Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cornell business prof reacts angrily to loud yawn in class

Although it's being reported as a "freak-out," I don't think this business computing professor's reaction was per se over-the-top.  But check out the video and decide for yourself.

According to Inside Higher Ed:  "A spokeswoman for Cornell said that 'we're sorry to see a class disrupted and we're looking into what actually happened,' and that the university could say nothing more for now."

By the way, what is it about "business" classes these days that's provoking so much inappropriate behavior?  

You can read more about the "Cornell yawn" here courtesy of Inside Higher Ed.


November 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (3)

A list of law library websites with helpful (and free) research guides for students

This list was compiled by legal writing professor Ursula Weigold of U. Wisconsin.

For links to online legal research guides and databases, click here to access U.C. Berkeley's law library site.

For more links to online legal research guides, click here to access the Cornell Law Library site. 

For general and subject-specific research guides, (including tips on citation form, how to find law journal articles and how to conduct effective web searching) click here to access the Drake Law Library site.

For guides to research specialized legal topics like copyright and administrative law, click here for the Emory Law library site which features include research methodologies, practical tips and related links to source materials on a variety of topics in the legal field.

Finally, for legal research tools arranged by state and foreign country, click here to check out the cool world map created by the Washburn Law Library.


November 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Lawyers of the Future: How To Educate Them Today

A useful service blogs perform is pointing people to great articles that appear in limited audience publications and extending the range of those articles. 

Here's an example:

Ann Parks has written a thought-provoking article that makes an excellent introduction to some of the issues now being discussed in educating new lawyers for the future. The article is called "The Lawyers of the Future: How To Educate Them Today" and it appears in the Georgetown Law Alumni Magazine's Fall/Winter 2010 issue.

As Georgetown Dean William Treanor days in the article, “The time is right for dramatic change, and a lot of forces are really converging now."

Parks offers multiple views on the big issues, providing a good overview and way to get up-to-speed on the current discussion. There are lots of great insights and ideas in this article.

The core of the article comes in a section called: "Training Lawyers: Whose Job Is It, Anyway?" where I find the money quote: "The key question that students as well as faculty members and administrators are asking these days is this: if law firms are changing, what does it mean for legal education?"

The article ends with a good discussion of some the initiatives Georgetown is working on. 

Highly recommended,



November 17, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Late-Comer's First Post, with a Question for the Group

Hello everyone,

I'm Tom Mighell, one of the bloggers here at the Legal Skills Prof blog.  Sorry I'm so late to the party - it looks like a lot of great content has been posted!  I want my first post to start a discussion amongst my blogging colleagues as well as our readers, but before that I'd like to introduce myself.

As you can see from the sidebar to the left, I'm not a law professor - I'm a consultant with Contoural, a company that provides records management and electronic discovery services to companies.  But that's not why I'm here - I am also passionately interested in the area of law practice management.  I've been a member of the ABA's Law Practice Management Section since 2003, and I'm pleased to be serving as the Chair of the Section in 2011-2012.  For the past seven years I've worked to help lawyers of all types learn more about the business of the practice of law - I'll be talking more about that in an upcoming post.  More specifically, I'm a technology nut, and helping lawyers learn how technology can help them run more efficient and profitable practices is one of my great pleasures.

Now that you know something more about me, I'd like to open my first post here with a question to the group, and to any readers out there.  Here at the Legal Skills Prof Blog, what exactly do we mean by "legal skills?"  I would certainly expect that legal writing, research and advocacy are considered legal skills.   As I'll be arguing here frequently, I truly believe that the area of practice management is also a "legal skill" - knowing how to market your practice, use technology, the ins and outs of finance, and general management skills can make the difference between a successful practice and a flop.

Many of the posts published so far deal with certain types of legal skills, but some do not.  So I'm thinking that the answer to my question is not as simple as I once thought.  What say my co-authors to the question, "what do you consider fair game when we talk about legal skills?"  Even more important, what do you, the reader, want to see us talk about here on the blog?  I'll be posting my thoughts here in future posts, but I thought I'd see if I could kick off my first post with a discussion.  Let the conversation begin.....



November 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Vive la cuisine française!

Relying on an attenuated connection to legal skills (specifically, the occasional reliance on culinary examples like lasagna [login required] as analogies in teaching legal-writing skills), I call your attention to an item in The New York Times noting that the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, a UNESCO agency, “enshrined the ‘gastronomic meal of the French’ as part of the ‘intangible cultural heritage of humanity,’ alongside Azerbaijani carpet weaving, an annual Belgian ‘bread and fire feast,’ and Turkey’s Kirkpinar oil wrestling festival.”

Scott Sayre, "Unesco Hails French Food, Oil Wrestling and Flamenco," N.Y. Times, Nov. 17, 2010.


November 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Move It Along, Counsel"

With these words, a judge or a master politely lets the lawyer know that the case is dragging and the lawyer needs to move through the evidence more quickly.

In “New Matter” (Oct. 2010), the publication of the Chester County (PA) Bar Association,  James P. MacElree, President Judge of Pennsylvania’s 15th Judicial District states, “You can expect to have strict  time limits imposed and enforced by the Judge or Maser for any of the following:

Using 40 words when 10 will do.

Answering questions with spin instead of directly.

Calling repetitive or cumulative witnesses.

Asking the same questions  multiple times,

Certifying the case for one day when you know it  will be longer.

Filing certificates of trial readiness when you are not really ready.

Failing to mark your exhibits in advance of trial.

Failing to properly prepare your witnesses.

Failing to  supply the statute or case that supports your position.

Beating a dead horse until the rotted flesh is stripped from its bar bleached bones.”

 Here is an 8 page report from the University of North Carolina School of Government  on the authority of courts to impose time limits  on trials and  suggestions on how  to impose limits in state courts so as  to  avoid reversal on appeal. (It is generally agreed  that federal courts have  this authority.)


November 17, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tips for succeeding in law school and beyond: Develop practical skills

Here's a list of tips from the blog called "How to Succeed in Law School." Among them is this:

Develop practical skills

One way to move past bad grades is to acquire practical skills and practical experience. Law schools are trending towards more practical classes, but you need to make a concerted effort to develop practical skills to compliment your logical reasoning.

If your school offers trial skills or trial practice—take it. Immerse yourself in clinics. Taking a judicial externship instead of ancient european law will be much more helpful in the long run.

If you end up working as a law clerk, make the most of the experience. Show up everyday like it is a new job interview and take advantage of opportunities—rather than shying away from them.

You can read the other tips, including exam pointers, helping yourself stand-out, and making the most of the law school experience, by clicking here.

Hat tip to Above the Law.


November 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are Facebook "wall" posts discoverable in civil litigation?

Here's an interesting article from about the discoverability in civil litigation of social networking data such as Facebook "wall" posts.  According to the authors:

In Crispin v. Christian Audigier Inc., [No. CV 09-09509 MMM, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52832 (C.D. Cal. May 26, 2010)],  the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California examined whether messages and "wall posts" from social networking Web sites can be subpoenaed in a civil case. Plaintiff in that case brought an action for the misuse and non-consensual use of his artwork. Defendants served subpoenas on Facebook and MySpace, seeking all of plaintiff's communications related to a relevant license agreement.

In its ruling on plaintiff's motion to quash, the court held that the Stored Communications Act prevents providers of communication services from divulging private communications to certain parties and creates a Fourth Amendment-like privacy protection by statute. The court therefore extended protection to private messages on social networking sites since they "are not readily accessible to the general public." At the same time, the court implied that wall postings and comments on these sites are not protected where they are readily available to a wider audience.

In other words, turn-on those privacy settings on your Facebook account if you don't want your wall posts to fall into the hands of a litigant in a civil matter.   

You can read more about the legal issues raised by civil discovery proceedings and social networking data here.


November 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

More tips for incorporating an iPad into classroom teaching

This one comes to us from a guest blogger for the ProfHacker column at the Chronicle of Higher Ed, a Wheaton College English Professor who at first didn't see the how he could make classroom use of an iPad but then had a change of heart:

[W]ith an iPad I can quickly create a presentation, carry the device to class under my arm, plug it in and instantly have my presentation running

. . . .

Let’s say I have about an hour before class. I’ve got notes for the session, but I want to show the class a few images and quotations. I grab the iPad and create a new Keynote file, copying and pasting the relevant material from online sources or my Dropbox files. Then I turn back to my MacBook and revise my class notes to incorporate the material I’m going to present. When it’s time to go to class, I grab the iPad. I plug it into the projector and show my slides. When I’m done, I unplug it and open Dropbox, and voilà: my just-updated notes, in a very readable format. No more printing the notes, three-hole-punching them, and putting them in my notebook — and no more throwing away last year’s notes. Just write or revise, and go.

This is from a professor who says he doesn't like to structure a class around a PowerPoint presentation because he finds the format too restrictive but would instead like to be able, on occasion, to show a discrete slide or two.  The iPad, for this prof, fills that need very well.

You can read the rest of the column here.


November 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What's the break-even pay for newly minted law grads?

In other words, how much does a new grad have to earn to service her educational debt and still pay the rent?  From the online ABA Journal blog:

While those at the very top of the starting salary scale might earn $160,000, the median among all lawyers is $60,000. So, for those in the middle of the pack, 'if you have debts over $100,000, some reaching $150,000, it will be very difficult to pay that debt,' [ABA President Stephen Zack] says.

For your convenience, here's a handy student-loan repayment calculator

As one commenter to the ABA Journal story noted, if the median salary among all new grads is $60k, that means a lot are making less than that.  And while it's true that law grads can expect their salaries to increase - in some cases substantially - over time, please do the math before applying to law school so that you go into it with your eyes open and with realistic expectations.  It's a great education but please proceed with caution.


November 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

U. Miami Law School will pay stipend to unemployed grads for public service work

I'm not sure why this story is being repeated in the legal press, but in case you missed it the first time around, the University of Miami School of Law will pay unemployed grads a $2500/month stipend for public service work.  As we reported last month,

U. Miami School of Law joins SMU and Duke by "paying" employers to hire its grads.   As Above the Law reports, to qualify for the program, students must go to work for a public interest employer.  Unlike SMU's program under which the school writes a check to employers, Miami - like Duke - will instead pay students a monthly stipend (in this case $2500.00) for up to six months.

Here's the school's official announcement:

The University of Miami School of Law cordially invites you to participate in our newly-created Legal Corps Program for law school graduates. The Legal Corps Program gives you the opportunity to hire graduates from the Class of 2010 to provide legal assistance to your organization, for up to six months, while they receive stipends from the University of Miami School of Law in many instances.

An anonymous source at the school added:

It’s a $2,500 a month stipend. Graduates have to find a public interest position. You can’t just go work for any solo looking to exploit free labor instead of hiring someone.

This raises the question whether students in the program will counted as "employed at graduation" for purposes of the USNWR ranking formula.


November 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Oxford Press "word of the year" - Refudiate!

From Inside Higher Ed:

Oxford University Press on Monday named "refudiate" as the 2010 "word of the year." The Sarah Palin creation beat out such words as "gleek," "retweet," and "Tea Party." Language purists need not worry: winning this "honor" doesn't mean the word will be added to the New Oxford American Dictionary.


November 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Who Writes Papers that Students Plagiarize?

Meet the  “shadow  scholar,” a writer who makes a living writing papers on behalf of students, maybe our students. From the Chronicle of  Higher Education.

 Here’s the introduction:

The Shadow Scholar

The man who writes your students' papers tells his story

 Jonathan Barkat for The Chronicle Review

By Ed Dante

Editor's note: Ed Dante is a pseudonym for a writer who lives on the East Coast. Through a literary agent, he approached The Chronicle wanting to tell the story of how he makes a living writing papers for a custom-essay company and to describe the extent of student cheating he has observed. In the course of editing his article, The Chronicle reviewed correspondence Dante had with clients and some of the papers he had been paid to write. In the article published here, some details of the assignment he describes have been altered to protect the identity of the student.



November 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Federal courts moving to archival standard for PDF (PDF/A)

The federal courts will soon begin moving the Case Management and Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF) system to the PDF/A standard for electronic filing. The PACER website offers more information about the transition. The Acrobat for Legal Professionals blog also notes this development and provides advice about implementing PDF/A.

PDF/A is an ISO-approved subset (ISO 19005: PDF/A) of the standard PDF specification and is intended for long-term archiving of electronic documents.

Links to useful information about PDF/A:


November 16, 2010 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Supreme Court Construes a Statute

On Oct. 15, the Supreme Court resolved  the  meaning  of an ambiguous statute Here’s  the summary from BNA’s  Supreme Court Today:

Abbott v. United States, No. 09-479, and Gould v. United States, No. 09-7073. The court settled a debate among the lower courts over the meaning of the federal statute that requires the imposition of a consecutive sentence for a defendant who uses or possesses a firearm in connection with a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime "except to the extent that a greater minimum sentence is otherwise provided by this subsection or by any other provision of law," 18 U.S.C. §924(c)(1)(A). In a unanimous opinion, the court decided that the "except" clause bars only "stacked" sentences for violating Section 924(c) and does not preclude the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences for different counts of conviction.

Here's the opinion opinion: OpenDocument


November 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Times article offers several great suggestions for using "clickers" to better engage students

Although I've heard several teachers talk about using "Clickers" to conduct impromptu quizzes, this article from today's New York Times suggests many more ways to use them - from automatically taking attendance to providing gentle reminders to pay attention - that keep all students engaged in the material and thwart distractions.  

Every student in [Northwestern Professor] White’s class has been assigned a palm-size, wireless device that looks like a TV remote but has a far less entertaining purpose. With their clickers in hand, the students in Mr. White’s class automatically clock in as “present” as they walk into class.

They then use the numbered buttons on the devices to answer multiple-choice quizzes that count for nearly 20 percent of their grade, and that always begin precisely one minute into class. Later, with a click, they can signal to their teacher without raising a hand that they are confused by the day’s lesson.
But the greatest impact of such devices — which more than a half-million students are using this fall on several thousand college campuses — may be cultural: they have altered, perhaps irrevocably, the nap schedules of anyone who might have hoped to catch a few winks in the back row, and made it harder for them to respond to text messages, e-mail and other distractions.

Washburn's Professor Michael Hunter Schwartz was able to boil down for me the best reason for using Clickers in the law school classroom which is that the devices are able to transform the Socratic questioning of a single student (which is supposed to be a vicarious learning experience for the rest of the class but too often isn't) into a a truly engaging experience for everyone else.

You can read more from the New York Times about creative uses of "Clickers" in the undergraduate classroom here.  And  here's  a feature from the NYT's explaining how Clickers work.


November 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Royal Wedding and PreNups

Congratulations to Prince William and Miss Middleton on their engagement! In this country, the thoughts of lawyers may gently turn to the question of  prenuptial agreements. Will there be a formal agreement over property ownership? Over what happens in the unlikey case of a marital termination? Do the royals provide for these contingencies in writing? What  would the document(s) look like?

If you have any knowledge that you would like to share, please email me. If  I receive any information, I will post it at the end of the week. Thanks.


November 16, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Road Map Paragraphs: An Outdated Metaphor?

In teaching legal writing, most of us encourage students to write road map paragraphs, that is, a paragraph in the  introduction that informs the reader of the organization of the ensuing discussion--where you are going. This metaphor works for readers who use maps. However, a  few days ago, my 22 year old daughter refused  to take a road map with her on her trip out of state. She told me  that she doesn't really understand how to use maps. For her, GPS is the replacement. For others,  it's Mapquest. Perhaps we  need  an updated  metaphor for  the new generation of students.


November 16, 2010 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Provocative essay asks whether teachers should take pleasure in seeing "deserving" students fail

Wow, rarely have I seen a column in the Chronicle of Higher Ed provoke so many reader comments as this one entitled "The Pleasure of Seeing the Deserving Fail."  Here is an excerpt followed by a sampling of those reader comments.

As teachers, we rightfully celebrate our positive victories in the classroom: the poem well taught, the student for whom light dawns in the middle of the semester, or the freshman who starts out unable to string two words together but becomes a writer of supple grace by senior year.

. . . .

But equally pleasurable, although much less discussed, are a series of what might be called negative victories—moments when our worst fears or lowest expectations are fulfilled. Gore Vidal once said, "It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail." And in these straitened economic and intellectual times, it may be a little cheering to make space for the grimmer wins of teaching. Here are a few such moments.

The iritating student who drops out . . . .

The bad student who writes a bad paper . . . .

The student who richly deserves to fail and does fail . . . .

And here are excerpts of some reader comments:

1.  Why did the Chronicle publish this? It is mean-spirited and demeaning.

2.  This really depressed me. This sort of post reminds [us] exactly why students feel that teachers are unsympathetic and school is toxic.

3.  I want to take a shower after reading this piece. What's bad is that it's filled with pettiness and schadenfreude.

4.  I couldn't disagree more. [the author's] approach is simple-minded and hateful. If we cast a student's failure as a teaching victory, we do not belong in the classroom. In fact, we shouldn't be working with people in any capacity.

But some readers had a different response as typified by these comments:

Continue reading

November 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

ABA curriculum survey now available - helps track legal skills movement

This from the Best Practices for Legal Education blog:

[W]e are again surveying law schools about their curriculum. The survey has some new questions and some reframing of questions to get more detailed and specific information. This will tell us how schools are progressing on Best Practices. Please encourage your law school to participate in the survey as soon as possible!

This survey will track changes in legal education since the last edition was published in 2004, including detailed empirical information on such topics as: requirements for graduation, first-year curriculum, elective offerings, concentrations, and post- and non-J.D. degrees.

This second edition of the Survey also addresses academic support and bar preparation classes and alternative scheduling options, and provides detailed information on legal research and writing courses and professional skills offerings. This report will provide valuable information about legal education in America today, and comprehensive participation ensures both the validity of data and strength of information found within it.

The survey should be submitted it to the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar by December 15, 2010. Instructions are easy to follow, and the survey should take no more than 45 minutes.

You can access the survey here but you'll first need to obtain the User ID and password for your school which can be obtained here (look for the survey instructions link in the right margin).


November 15, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)