Saturday, May 16, 2009

when they tell you there's no money ....

In these challenging economic times, legal writing professors may be hearing more and more that there's just no money.  No money to travel to conferences, no money to hire a teaching assistant, no money to hire the additional faculty that you know your program needs.

If you work for a public law school in the United States, the entire law school budget (and university budget) is a public record.  Absolutely anyone is entitled to see it.  It may be online.  And there's likely a hard copy in your law school library.  And there's definitely a hard copy in your university's library.  The latter is a good place to ask to see it if you want to do your information gathering quietly.

It can take a little time to learn how to read a large educational institution's budget.  All the law school salaries may be on one page, for example, or they may be spread out alphabetically by name, throughout listings for an entire university's personnel.  Additional stipends for administrators (deans, directors, etc.) may be listed in another location.  Money from a foundation or alumni fund may be listed at still another location and may be allocated to specific employees, as additional stipends, for specific projects, etc.  So it's worth taking the time to get ahold of a hard copy and flip through it.

Remember, it's never a question of whether the resources exist; it's always a question of how the existing resources are going to be allocated.

(spl)

    

May 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Judge declares mistrial in case where testifying witness texts colleague

The online ABA Journal blog is reporting an incident in which a Miami trial judge declared a mistrial after discovering that a witness on the stand was texting a colleague during breaks in testimony.  The judge reacted by telling the witness:  "Let me be really frank about this. I never had this happen before. This is completely outrageous, absolutely outrageous."

Less than a month ago, a state trial judge sentenced a Utah woman to 30 days in jail for texting her husband during a hearing and thereby alerting him to the possibility that officials might be coming to seize his snowmobile.

Hat tip to the online ABA Journal blog.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

May 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Scholarly journals make the move to Facebook

The Boston Globe is reporting that the tony New England Journal of Medicine is following an increasingly common trend among scholarly journals by establishing a presence on Facebook - part of the whole Web 2.0 thing.  The NEJM, established in 1812, is constantly on the make for ways to connect with more readers.  It established a website more than 13 years ago and is now jumping into the social networking game by establishing this site "where readers can link to articles and a weekly podcast summary. 'If our users are going to be there, we should be there,' says Kent Anderson, the journal’s executive director of international business and product development."

The Chronicle of Higher Ed is also covering the story here.

Perhaps the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute should jump on this too.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)  

May 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

A popular press history of West Publishing - public information is big business

Citypages, which seems to be the Minneapolis equivalent of the Village Voice, published this very interesting article about West Publications - which it calls "the most powerful company in the history of legal publications."  Inside its 2.8 million square foot nerve-center set in a pastoral location, 7,500 employees - including many attorneys, scientists and MBA's - read every published (and many unpublished) judicial decision to determine whether it gets indexed under "Contracts 213.2" or "Remedies 71.10."

And while the legal job market is in worse shape right now than a Chrysler dealer seeking a bridge loan, the West financial Juggernaut rolls on.  Take a gander at these figures:

West makes its money by selling free, public information—specifically, court documents—to lawyers. On this simple model, the company raked in $3.5 billion in revenue last year, placing it on a par, sales-wise, with retail giant Abercrombie and Fitch. But its operating profit margin really impresses: At a whopping 32.1 percent, West outpaces that of tech giants like Google (19.4 percent), Amazon (3.4 percent), and eBay(20.8 percent). Westlaw excels at one simple task: saving lawyers time by making legal information more readily accessible. The company charges a firm of six to ten lawyers as much as $30,000 a year to access its state and federal databases. But since attorneys' time is worth a lot of money, the service pays for itself. After all, the more work they can do, the more money they can make.

Hat tip to librarian extraordinaire Deborah McGovern

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

 

May 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

newest issue of LWI Journal

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Proofreading - even the best (and sometimes the worst) mess up

Which means, either way, I'm in good company as this item from the Business Writing blog reminds us.  Indeed, everyone from an editor at the prestigious National Geographic Magazine (who misspelled "Alaska" as Alaksa) to a check forger (who was caught when he misspelled "cashier's check" as cahier's check) messes up from time to time.  The lesson?  Whether you're a man (or woman) of letters or a common, two-bit, scum-sucking thief, take the time to carefully proofread, eh?  Your credibility depends on it.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

May 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

First schools, now law firms head into cloud computing

We reported a few weeks ago that Amazon is offering free cloud computing services to educators.  Now this report from the Legal Blog Watch that says the drive to lower law firm overhead is causing law firms to turn skyward towards the clouds as well.

Read the article here.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

May 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Stanford experiments with video office hours on Facebook

From the Stanford University News Service:

At most universities, instructors set aside a few hours each week for students to drop by for conversation. Stanford Open Office Hours is a public version of that tradition, an experiment that will bring conversations with some of Stanford's most interesting people to Facebook.

Anyone is welcome to watch the videos online for free. To comment or ask questions, however, viewers must have a Facebook registration and be logged in.

Check out the Facebook page here.

Hat tip to the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

May 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Economic impact on university life - profs report life is getting more stressful

In this column entitled Next Budget Victim? Joy, the Chronicle of Higher Ed reports on the many ways - large and small - the current economic woes are ratcheting up the stress levels for professors, staff and students.  However, some see a silver lining amidst the budget cuts:  "colleagues are more open to new ideas in the current environment. [One professor] says she’s noticed, for instance, that faculty members in training to incorporate more distance learning into their courses have become receptive to ideas they once resisted."  Read more here.

Hat tip to Professor Kim Diana Connolly

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

May 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Defaults on student loans hit 11 year high but as of yet, no bankruptcy relief

So you understand what our students are facing in this big, sometimes cruel world of ours, if they can't find good paying jobs, their student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy - unless and until Congress changes the law.  The blog Above the Law sums it up as follows: 

Just to be clear, if you are a financial idiot and you rack up thousands of dollars in credit card debt on flat screens and rims, you can get that wiped out in bankruptcy. But if you take out loans to pay for your education, and you can't get a job because the economy has stopped, the debt will follow you to the grave.

Read more about the potential problems all graduating students face and the legal reforms they need - here.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

May 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rules of professional conduct for social networking sites

Here's something useful for students and faculty alike.  The Legal Blog Watch has taken a list of conduct rules given to Wall Street Journal staffers concerning appropriate behavior on Facebook, Twitter and similar "sites" (are you with me so far?) and adapted it for lawyers, while adding a few of their own "rules of the (social networking) road" for good measure.

Here you go:

  • Consult your editor before "connecting" to or "friending" any reporting contacts who may need to be treated as confidential sources. Openly "friending" sources is akin to publicly publishing your Rolodex.
  • Don't disparage the work of colleagues or competitors or aggressively promote your coverage.
  • Don't engage in any impolite dialogue with those who may challenge your work -- no matter how rude or provocative they may seem.

Continue reading

May 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

College students may be computer-literate but they are not research-literate

According to the librarians interviewed for this story in the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

Many faculty members, especially senior ones, believe they are less adept at using those tools than their students are. While that much may be true, the assumption that follows — that when it comes to technology, today's students need no faculty guidance — most certainly is not.

Continue reading

May 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sentence diagramming makes a come back - sort of

File under "Hey!  I remember that!"  The Chronicle of Higher Ed is reporting on a Trinity College (Hartford, Conn.) English Prof who teaches a course in sentence diagramming in a manner that has post-adolescent college students more psyched than the "Real Housewives of Orange County" at a free Botox clinic.

What's Professor Ferriss' secret?   She has a theory:

'They've begun to suspect that something is missing in their education. The teacher is writing 'dangling participle' in the margin, and they have not got a clue what it means.'

And whether her students are diagramming Henry James or an amendment to the Constitution, such rigorous exercises offer finite, ordered solutions that students find pleasing, she says. 'It's like a course in learning to play Scrabble. It is a game.'

'This is not a regular English class,' says Lorenzo Sewanan, a first-year student from New York City. 'It's logical, structured. It really showed order in the English language, and I loved it for that reason.'

You can read the rest of the story here.

I am the scholarship dude.

(jbl)

 


May 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

what to do when the power comes back on

I promised to blog when I got a cup of hot tea again.  Six days almost to the minute that the "inland hurricane" hit, we had power restored.  (It can't technically be called a hurricane, because that's a coastal storm and, perhaps, more important, because nobody in southern Illinois insures against hurricanes.)  I once again plan to spend the afternoon at home, with a diminishing stack of papers to finish grading and a cup of hot tea at the ready. 

For future reference for all you legal writing professors out there, it is very difficult to focus on critiquing student writing while also helping your neighborhood clean fallen trees out of the street, off of roofs, off of cars, and out of yards, followed by evenings of refrigerator triage, creative grilling, and cold showers.  Should you ever find yourself in this situation, cut yourself some slack if your papers-graded-per-day rate gets cut in half.

And hey everyone, while you're thinking about it, check your emergency supply of flashlight batteries, candles, and bottled water. 

(spl)

May 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

order and authority, one point four

Some rules you just shouldn't memorize.

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May 12, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 11, 2009

One prof's feeble attempt at movie-making

This is all John Mollenkamp's fault. He posted a link on Twitter to xtranormal.com, a free site that makes movies out of text you type. Well, there is a bit more to it than that, but not a lot.

I was in the middle of designing a workshop for law review apprentices when I read John's tweet. And I had reached a very dull topic: How to cite one volume of a multi-volume treatise.

So I made a movie, and being completely shameless, will post it here. And remember, blame John. But from this point, I can only get better, right?

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May 11, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Scholarship alert: "Ex Parte Blogging: The Legal Ethics of Supreme Court Advocacy in The Internet Era"

This is a very interesting student note in the Stanford Law Review that explores the ethical implications, in light of Kennedy v. Louisiana, of attorneys trying to influence the outcome of a case by blogging about it.  As you may recall, the Kennedy decision raised the question of the constitutionality of the death penalty for child rape.  A blogger noted that the Supreme Court mistakenly concluded:

Continue reading

May 10, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

what to take when the tornado sirens blare

Last Friday afternoon, for the first time in months, I had no classes to teach, no meetings to attend, no other scheduled activities to participate in.  So I was at home grading papers.  The weather was rainy and windy, good for drinking tea and getting papers graded.

We lost power about 12:45 p.m.  I called in the power interruption and got back to work.  About 1:00 p.m. the tornado sirens blared.  When the tornado sirens go off, there is no question of what to do: it's time to go to the basement.  I grabbed my purse and my laptop bag and headed downstairs.  But then I remembered that stack of my students' papers, ran back up and grabbed those, and ran back down.  That's what a writing professor saves first in time of tornado:  self, purse, laptop, and students' papers. 

Turns out we had an "inland hurricane."  Sustained 86 mile per hour winds, with gusts up to 106 miles per hour.  Very scarey.  Large trees crashed onto cars, houses, and other buildings, doing lots of damage.  The power won't be back until Wednesday.

I'm still grading papers, by sunlight and candle light, to the constant sound of chain saws.  The landlines work.  So this post comes to you via telephone modem and laptop battery.  I'll let you know when I get a cup of hot tea again.

(spl)

May 10, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)