Sunday, March 8, 2015
From Daily Worth, here are six ways to stand out at a conference and to network. This is not the usual advice and in some cases, explains how to use social media to increase your name recognition. I would think about using these techniques not just at academic conferences, but also at your school’s alumni and other events to promote yourself and your program.
You can read more here.
Over at PrawfsBlawg, Rick Hills says “yes.”
Do law school exams teach lousy legal writing? I am thinking of the “issue-spotting” exam in which the student is expected (or thinks that he or she is expected) to touch on as many issues as possible to demonstrate that he or she did her time in the course, taking notes, briefing cases, and soaking up information. Typically, such exam answers consist of lots of points hurriedly raised and rarely resolved or argued effectively. Such answers often adopt an indecisive “one-hand-other-hand” style of a bad bench memo, noting that there are opposing arguments on a point but not making any effort to evaluate whether and how one argument is better than another.
These symptoms of a certain type of exam answer writing also seem to be characteristics of bad legal writing by young attorneys starting out as associates, at least according to senior partners that I canvassed a couple of summers ago, in an effort to learn how to improve NYU’s legal writing program. The most common complaint was that new hires’ emails, memos, and draft briefs did not make an argument for a particular position. Instead, the novices summarized too much at too great length without arriving at any plain bottom line. “Don’t they know they we’re paid to be advocates?” one lawyer complained. “Clients pay for answers, not encyclopedias,” said another.
You can read more here.
I agree. Successful law students spot as many issues as they can and discuss them all—even the weakest ones. Good lawyers look for the issue that gives their client the best chance of winning and run with it. I gave up on issue spotting exams years ago.
Thnx to Jennifer Romig.
Saturday, March 7, 2015
This short post by Forbes editor Allan Murray writing on the LinkedIn blog summarizes a new study by the Pew Research Center that endeavored to find out what do Millennials really want out of life? Mr. Murray has summarized the parts of the study relating to the workplace and notes that some commonly held assumptions about Millennials are proven wrong while others are closer to the mark. Here are the salient points:
Millennials want to change jobs frequently.
This one is just wrong . . . .
Money doesn’t matter.
Maybe. . . . .
Every millennial wants to be an entrepreneur.
They all may want to be Mark Zuckerberg, but it’s not happening.
Once again, politics and TV entertainment join forces as the former Acting Solicitor General trades the real courtroom for the TV courtroom. From the National Law Journal:
Katyal—the former acting U.S. Solicitor General in real life—plays a character arguing before the Supreme Court on behalf of Kaseem Mahmoud, a man left wheelchair-bound by an American drone strike in the Middle East.
His nemesis: an ambitious U.S. Solicitor General.
You can read more here.
George Gopen has been writing columns on legal writing for “Litigation,” the magazine of the ABA Section on Litigation. You can access them here.
I cannot speak too highly of George’s work. Years ago, I attended one of his workshops and discovered a new way to think about writing. I have passed the lessons down to my students, and now, even years after they graduate, they tell me how greatly those lessons transformed their writing and contributed to their success.
Friday, March 6, 2015
Students often fail to network successfully, because they don’t know how to navigate in various settings. At the Student Lawyer, Katherine Erwin offers practical advice on how to network at events, how to gain and develop informational interviews, and how to network using social media. You can read her article here.
The National Law Journal has the story here though both it and Above the Law urge caution because it's a rather mixed picture with 35% of those firms surveyed by NALP reporting that they made fewer offers for summer employment during this year's OCI season compared to last. Here's an excerpt from the NLJ story:
Next summer’s law firm summer-associates class is likely to be the largest since 2009, data from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) show.
On-campus recruiting nationwide increased during fall 2014, when firms interviewed and hired second-year law students to be summer associates. That marked the fifth year in a row that student hiring increased after bottoming out following the 2008 recession.
But recruiting growth was uneven. Just more than half of firms—52 percent—reported making more summer-associate offers than they had in 2013. Among those firms, 14 percent exceeded the number of offers made during 2013 by more than 10.
But 35 percent of law firms made fewer offers.
. . . .
Thursday, March 5, 2015
According to BloombergBusiness, the University of Iowa Law School and the SUNY Buffalo Law School will admit students based on their grade point averages and other standardized tests:
[Buffalo Dean James Gardner] acknowledges, however, that the change might be a lifeline to law schools, which have lately been suffering from a persistent lack of bodies. “It does address that problem to the extent that they remove what is, for some students, an obstacle for applying to law school,” says Gardner. In 2014, first-year enrollment at U.S. law schools fell to about 38,000, its lowest point in four decades, down 28 percent since it peaked in 2010. First-year enrollments have declined by around 20 percent since 2011 at both SUNY Buffalo and the University of Iowa.
The two schools are the first to announce that they've taken advantage of a recent ruling by the American Bar Association, which accredits U.S. law schools. In August, the ABA changed its rules to allow law schools to fill up to 10 percent of their class with students who have not taken the LSAT, as long as they were at the top of their college class and scored highly on the SAT and ACT, college aptitude tests, or on the GRE or GMAT graduate school exams.
You can read more here.
This is risky business.
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Of course the answer is yes (subject to the Statute of Frauds), but how often do they deal with millions of dollars?
When the plaintiff brought Stefani Germanotta (Lady G) to the defendant producer, they agreed orally to a sharing of future profits. When the performer became a massive hit, the defendant failed to abide by the disagreement. In the ensuing legal action, the jury found for the plaintiff—in the neighborhood of at least $7.3 Million.
Good example to emphasize that sometimes your word is your bond.
This will be the first U.S.-style law school in the middle east. This "cutting edge" JD program will open in Fall, 2015. The National Law Journal has coverage here (subscr. req.). The following is Northwestern's press release:
Hamad Bin Khalifa University Launches New Law School in Strategic Partnership with Northwestern Law
Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU), aided by its strategic partner, Northwestern University School of Law, is establishing a new graduate-level law school in Doha, Qatar.
The HBKU Law School will offer a three-year Juris Doctor degree program with a comprehensive curriculum that will equip its graduates to take important leadership positions in the public and private sector throughout the region. The school will open in the fall of 2015 in Education City, a 2,500-acre campus located on the western edge of Doha.
The new program is the first of its kind in the Middle East.
“We are excited about the opportunity to work with Hamad bin Khalifa University on this important initiative and appreciate the leadership of the Qatar Foundation in their ongoing development of Education City,” said Daniel B. Rodriguez, dean of Northwestern University School of Law. “We share their belief in the power of higher education to make a positive difference in the world.”
Professor Clinton W. Francis will serve as the interim dean and, with assistance from the Northwestern Law faculty, will help guide the development of the school’s curriculum, hiring staff and faculty, and serving as an advisor to HBKU officials. Francis teaches and researches in the areas of Corporate Restructuring/Bankruptcy, Commercial Law, Intellectual Property, and Intellectual Capital Management. He is a recognized expert in context-based teaching, using role-playing and entrepreneurial simulations.
“We are developing a leading-edge curriculum, instruction and scholarship, with the goal of delivering the maximum knowledge and value to students and to domestic, regional, and global partners,” Francis said. “We will achieve this value commitment through a unique pedagogical approach emphasizing the structural linkage of students, faculty, employers and the larger community to build sustainable intellectual, legal and business best practices to support growth throughout the region.”
. . . .
Continue reading the press release here.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Unexpectedly, Sweet Briar College has decided that its time has come. According to its leaders:
Sweet Briar officials cited overarching challenges that the college has been unable to handle: the lack of interest from female high school students in attending a women's college like Sweet Briar, declining interest in liberal arts colleges generally and declining interest in attending colleges in rural areas. Sweet Briar is in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. "We are 30 minutes from a Starbucks," said James F. Jones Jr., president of the college.
You can read more here at Inside Higher Ed.
Of course any disruption like this leads us to think about the fragile state of many law schools. Sweebriar did not wait until the bitter end. It made a decision when it still had an endowment and could make plans for its students, faculty, and staff. When struggling law schools see the writing on the wall, will they follow Sweetbriar’s example?
According to an empirical study by Christopher Trudeau, the answer is yes. I think his 2012 article deserves greater attention--The Public Speaks: An Empirical Study of Legal Communication, 14 The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing 121 (2012) (here).
In a carefully designed study, subjects compared passages written in plain English and similar passages that contained the failures that plain English attempts to eliminate. The study provides a good bit of valuable information. It also results in 10 practical pointers
First, do not underestimate the importance of oral communication.
Over half of all respondents preferred some type of oral
communication to written communication.
Second, deliver written documents electronically even when you
must send a hard copy. . . .
Third, use clear, understandable written communication. . . .
Fourth, do not assume that all readers will understand commonly
used legal terms. Instead, define these terms if you must use
them. . . . .
Fifth, avoid complicated terms and Latin words. They generally
bothered or annoyed nearly seven out of ten clients. . . . .
Sixth, prefer the active voice. Respondents preferred it almost
70% of the time — and clients at a higher rate than nonclients. . . .
Seventh, avoid multiword prepositions like pursuant to and prior
to and with regard to. They are among the worst aspects of legalese.
Eighth, remember that the more confusing the sentences become,
the more likely that a reader will prefer plain language. . . . .
Ninth — and this needs to be proclaimed repeatedly, ceaselessly
— the vast majority of clients and nonclients prefer plain language.
For the choice-of-language questions, readers chose the
plain-language version 80% of the time.
Finally, use plain language no matter what the reader’s educational
level. Contrary to my original theory, as the level increased,
so did the respondent’s preference for plain language.
Monday, March 2, 2015
The Lexington law school has announced a number of operational changes designed to remedy budget concerns. From JDJournal, here is a list:
First-year classes featuring 100 students will be enrolled at the school starting with the 2015-2016 school year, which will create a full-time student body of 300 or more students. Tuition will increase two percent each year. The Board of Trustees approved an increase in payout from the endowment income of the law school to 7.5 percent through 2017-2018. This adds $3 million to the budget of the law school in 2015-2016. The Law School Annual Fund, which provides operating funds, has increased to $1.5 million for the current school year. The student-faculty ratio of 9:1 will stay the same, but faculty compensation will drop by 20 percent due to attrition over the next four years. Some senior faculty salaries will see a one-time salary reduction of two percent. To read more law school news stories, click here. Over the next five years, six administrative and staff jobs will be reduced. The library budget will increase by 2 percent, but all other operating budgets will drop by 10 percent in 2015-2016. The law school expects its budget to return to balance by the 2018-2019 school year, despite deficits showing for 2014-2015 through 2017-2018.
I wish the school well, but I think more radical steps are needed for this school and law schools in general. Since these changes were announced, W&L's dean has announced that she is stepping down. Brant Hellwig, a tax professor at the school, will assume the deanship.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
I believe that the Socratic method can remain an important tool in law school teaching as long as it is used properly and is only one of several approaches to teaching. Jamie R. Abrams has written a paper on this subject called Reframing the Socratic Method.
Abstract: While innovations in law teaching are everywhere, these innovations are being constructed upon and limited by the ancient architecture of the case-based Socratic method, which still endures and persists throughout first-year and upper-level courses. This article highlights how the Socratic method limits the depth and breadth of innovations in law teaching and can be reframed to better catalyze other teaching innovations, create more practice-ready lawyers, and cultivate more inclusive and inviting law classrooms. Within the existing framework of law teaching – the same casebooks, class sizes, and teaching style – the case-based Socratic method can be reframed in three straight-forward ways to better align with curricular innovations in legal education and to create a more holistic student experience. These adaptations are (1) consistently positioning client(s) at the center of the Socratic dialogue; (2) consistently positioning law students as attorneys considering legal research and weight of authority as a springboard to client counseling and outcomes; and (3) consistently sensitizing students to varied lawyering skills such as client counseling, settlement, drafting, and discovery within the Socratic case-based approach.
Ross Guberman, the author of Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation's Top Advocates, has an excellent blog where he provides really handy advice for sprucing up your legal writing. He's also written several articles that are especially helpful for new associates looking for advice on how to write better. Ross's most recent column addresses the six words (and phrases) you should purge from your writing and why (he's got another post on six more you should also banish). Below is the cheat-sheet version but go here to get the full explanation with lots of examples:
Just Say No
with respect to, with regard to, regarding, concerning, in regard to
on, about, for, as for, as to
moreover, additionally, furthermore, further
even assuming arguendo, assuming arguendo, arguendo, even assuming
is not required to
From the Yale Daily News:
Unlike many law schools around the country, the law school has a tertiary grading system in the second and third years in which professors assign students one of three grades: honors, pass or low pass. The first year employs credit/fail grading. In a school-wide email sent last week, Yale Law School Dean Robert Post wrote to students that the school’s Grading Review Committee had approved two proposals to revise the grading system.
The first proposal changed the description of honors that will appear on students’ transcripts to reflect that the grade represents “superior mastery” as opposed to work “significantly superior to the average level of performance.” Secondly, the committee agreed to do away with “student-awarded credits” that law school students earned through participation in student activities and journals. Instead, a faculty member will be able to award credit for such activities upon evaluation.
You can read the rest here.
I don’t think the changes amount to much. Apparently almost everyone gets an H or P in a course. The distinction between the two definitions of “honors” seems too subtle to send a different message to employers. As for “student awarded credits,” my law school had to make a similar change in order to conform to ABA rules on what counted for academic credit. I can’t remember the details.
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Dean of George Washington U. Law School tells Chronicle of Higher Ed "never been a better time to consider getting a legal education"
This video interview between CHE's Beckie Supiano and GW Dean (and president of AALS) Blake Morant. It is part of a series of video interviews that CHE is conducting with leaders throughout higher ed. You can see the video interview here and read the transcript as well. Below is a brief excerpt.
BECKIE SUPIANO: I'm here with Blake Morant, the dean of the George Washington University Law School and the president of the Association of American Law Schools. Thanks for taking the time to speak with us this morning.
BLAKE MORANT: Thank you so much, Beckie. I'm very, very pleased to be here with you.
BECKIE SUPIANO: So it's not the easiest time to be running a law school these days. Demand from prospective students has really tapered off. The job market for new law graduates isn't the strongest it's ever been. How are you facing these challenges at George Washington?
BLAKE MORANT: I really believe there's never been a better time to really consider getting a legal education. And just as you said before, there are many different challenges that the law school faces. I would indeed say that these challenges are pretty much standard among many institutions in higher education—the demand for services, the expense that goes into investing in an education. Those individuals who are actually considering a career, trying to think about what's going to give them the best value for their money.
I have always said that a law degree is a degree that gives to you for a lifetime. There are many different individuals doing a variety of different things who've gone to law school. Some are traditional lawyers. Some of them are in business. Some of them are in government. All of them will tell you that the skills that they received from their legal education have really benefited them in their careers. And their career paths, which now is more of a journey than a destination.
So I'm excited about being a part of this—as I consider to be continuing evolution in American legal education.
. . . .
In 1936, Yale Professor wrote his well-known diatribe against law reviews (here). His argument:
There are two things wrong with almost all legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content. That, I think, about covers the ground. And though it is in the law reviews that the most highly regarded legal literature—and I by no means except those fancy rationalizations of legal action called judicial opinions—is regularly embalmed, it is in the law reviews that a pennyworth of content is most frequently concealed beneath a pound of so-called style.
In a recent issue of the Virginia Law Review, Judge and former law professor Harry Edwards builds on Rodell’s argument:
The most important point that Professor Rodell made is that, too often, law reviews and the articles they contain are irrelevant to law’s purpose of serving society. Intensely theoretical, philosophical, and empirical scholarship, which is very much in vogue in the legal academy these days, is rarely of interest or use to wide audiences. It is too abstract. Indeed, it does not even purport to address concrete issues relating to legal practice, procedure, doctrine, legislation, regulation, or enforcement. Yet, many young legal scholars report that they are under pressure to write articles of this sort, and law reviews readily accept their offerings for publication. There is certainly value in some philosophical, theoretical, and empirical scholarship, but it should not be preferred over other forms of scholarship. In order for law reviews to be relevant outside the legal academy, they should balance abstract articles with scholarly works that are of interest and use to lawyers, legislators, judges, and regulators who serve society through legal arguments, decision making, regulatory initiatives, and enforcement actions.