Saturday, June 11, 2016
At a recent gathering of law deans, Dean Darby Dickerson (Texas Tech) identified the deficiencies:
Dean Dickerson also identified a number of problems with the bar exam: excessive emphasis on memorization (which doesn’t accurately reflect the practice of law, where you look things up); testing too many topics (when lawyers need to know just a few); insufficient emphasis on lawyering skills (although some bars are improving on this front); insufficient portability from state to state (although the spread of the Uniform Bar Exam could help); not letting people take the bar until after graduation (but note the Arizona pilot program); and the high cost of bar exam prep courses.
You can read a lot more on the concerns of law deans here, at Above the Law.
This story about B-52s frontman Fred Schneinder's trademark battle with Monster energy drink mentions that he's being represented (actually it's his friend who's been threatened with a lawsuit) by a virtual law firm that grew out of an intellectual property incubator clinic at Suffolk U. School of Law in Boston. Mr. Schneider, who had an 80's hit with the song "Monster," licensed his name and likeness to a buddy who's selling "Monster" coffee beans. Well, the energy drink company that goes by the same name didn't take too kindly to that so it sent Mr. coffee beans a cease and desist letter. A few paragraphs down into the story, the reporter mentions that the recipient of the cease and desist letter is being represented by a "virtual" law firm headed up by the former director of Suffolk's Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic, Eve Brown. Not only that, but Ms. Brown has hired a bunch of former Suffolk law grads (and clinic participants) who now work for her as independent contractors. Hence we have a very nice example of an incubator project leading to some pretty great opportunities for the school's recent grads. Ms. Brown explains in the article that her firm charges a flat rate of $100k for trademark litigation through trial and that former Suffolk clinic participants working for her get to keep 80% of what they bill. Sounds like a win-win for all concerned. Here are more details about the lawsuit and Ms. Brown's new virtual law firm from Law.com:
“Monster” is not Fred Schneider’s biggest hit. That would be the B-52s frontman’s dance-floor staple “Love Shack.”
But “Monster,” a catchy tune off his 1984 solo record Fred Schneider and the Shake Society, enjoyed a following on the 1980s club circuit and earned the distinction of being among the first music videos banned from MTV. (Do yourself a favor and watch the video.) All of which is to say that Schneider didn’t anticipate any trademark issues when he partnered with a Florida coffee roasting company to offer Fred Schneider’s Monster Blend. After all, the coffee bears his name and the title of a song he wrote more than 30 years ago.
Then came the April 15 cease and desist letter from lawyers working for Monster Energy Co. to Ric Coven, founder of Breyting Community Roaster and longtime friend of Schneider, arguing that the use of “Monster” in the coffee’s name runs afoul of the energy drink maker’s trademark.
“When Ric told me, I was like, ‘Well they can’t do anything! It’s a common word!’ ” Schneider said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “They can waste all the money they want!”
Coven also laughed the letter off as completely ridiculous, but got serious when a friend tipped him off about Monster’s aggressive trademark practices. (Trademarkia.com named the company the top “trademark bully” of 2014).
Monster’s attorney at Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear did not respond to requests for comment.
Coven’s next step was to reach out to Bricolage Law, a four-month-old, flat-fee virtual law firm co-founded by attorney Eve Brown, who previously faced off against Monster and won when she was directing Suffolk University’s Law School Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship Clinic. The clinic represents small businesses and startups in trademark disputes and other business matters, and scored victories before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board against both Monster and apparel giant Nautica Retail USA Inc. in the past year.
“I keep in touch with graduates who went through the clinic and a couple of them were sitting around with me and said, ‘We wish we could do the clinic for the rest of our lives,’ ” Brown said. “And I thought, ‘We can!’ ”
Brown is leaving academia this month to run Bricolage full time from her home with the help of a small group of recent Suffolk Law graduates who work as independent contractors and take home 80 percent of what they bill. The work is appealing, said 2015 Suffolk graduate Kevin Jarvis, as is the flexibility Bricolage provides. “The primary reason I’m trying to build this is that I don’t want to do the standard 80 hours a week in your first year,” he said. “This is a way to make a difference for people and still be able to enjoy my life.”
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Friday, June 10, 2016
Recently, a friend who teaches undergraduates and I had a conversation on how little background our students had in the traditional arts and humanities. The question arises: so what if they don’t have this background? John Simon, president of Lehigh University offers an answer:
Students need an education that prepares them for success in professional and civic life. The world needs citizens who possess the creativity, civic learning, communication skills, and critical thinking that the arts and humanities provide, so they can take on the task of solving an increasingly complex set of challenges.
This quote comes from a brief article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (here—but you may need a subscription). You can find the article in hard copy in the May 27, 2016 issue.
I add that the arts and humanities teach us about the human condition, essential knowledge to succeed professionally and in our personal lives.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
From the National Jurist:
The school is battling a rampant mumps outbreak. As such, graduation ceremonies will go on as planned, but no handshaking will be allowed as new J.D.’s receive their diplomas Thursday.
“A courteous head nod will take the place of handshake,” Dean Marcia Sells wrote to graduates, as reported by Above the Law.
Hand sanitizer will also be available this week for all graduates, families and guests.
You can read more here.
From the New York Times:
Matthew Stubenberg was a law student at the University of Maryland in 2010 when he spent part of a day doing expungements. It was a standard law school clinic where students learn by helping clients — in this case, he helped them to fill out and file petitions to erase parts of their criminal records. (Last week I wrote about the lifelong effects of these records, even if there is no conviction, and the expungement process that makes them go away.)
Although Maryland has a public database called Case Search, using that data to fill out the forms was tedious. “We spent all this time moving data from Case Search onto our forms,” Stubenberg said. “We spent maybe 30 seconds on the legal piece. Why could this not be easier? This was a problem that could be fixed by a computer.”
Stubenberg knew how to code. After law school, he set out to build software that automatically did that tedious work. By September 2014 he had a prototype for MDExpungement, which went live in January 2015. (The website is not pretty — Stubenberg is a programmer, not a designer.)
With MDExpungement, entering a case number brings it up on Case Search. The software then determines whether the case is expungeable. If so, the program automatically transfers the information from Case Search to the expungement form. All that’s left is to print, sign and file it with the court.
In October 2015 a change in Maryland law made more cases eligible for expungement. Between then and March 2016, people filed 7,600 petitions to have their criminal records removed in Baltimore City District Court. More than two-thirds of them came from MDExpungement.
“With the ever-increasing amount of expungements we’re all doing, the app has just made it a lot easier,” said Mary-Denise Davis, a public defender in Baltimore. “I put in a case number and it fills the form out for me. Like magic.”
The rise of online legal forms may not be a gripping subject, but it matters. Tens of millions of Americans need legal help for civil problems — they need a divorce, child support or visitation, protection from abuse or a stay of eviction. They must hold off debt collectors or foreclosure, or get government benefits.
Continue reading the main story
They often have to fight these battles on their own because — despite the fact that civil cases can result in people going to jail, or losing a house, health care or custody of their children — they don’t have the right to a lawyer, as defendants in criminal cases do. Four out of five people who need a civil legal aid lawyer don’t have one.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
This article does not contain a list of top thirty obvious questions. Rather, it offers a thoughtful, analytically solid discussion of topics that a student needs to reflect on. Neil Hamilton & Jerry Organ, Thirty Reflection Questions to Help Each Student Find Meaningful Employment and Develop an Integrated Professional Identity (Professional Formation)
For example, here are questions for a student considering starting law school:
- What are your strengths?
- What are the characteristics of your past work/service experiences in which you have found the most meaning and positive energy? Are there particular groups of people whom you have served from whom you have drawn the most positive energy in helping them? What specific strengths and competencies were you using in this work or service?
- How do you self-assess your trustworthiness in the past to help others on important matters? How do others who know your past work/service assess your trustworthiness?
- Looking at the competencies that clients and legal employers want, how do you self-assess what are your strongest competencies? How do others who know your past work/service assess your strongest competencies?
- How do your strengths and strongest competencies match up with the competencies that legal employers and clients want?
You can read more here.
Monday, June 6, 2016
In New York City, the answer is yes. From the ABA Journal online:
Attractive women are not a protected class under employment laws, even the expansive laws in place in New York City, the New York Law Journal reported Friday.
Dilek Edwards had sued her former employer for gender discrimination, alleging she was fired because her boss, Stephanie Adams, was concerned that her husband found Edwards attractive.
Edwards was hired as a yoga instructor and massage therapist by chiropractor Charles Nicolai. She says their relationship was strictly professional, and she had met Adams—Nicolai’s wife and co-owner of the practice—on one occasion. That encounter was cordial, Edwards says.
More than a year after Edwards started the job, Nicolai told Edwards his wife might be jealous because Edwards was “too cute.” Four months later, Adams sent Edwards a text telling her she was no longer welcome at the business and to “stay … away from my husband and family. And remember I warned you!”
You can read more here.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released the employment figures for May showing that the legal sector gained a modest 100 jobs last month. Though the BLS originally reported that 1500 jobs were lost in the legal sector during the month of April, this new report indicates that the number has now been revised up to reflect only 600 jobs lost.
Bloomberg BNA has some additional stats concerning job growth in the economy at large here.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
Legal Ethics and Medical Marijuana Laws
Although a number of states have authorized the sale and use of marijuana for medical purposes, federal law still prohibits this conduct. Can a lawyer still assist clients who deal with this federally controlled substance? The answer may be partially yes if the state disciplinary rules give an accommodation. For example, here is how Pennsylvania authorities propose modifying ethics rules:
Marijuana laws across the United States have been changing rapidly. To date, over 20 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws relating to marijuana. Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act was signed into law on April 17, 2016.
The proposed amendment would modify Subsection (d) of Rule 1.2, which prohibits a lawyer to counsel or assist a client in criminal conduct. An exception would be established in a new Subsection (e), stating: “A lawyer may counsel or assist a client regarding conduct expressly permitted by the law of the state where it takes place or has its predominant effect, provided that the lawyer counsels the client about the legal consequences, under other applicable law, of the client's proposed course of conduct.”
The preface notes that the Federal Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 811 et. seq, still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, and thus its manufacture, distribution, dispensing, or possession are still illegal under Federal law. Under the current language of Rule 1.2(d), a Pennsylvania lawyer arguably is prohibited from assisting a client in various activities such as drafting or negotiating contracts that may relate to the purchase, distribution or sale of marijuana, even where such activities may be legal under state law.
Here, you can read more from the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (May 2016).
The Connecticut Law Tribune reports that grads of the state's three law schools are optimistic about their job prospects due to an improving market. According to the article, 90% of last year's grads have found jobs by now.
Law school graduates plunge into improving job market
The latest class of Connecticut law school graduates donned their caps and gowns and marched to get their diplomas in May. After years of study and hard work, their new challenge is finding a job. The good news is the legal employment market continues to improve here in Connecticut, just as it has on the national level.
That improved market has worked out for 2016 graduates such as Lily Schurra of Milford, who attended Quinnipiac University School of Law and in August will start her career at Saxe Doernberger & Vita in Trumbull, where she will represent insurance policyholders. "Firms came to the university to do on-campus interviews," Schurra said. "I think the job search can be difficult because you are competing with everybody, but for the people I know, a lot have jobs lined up already."
Zachary Dunn of Middletown, also attended Quinnipiac. He will take the bar exam this summer and then clerk for state Appellate Court Judge Michael Sheldon. "A lot of my friends have jobs, and a lot are still looking," Dunn said. "It is pretty typical for people to still be looking at this point, … Some areas of law have more opportunities," he added, citing insurance law in Connecticut as opposed to criminal law.
While the statistics for 2016 graduates aren't in yet, university officials are optimistic based on improving trends in recent years. The National Association for Law Placement Inc., which measures law school employment rates 10 months after graduation, released an annual report in February. According to NALP, the data reveals this "recruiting cycle to be the most robust summer recruiting and new associate hiring cycle since the recession" of 2008-09. "In the last six years following the economic recession, law firms have slowly continued to increase their entry-level recruiting activity," while the size of the graduating class has gotten smaller.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Saturday, June 4, 2016
One untapped area for new fact patterns is tree law. The tree falls on the neighbor’s house. Branches from the neighbor’s tree intrude on the property. These are the easy scenarios. For interesting tree news and some actual cases, please take a look at a blog entirely devoted to tree law: The Tree and Neighbor Law Blog. You can access it here.
Friday, June 3, 2016
29 Quotes to Encourage You to Delegate Authority
Delegating responsibilities to others often comes hard. The Resourceful Manager offer 29 quotes from well-known leaders that may encourage us. Here are a few of the quotes:
“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” – Jessica Jackley, businesswoman
“You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.” – Former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan
“A king, realizing his incompetence, can either delegate or abdicate his duties. A father can do neither. If only sons could see the paradox, they would understand the dilemma.” – Marlene Dietrich, actress
“I’m going from doing all of the work to having to delegate the work – which is almost harder for me than doing the work myself. I’m a lousy delegator, but I’m learning.” – Alton Brown, celebrity chef
“When you delegate work to a member of the team, your job is to clearly frame success and describe the objectives.” – Steven Sinofsky, former Microsoft executive
“Don’t be a bottleneck. If a matter is not a decision for the President or you, delegate it. Force responsibility down and out. Find problem areas, add structure and delegate. The pressure is to do the reverse. Resist it.” – Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of Defense
“The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then guide the horse with loose reins and seldom use the spurs.” – Sandra Day O’Connor, former Supreme Court Justice.
“When you delegate tasks, you create followers. When you delegate authority, you create leaders.” – Craig Groeschel, founder of Life Church
You can access more quotes here.
Here are the details:
Washington University School of Law seeks applications for the position of Staff Attorney for its Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, one of eighteen law clinic and externship courses offered by the Law School (see http://law.wustl.edu/clinicaled/pages.aspx?id=10030).
The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, through its second- and third-year law students, provides free legal assistance to low income taxpayers on income tax disputes with the Internal Revenue Service. The Staff Attorney is expected to assist the clinic’s co-directors in supervising and monitoring the work of the students, handle matters relating to the day-to-day administration of the clinic law office and its cases, and assume primary responsibility for cases that begin outside of or are not concluded during the academic year.
Candidates must have a J.D. degree, be admitted or eligible to practice law in Missouri (i.e., must be a member of the Missouri bar or eligible for admission as a law teacher without examination pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 13.06), and be admitted or eligible for admission to the U.S. Tax Court.
Candidates should have experience practicing tax law, outstanding legal research and writing skills, and promise as a mentor for law students.
Applicant Special Instructions:
Applicants must submit an online application for Job Position #33707 at: https://jobs.wustl.edu/psc/APPLHRMS/EMPLOYEE/HRMS/c/HRS_HRAM.HRS_APP_SCHJOB.GBL?Page=HRS_APP_JBPST&REL_ACTION=Yes&SiteId=1&HRS_JO_PST_TYPE=E&HRS_JOB_OPENING_ID=33707&HRS_JO_PST_SEQ=1.
For fullest consideration, apply by June 15.
Washington University School of Law is committed to diversity and encourages applications from racial and ethnic groups, women, persons with disabilities, and other under-represented groups.
Thursday, June 2, 2016
In her article, Standing in the Judge’s Shoes: Exploring Techniques to
Help Legal Writers More Fully Address the Needs of TheirAudience, Sherri Lee Keene argues that lawyers writing as advocates need to place themselves in the shoes of the judges whom they seek to persuade. Of course, this is not new advice. What is helpful here is her advice on how to do it. She offers three pieces of advice:
- Critique Prior Decisions and the Briefs That Contributed to These Decisions
- Practice the Oral Argument While Writing the Brief
- Be the Judge and Decide the Case
It is important that legal writers not only consider who their legal audience is, but also work actively to gauge the audience’s needs in order to address them more accurately and completely in their writing. While many attorneys understand the importance of writing in anticipation of the legal audience’s response, even experienced attorneys may struggle to see their case from a different perspective and to identify the challenges of their case. Thus, strategies such as those discussed in this Essay, which help writers to step outside of the attorney role and stand in the shoes of the decision-maker, are important steps toward better legal writing.
You can read Professor Keene’s article here.
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
For the past year or so, the commercial marketing world has been talking about Centennials (Generation Z)—those born since 1997 (soon to be our students).
According to one survey:
- 68% say they worry about not being prepared for the future rather than saying they are too young to worry about it.
- 60% would prefer to have guarantees that they never become poor over the possibility of becoming rich.
- just 47% of 12-17 year olds care if their clothes are in style.
- just 30% of 12-17 year olds say they like to do things others consider risky or dangerous.
- just 26% of 12-17 year olds agree with the statement “we are about fun.”
- just 52% have an account on Facebook and visit regularly.
- You can read more here. Here is another set of characteristics:
- Most obviously, they are the first generation to never know life without the Internet and social media.
- At present, their sense of style is a lot more simplistic than that of Millennials. If Millennials are the generation of layering, Centennials are the generation of basics.
- They are a lot less judgmental. This is generally speaking, of course, but culturally, Centennials have not had years to internally debate morally liberalistic versus authoritarian views, such as gay marriage, the existence of transsexuals, and female bodily autonomy, so there is a lot less debate on these issues amongst this generation. These realities are simply accepted, just as Millennials accepted racial equality with greater ease than generations before.
- Furthermore, they are slightly more serious than Millennials.
- As we can all attest, they have very short attention spans. Another result of the Internet is that Generation Z gains and loses focus with great ease.
You can read more here.
New York City Supreme Court Judge and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University School of Law Gerald Lebovits is a prolific author of legal skills oriented publications to say the least. Don't take my word for it, check out his SSRN page here (and the download stats that go with it). Among Judge Lebovits most recent articles is a five part series on effective contract drafting. And without further ado, here they are for your reading (and drafting) pleasure:
Making Offers No One Can Refuse: Effective Contract Drafting - Part 1, 88 N.Y. St. B.J. 64 (Jan. 2016).
Making Offers No One Can Refuse: Effective Contract Drafting — Part II, 88 N.Y. St. B.J. 64 (Feb. 2016).
Making Offers No One Can Refuse: Effective Contact Drafting — Part 3, 88 N.Y. St. B.J. 64 (Mar./Apr. 2016).
The Legal Writer, Making Offers No One Can Refuse: Effective Contract Drafting — Part 4, Vol. 88, N.Y.St. B. J., No. 4 (May 2016).
The Legal Writer, Making Offers No One Can Refuse: Effective Contract Drafting — Part 5, Vol. 88, N.Y. St. B. J., No. 5 (June 2016).
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
The first thing I learned when I became a lawyer was the importance of research skills. There were many times in my legal career when I won a case because I had done better research than my opponent.
Today, many law librarians teach advanced or specialized legal research courses. Such courses can use the same experiential techniques as other law school courses.
A Golden Opportunity: Legal Research Simulation Courses by Leslie Ann Street & Shawn G. Nevers.
At the Wisconsin Lawyer (May 2016), lawyer and novelist Michael Bowen writes about the storyline of his legal career. Along the way, he delineates the different roles of lawyers and fiction writers:
For neither novelists nor lawyers are storylines something you just make up. Fiction is a search for truth liberated from the tyranny of fact; law is a search for truth constrained by fact (one hopes). Whether you’re a lawyer or a novelist, when you search for the truth, every once in a while you find it – and then you have to decide what you’re going to do about it.
Intriguing. You can read more here.