Saturday, July 27, 2013

Write Like a Supreme Court Justice?

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf gives this
advice:

Justice Scalia writes smack. You can't. Justice
Kennedy waxes grand eloquent. You can't. Justice Breyer writes simply.
You should.

You can read more of Judge Kopf’s
advice here. Warning: The language is a
bit salty.

(ljs)

July 27, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Interesting Writing Exercise: Correcting Tweets

At a school in Brazil, students studt English by correcting grammar and punctuation erros in cwelebrity tweets. Example:

Here, for instance, is Sylvestor
Stallone’s tweet: A great quarterback is only as strong as his team,Right?
The MAN need a stronger line, people!
Eight-year-old Theo, wisely ignoring
the elided space and unnecessary capitalization of Right, kindly directs
Mr. Stallone to use needs instead of need. Which may be what Mr.
Stallone intended; or it may be that he was trying to access a street At a
school in Brazil, students study English by correcting grammar and punctuation
errors in vernacular that has legitimacy in the appropriate setting but does
sound silly here, even coming from Rocky.  The same goes for Justin
Bieber’s That was a long bus ride. But we here, on which 9-year-old
Maria comments Watch out: it’s “we’re here” not “we here.”

You can read about it here.

(ljs)

July 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tips for using Microsoft's "Text-to-Speech" feature to improve proofreading

A tried and true proofreading technique is to read to yourself out loud the text in question as a way of catching errors.  The shortcoming of this method, though, is that we tend to read what we think is on the page rather than what's actually there (it's due to the way our brain tends to automatically fill in the gaps for us).  One solution suggested by the Business Writing Blog is to use a Microsoft program available for Office 2010 called "Text-to-Speech" (for Windows 7 it's called "Narrator") that reads the text out loud for you.  Click here to get instructions on how to download and install both versions.

(jbl).

July 26, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Resolutions Before the ABA House of Delegates

The ABA's
House of Delegates will convene during the course of its Annual
Meeting
in San Francisco on August 12 and 13 and will consider
proposed Resolutions submitted by its constituent organizations. You can review
the Resolutions with Reports on the ABA's House of Delegates website . The resolutions at
the very end of the list are the ones most relevant to law school.

(ljs)

July 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A new, free legal research tool called Casetext

There's a new legal research tool in town called Casetext and it's free.  According to one of the co-founders Joanna Huey, a former president of the Harvard Law Review, Casetext is a free, searchable legal database that invites users to annotate the sources. It works something like a wiki in that user annotations allow other readers to find related legal documents, articles and commentary noted in the screen margin.  Check out a sample for the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Grokster here.  There are other cool features like a quick fact summary for each case and a designated "case wiki" where, presumably, users will add general commentary.  You can access a beta version of  Casetext.com here as well as take a free tour here.

The blog Legal Research Plus, which is a great resource for new developments in legal research, has a nice write-up of Casetext too.

(jbl).

July 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Harvard Law Professors Suggest New Case Method

Elizabeth Maroney writes on the Harvard Law School: The Case Studies Blog, "in 2007, Harvard Law School Professors Martha Minow (now HLS Dean) and Todd Rakoff were among the first to point out that the status quo just wasn’t working."  She continues, "Their solution turned the case method on its head. In 'A Case For Another Case Method,' Minow and Rakoff argue that the case method provides more 'known' facts of the problem than situationally exist. They explain that retrospection hardly opens up the spectrum of options—it is difficult to imagine what might have been. Above all, they point out that our society now has a different conception of truth, one based on construction rather than discovery.  Experiential education, on the other hand, provides agency and teaches students 'how to think like a lawyer.'"

Their solution: "Minow and Rakoff propose that in addition to clinics (which can be costly), law schools should adopt the case study method, popularized by the Harvard Business School. These concise, inexpensive documents explain a dilemma from the perspective of a participant or organization.  Rarely are there precise answers, but the education lies in the process: thinking through problems, practicing skills like drafting memos and interacting with clients, and understanding more about human nature in legal crises. Bonus: research suggests that experiential education makes law students happier."

Maroney concludes: "But as Minow and Rakoff note, educators must get on board as well: 'Frankly, many of us will need to learn some new things. … We are supposed to keep up with what is happening in our fields.'"  (You can read the rest of the article here.)

Harvard has long been a leader in legal education.  With the Harvard Law School Dean on board, can major legal education reform be far behind?

(Scott Fruehwald

July 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

U. Denver launches accelerated undegrad-to-JD track

One of the goals is to lower the overall cost to students of obtaining a BA/BS followed by a JD by reducing the time commitment from seven years to six.  The new joint program will begin in fall 2014.  From the University of Denver's press release:

With an increasing focus on the cost of higher education and reducing the amount of money and time individuals spend on their formal education, the University of Denver now offers a joint degree program in which students can earn a bachelor’s degree and a law degree in six years instead of the typical seven.

The 6-year Bachelors/JD Program will place the University of Denver among the ranks of just 16 other institutions across the United States that offers similar degrees. Currently, there are no such courses of study in Colorado.

 

“Students admitted to the program will spend the first three years of their DU careers fulfilling all of the requirements of their undergraduate education,” said Martin L. Katz, Dean of the Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver. “Their next three years will be spent fulfilling the requirements of the Juris Doctor degree.”

 

By double-counting 39 hours of graduate law classes as elective undergraduate credits, students in the 6-year Bachelors/JD Program will be able to complete the requirements for the two degrees a year early.

 

There are two opportunities for entrance into the program: pre-first year admission and junior year admission.

 

Pre-first year admissions will be limited to students who have excellent pre-admission predictors of college and graduate school success. These predictors include superb high school transcripts and premium SAT scores for high school graduates and accomplished college transcripts for undergraduate students. These scholars will have an interview with the College of Law Admissions Committee or its delegate. Those with a strong and informed interest in a law school education and a high level of maturity can be admitted to the direct admissions track.

 

University of Denver undergraduates in their junior year can apply for the 6-year Bachelors/JD Program. Such students must have completed all requirements for their undergraduate education by the end of their junior year.

 

“More students today are seeking multiple degrees,” said Katz. “They recognize that getting a graduate degree, in addition to their B.A. or B.S. degree, makes them more competitive in the job market.”

 

Katz adds that this course of study will demand strict attention from its students.


“Requirements for this program are rigorous,” Katz said. “We anticipate enrolling a small number of DU undergraduate students with excellent academic credentials and a strong desire to pursue the many rewarding careers that earning a law degree allows.”


The 6-year Bachelors/JD Program is expected to begin the fall of 2014. 

(jbl).

July 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Michael Simkovic Versus his Critics

There has a large number of posts over the last couple of weeks, including on this blog, concerning the Economic Value of a Law Degree by Michael Simkovic and Frank McIntyre.  In this study, the authors "estimate the mean pre-tax lifetime value of a law degree as approximately $1,000,000."  While many authors have praised this article, there have been a number of critics.

This week, Michael Simkovic is discussing his article on Brian Leiter's Law School Reports.  In particular, he is responding to critics of his study, such as Brian Tamanaha, Elie Mystal, and Joe Patrice.  At this point, I think Simkovic is winning the argument.  I think that the reason for this is that he and his co-author did such a thorough study and seem to have anticpated criticisms in the original article.  In addition, I agree with Brian Leiter that some of the criticisms "that have been put into circulation by people who most likely did not read the paper, or, if they did, plainly didn't understand it."

This article is changing the debate on the value of a law degree.  However, law schools cannot just sit back and think that everything is now okay.  Law schools still have much to do to improve legal education and make it more valuable for law students.

(Scott Fruehwald)

P.S. The ABA Journal also has an article concerning the debate on Simkovic's article.  (here)

July 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

McGeorge Downsizes Staff and Student Body

From JD Journal:

According
to a statement from the dean of the University, Francis J. Mootz III, “”In
response to the unprecedented drop in applications to law schools across the
country, McGeorge School of Law is reducing the size of its student body. The
law school has reorganized the staff in Sacramento to align with its new size.
The school first offered a voluntary severance plan to all staff members. This
week it was necessary to lay off several staff members. McGeorge is going to be
a smaller law school, but it will continue its proud tradition over 90 years of
educating excellent attorneys.”

(ljs)

July 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The New Republic asks six experts how they would fix law school

The August issue of The New Republic magazine features a cover story on the supposed "end of BigLaw"  and the "looming economic collapse of the legal profession."  Also inside is this feature in which the magazine asked six experts, including prominent law profs, writers and practitioners, how they would "fix" law school.  Professor Alan Dershowitz says he'd make law school two years instead of three. The third year would be devoted to supervised practical training via externships or clinics (those interested in a career in legal academia - mostly top students at elite schools - Dershowitz says they would spend the third year doing scholarly research and writing).  Others suggest everything from turning off the spigot of federal educational loan money that encourages too many to attend to a "cooling off" period between college and law school so that students don't apply as a way to extend college while figuring out what they want to do with their lives. 

The best idea in terms of helping to make students more "practice-ready" comes from Mark Chandler, the General Counsel at Cisco Systems, who is developing a program with U. Colorado that will allow students to work at Cisco as paid interns during the school year while earning academic credit via an independent study program supervised by faculty members.  The article is thin on details so I'm not sure how this proposal will differ from the supervised externships that many schools already offer but perhaps the standout feature is Mr. Chandler's take-charge attitude that the private bar has to step up to assist in the practical training of law students if it wants law schools to graduate students who are more "practice-ready." 

The crisis in legal education is often blamed on corporate clients like me: Under pressure to lower costs each year, we refuse to fund law firms’ training budgets by paying for young associates to do work that can be accomplished by technology or by non-lawyers working remotely. Worse, we are increasingly unwilling to pay on the basis of billable hours, which reward firms based on how slowly and inefficiently work gets done, rather than how quickly and efficiently. This pushes law firms to make their operations more efficient, reducing the prospects to employ and train young lawyers who emerge from school with few practical skills. With current students saddled with huge debt and facing limited job prospects, prospective applicants are turning elsewhere, and schools are reducing class sizes and faculties.

But companies like mine, and law firms as well, can also be part of the solution. We’ve proposed the following, and Colorado University Law School's visionary dean Philip J. Weiser is working to implement this program next year: Students will work as interns at Cisco for seven months–from June of the second year of law school until the following January, and potentially part-time during the following spring. We will pay them as we do our customary interns, and the students will not be required to pay tuition to the law school for the fall semester. The students will be supervised by a faculty member during the fall through an intensive credit-earning independent study project, and the students will also take extra courses during the rest of law school to ensure sufficient ABA-approved credits to graduate.

Read the rest of Mr. Chandler's remarks here as well as those of the other five panelists.

Hat tip to Stephanie West-Allen.

(jbl).

July 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Dog Teaches Us About Networking

Psychologist Pamela Enders learned some lessons about
networking by watching her dog. Here are the lessons:

  1. View small talk as a
         safe way of finding common ground and discovering if a deeper connection
         is possible.
  2. Show genuine interest in
         others and ask questions that will help them talk about themselves.
  3. Really listen. (Don’t
         allow your eyes to wander the room, looking for other  “better”
         prospects.)
  4. Figure out if you can
         provide something of value to others such as a helpful resource, a
         business tip, or a lead.
  5. Look to introduce people
         who have something in common or who might benefit from knowing each other.

What
do these lessons have to do with her yellow lab Rosie? You can read more here.

(ljs)

July 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Penn State to implement "health tax" on staff and faculty

Beginning in the fall, Penn State will levy a "health tax" (they're calling it a "surcharge") of $100 per month against any employee, including faculty, who fails a healthcare screening that includes a “full lipid profile,” blood-glucose test, body mass index and waist circumference measurement.  Yeow!  So even if you're in relatively good shape but pound Twinkies between work-outs which sends your lipids rocketing past the Dow Jones Industrial Average, you're going to have to pay-up.  Inside Higher Ed has the full story.  

Weigh In Or Pay 

It’s increasingly common for colleges and universities, like other businesses, to offer the employees they insure incentives for staying healthy. And that makes sense; experts agree it’s a lot cheaper to treat illnesses earlier rather than later, or to prevent them altogether. But instead of offering “carrots” to its employees for seeking preventive care, Pennsylvania State University starting this fall is opting for the “stick,” imposing a $100 monthly surcharge on those who don’t meet new health requirements.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Penn State’s “Take Care of Your Health” initiative has some faculty up in arms.

“I care about my health – I try to exercise every day and I eat pretty well,” Matthew Woessner, professor of political science at the Harrisburg campus. “But I resent that my employer requires that I submit to medical exams, essentially. There’s a fine line between encouraging employees to be healthy and requiring them to comply with health screenings.”

Larry Backer, a professor of law and past Faculty Senate president at Penn State’s main campus in University Park, agreed.

“The coercive feature is novel, at least at Penn State, though program administrators tried hard to mask it in the language of choice and consequences,” he said, noting the Senate wasn't consulted on the plan.

. . . .

By November, faculty and their spouses or domestic partners covered by university health care must complete an online wellness profile and physical exam. They’re also required to complete a more invasive biometric screening, including a “full lipid profile” and glucose, body mass index and waist circumference measurements. (Mobile units from the university’s insurance company, Highmark, will visit campuses to perform these screenings.)

Employees and their beneficiaries who don’t meet those requirements must pay the monthly insurance surcharge beginning in January.

“It is important to note that screening results are confidential and will not be used to remove or reduce health care benefits, nor raise an individual’s health care premium,” a university announcement reads. “The results only are for individual health awareness, illness prevention and wellness promotion.”

(jbl).

July 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Can You Start a Law Firm with No Money?

From the PhillyLaw Blog:

I think one of the most common questions I get asked is,
“Jordan, I want to start my own firm, but I have like $1700 in my savings
account. Can I start a law firm with no money?”

The simple answer is yes, yes you can. It doesn’t take
much more than a law license, a working computer, a printer, and a cell phone
to start a law firm.

But here is the better question. Will your law firm
succeed in the long term if you start it with no money?

Well, that answer is a bit more complex…

I think one of the most common questions I get asked is,
“Jordan, I want to start my own firm, but I have like $1700 in my savings
account. Can I start a law firm with no money?”

The simple answer is yes, yes you can. It doesn’t take
much more than a law license, a working computer, a printer, and a cell phone
to start a law firm.

But here is the better question. Will your law firm
succeed in the long term if you start it with no money?

Well, that answer is a bit more complex…

The answer is yes, you can start your firm very
inexpensively, but it takes some money to keep it running. Your students may
find the rest of the article sobering. The real message is save up some $$$
before you hang out that “open for business” shingle.

(ljs)

 

July 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

ABA Standards Review Committee Votes to Require 6 Credits of Experiential Courses

Last week, the ABA Standards Review Committee voted to increase the experiential learning requirement from 1 credit hour to 6 credits hours.  (here)  Law schools can satisfy this requirement through clinics, externships, or simulation courses.  While this is less than the 15 credit hours recommended by CLEA, it is a step in the right direction.  I am sure this issue will come up again at next month's meeting of the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education.

The committee also adopted a student-learning outcomes requirement.  One commentator describes the requirement as: "Law schools would have to establish a list of competencies that students must achieve and assess whether they are meeting those goals. This measure is intended to make schools look beyond bar-pass rates to determine whether they are meeting student needs. However, the recommended standard leaves law schools plenty of leeway in determining what the learning outcomes should be and how to assess them."

This change could turn out to be important.  Law schools need to look at more than what they want their students to learn; they must look at what their students actually learn.

The Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will consider these  changes at the ABA meeting in San Francisco next month.

(Scott Fruehwald)

July 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

U. C. Berkeley seeking professor for technology and public policy clinic

Here are the details:

The University of California, Berkeley, School of Law seeks applicants for a full-time Assistant Clinical Professor of Law to serve as the Associate Director of Berkeley Law’s Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic (Samuelson Clinic) to begin July 1, 2014.

The Samuelson Clinic was the first, and is today the leading, program established at an American law school to provide clinical training for students in cases and other projects involving public interest issues raised in new technology controversies.  The Clinic represents consumers and nonprofit groups in intellectual property, communications policy, Internet free speech, and information privacy and security matters.  The Clinic, which promotes a public interest law and technology practice, is affiliated with the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.  

The Associate Director works with the Director to plan, develop and manage the Clinic, conducts academic and policy research, and fulfills service as a member of the full-time faculty.  In consultation with the Director and Clinic Fellows, the Associate Director is responsible for building a docket of cases and public policy projects for the Clinic.  He or she supervises students as they file friend-of-the-court briefs; proposes and comments on proposed legislation or regulations; develops policy white papers; counsels clients; and provides legal assistance in lawsuits that raise important issues relating to law and technology.  The Associate Director also co-teaches a seminar in conjunction with the Clinic, and is responsible for co-supervising any Fellows who are working with students enrolled in the Clinic.

Candidates must have excellent academic credentials, substantial teaching or practice experience, administrative ability, and a strong background in technology law.  The candidate should also have demonstrated potential for research and writing on law, policy, or the profession, and for teaching, supervising, and mentoring law students as they transition to their role as lawyers.  Admission to the California Bar, or willingness to become a member promptly, is essential.  The Associate Director will join the Berkeley Law faculty as a full-time Assistant Clinical Professor of Law with the potential of promotion to Clinical Professor of Law.

Additional information about Berkeley Law’s clinical program and the Samuelson Clinic may also be found at http://www.law.berkeley.edu/clinics/index.html and http://www.law.berkeley.edu/clinics/samuelsonclinic/.

Application Procedure: 

To apply please go to the following link: https://aprecruit.berkeley.edu/apply/JPF00160

Applications should include in pdf format a resume or CV, cover letter explaining why you are interested in this position and what you have to offer, writing sample and a list of three references with contact information.  Early applications are encouraged.  The final deadline for applications is August 15, 2013.

Letters of reference do not need to be sent at this time, but references of top candidates may be contacted later.  All letters will be treated as confidential per University of California policy and California state law. Please refer potential referees, including third party (i.e., dossier service or career center) referees, to the UC Berkeley statement of confidentiality: http://apo.chance.berkeley.edu/evalltr.html.

The University of California is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

(jbl).

July 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Joe Kimble Defends Plain Language Drafting

In the July 2013 issue of the Michigan Bar Journal, Professor Joe Kimble takes on
a critique of plain language drafting by Jack Stark. Joe refutes the objections to using
plain language and takes apart, piece by piece, Stark’s example of a plain
language federal regulation allegedly gone wrong. 

You can access the article here. Worth reading.

(ljs)

July 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)