Lexis Web Courses platform. This allows the book to be somewhat cheaper and students have less to lug around, but even better, it allows for more interactive features in the online portion of the text that can be achieved in print. In addition, for the professor who might decide to adopt this text, it comes with a fully populated Web Course for their students all ready to go, as well as an online Teacher’s Manual with Prezis and PowerPoints to use or adapt for class, handouts, a closed memo assignment, email memo assignments, and checklists for various aspects of the legal writing process.
"Second, it is based on the assumption that students today need to read less and do more. To be active rather than passive. Aristotle said: 'What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.'"
"Third, students are just learning this material for the first time, and perhaps they do not need, in the 1L year, quite so much information about the writing process. They certainly do need a deeper understanding later in law school, and in practice. But as they are first learning how to do, they need to do, rather than spend so much time reading about it. So the chapters and topics covered in the print book are covered at a depth that is less than a traditional textbook. They are designed to introduce the basic concepts of legal writing and advocacy, and to be supplemented with additional interactive information on the online site, and then used."
"Finally, it is rare to select a legal writing text that is designed very closely to the way each professor teaches the course. Because all of the books have their own approach, which might be different from our own in some ways, we end up compensating for the differences in class and in handouts and in assignments, and this can be confusing for students. The idea of this text is to be the most flexible of them all, by putting in the hands of teachers the ability to assign a small amount of reading, and then to use the online materials (and their own) in the way that most suits how they prefer to teach the material."
Professor Thomson concludes, "As with all of the books in the Skills & Values Series, this is an entirely different way to think of a law school text than what we have had in the past. And yet it is not entirely unfamiliar either. It is designed to be flexible, adaptable, and designed to teach our students what they need to become well rounded and skilled professionals in the ways they best learn, so that we may best prepare them for their future, not our past."
As readers of this blog may remember, I thought Professor Thomson's previous book in the Skills & Values Series, Discovery Practice (Lexis/Nexis 2010), was remarkable. (here) I look forward to reading Professor Thomson's new book.
Here’s a 21 page research study on flipping classrooms. The research includes K-12 and college case studies. It defines the four pillars of an effective flipped classroom this way:
(1 )an expectation that class time may be chaotic and noisy; (2) shifting the classroom culture to be student centered; (3) continual thinking about students' conceptual understanding of material covered; and (4) the use of trained, professional instructors.
We've blogged before on the important skill of mindfulness as it relates to being a law student or lawyer. As you may recall, mindfulness is about learning to be in the present moment, free from distractions and thoughts cluttered by past and future worries. For attorneys, practicing the skill of mindfulness enhances clarity of thought and reduces stress and anxiety.
The experience those who practice the skill gain "makes them better equipped to deal with the unexpected—because they catch the thoughts and feelings that are resisting the moment, and are better equipped to stay on task and respond in proportion to the challenge." For attorneys in particular, "they enhance their capacity to be more genuine and present for what arises in their interactions with their clients, their colleagues, witnesses and adversaries. They are better able to focus on and enjoy their work."
Hat tip to Stephanie West Allen.
Here are the details:
DIRECTOR OF TECH STARTUP CLINIC
The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University invites applications for a full-time clinical professor to design and direct a new in-house Tech Startup Clinic, which will provide legal services and support to new technology-based companies in the New York City area. The successful candidate will join a clinical faculty dedicated to experiential learning and public service, and will have a leadership role at the intersection of Cardozo’s programs in technology, business and intellectual property law.
The clinic will provide a learning vehicle for students, provide free or low-cost legal
services to technology startups, offer on-site legal seminars for tech incubator tenants and accelerator program participants, and create public programs on startup basics like founders' agreements, incorporation and issuing shares and options, and the wide variety of legal problems facing start-ups. It is expected that the clinic will work collaboratively with the institutions and organizations that provide new technology companies in the New York City area with non-legal services (e.g., venture and startup financing, office and manufacturing space, and business counseling).
The Tech Startup Clinic will join Cardozo's other programs and in-house clinics, including the Heyman Center on Corporate Governance, the Bet Tzedek Legal Services Clinic, the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic, the Criminal Defense Clinic, the Mediation and Divorce Mediation clinics, Housing Justice Clinic, the Human Rights and Genocide Prevention Clinic, Securities Arbitration Clinic, the Indie Film Clinic, the Civil Rights Clinic and the Guardianship Clinic as well Cardozo's acclaimed Innocence Project.
The director of the clinic will be responsible for designing the clinic and overseeing its
operation, including supervising students, and teaching the seminar component of the clinic. The successful applicant is expected to take an active part in faculty governance and committee work.
Applicants should have a J.D. degree, at least five years of related practice experience,
and strong interest or experience in clinical teaching. New York State bar admission is
preferred. Review of candidates will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled.
Interested applicants should submit a cover letter, list of references, and a resume to Kathy Horton, Director of the Dean’s Office, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law is a part of Yeshiva University. Yeshiva University has a long-standing commitment to equal opportunity and affirmative action. We are committed to achieving nondiscrimination and equality of opportunity in employment and in all spheres of academic life. All University-wide decisions are based on equitable and equally applied standards of excellence.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
From Washington and Lee Law Faculty Scholarship Blog: "Washington and Lee University Professor Jim Moliterno has published the first book in a new series from West Academic Publishing focused on experiential education. The book, titled Experiencing Civil Procedure, is the first primary Civil Procedure course book to incorporate skills assignments into the book. The book actively involves students in the application of civil procedure concepts. It Includes three simple simulation cases, one contracts based, one torts based and one blended case. Sample documents from real cases are also included. Students using this book will engage in experiential learning exercises, including drafting the jurisdictional allegations for complaints, drafting very simple pleadings and motions, and responding to supervisor email messages. The book contains the statutes, rules, and edited cases that are the staples of traditional Civil Procedure casebooks, incorporating them into an experiential learning approach."
Today’s law professors are encouraged to use diagrams, flow charts, and other visual explanations in their classrooms. For most students, these devices are helpful. But for dyslexic students and mildly dyslexic students, they are a challenge. These students don’t see the diagrams as you see them and may not be able to decipher them.
The suggestion: When you use a visual explanation, be sure to explain what you are saying in words that do not require reference to the visual to understand the explanation. There is a place for linear explanations.