Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Go to law school. Rack up debt. Make $62,000"

From CNN Money:

Go to law school. Rack up debt. Make $62,000

 

Leslie Thompson earns $40,000 a year working two jobs, but her Albuquerque, N.M., house almost went into foreclosure twice this year.

 

Thompson's trade? She's a lawyer.

 

Lawyers have been struggling for a while now, but it's gotten even worse: Half of lawyers are now starting at a salary of less than $62,000 a year, according to the National Association for Law Placement.

 

Not only that, but starting salaries have fallen 13% over the past six years, down from $72,000 in 2008. At the same time, lawyers' student debts are piling up. Thompson is carrying over $150,000 in student loans.

 

. . . .

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

July 16, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Where Are Guns Allowed on College Campuses?

According to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures:

In 22 states the decision to ban or allow concealed carry weapons on campuses is made by each college or university individually: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

Due to recent state legislation and court rulings, 7 states now have provisions allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses.  These states are Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin. In March 2014, Idaho's legislature passed a bill permitting concealed weapons on campus and making it the 7th state to permit guns on campus. 

You can read the report here.

(ljs)

July 16, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Importance of Teaching Problem Solving in Law Schools

I have long been in favor of using the problem-solving method as a major teaching tool in legal education. While most of the courses I took in law school used the Socratic method or a lecture approach, a few courses, Tax, PR, UCC, and Bankruptcy, employed problems to a significant extent. I felt that I learned more in these courses than in my other courses because the teaching approach engaged me more in the class.

When I became a legal writing professor, I, of course, used the problem-solving method because problem solving is essential to doing legal writing projects. I also came to see the importance of problem solving in doctrinal courses because active learning helps students remember doctrine better than the Socratic, case method, and it helps them develop the ability to use doctrine. This view was reenforced by the publication of Best Practices and the Carnegie Report, as well as by numerous conferences I have attended on legal writing, legal skills, and legal education reform. I have concluded that problem solving should be a significant part of every doctrinal course.

Kathy Vinson’s new article on problem solving (here), which I discussed on this board last Friday, includes an excellent discussion on the importance of problem solving as a teaching tool in law school.

Professor Vinson’s major reason for stressing the importance of problem solving is that law practice is about the client. Problem solving makes graduates "client-ready," while the Socratic, case method does not. Professor Vison writes, "Upon graduation, students should not continue to think like students instead of thinking like lawyers engaged with the problems of their clients. Problem solving requires students to engage in and grapple with the nuances and messiness of a client’s problem, and possess an open mind to consider solutions outside of the law."

She continues, "While legal education may not be able to fully prepare students for the practice of law, instruction in problem solving can better prepare them and maximize their learning experience for success as law students and as lawyers. Legal education can better prepare students to solve client’s problems effectively by incorporating problem solving into the curriculum so they can engage in deeper understanding of the law and transfer what they learn to solve new problems in familiar or unfamiliar practice settings. Problem solving instruction in law schools can enhance students’ development as legal professionals and better prepare students for the challenges of today’s legal practice. As proactive problem solvers, students may also become more marketable."

Professor Vinson declares, "Legal education should focus on the client and how to use the law, theory, and skills to help a client solve her problem. Furthermore, students often work alone in law school in a competitive and sometimes isolating environment, yet, in practice, collaborative teamwork is essential. Finally, although professionalism, professional identity, and high emotional intelligence are critical skills to develop strong client relationships and succeed in practice, law school often does not discuss or develop these areas."

She then makes an important observation: "Unlike the Langdellian case method, which focuses on appellate cases and introduces students to client’s problems at the end— instead of the beginning—of the case, the problem solving method starts at the beginning of a case—before a student knows all the facts, learns the client’s goals, narrows the issues, clarifies the identity of the client, and considers the options. The case method only gives examples of how others, i.e., a judge, resolved the client’s problem; instead of focusing on judge-centered thinking, problem solving focuses on exposing students to lawyers’ thinking processes and their roles. A problem-solving approach also involves collaborative work and creative thinking." (emphasis added)

After reviewing various calls for using problem solving as a part of legal education reform, Professor Vinson mentions the cognitive deficiencies of many new law students, especially considering that law schools have been digging deeply into the applicant pool since the recession. She notes that "Problem solving requires self-regulated learning. . . Problem solving challenges prior learning and creates a cognitive conflict between understanding the law (i.e. the rules of evidence) and understanding how the law is a tool to solve a client’s problem (i.e. using the rules of evidence as a tool). Students should be taught how the underlying principles of problem solving skills/strategy allow for deep learning as that skill transfers to different types of problems. Problem solving requires students to engage in high levels of thinking." She adds, "Problem solving requires sophisticated cognitive skills of practicing lawyers, such as: identifying a client’s problem; proposing and evaluating solutions; developing a plan of action; implementing the plan; and reflecting and adjusting to information, ideas, and results. Problem solving skills build on more basic cognitive skills (i.e. lower levels of the pyramid) and require students to deal with complex, ambiguous problems, and analyze, synthesize, and evaluate to create solutions." In addition, "Problem solving provides a conceptual framework that allows students to transfer their learning and apply what was learned in one context to another." Moreover, "Adult learning theory suggests that students learn more, better retain information, and contextualize the material in active learning situations like simulations and exercises." Finally, problem solving helps students develop metacognition–the ability to think about thinking.

Problem solving can also help students overcome a fixed mindset–the notion that intelligence is fixed and that one cannot improve on the intelligence one is born with. Professor Vinson asserts, "Some students who may not excel on a traditional law school exam or when called in via the Socratic method may excel in experiential courses, such as problem solving, where they focus on the application of skills in a different way or different skills are critical to success, beyond book knowledge. By excelling in problem solving, a growth mindset is fostered, which can lead to future success." Those that criticize the Socratic method for how it affects women and minorities should be especially attentive to this idea.

The problem-solving method also helps deal with Millennials, who were raised on the internet. Vinson points out, "As a result of helicopter parenting, Millennials find it difficult to deal with ambiguity, may lack creativity, and avoid risking failure. In problem solving, they must embrace these."

Professor Vinson summarizes the benefits of a legal problem-solving approach to legal education: "Problem solving helps close the gap between academia and practice through experiential learning. By connecting legal knowledge, theory, and skills to help clients, students develop deep learning that they can transfer to practice. In addition, numerous additional benefits exist from incorporating problem solving into the legal education curriculum. Beyond the deep learning that students develop, there are numerous soft skills that are ancillary benefits, such as professionalism, professional identity, and emotional intelligence." Problem solving also helps students foster "creativity, flexibility, good judgment, common sense, reflective learning, relationship building, and practical wisdom." It can also lead to non-legal solutions to clients' problems.

I have spent a long time on Professor Vinson’s discussion of the importance of problem solving because I believe that problem solving is vital to legal education reform. Just making a few changes on the edges of legal education is not enough. As Professor Vinson concludes "Legal education is at a tipping point, and perhaps problem solving can balance the skills-doctrine ‘ship in the stormy seas of legal education’s "perfect storm" through the help of the beacon of the client-centered ‘lighthouse.’"

(Scott Fruehwald)

P.S. While I have concentrated on Vinson’s comments on the importance of problem solving, there is much more to her article, such as what is problem solving and how to implement it in law school. The article is worth reading several times. You can find the complete article here.

July 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Vault's 2015 law firm diversity rankings

The Vault's summer associate program ranking?  Go here.  The Vault's ranking of law firms that provide the most practical training?  Go here (and scroll down). Law firm rankings?  Go here.  Today we have for you The Vault's 2015 law firm diversity rankings.  From the press release:

Vault.com Sees Shakeup In Latest Law Firm Diversity Rankings For 2015

Ropes & Gray Tops Overall Diversity Rankings; New Winners Mark Individual Diversity Categories

Vault.com has released its Law Firm Diversity Rankings for 2015 with a brand new No. 1 firm for Best Overall Diversity and new firms landing atop each individual diversity category.

The big news coming out of the rankings this year is Ropes & Gray's emergence as the Best Law Firm for Diversity, which ends Carlton Fields Jorden Burt's five-year reign as No. 1. Brand new winners claimed the top spot in each individual diversity category as well. They are as follows:

  1. Diversity for Women: Schiff Hardin
  2. Diversity for Minorities: Littler Mendelson
  3. LGBT Diversity: Foley Hoag
  4. Diversity for Individuals with Disabilities: Ropes & Gray
  5. Diversity for Military Veterans: Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner

The rankings are based on the results of Vault's annual survey, administered earlier this year to nearly 17,000 law firm associates. Participants were asked to rate their employers on a variety diversity initiatives including recruitment, retention, promotion and mentoring efforts with respect to minority, women, LGBT individuals, individuals with disabilities and military veterans. A formula that averages the scores in all five categories is used to determine the Best Law Firms for Overall Diversity.

"A firm's commitment to diversity directly impacts employee satisfaction, but also the bottom line," said Nicole Weber, Law Editor at Vault.com. "Maintaining a diverse workforce is essential to meeting the changing and wide-ranging needs of clients, and clients recognize this fact—they want to work with diverse teams of attorneys who will bring a variety of ideas to the table."

The 25 Best Law Firms for Overall Diversity were those most highly rated by their own associates for their overall commitment to hiring, retaining and promoting diverse attorneys:

  1. Ropes & Gray
  2. Littler Mendelson
  3. Carlton Fields Jorden Burt
  4. Paul Hastings
  5. Schiff Hardin
  6. Debevoise & Plimpton
  7. Shook, Hardy & Bacon
  8. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner
  9. Alston & Bird
  10. Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz
  11. Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
  12. Haynes and Boone
  13. Reed Smith
  1. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
  2. Perkins Coie
  3. Foley Hoag
  4. Morrison & Foerster
  5. Fenwick & West
  6. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
  7. Thompson Hine
  8. Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart
  9. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
  10. Gibbons
  11. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
  12. Proskauer Rose

"While many firms have succeeded in recruiting diverse candidates, promotion and retention still remain a challenge in this profession," added Weber. "We are happy to hear from so many associates who are proud of the work their firms are doing to promote an inclusive and heterogeneous work environment."

In addition to its first place spot in the Overall Diversity ranking, Ropes & Gray ranked No. 1 for Diversity for Individuals with Disabilities and appeared in the Top 5 for each of the other categories as well. According to its associates, the firm works hard to ensure that diversity remains an important focus of the firm by creating "tons of affinity groups and an inclusive environment where diverse employees can meet and support one another." One associate also notes that Ropes & Gray succeeds in an area of diversity in which many law firms struggle—retention. "The firm is very positive and encouraging of diversity with a range of affinity groups and one-on-one mentoring. Most importantly, our partnership is very diverse."

Diversity Remains a Top Priority at Many Firms

Here are some other firms that stood out in this year's Diversity Rankings:

Littler Mendelson: In addition to taking the runner-up spot in Overall Diversity (trailing Ropes & Gray by a very narrow margin of .06 points), this employment and labor law practice leader secured the No. 1 spot in the Diversity for Minorities category and appeared in the Top 5 for all other categories. Littler associates boasted about the firm's "inclusion initiatives" and "prominent minority and female partners," noting that "the firm is devoted to diversity and places an emphasis on it." One diverse candidate stated, "I came here MOSTLY due to the diversity commitment."

Carlton Fields Jorden Burt: After sweeping Vault's Diversity Rankings last year (it earned the No. 1 spot in every category), Carlton Fields Jorden Burt is No. 3 for Overall Diversity this year. Though its five-year run at the top has ended, its associates continue to take great pride in the firm's commitment to creating an inclusive environment; the firm ranked in the Top 10 in every category. Associates told Vault that the firm "has done a good job of hiring and promoting women and LGBT individuals" as well as "recruit[ing] minorities by participating in certain job fairs and summer programs." Additionally, "ompared to other large firms, it feels more culturally rich and inclusive."

Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner: Demonstrating a strong commitment to those who have served the United States, Finnegan took the top spot in Vault's newest Diversity Rankings category—Diversity for Military Veterans. In addition to creating a "welcoming environment" for military veterans, Finnegan participates in a "large amount of pro bono work taking up appeals for veterans, to the extent that [the firm has] a dedicated attorney and staff in charge of those efforts." The firm had respectable showings across the board, appearing in the Top 15 of the other categories as well.

Schiff Hardin: Maintaining its No. 5 spot in the Overall Diversity category was hardly Schiff Hardin's only achievement in this year's Diversity Rankings. The firm ranked in the Top 15 in every category, including the No. 1 and No. 2 rankings in Diversity for Women and Diversity for Minorities, respectively. According to one associate, the firm's commitment to diversity "greatly benefits the firm culture and avoids a monolithic and frat-type culture," perhaps explaining its success in the Diversity for Women category. Additionally, a female associate with a young child noted that "the firm has been very accommodating in allowing attorneys to have alternative working arrangements."

Foley Hoag: Foley Hoag climbed four spots since last year to take the No. 1 spot in LGBT Diversity. The Boston-based firm also ranked No. 16 in Overall Diversity; No. 17 in Diversity for Women (a category in which it did not rank last year); and No. 24.

(jbl).

July 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Northwestern Law Expels Felon Student

From the Chicago Tribune

A few months before graduation day for a program geared toward international lawyers, Northwestern University School of Law made a discovery that a prestigious institution of legal education might prefer to avoid — that one of its students was a felon famous in Texas for falsely portraying himself as a lawyer.

Officials promptly notified Mauricio Celis in March that he would be expelled for failing to disclose his history as a convicted legal impostor. That's when Celis sued Northwestern, causing several undeniably legitimate lawyers to get involved.

Northwestern argued that Celis, 42, of Corpus Christi, Texas, misled admissions officials by failing to mention his criminal history, which includes a felony conviction for falsely holding himself out as a lawyer and a misdemeanor conviction for misidentifying himself as a police officer in an incident involving a woman who wandered nude from his hot tub to a convenience store. Celis is, Northwestern's lawyers wrote, an "undesirable candidate" for the master of laws program.

Attorneys for Celis, however, said no one asked about his criminal history. Celis, a former big-spending political donor, spent about $76,000 on the program and related expenses before being tossed out empty-handed, he claims.

Celis and Northwestern agreed to a voluntary dismissal of the suit, according to records filed Wednesday afternoon in Chicago federal court, though no details of any potential settlement agreement were disclosed.

You can read the rest of the article here (free registration required).

(ljs)

July 15, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Higher education in the news (and it's not good)

First, this story from the New York Times dealbook reporting that companies offering to help students manage their educational loans (a/k/a the "debt settlement industry") are often predatory.

Then there's this story from the Chronicle of Higher Ed reporting that Moody's, which ranks creditworthiness, has issued a negative outlook for the higher education sector of the economy for the next 18 to 20 months.  Beyond that, Moody's predicts a more positive outlook based on strong long-term demand for higher ed but between now and then, many schools may face the following pressures:

  • Growth in tuition revenue remains stifled by affordability concerns, legislative ceilings on tuition levels, and steep competition for students.
  • State financing of higher education will increase, on average, just 3 to 4 percent—not enough to meet the growth in expenses.
  • Already stiff competition for sponsored-research dollars is getting stiffer, with success rates for proposals dropping from 19 percent in 2008 to below 15 percent last year.
  • One in 10 public and private colleges is suffering “acute financial distress” because of falling revenues and weak operating performance.
  • Public colleges will begin to feel the impact of underfunded pensions and health benefits for retirees.
  • Most public colleges and many private ones will be unable to achieve a 3-percent annual growth rate in operating revenue, Moody’s benchmark for sustainable financing at a time of low inflation.

Continue reading the CHE story here.

(jbl). 

July 14, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Certiorari: How Do You Pronounce It?

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia and Stephen G. Breyer: “ser-shee-or-RARE-eye,” rhyming with “fair guy.”

• Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and John Paul Stevens: “ser-shee-or-RAHR-ee,” rhyming with “Ferrari” or “car key.”

• Justice Clarence Thomas: He agrees with Alito on the last three syllables, but he pronounces the first two syllables “sertzee.”

• Justice Anthony M. Kennedy: “ser-shee-or-ARR-eye,” rhyming with “far cry” or “czar guy.”

• Justice Sonia Sotomayor: “ser-shee-ARR-ee,” with a dropped syllable.

• The late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David H. Souter: “ser-shee-or-RARE-ee,” rhyming with “dairy.”

Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg avoid the controversy; they opt for the shorter “cert” or even “review.”

You can read Professor Duane James’ empirical study at the Green Bag and a posting on the ABA Journal blog. Given my many years of high school Latin, I side with Justices Alito and Stevens.

(ljs)

 

July 14, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Your Brain and Law School

I have stressed the importance of understanding how the brain works when undertaking legal education reform.  (here and here)  Now, Marybeth Herald has written a book on the subject, Your Brain and Law School.

Abstract:     
Building on the latest scientific research, Professor Marybeth Herald's practical yet entertaining book, "Your Brain and Law School" (Carolina Academic Press, forthcoming 2014), offers law students a formula for success in law school, on the bar exam, and as practicing attorneys. Mastering the law, either as a law student or in practice, becomes much easier if one has a working knowledge of the brain’s basic habits. Before you can learn to think like a lawyer, you have to have some idea about how the brain thinks.

The first part of this book (the Introduction to which is available for free download here on SSRN) translates the technical research, explaining learning strategies that work for the brain in law school specifically, and calling out other tactics that are useless, explaining why they lead to dead ends. This book is unique in explaining the science behind the advice.

The second part of the book explores the brain’s decision-making processes and cognitive biases. These biases affect the ability to persuade, a necessary skill of a successful lawyer. The book explains the art and science of framing, the seductive lure of the confirmation and egocentric biases, and the egocentricity of the availability bias. This book uses easily recognizable examples from law, and life generally, to illustrate the potential of these biases to lead people to mistaken judgments. Understanding these biases is critical to becoming a successful attorney, proficient at fashioning arguments that appeal to the sometimes quirky processing of the human brain.

(Scott Fruehwald)

 

Contents 

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Section 1

Pushing Your Brain Through Law School

Chapter 1 · The Brain Is a Creature of Habit

Chapter 2 · Playing the Long Game in Law School

Chapter 3 · Outlasting Your Brain

Chapter 4 · Can You Grow a Brain?

Chapter 5 · How to Grow a Brain

Chapter 6 · Being in Your Right Mind for Classes7

Chapter 7 · Learning the Law: Don’t Get Stuck Just Memorizing

Chapter 8 · Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me: Testing Yourself

Chapter 9 · But Mom Thought It Was Great: Getting the Right Feedback

Section 2

Thinking Critically

Chapter 10 · The Brain Edits: Why Seeing Should Not Mean Believing

Chapter 11 · Gut Reactions and Why to Suppress Them

Chapter 12 · Making Persuasive Arguments: The Need to Understand Our Cognitive Biases

Chapter 13 · You’ve Been Framed

Chapter 14 · The Apple of Our Own Eyes: The Egocentric Bias

Chapter 15 · Sticking to Our Story: Confirmation Bias, Selective Perception, and Rationalization

Chapter 16 · Our Brain’s Limited View of the World: The Availability Bias

Conclusion

July 13, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

U Miami Law School offers students hands-on legal ethics training

From U Miami's website:

Miami Law’s Professional Responsibility & Ethics Program (PREP) provides a forum for students to interact with attorneys regarding the ethical challenges that confront today’s legal profession. Each year PREP adds a few new venues to its presentation roster. This year, under the guidance of PREP director, Jan Jacobowitz, the JAMS Resolution Center (JAMS) and the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office provided new opportunities for PREP.

PREP students Mike Kranzler, Gina Rhodes, and Paige Rivkind presented at JAMS and focused on ethical implications that may arise during mediation disputes, such as whether an attorney must advise her client of alternative dispute options, effective strategies for selection of a mediator, and for maintaining confidentiality, especially if mediation efforts fail.

“This was a great opportunity to hear from established, successful mediators and learn where theory and practice intersect, while also providing education to them about emerging ethical concerns in their field,” said Kranzler. “Alternative dispute resolution has become extremely prevalent in the legal field within the past twenty years so it was insightful to have a discussion regarding ethical issues that can arise outside of the courtroom,” said Rhodes.

“In my other PREP presentations, I have analyzed ethical dilemmas confronting judges and attorneys,” explained Rivkind. “The training at JAMS provided the opportunity to evaluate the ethic rules from a mediator's standpoint. It was interesting to compare the types of situations mediators confront to the issues generally arising attorneys or judges.”

At the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s Office, PREP students Jacqueline Frisch, Christina Margolles, and Gina Rhodes presented an ethics training on the cutting-edge use of social media as evidence, the use of social media during jury selection, and lawyers’ use of personal blogs.

“Discussing legal issues in the context of social media was interesting because it really highlighted the generation gap that sometimes exists in the use of technology in the practice of law,” said Margolles. “Some attorneys seem to have a really sophisticated understanding of cyberspace and social media, while others still interpret social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter strictly as entertainment. This dichotomy fueled an interesting debate on whether social media use should be incorporated into legal ethics obligations and to what extent.” “The issues discussed were thought-provoking, the attorneys in attendance were inquisitive, and the overall experience was enlightening,” said Frisch. “I couldn't have asked for a better experience!”

. . . .

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

July 13, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mobile Traffic Keeps Ballooning

I’m not sure my ageing eyes are up to this. From “Real Lawyers Have Blogs”:

Mobile traffic as a percentage of global Internet traffic is growing at one and a half times per year and is expected to continue, if not accelerate. Mobile traffic is charted to be near 35% by year’s end.The traffic as a percentage of global Internet traffic is growing at one and a half times per year and is expected to continue, if not accelerate. Mobile traffic is charted to be near 35% by year’s end.law blogs on smartphone

 

You can read more here.

(ljs)

July 13, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The number of June LSAT takers hits a 14 year low

That's according to the figures published by the LSAC on Thursday here. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has more details:

Number of LSAT Test Takers in June Falls to 14-Year Low

 

. . . .

 

The number of law school admission tests administered in June was down 9.1% compared to a year earlier, according to figures released by the Law School Admission Council on Thursday.

 

The 21,802 people who sat for the test last month is the lowest June total in 14 years, suggesting that law schools may still be having difficulty convincing college graduates on the value of a J.D. degree.

 

For schools, it’s a step backward after the glint of hope they got in February when the number of law school admission tests administered inched up 1.1% over the February 2013 total.

 

The half-day LSAT is given four times a year in annual cycles starting in June. A total of 105,532 people took the test during the 2013-2014 cycle that just wrapped up, falling 6.2% from the year before.

 

“This June low bodes ill for the number of applicants next fall,” writes Matt Leichter, whose “Law School Tuition Bubble” blog has chronicled the travails of the legal education industry.

. . . .

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

July 12, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Why SCOTUS Justices Don't Retire in an Election Year

This custom (norm?) began in 1981. At the Concurring Opinion, Gerard Magliocca gives us the history:

This led me to wonder when people started saying (or thinking) that Justices should not retire in a quadrennial year.  The answer is that this custom began with Potter Stewart.  Justice Stewart retired in 1981, and in an interview with Linda Greenhouse that summer he said he had thought of quitting in 1980 but decided that to do so would hurt the Court.  As far as I can tell, this was the first time that a Justice decided that this was a necessary norm and said so publicly.  Nobody was thinking about retiring in 1972 or 1976, so the absence of action in those years does not tell us much.  Since then, the Justices have followed Stewart’s example and rejected Warren’s.

You can read more here.

(ljs)

July 12, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Vault ranks the best law firms to work for

A few days ago, we told you about The Vault's rankings for best law firm summer associate programs - including those programs that offer the best practical training.  Today we've got The Vault's rankings for the best law firms to work for.  Below is the best overall ranking list though The Vault also ranked law firms in several specialty categories like "best formal training," "best informal training and mentoring," "best career outlook," "best hours" and "best compensation."   You can check out the ranking methdology here.  From The Vault's press release:

Paul Hastings proves last year was no fluke; named best law firm to work for in vault's 2015 quality of life rankings for second straight year Williams & Connolly and Ropes & Gray continue strong performance; Proskauer impresses in debut with no. 5 finish.

 

Vault's Best to Work For Rankings Also Examine 13 Quality of Life Categories

 

After an impressive eight-point jump to No. 1 in last year's rankings, Paul Hastings has proven that its prior feat was no fluke. The firm earned its second straight No. 1 finish in Vault's 2015 list of Best Law Firms to Work For.

 

Beating back a strong challenge from Ropes & Gray, which held the title in 2011, Paul Hastings was able to retain its position due to high ratings from associates in numerous Quality of Life categories—the firm ranked No. 1 in Satisfaction and No. 2 in Hours, Firm Culture, Formal Training, Informal Training and Associate/Partner Relations.

 

The Law Firm Quality of Life Rankings are derived from Vault's Law Firm Associate Survey, where nearly 17,000 associates rated and commented on various aspects of their work life. This year's Best 25 Law Firms to Work For rankings were calculated using a formula that weighs associate ratings in a dozen different areas: Overall Satisfaction (25%); Hours (10%); Compensation (10%); Business Outlook (10%); Substantive Work (10%); Associate/Partner Relations (5%); Leadership Transparency (5%); Formal Training (5%); Informal Training, Mentoring & Sponsorship (5%); Pro Bono (5%); Overall Diversity (5%); Career Outlook (5%).

 

Based on this formula, the Top 10 Best Law Firms to Work For are:

  1. Paul Hastings
  2. Ropes & Gray
  3. Foley Hoag
  4. Gibson Dunn & Crutcher
  5. Proskauer Rose
  6. Williams & Connolly
  7. Cooley
  8. O'Melveny & Myers
  9. Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo
  10. Alston & Bird

 

"While prestige is certainly an important factor that law students value highly when selecting firms, there are many other aspects of firm life to consider as well," said Nicole Weber, Law Editor at Vault.com. "The Quality of Life Rankings give candidates insight into these criteria from the most credible source available: current associates. Paul Hastings' associates were the most enthusiastic of the bunch for the second year in a row, which is a testament to the firm's efforts to keep its employees happy."

 

Associates at Paul Hastings stated that they "couldn't be more pleased" with the "meaningful work," "pleasant colleagues" and "work/life balance." One associate added, "I truly enjoy going to work in the mornings."

 

Ropes & Gray may have been in second place, but it was only .13 points away from ending Paul Hastings' run at the top. Ropes & Gray bolstered its position with strong performances in Vault's individual Quality of Life categories, grabbing the No. 1 spot in both Formal Training and Informal Training while finishing in the Top 5 for Hours, Compensation, Associate/Partner Relations, Firm Culture, Pro Bono and Satisfaction. Associates at the firm raved that they have "zero complaints" and "nothing but high expectations for the future."

 

Proskauer Rose Debuts on the Best Law Firms to Work For List in the Top 5

 

Perhaps the most significant move to come out of this year's rankings was the rise of Proskauer Rose. Previously unknown to the Best Law Firms to Work For list, the 700-lawyer firm that boasts robust sports and entertainment practices (and much more) rocketed to the top, debuting at No. 5 (while also finishing No. 2 in Satisfaction and No. 9 in Hours). The big leap pushed Williams & Connolly, the No. 1 Best Law Firm to Work For in 2012 and 2013, further down the list to No. 6.

 

Associates at Proskauer told Vault, "This is a great job at a wonderful firm!" Not only did survey respondents gush about the "extremely interesting matters" and unique practice areas ("SPORTS"), they also praised the firm's "excellent supervisors" and "team atmosphere." One associate summed it up, adding, "I would NEVER leave to go to another firm—the people are great, and I'm doing work here that I can't do at any other firm."

 

Best to Work For—New Blood and Old Favorites

 

Several firms made triumphant returns to the Best Law Firms to Work for rankings after being absent in previous years. O'Melveny & Myers cracked into the Top 10 at No. 8, marking the first time the firm appeared in the rankings since 2013 when it finished at No. 19. Davis Polk & Wardwell, ranked No. 22 in 2012, inched up to No. 21 upon its return to the list this year. Holland & Hart, which had the longest hiatus of any other firm on the list (six years), landed back in the Top 25 at No. 24. Other newcomers to this year's Top 25 include Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld (No. 15), Morris, Manning & Martin (No. 19) and DLA Piper (No. 25).

 

All the 2015 speciality rankings can be found on this page.

(jbl).

July 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Frequently Misspelled Words

From LawProse  (Oct. 30, 2012):

Commonly Misspelled Legal Terms:

  • Ad hominem (not *ad hominum): an argument directed not to the merits of an opponent’s argument but to the opponent’s personality or character.
  • De minimis (not *de minimus): a shortened form of the Latin maxim de minimis non curat lex (= the law does not concern itself with trifles).
  • In personam (not *in personum): (a claim or action) vested in a person.
  • Judgment (not *judgement): the final decisive act of a court in defining the rights of the parties. Although judgement is prevalent in British nonlegal texts, judgment is the preferred form in American English and British legal texts.
  • Just deserts (not *just desserts): a reward or punishment that is deserved (not a sweet treat — though deserts in this sense is pronounced like desserts).

Commonly Misspelled Words in the English Language (misspellings are in parenthesis):

accommodate (*accomodate or *acommodate)
calendar (*calender)
category (*catagory)
committed (*commited)
conscientious (*consciencious)
consensus (*concensus)
definitely (*definately)
embarrass (*embarass)
exceed (*excede)
fiery (*firey)
guarantee (*garantee or *guaranty)
harass (*harrass)
height (*heighth)
independent (*independant)
liaison (*liason)
maintenance (*maintenence)
maneuver (*manuever)
millennium (*milennium or *millenium)
miniature (*miniture)
misspell (*mispell)
noticeable (*noticable)
occasionally (*occasionaly)
occurrence (*occurrance or *occurence)
possession (*posession or *possesion)
precede (*preceed)
privilege (*privelege or *priviledge)
recommend (*recomend or *reccommend)
relevant (*relevent)
restaurateur (*restauranteur)
separate (*separate)

(ljs)

 

 

July 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Article on Legal Problem Solving

I believe that law professors should explicitly teach their students problem-solving skills.  Kathy Vinson has just posted an excellent article on legal problem solving on SSRN: Problem Solved: Preparing Students for Practice Using Problem Solving to Connect Legal Knowledge, Theory, and Skills.

Abstract: 
"Monday morning you listen to a voice mail from a corporate client explaining that it just discovered one of its manufacturers overseas produced toys containing lead paint. This client asks you to draft a press release announcing a recall of these toys, alerting its customers, but cautiously avoiding any admissions of liability. The following day, in another case, you need to advise a client, who professes his innocence, whether he should accept a guilty plea or proceed to trial. The next day, you are asked by your supervisor to argue a motion to dismiss a complaint, but you have concerns there is no legal or factual basis to support the motion. Finally, another client, who owns an apartment building, seeks your help when his tenant accuses another tenant of sexually harassing her. These are just some of the types of problems lawyers could face in just one week. Would law students know how to solve them? No matter what the legal issue or setting, understanding and applying a problem-solving methodology and focusing on the client in each case can help prepare students for practice. Students engaged in problem solving in law school benefit from experiencing the primary role of a lawyer: a problem-solver, enabling students to see the connection between legal knowledge, theory, and skills to help achieve a client’s goals."

(Scott Fruehwald)

July 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Primer on Professionalism for Doctrinal Professors

A very important part of legal education reform is including professionalism throughout the curriculum.  Here is an important new article on the subject: Primer on Professionalism for Doctrinal Professors by Paula Schaefer.

Abstract: "Legal education reform advocates agree that law schools should integrate “professionalism” throughout the curriculum. Ultimately, it falls to individual professors to decide how to incorporate professionalism into each course. This can be an especially difficult task for doctrinal professors. The law — and not the practice of law — is the focus of most doctrinal casebooks. Law students typically do not act in role as lawyers in these classes, so they are not compelled to resolve professional dilemmas in class, as students would be in a clinic or simulation-based course. As a result, it takes some additional preparation and thought to introduce professionalism issues into these courses. Some professors may resist making this change — not knowing which aspect or aspects of professionalism should be the focus, fearing that time spent on professionalism will detract from the real subject matter of the class, or believing professionalism is adequately covered elsewhere in the curriculum.

This Article considers how and why doctrinal professors should address the challenge of integrating professionalism into the classroom. Part I briefly discusses the multitude of meanings ascribed to attorney professionalism and argues that the lack of a clear, concise, and shared definition is a substantial barrier to effectively incorporating professionalism into the law school curriculum. Next, Part II provides a more coherent, streamlined definition of attorney professionalism. This Part also identifies and describes three primary aspects of lawyer professionalism: fulfilling duties to clients, satisfying duties to the bar, and possessing core personal values essential to being a good lawyer. This simplified conception of professionalism should begin to address the concerns of professors who do not know where to begin to incorporate professionalism into their classes. It is also intended to persuade skeptics that professionalism is something they can and should teach as part of their doctrinal classes.

Thereafter, Part III provides guidance for developing course outcomes that connect course subject matter and professionalism. Questions prompt doctrinal professors to look for the natural connections between their course subject matter and issues of professionalism. Then, Part IV considers various methods doctrinal professors can use to introduce professionalism topics into their courses. Integrating professionalism into the classroom does not require professors to abandon their casebooks; using case law can be an effective method. This Part also considers other teaching methods and materials for combining doctrine, skills, and professionalism. Finally, Part V concludes with thoughts on how students benefit when professors make the effort to incorporate professionalism into every law school classroom."

A condensed version of the article will be included in the forthcoming Building on Best Practices in Legal Education

(Scott Fruehwald)

July 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Legal sector gains 1,200 jobs in June

This reverses a downward trend that saw 2,000 lost jobs in April and 1,200 (revised from 700) lost jobs in May.  The American Lawyer has the story.

The legal sector added 1,200 jobs in June, making up for the 1,100 jobs it lost in May, according to the latest job figures released Thursday by the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

In reporting June’s preliminary numbers, the BLS revised its seasonally adjusted May numbers to reflect 400 more lost jobs in the legal sector than previously reported.

 

In total, legal employment has seen 300 jobs disappear since the start of 2014. Compared to a year ago in June, the legal sector has gained 5,400 jobs.

 

A total of 1.136 million people are currently employed in the U.S. legal industry as of last month, about the same as in February 2014, but well below its peak in the last decade of 1.179 million, recorded in June 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

. . . .

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

July 10, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Best Apps for Lawyers

According to an article on Progressive Law Practice, helpful apps include:

GoodReader (document organizer)

Keynote (for visual presentations)

Rulebook (for court rules)

Others are:

Quickbooks, a cloud-based accounting app for iPhone and Android models used by 1.3 million customers worldwide;

Dropbox is a popular cloud-storage system for files and photos. The free version offers 18GB of storage; additional space is available for a fee;

Evernote is a note-taking and bookmarking app compatible with nearly every PC, phone and mobile device;

Documents to Go is an all-inclusive app that supports Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, PDFs and other files and attachments. It is available for Mac, Windows, iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

WebEx allows users to schedule attend and host virtual meetings in HD video anywhere in the world. It’s also useful for webinars and file-sharing;

Google Wallet is a fast, secure way for customers to make payments online. Delorenzo is a big fan of apps because they simplify her business and personal lives.

(ljs)

 

July 10, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

SMU Law offers program to teach students in-house legal practice skills

Back in May, we told you about a new course being offered at Widener Law School (Delaware) to teach students the legal and business skills needed to work as in-house corporate counsel.  The course is taught by an adjunct faculty member and former in-house attorney with Dupont, Professor James Dinnage.  The National Law Journal has this story about a new program at SMU Dedman School of Law that combines student externships with traditional on-campus coursework that is also intended to teach students about the legal skills needed to work as an in-house lawyer.  The program evolved out of a very popular, traditional on-campus course called "The Role of General Counsel" taught by an SMU faculty member who is also a former in-house attorney.  After gaining faculty approval, an externship component was adding in cooperation with several Dallas-Fort Worth large corporations including American Airlines, AT&T and Dr. Pepper.  Here are more details:

Inside a Law School's In-house Training Program

 

 . . . .

 

. . . [course creator Steve Yeager] realized that the in-house world is virtually unknown to law students. In addition to teaching them about legal and ethical issues facing inside counsel, I wanted to give them a glimpse of what in-house lawyers actually do. And I found a partner in my mission—Marc Steinberg, the Rupert and Lillian Radford Professor of Law. Together, we designed an academic program combining a corporate counsel class with externships in corporate legal departments.

 

We proposed our idea to the curriculum committee, and it was approved at the end of 2012, giving us very little time to recruit corporations to participate and to take student applications. But we made it. The Corporate Counsel Externship Program was launched in fall 2013 with 30 companies hosting students . . . .

 

. . . .

 

In the weekly classroom component, students learned about different substantive areas of the law encountered in an in-house practice, such as corporate governance practices, intellectual property, employment law and securities filings, as well as the ethical responsibilities of in-house counsel. Other classes focused on practical skills, such as working with outside counsel, conflicts of interest, litigation management, contract drafting and conducting internal investigations. As with the “Role of the General Counsel” course, corporate counsel served as guest lecturers in certain classes. For example, Gary Kennedy, the former general counsel of American Airlines, taught a class on conducting internal investigations, while John Torres and Betty Ungerman, the chief legal officer and deputy general counsel of Lennox International Inc., taught students about working with outside counsel and contracts.

 

Each student was assigned to a “field supervisor” at his or her placement. These seasoned attorneys oversaw and trained the externs and evaluated their legal skills, professionalism, quality of work and responsiveness. Steinberg remarked, “We are extremely grateful to the field supervisors for their support of the program. These attorneys are incredibly busy, yet took time away from their practices to work with our students. There is no academic substitute for the experience our students had this semester. The training and feedback they received from accomplished attorneys on real-world projects will benefit them immensely when they start practicing law.”

 

. . . .

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

July 9, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Negative Comments Stick with Us Longer Than Positive Ones

Why? It’s about chemistry. Negative chemistry releases cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. Positive  comments produce positive (oxytocin-producing) interactions. The cortisol results last longer. Here is an anecdote from Judith or Richard Glaser at the Harvard Business Review:

Consider Rob, a senior executive from Verizon. He thought of himself as a “best practices” leader who told people what to do, set clear goals, and challenged his team to produce high quality results. But when one of his direct reports had a minor heart attack, and three others asked HR to move to be transferred off his team, he realized there was a problem.

Observing Rob’s conversational patterns for a few weeks, I saw clearly that the negative (cortisol-producing) behaviors easily outweighed the positive (oxytocin-producing) behaviors. Instead of asking questions to stimulate discussion, showing concern for others, and painting a compelling picture of shared success, his tendency was to tell and sell his ideas, entering most discussions with a fixed opinion, determined to convince others he was right. He was not open to others’ influence; he failed to listen to connect.

When I explained this to Rob, and told him about the chemical impact his behavior was having on his employees, he vowed to change, and it worked. A few weeks later, a member of his team even asked me: “What did you give my boss to drink?”

You can read more here.

(ljs)

July 9, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)