Monday, August 21, 2017
Our good friends over at the Law Librarian Blog have put together a definitive list of resources published by the Congressional Research Service for federal legislative materials. For LRW profs in particular, there are some excellent resources on the list that we can use in the classroom to help explain to students how a bill becomes law. Check it out here.
The Bradley Arant Boult Cummings firm blog offers a practical how-to guide for taking minutes at meetings. Here is an abridged version:
Step 1: Start with the Basics
No need to complicate things. Minutes are simply the official record of proceedings. So start with the details that matter most. In the first paragraph state the following:
- group name
- type of meeting – regular, special, etc.
- date and time (and place – if the place isn’t always the same)
- that the chair and secretary were present (including names or names of substitutes)
- that a quorum was present
- that the minutes from the previous meeting were approved “as read” or “as corrected” (only if they actually were, of course)
Step 2: Write What Was Done, Not What Was Said
Minutes are not a transcript of the meeting. Nor are they a catalog of the secretary’s opinions about or commentary on the business transacted. They’re just a record of the actions taken.
Step 3: Don’t Forget a Few Necessary Details
Other than “the business that was done,” your meeting minutes should include a few extra items.
- Oral reports of committees. .
- Notices of motions
- Points of order and appeals.
- Step 4: Wrap the Final Version Up Quickly
When the meeting ends, turn your draft minutes into final form, and distribute them to the necessary individuals as quickly as possible?
Bonus Tip: Turn Your Minutes into an Action Item List
As you turn draft minutes into final form for distribution, consider also making a list of all the motions that the group adopted. Put this list in bullet form, date it, and title it “Action Items from Board Meeting.”
You can read the full posting here.
Child Can Intervene in Parent’s Divorce Seeking $$ for College
From the Pennsylvania’s Legal Intelligencer (here):
A child can intervene in his parents' marital settlement agreement to enforce a provision that directly benefits him, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled.
A unanimous three-judge panel ruled Aug. 11 in Weber v. Weber that Michael Weber has standing to seek enforcement of a section of his divorced parents' agreement that would require his father to pay his share of the expenses Weber incurred during undergraduate and graduate school. The decision vacated a ruling of the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas.
Beth and Mark Weber divorced in 2000, and in 2007 she sought enforcement of a section of their settlement agreement requiring them to equally share the cost of their children's education, according to the court's opinion. Michael Weber filed a petition seeking to intervene and was permitted by the trial court to join the action as a plaintiff. After Beth Weber filed a motion for voluntary nonsuit, which was granted, there were no filings in the matter until 2016, when Michael Weber filed a petition for special relief.
Mark Weber denied responsibility for his son's post-secondary education expenses in an answer and new matter, and the trial court dismissed his son's petition, finding that he lacked standing.
I’ve had a few students in financial straits stemming from the parents’ divorce.
"This article uses principles of design theory and high-impact practices to explore how to move assessment from the outsider place it usually occupies in traditional legal education to an insider position. When assessment is reframed as a tool to engage, monitor, and evaluate important practices, it becomes an insider in both status and function, promoting both an assessment-centric learning environment and robust feedback."
Sunday, August 20, 2017
The Canadian legal practice blog Slaw.ca recently published a post arguing that because lawyers are now expected to be proficient in the use of many digital technologies to meet the standards of professional competence, law schools need to start training students in the technologies they'll encounter in practice. The author of the post, Monica Goyal (a technology expert herself who was named one of the "Top Ten Women to Watch in Tech" by the Journal of the American Bar Association), says it's a mistake to assume that so-called "digital natives" are proficient in the use of digital technologies. While it's true that today's students use some commonplace technologies, particular ones related to social media, quite a bit in their daily lives, fluency in these technologies does not equate with proficiency. By way of analogy, just because someone spends lots of time behind the wheel of a car commuting everyday does not make them an expert driver, or even moderately skilled one. Likewise, Ms. Goyal argues that there's actually no evidence to support the assertion that "digital natives" are better or more proficient with contemporary technologies than the older generation of people they work for. Consequently, schools need to start incorporating legal technology skills training into the curriculum given that it's now a core professional competency like good writing, research and oral communication skills. I couldn't agree more.
You can read Ms. Goyal's entire post here.
According to witnesses, an alien showed up in Kelly, Kentucky, on August 21, 1955. The local citizens continue to observe the event:
Sixty-two years later, those believers still gather. Little Green Men Days, an annual festival held on the sighting’s anniversary, includes a 38-foot flying saucer replica, the chance to dress like your favorite Martian and — this year only — a total solar eclipse. That’s right, Aug. 21, 2017, is the Great American Eclipse, the first total solar eclipse in history exclusive to the U.S. Stretching from Oregon to South Carolina, 80 percent of Americans live within 600 miles of its band. And the point of greatest eclipse? Seven miles from Kelly, Kentucky.
Believe it or not. You can read more here at OZY.
From Bloomberg Big Law Business:
Microsoft has quietly unveiled new parameters for its outside counsel, and, in an effort to step away from the billable hour, announced it hopes to shift 90 percent of its legal work into alternative fee arrangements within two years.
David Howard, a corporate vice president and deputy general counsel at the company, wrote online Friday that Microsoft wants to establish a “new type of relationship” with the law firms handling its most important work.
During the past year, Microsoft has been re-evaluating how it works with law firms, Howard wrote. It made several key decisions in the process, including to hire more law firms on a retainer basis and to work more closely with them on their diversity. He also said the company is rapidly moving away from the billable hour, and named a dozen law firms that have embraced alternative fee arrangements, such as fixed fees, that Microsoft views as its strategic partners.
“We’ve learned that simply comparing the billing rates of different firms doesn’t tell us very much,” Howard wrote. “Firms which work less efficiently usually cost us more, even if their billing rates are lower. Competing on the basis of a fixed fee or similar alternative fee permits a true apples-to-apples comparison.”
He added that Microsoft will have a “competition” among firms for its most important matters, and the law firms most closely aligned with its goals — though not necessarily the lowest bidders — will be retained.
You can read more here.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
Judge Richard Posner and Professor Jonathan Turley think an enlarged SCOTUS would be a good idea. From the ABA Journal blog:
The U.S. Supreme Court may be too small, according to Judge Richard Posner.
A 19-member court would increase diversity and might have more quality justices, Posner said at a recent talk at the University of Chicago. The Chicago Tribune summarized Posner’s comments.
Posner, a federal judge on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is the city’s “favorite smarty pants judge,” according to the Tribune.
Justices and other federal judges are appointed by politicians, with Senate confirmation, Posner pointed out. “Those politicians don’t care about quality beyond a minimum, a very low minimum,” he said.
Posner said politicians are more concerned with political leanings of potential judges, as well as the need to appoint “tokens,” such as women or Hispanics. “So you end up with mediocre courts that are highly politicized,” Posner said (at around 25 minutes, 30 seconds into this video, noted by How Appealing). “In the Supreme Court, we have extremely reactionary Supreme Court justices, appointed by Bush mainly.”
You can read more here. By the way, the Constitution does not place limits on the size of the Court’s panel. In our past, the number has been as small as six. The number is up to Congress.
Friday, August 18, 2017
What’s an intensifier? It’s a “linguistic element used to give emphasis or additional strength to another word or statement.”1 Intensifiers can be various parts of speech: adverbs (clearly), adjectives (blatant), participles (raving), and more.
Common intensifiers are “clearly, “blatantly,” and “very.” At the Michigan Bar Journal (August 2017) Wayne Schiess explains the downside of using intensifiers and offers many alternatives for making your point. This article is the best one I’ve seen on the subject.
You can access the article here.
This is not just great advice; it is essential. Students who take notes on their laptops tend to take notes like it is dictation. Students need to take notes in longhand because it forces them to think about what the professor is saying. Evaluation and reflection are essential parts of classroom education. I especially agree with the advice to summarize your notes later. Synthesizing knowledge helps students remember and understand it.
The one thing I would add is that students should not take down everything. This forces them to decide what is important.
I also highly recommend Jim's article, which he linked to in the original post.
Thursday, August 17, 2017
I recently came across a YouTube channel started by a former professor at the recently closed Charlotte School of Law that offers short videos on several topics related to achieving success in law school. Keep in mind that the videos are teasers for the professor's paid tutorial services but that doesn't mean the advice lacks merit. To the contrary, this video on taking effective class notes is based on a technique that was apparently developed at Cornell 50 years ago (according to the video) and is consistent with my own research (as reflected in this article) on effective note-taking techniques. Basically, it boils down to: 1. Take notes in longhand because it forces the writer to slow down and reflect on what's being said (as opposed to attempting to transcribe every word the teacher utters); 2. use shorthand notations to save time and use them consistently in a way that creates cohesion from one class to the next; 3. don't try to simultaneously take notes and organize or summarize them as you write; and 4. do summarize your notes later (which is what outlining is all about) since re-engaging with those ideas helps you learn them better. Granted, some of this is common sense but it's worth repeating nonetheless.
And if you find the note-taking video helpful, Professor Baez has a bunch of others on his Learn Law Better YouTube page that address everything from tips for improving concentration, to writing better final exam answers, to effective time management strategies. I'm not endorsing the videos or the paid tutorial services but since the YouTube videos are free, why not check them out to see if you find them helpful. Cheers and good luck to this year's new crop of 1Ls.
A study a couple of years ago from UVA concluded that American colleges are not teaching critical thinking skills. Law schools must teach these skills, or their students will graduate without having the skills necessary to be effective lawyers. Basic cognitive skills are even more important than practice skills because they provide the foundation for practice skills. This is why I wrote my legal reasoning and professional identity books. (here)
From the British Times Higher Education, here are the results of an interesting study indicating that the answer is no; other skllls not well taught in academia give a better correlation:
Two years ago, the accountancy firm EY made an announcement that no doubt sent a shiver down many lecturers’ spines. After failing to find any published evidence that graduates with good degree results made for better employees, a trawl through its own data, the company revealed, similarly found “no evidence to conclude that previous success in higher education correlated with future success in subsequent professional qualifications undertaken”.
Instead, what predicted success at EY, defined by recruits’ performance in annual appraisals and accountancy exams, is a “mix between behavioural and cognitive attributes”, explains Dominic Franiel, head of student recruitment at the company. These attributes include many things that higher education is supposed to instil. Among them are logical thinking, ability to understand the root cause of a problem, rapid comprehension of new concepts, self-motivation, a confidence-inspiring and professional manner and a strong work ethic, Franiel explains. (my emphasis)
This lengthy article is worth reading as are the comments following it (here).
The value of academic success has a lot to do with the quality and focus of the academic education that the student is receiving. Also, we need to distinguish between the ability to perform well professionally at standard tasks and the ability to think creatively and strategically when it comes to the dealing with challenges that are not routine. In the latter cases, a quality education should open the doors to creativity. In some cases, an individual may have these higher-level skills intuitively or through experience that does not come from higher education.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
For fans of E.B. White: The current owners of his 40-plus acre salt water farm are offering it for sale. Asking price: $3.7 million. This article has lots of photos where you will see where White worked. You also will see photos reminiscent of Charlotte’s Web. Here.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
I started my teaching career as a LRW prof at the University of Colorado School of Law in Boulder more than 20 years ago (after leaving the practice of law in Boston in part to get away from the depressingly bleak New England winters). One of my students at CU was Cory Gardner who is now a U.S. Senator from the Centennial State. Though I knew back at the time Cory was interested in politics, since moving to my present school in Florida in 2003 I had no idea he'd successfully run for office until this past year when, ironically, I'd temporarily returned to Colorado as a visiting professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. I was watching the local Colorado Springs news one night when Cory's face flashed across the screen causing me to say to myself: "Hey! I know that guy!" (As an aside, spending the year in Colorado also gave me the chance to reconnect with several former students I hadn't seen in a long time; it was an extremely gratifying experience that I highly recommend to all teachers).
I was especially proud of Cory this past weekend when the news channels ran the story about him being one of the first Republican officials to forcefully denounce the white supremacist hate groups that caused so much violence in Charlottesville resulting in the death of three people. Good on you, Cory. Though I sent him a note thanking him for taking that stance, I doubt such a busy politician will ever see it. But perhaps if his staffers do regular Google searches to collect news about him, they might see this post and if so, please tell Senator Gardner that his former LRW prof is very proud of him.
According to its alumni association. From WSOCTV:
The Charlotte School of Law is closing effective immediately, according to an email the alumni association sent out to former students.
An email obtained by Channel 9 from Lee Robertson, the president of the Charlotte School of Law Alumni Association, said he received a call Monday from Interim Dean Meggett about the school’s future.
During the call, Meggett said that the American Bar Association denied the law school’s Teach-Out Plan and that the North Carolina Board of Governors declined to grant an extension of the law school’s license to operate, according to Robertson.
For me, at least, getting myself started on a writing project is the hardest step. At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor and coach Natalie Houston advises following Anne Lamott’s advice and just write—don’t try to edit at the same time—just write. Trying to edit gets in the way and stalls you. Here are some suggested ways to get moving:
- if you usually write on the computer, write a draft in longhand (or vice versa);
- write a longhand draft in crayon or Sharpie marker, letting your handwriting be as big and playful as possible;
- if you write a draft on the computer, change the font to one that you don’t typically use (I change font between each draft so that the printout doesn’t look finished before the writing is);
- write each paragraph on a separate page, without worrying about how exactly it will connect with the ones before or after it;
- write as quickly as possible, inserting notes in brackets for anything you don’t yet know how to write;
- write a fake introduction, one that’s deliberately bad, just to build some momentum and get to the body of the paper.
You can read more here.
Monday, August 14, 2017
Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority group in law, but there seems to be glass ceiling, From the American Bar Foundation:
Asian Americans have been the fastest-growing minority group in the legal profession for the past three decades, but they have made only limited progress in reaching the top ranks of the profession, according to a new report released today by the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) and Yale Law School.
The report, titled A Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law, is the first-ever comprehensive study of Asian Americans in the legal profession. It draws from the research of the American Bar Foundation’s (ABF) After the JD project, a longitudinal study that examined the career paths of a national cohort of nearly 5,000 lawyers, including more than 200 Asian American lawyers. . . .
According to the study, there are over 50,000 Asian American lawyers today, compared to 10,000 in 1990. Asian Americans comprise almost 5 percent of lawyers in America and roughly 7 percent of law school enrollment. Asian Americans are the largest minority group in big law firms, but they have the highest attrition rates and the lowest ratio of partners to associates.
You can read more here.
The embattled Charlotte School of a Law missed deadlines yesterday that state regulators had imposed in order for the for-profit to stay open. The institution has asked for an extension, according to state officials.
In December the U.S. Department of Education suspended the law school’s access to federal aid, citing its failure to adhere with standards set by the feds and the American Bar Association, which is the school’s accreditor.
The ABA had placed the law school on probation, where it remains, over its failure to admit applicants who are likely to succeed and pass the bar exam.
Department officials also said at the time that the law school had made substantial misrepresentations to students about the program’s accreditation and bar-passage rates. North Carolina's attorney general, Josh Stein, also is investigating and reviewing its state license.
You can read more here at Inside Higher Ed.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
Bloomberg Law has published an interesting interview with Columbia Law School Dean Gillian Lester who discusses, among other topics, the evolving set of skills she believes law schools should be imparting to students in order to adequately prepare them to be the practitioners of tomorrow. Dean Lester talks about the importance of incorporating more interdisciplinary perspectives into the classroom and providing students with more exposure to the ways in which law and technology intersect in business and practice including teaching students how to manage digital data. Dean Lester also talks about the need to prepare students to handle legal issues that straddle global and cultural borders since it's unlikely that most will be limiting their practices to purely domestic, homegrown legal work. Finally, she discusses the desirability of training students in leadership skills that can be applied in their law practices and beyond.
You can read Bloomberg's full interview with Dean Lester here.