Wednesday, October 29, 2014
The ranking is out (for what it’s worth). Here are the top ten:
United States Cambridge, MA
United States Cambridge, MA
United States Berkeley, CA
United States Stanford, CA
United Kingdom Oxford
United Kingdom Cambridge
United States Pasadena, CA
United States Los Angeles, CA
United States Chicago, IL
United States New York, NY
You can find more here.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
On how to succeed from day one. A digital version of this Special Report from the NYLJ is available here. Below is an index and synopsis of the articles included.
Gillad Matiteyahu, an associate at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, describes how to make the most of your first year by setting goals, improving your networking skills, and using the latest technological tools that can increase your efficiency and lifehack your career.
Allegra J. Lawrence-Hardy, a partner at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, writes: Use visibility as an opportunity. Being authentic and cultivating self-awareness is a cornerstone of business development.
Jamie Diaferia, president of Infinite Spada, and Jesse Dungan, a client supervisor with the company, write: In this new and different post-recession legal landscape, the need for young attorneys to market themselves is essential.
William T. McCaffery, a partner at L'Abbate, Balkan, Colavita & Contini in Garden City, writes: Any attorney can elevate the level of his own practice by adhering to some basic principles like honesty, hard work, and determination.
Why do people confuse the two? “Its” is possessive, like “his” and “hers.”
The pen is his.
The book is hers.
The company went bankrupt. Its president has disappeared.
“It’s” is a contraction, meaning “It is”
It’s a problem.
It’s cold outside.
Here’s the best shorthand advice:
In formal writing, we do not use contractions. Therefore, you will not use “it’s” except when quoting dialogue. Otherwise, you will use “its.”
Monday, October 27, 2014
In the second part of her book, Marybeth Herald discusses the decision-making process and the brain’s flaws that affect that process, based on recent discoveries by cognitive scientists. She points out that "[h]uman beings . . . are not always rational decision-makers." Because part of a lawyer’s job is to persuade judges, juries, and others, law students need to learn about the brain’s built in biases, including their own. She writes, "The ability to understand the intricacies of human decision-making is an essential, but largely unexamined, skill required of the successful lawyer."
Because the brain generally works fast, it can miss important details and the nuances of an idea. In other words, the brain filters. This is very important to lawyers since cases are won or lost on the details. Herald advises,"To avoid missing the details, you have to be willing to take the time to read carefully, examine assumptions, and contrast any dissenting opinions."
Another problem with our brains is that humans rely too much on gut reactions. Herald notes, "Gut reactions may be based on stereotypes, cognitive biases (as described below), or incomplete information that can lead you too the wrong conclusion in law school and legal practice." She continues, "Although most students have gut reactions to cases involving the death penalty, abortion, and flag burning, when forced to articulate the reasoning behind the stance, simple inconsistencies or gapping holes in reasoning may be exposed because many relevant factors have not been considered." Herald thinks that "a more skeptical attitude can help you uncover hidden and perhaps incorrect assumptions across a variety of issues."
Herald then discusses cognitive biases that can lead one’s thinking astray, including 1) the framing bias, 2) the egocentric bias, 3) the confirmation bias, selective perception, and rationalization, and 4) the availability bias. Herald asserts that "[u]nderstanding our thought processes is critical to success in both law school and practice in order to avoid falling prey to erroneous assumptions that could lead you and your clients astray within the legal system."
How a problem is framed affects our perception of that problem. Herald defines frames as "mental models that provide a starting point for our brains to assess an abstract problem." She adds, "Framing is important for law students to understand because lawyers are in the business of shaping preferences of clients, opposing counsel, legislatures, juries, and judges." Understanding the framing bias helps one overcome its effects. Moreover, understanding framing helps a lawyer be persuasive in his or her own arguments. Herald writes, "Both sides may work with the same basic facts and law, but will use different angles of reference to shape preferences. When seeking to persuade, you know what answer you want, and now you need to work backward to the necessary question."
With the egocentric bias, an individual believes that he or she is "less likely to be biased than others are." Herald suggests that "[t]o avoid being blindsided by the bias, successful attorneys must be aware of not only their own bias, but everyone else’s egocentric bias." It is especially important to manage one’s clients’ biases.
A confirmation bias is "the tendency to seek out evidence that confirms our pre-existing beliefs." While the confirmation bias keeps us happy, an attorney must search for contrary evidence in order to make accurate decisions. As Herald points out, "[t]he inability to see the other side (or sides) of the story could be a big problem in both law school . . . and law practice. . ."
Finally, the availability bias occurs when individuals make decisions based on information that is the most psychologically available to recall. It "leads us to estimate the frequency or probability of an event based on how easy or difficult it is to imagine the event occurring." Herald warns, "With knowledge of the availability bias, we should be cautious of making decisions that draw on anecdotal experience versus reliable and valid studies lacking these stories." Of course, judges and jurors also frequently suffer from the availability bias. "Awareness of the availability bias allows a lawyer to more effectively tailor arguments on the behalf of clients."
Like the first part of the book, the second part on decision-making clearly presents difficult subject matter for law students. While a great deal has been published on this subject, Herald’s book is the first to comprehensibly address this material to law students and show how these insights of brain science apply to learning and practicing the law. Considering that lawyers must deal with decision-making every day, law students need to learn how the mind makes decisions and the flaws in that process.
Herald best summarizes why her book is important:
"[I]t is critical to get your brain on board for the project. If you do not have a grasp of your brain’s operating systems, you lose control of the journey. Be the pilot, not the passenger as you navigate law school."
Indeed it can according to a new study, partly funded by Mars bar, published in the Journal of Nature Neuroscience as reported by the New York Times. According to the study, which was headed by a Columbia University Medical Center neurologist, participants ranging in age from 50 to 69 who drank a mixture of antioxidants found in chocolate called cocoa flavanols performed on memory tests the equivalent of people who were 20 to 30 years younger. Participants also showed improvement in pattern recognition functions like remembering faces or where the car is parked. To get the same results yourself, however, you'd have to start mainlining 300 grams of dark chocolate per day, for 3 months straight. That's the equivalent of 7 dark chocolate bars per day or, alternatively, you could start chugging 100 grams of baking chocolate or unsweetened cocoa powder each day for 90 days straight. Hey, I like chocolate too but in this case I think I'll deal with the memory loss instead.
You can check out the full story via the New York Times here.
And check out Mars Center for Cocoa Science here - who knew?
According to empirical research, the answer is yes. Articles with either an abstract or a table of contents generate more citations. Articles with both generate even more. Here is the abstract of the article, Should Your Law Review Article Have an Abstract and Table of Contents?, by Lee Petherbridge & Christopher Anthony Cotropia:
To explore whether abstracts and tables of contents impact the scholarly influence of academic work in the field of legal studies we analyze the impact of these document elements on citation to articles published in top 100 law reviews. We observe that on average both abstracts and tables of contents associate with large increases in scholarly influence. Compared to articles that use neither document element, articles that include just an abstract are cited on average roughly 50% more, and articles that include just a table of contents roughly 30% more. Including both document elements corresponds to the largest increase in citation, over 70%. The Article discusses the title question, and in view of the magnitude and persistence of document element effects and evidence indicating that document elements offer an independent explanation of scholarly influence, answers it in the affirmative. It concludes by offering a hypothesis capable of explaining the effects of abstracts and tables of contents. Specifically, that both of these document elements work by reducing cognitive burdens researchers experience when performing research tasks, although sometimes in different ways.
Recently, I posted information about the latest scandal involving the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (here). Now, Justice Seamus McCaffery, the center of the controversy, has resigned. Here are excerpts from the report by the Philadelphia Daily News:
Seamus McCaffery, a former Philadelphia police officer elected in 2007 to the state's highest court, is retiring today, one week after four of his fellow justices voted to suspend him from the bench.
McCaffery, 64, has been in a long and rancorous feud with fellow Philadelphian, Chief Justice Ron Castille, who must step down on Dec. 31 because he has reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Castille was one of the four votes to suspend McCaffery last Monday after another justice, J. Michael Eakin all but accused McCaffery of extortion a week before.
McCaffery was snared in the porn scandal that has been blossoming at the state Attorney General's Office, leading to the resignations of four former top deputies to Gov. Corbett.
You can read more here.
This scandal is just the latest in a series that has arisen in the Pennsylvania judicial system. In my opinion, a major cause is a system that elects judges by popular vote. I also blame a state political structure that gives so much power to the court system without sufficient checks. I am not in a position to determine whether Pennsylvania’s political culture is more unfortunate than that of other states.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Traditional legal education does not provide law students with the best way of learning the law. In fact, one might say that traditional legal education hinders, rather than helps, law student learning. Traditional law school teaching is based on methods that are over one hundred years old, and it ignores the advances that have been made in cognitive psychology and learning theory over the last thirty years.
A few of us in legal education reform have proposed teaching methods for law schools that draw on cognitive psychology and educational scholarship from other fields. (e.g., here, here, and here) Now, Marybeth Herald has taken this one step further: she has written a book for law students explaining how the brain learns and makes decisions and how these insights affect how students should approach law school.
Your Brain and Law School: A Context and Practice Book
(Carolina Academic Press 2014).
Professor Herald explains why she wrote this book: "Mastering the art of thinking like a lawyer requires some knowledge about the fundamentals of learning and thinking. This book explains those fundamentals in the specific context of law school." She continues, "knowledge of the learning process is a powerful tool." "Not only is this information important for successfully navigating law school, but law practice requires lifelong learning. The sooner you understand the fundamental principles of how humans learn, the easier it will be to use these principles as you master any number of subjects in practice." More specifically, "If you know and understand the process of learning and thinking— known as metacognition— you can use the best methods to survive and thrive in law school, even when others perceive law school as a threat to sanity. Rather than following or ignoring advice for law students (brief cases, don’t waste your time, make an outline, buy a commercial outline), you need to understand how your brain learns a new skill set and then devise a plan to maximize its potential. Moreover, if you understand why you should do certain things, you will have an incentive to do them, even when difficult, while your confused colleagues muddle through the process hoping for insight miraculously to descend upon them." In other words, "If you understand why certain strategies are a waste of time, you will be able to work smarter."
Professor Herald covers two main topics in her book: 1) how your brain learns and 2) how the brain makes decisions. This post will cover the first topic. Tomorrow’s post will deal with the second one.
Professor Herald first discusses Daniel Kahneman’s distinction between the brain’s System 1 ("the brain’s quick intuitive mode") and System 2 ("the brain’s thoughtful mode.") She argues that one of the keys to succeeding in law school is to resist the easier pathways of System 1. For example, students should fight the temptation to use "canned briefs" because briefing cases improves learning and analytical skills. In fact, new learning actually changes the brain; "[y]our brain is refining the synaptic connections that allow you to perform this analytical work more easily." In other words, by doing the hard work of case briefing using System 2, case briefing become automated, allowing the student to move on to more difficult tasks.
She also discusses Carol Dweck’s notion of the "Growth Mindset"–that a person can "grow" their brain through hard work and deliberate practice. She notes that "attributing poor performance to a lack of ability begins a downward spiral [the Fixed Mindset]." Instead, education researchers believe that "talent is overrated, and deliberate practice is often the less visible trait of a star." She asserts, "Active participation in a process is crucial. It is not possible to retain it if we don’t use it." She adds, "Working on practice problems forces you to articulate your analysis."
Professor Herald uses the Growth Mindset to give students advice on how they should deal with pre-class, in-class, and post-class periods. Pre-class time is important because when writing briefs, "the brain has to process the information to write it and pay attention to it." Similarly, class time offers "numerous opportunities to re-encode the information in our brain." "It aims to bring out the nuances, problems, and difficulties with the reasoning." In other words, students "have to engage System 2 thinking and justify the different result[s]." Finally she advises students to review a class’s material within 24 hours because "after 24 hours, the brain begins to lose the ability to retrieve the meaning of the material." ("The curve of forgetting")
Professor Herald next presents the higher steps of reasoning of Bloom’s taxonomy–Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating. She emphasizes that learning is more than memorizing. She analogizes learning the law to learning to drive: "[t]he point here is that you went through a series of steps beyond remembering rules to become a skilled driver." She states that learners can make memorizing easier by actively engaging with the material. She also shows students how to organize material by using schemas, and she urges students to make their own outlines of classes. Finally, she discusses "chunking"–breaking material into small, related pieces, then logically linking the chunks for easy retrieval.
Professor Herald’s final topic for this section is testing and feedback. She asserts that "Testing yourself–long before the professor even mentions it–will help you ace the class assessment." She points out that "testing yourself on the application of these rules and your ability to analyze them in different situations offers the best opportunity to learn rules effectively."
Professor Herald advises students to seek out feedback. She notes that "[c]ontinually embracing mistakes is a valuable key to success. . ." Rather than fearing mistakes, students should understand that "[t]hroughout a successful learning process, mistakes will be made. The change in tactics is to make them earlier rather than later, on practice exams rather than midterms, on midterms rather than finals, in law school rather than in practice."
In the first part of her book, Professor Herald has accomplished exactly what she set out to do–help students understand how the brain works and educational theory based on this process to help students become better learners. She also helps students understand why difficult practices, such as case briefing and class outlining, are necessary for students to achieve their goals, which helps motivate them to do these things.
Professor Herald does the above in a clear and interesting manner. While the material she discusses is difficult, students will have no problem understanding it because of the way she presents it. Her presentation of cognitive psychology and learning theory is based on the latest research, and it gives an accurate picture of knowledge in those areas. Professor Herald could have given a few more details in places, but more details might have interfered with her book’s clarity.
I hope that first year law professors will recommend Your Brain and Law School to their students. I believe that students who read this book will have a significant advantage over those students who don’t. Law professors should read this book, too. It will teach them a few things about how they should be teaching their students.
Some of our readers may not be aware that the ABA Student Lawyer Division maintains one-stop website with information about the four annual law student practical legal skills competitions it sponsors including the Arbitration Competition, the Client Counseling Competition, the National Appellate Advocacy Competition, the Negotiation Competition. The website includes everything you need to know about each of these competitions with links to designated homepages for each one. You can find entry forms, deadlines, information about buying videos of the national championship rounds (which include the judges' evaluations) as well as links to the list of national champions, regional champions, team and individual rankings from the previous year. Check it all out here.
When assigning legal writing assignments, I have found it helpful to ask the students to include a commentary explaining why they wrote the assignment the way they did. For example, did they have trouble with their large scale organization? Did they have trouble with the content? How did they resolve any difficult challenges? Did they like the assignment?
Without a commentary, I may think that a student did a miserable job. With a commentary, I may realize that their work product was the result of considerable reflection. I also may learn that the student misunderstood my directions or something that I taught and that I need to do a better job.
Yes, U.S. News will extend its tentacles farther on October 28.. Here are excerpts from its announcement:
The 2015 Best Global Universities rankings will show which universities are the best globally, as well as those that are highly ranked in certain countries and regions and are leaders in key academic subject areas. These new rankings – which focus specifically on schools' academic research and reputation overall and not their separate undergraduate or graduate programs – will allow prospective students to accurately compare institutions around the world.
To produce the rankings, which are powered by Thomson Reuters InCitesTM research analytics solutions, U.S. News will use a methodology that focuses on factors that measure research performance. Specifically, the ranking indicators will include those that measure a university's global and regional reputation; academic research performance using bibliometric indicators such as citations and publications; and school-level data on faculty and Ph.D. graduates.
The overall Best Global Universities rankings will encompass the top 500 universities spread out across 49 countries. In addition, U.S. News will publish four regional rankings that will show the top universities in Europe, Asia, Australia/New Zealand and Latin America. There will also be country-specific rankings highlighting the top schools in 11 countries with a large number of ranked schools: Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom.
You can read more here. Can’t wait.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
At a recent symposium at my school, Professor Kevin Walsh, a former SCOTUS clerk, offered advice on getting the Court and its clerks to pay attention to your amicus brief.
Today, the Court receives an enormous number of amicus briefs, many simply repeat the arguments in the main briefs. They get minimal attention. As an advocate, your job is to get the Court's readers to realize immediately that your brief has something significant to offer. How? Draft the Table of Contents to get the Court's attention.
I always have told students to view every part of a brief as an effort at advocacy. I have emphasized the importance of the Summary of Argument. I now also will encourage them to pay particular attention to the Table of Contents.
Friday, October 24, 2014
This is a tough time for the legal profession. Law firm revenue is mostly stagnant. Law school enrollment is down to 1975 levels. Jobs for recent law graduates are scarce by historical standards. Just 55% of law school graduates of the Class of 2011 had a law-related job nine months after graduation. The legal profession lost 1,000 jobs between December 2012 and December 2013. For litigators, the number of trials is shrinking'" About 97% of all civil cases settle. In 2009, only 1.7% of all federal court civil cases were tried by a jury. One might even question whether entry into the legal profession is worth it after considering the typical law graduate's indebtedness from student loans and the extremely difficult job market. Notwithstanding this dire picture, clients will still sue and bc sued, competent litigators of all kinds will still be needed, and the judicial system will not grind to a halt. Thus, this Article is directed to the hearty bunch of new law school graduates who will practice as litigators and their respective law schools. Both should want to increase the value of a law degree so that the litigators and trial lawyers of tomorrow can not only survive, but flourish, even in this difficult environment.
The fates of new law graduates and their law schools are intertwined and symbiotic. Law graduates want their alma maters to be highly ranked, helpful in job placement, have taught them practical skills, and have prepared them for their new careers. Law schools want to enroll qualified students, achieve high job-placement rates for their graduates, attract financial and other support from alumni and other donors, and enhance their prestige. The dual goals of both student and school have a common solution, especially when focusing on the preparation of new Iitigators: making the new graduate an attractive recruit and as "practice-ready" as possible upon entry into his or her first job. This Article will focus on the skills needed by the new litigator and what law schools can (and some would say must) do to achieve the respective objectives set forth above. By way of example, I will draw upon my teaching techniques and classroom activities in three classes that I have been teaching for several years at two different law schools as well as my experience teaching continuing legal education to lawyers for over thirty years.
Powell’s Books has published a listing of all this year’s book awards, ranging from the Pulitzer to the local and specialized book awards. You can access the listing here.
And here is AbeBooks’ list of 50 “must read” classics. In the comments following the list, many readers argue that the list leaves out their favorites.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
The LSAC website is reporting that the number of LSAT test-takers for the October exam is down 8.1% from last year - 30,943 this year versus 33,673 in October, 2013. As you may recall, the number of June test-takers was also down 9.15% from the year before - 21,803 compared to 23,997 the previous year which was a 14 year low for the June exam.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has a post about a new rankings list released by Payscale that rates law schools based on the salaries of mid-career graduates. The full rankings list available on the Payscale website lumps together the mid-career salaries of professionals from a full range of graduate programs including law, business, and PhD's. The data was collected by Payscale based on survey results from over 1.4 million college graduates. The full rankings list includes a search feature that lets you check schools by name. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has conveniently culled law schools from the masterlist to rank the top 10 law schools based on mid-career salaries (check it out here). Harvard tops the list with Emory and Santa Clara following though Yale, Stanford, U. Chicago and NYU, among other T14 schools are strangely absent from the top 10. As to the masterlist on the Payscale website, it's surprising to see - at least to me - that mid-career grads from lesser ranked schools are doing way better than their counterparts from the some of the most elite PhD programs in the nation. Of course the rankings reflect past performance and it remains to be seen whether law grads outside the top ranked schools will continue to earn more than, for example, STEM PhD's going forward.
I am a proud graduate of the University of North Carolina. I graduated in December 1979 with an M.A. in Music History. I had fine teachers such as Thomas Warburton, James Haar, and Howard Smither. However, today I am very ashamed of my school: very ashamed.
From the New York Post (here):
"More than 3,100 students — nearly half of them athletes — enrolled in classes they didn’t have to show up for and received artificially inflated grades in what an investigator called a 'shadow curriculum' that lasted nearly two decades at the University of North Carolina. The report released Wednesday by former high-ranking US Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein found more far-reaching academic fraud than previous investigations by the school and the NCAA."
"The report outlined courses in the former African and Afro-American studies department that required only a research paper that was often scanned quickly and given an A or B regardless of the quality of work." "The report outlined how the fraud ran unchecked for so long, as well as how faculty and administration officials missed or looked past red flags such as unusually high numbers of independent study course enrollments." "'By the mid-2000s, these classes had become a primary — if not the primary — way that struggling athletes kept themselves from having eligibility problems,' the report said."
"By 1999, in an apparent effort to work around the number of independent studies that students could take, Crowder began offering lecture classes that didn’t meet and were instead paper classes."
From the Washington Post (here): "Rich in numbers, the report cites 188 different 'lecture classes' and 'hundreds of independent studies and ‘paper classes,’ involving more than 3,100 students. It states that 47.4 percent of enrollments in 'lecture' paper classes were student-athletes, who comprise about 4 percent of the student population. While the average grade in a 'paper class' was a 3.62 compared with 3.28 in regular AFAM classes, the average grade of student-athletes above the norm was 3.55-2.84, according to the report."
My question is what will happen to the more than 3,100 students who participated in the academic fraud. Will their diplomas be revoked? Will they have to answer before an honor board, which is normal for students who participated in academic fraud? Will they be expelled from the University? Or, will they keep their fraudulent grades and diplomas? These questions must be answered before UNC can claim that it has moved beyond this massive scandal.
Many law schools have adopted innovative programs to provide their students with better educations. Legal Education in Transition: Trends and Their Implications by Sheldon Krantz and Michael A. Millemann discusses some of these programs.