Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Texting is to email what email is to telegrams

Maybe the analogy isn't 100% true yet, but it's pretty doggone close according to this story from Tuesday's New York Times:

Signs you’re an old fogey: You still watch movies on a VCR, listen to vinyl records and shoot photos on film. 

And you enjoy using e-mail.

Young people, of course, much prefer online chats and text messages. These have been on the rise for years but are now threatening to eclipse e-mail, much as they have already superseded phone calls.

. . . .

The problem with e-mail, young people say, is that it involves a boringly long process of signing into an account, typing out a subject line and then sending a message that might not be received or answered for hours. And sign-offs like “sincerely” — seriously?

Lena Jenny, 17, a high school senior in Cupertino, Calif., said texting was so quick that 'I sometimes have an answer before I even shut my phone.' E-mail, she added, is 'so lame.'

Consequently, email providers like Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL are getting left in the dust as more people gravitate towards instant messaging-like communication modes.  Facebook is also revamping its email function to give it more of a contemporary, "texting" feel

As an aside, what's so bad about vinyl records?  Compared to the crappy, compressed sound of an Mp3 file, vinyl still rules.

You can read the rest of the NYT's article here.



December 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The first amendment doesn't include the right of teachers to select their own textbooks or curriculum

Thanks to the Adjunct Law Prof blog for alerting me to this Sixth Circuit opinion which rejected an Ohio high school teacher's reliance on the first amendment to protect her choice of textbook and instructional methods.  Per brother Rubinstein:

Shelly Evans-Marshall, a public high school teacher claimed that she had a First (and 14th) Amendment right “to select books and methods of instruction for use in the classroom without interference from public officials” and that the school district had retaliated against her when she attempted to exercise those rights.

The Tipp City Board of Education disagreed, contending that Evans-Marshall’s right to free speech protected by the First Amendment does not extend to her in-class curricular speech.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, agreed with the school district's position, holding held that the use the right to free speech protected by the First Amendment does not extend to the in-class curricular speech of teachers in primary and secondary schools made “pursuant to” their official duties, citing Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410.

The decision is Evans-Marshall v Tipp City Exempted Village School District, CA Sixth Circuit, 09-3775.  You can read more of Professor Rubinstein's analysis here.

By coincidence, today's Inside Higher Ed has an editorial by the president of AAUP that outlines what is, and what is not covered by "academic freedom" based on that organization's policy statements spanning the last 100 years.  Under those practices covered by academic freedom is this:

Academic freedom gives faculty members substantial latitude in deciding how to teach the courses for which they are responsible.

But public high school teachers in Ohio (where, by statute, it's the local school board, not teachers, that is empowered to make curricular decisions) now won't have any luck relying on the AAUP's policy statement. 


December 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New, free legal research search engine that covers the music industry

If you're looking for a free way to research legal opinions related to the music industry, this new site is your ticket - the discography.com.  Here's what it covers:

Our central Database includes 1,300 entries covering 2,400 court opinions (including over 30,000 pieces of data) spanning almost 200 years, fully summarized and searchable by numerous variables, featuring nearly every artist you'll think of (many you won't), covering copyrights and contracts, trusts, torts and more. There's also a Blog and up-to-date legal music News to boot. The Discography: Legal Encyclopedia of Popular Music has arrived.

You can search by artist name, plaintiff or defendant, year the case was decided, a brief description of the case and by the highest court that rendered a decision in the dispute.  Pretty nifty, eh?

Yet one more valuable resource for the lawyer, or law student, looking to cut legal research costs. 

Hat tip to the National Law Journal.


December 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Letters of Engagement

The lack of a letter of engagement, or a poorly drafted one, can lead to serious misunderstandings between lawyer and client. Law students deserve to know a good bit about this document. Their knowledge would be enhanced by a drafting exercise.

Since 2002, New York Court Rules have required attorneys to provide clients with letters of engagement. Here is the suggested sample letter, and here is an analysis of the New York rule. Here is a short article on the interplay of New York’s engagement letter rule and the state’s new, related ethics rule. An interesting class exercise would be to have the students determine how to comply with both rules.


December 21, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 20, 2010

A new telephone survey of law firms finds that hiring will increase but employers are more selective

Following up on a post we blogged last week, a recent telephone survey of large and small law firms found that 31% expect to hire staff within the next three months.  Many of the new positions will be in bankruptcy, foreclosure and litigation departments.  However, employers said they are being more selective in their hiring decisions, wishing to hire a person with existing skills who can hit the ground running.

Legal hiring is expected to remain strong through the first quarter of 2011, according to the latest Robert Half Legal Hiring Index. The index, which consists of 200 telephone interviews of employees at both small and large firms found that 31 percent of lawyers plan to hire full-time staff in the next three months.

'Improved business conditions have prompted many law firms and corporate legal departments to hire for critical positions to manage rising workloads and achieve greater efficiencies,' said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. 'Organizations that cut staff levels too deeply during the downturn are now rebuilding their legal teams and seeking candidates specializing in the most active practice areas.'

. . . .

'Employers are increasingly selective, hiring job applicants who possess expertise in specific practice areas,' Volkert said. 'Often, firms are under pressure to immediately fill a role, and it can be challenging to swiftly identify the strongest candidate.'

Read more courtesy of the National Jurist online magazine here.


December 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday fun on a Tuesday - the perfect t-shirt for your next trip to the airport

This is brilliant - a company called 4th Amendment Wear has designed t-shirts printed with pro-4th amendment slogans in metallic ink that show up during the new TSA body-scans.   Don't even try to get one before Christmas - they've already sold out the first run.  Check out the full range  here.  Hat tip to Above the Law.CARGO PERV BREAST











December 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The ten best legal TV shows of all time

Here's a fun list courtesy of the CriminalJusticeDegrees.com blog (who previously brought us a list of the top 10 legal documentaries of all time). 

  1. Law and Order.
  2. Boston Legal.
  3. The Practice.
  4. Matlock.
  5. JAG.
  6. Ally McBeal.
  7. L.A. Law.
  8. Murder One.
  9. Perry Mason.
  10. The Defenders.

What? No Hill Street Blues, pizza-man?  You can read commentary about each show on the list, plus see a clip, here.

Hat tip to Susan Kilroy.


December 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Profs v. West, Part II

Last week, I blogged about two law professors suing West for defamation. I am including that posting below. The jury has reached a  decision. They have awarded the profs $5 million. A big holiday  present!

Here's last week's blog:

In  federal district court in Philadelphia, the jury trial  has begun. Here is  the thrust of the  defamation action, as reported by the Legal Intelligencer:

Professors David Rudovsky of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Leonard Sosnov of Widener School of Law claim that West harmed their reputations when it falsely identified them as the authors of a poorly researched treatise update.

The pair say they had worked on updates to the treatise for years, but refused when West wanted to cut their pay. West's response, they claim, was to publish a "sham" update that still carried the professors' names but included almost no case updates.

 Here is the plaintiffs’ complaint, which tells the story in some detail. It illustrates the proposition that sometimes a complaint is an important advocacy document and is more persuasive if it offers more than a short plain statement of the claim.


December 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Teaching by Design for Adjuncts

I have been leafing through “Law by Design for Adjuncts,” (Carolina Academic  Press). It is an excellent resource--and not just for adjuncts. Written by three of the most forward looking legal educators, Sophie Sparrow, Gerald Hess, and Michael Hunter Schwartz, the book is a streamlined version  of  “Teaching  Law by Design: Engaging Students from the Syllabus to the  Final Exam.”

 Like most law professors, I first entered the classroom with no guidance or instruction on how to teach. I had to figure it out on my own, at the expense of my students. A book like this would have been of immeasurable help. Here is the official blurb:

Professors Sophie Sparrow, Gerry Hess, and Michael Hunter Schwartz, three leaders in the teaching and learning movement in legal education, have collaborated to offer a new book designed to synthesize the latest research on teaching and learning for adjunct law professors. The book begins with basic principles of teaching and learning theory, provides insights into how law students experience traditional law teaching, and then guides law teachers through the entire process of teaching a course. The topics addressed include: how to plan a course; how to design a syllabus and select a text; how to plan individual class sessions; how to engage and motivate students, even those tough-to-crack second- and third-year students; how to use a wide variety of teaching techniques; how to evaluate student learning, both for the purposes of assigning grades and of improving student learning; and how to be a lifelong learner as a teacher.


December 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to Get Good Student Evaluations


Monday’s Chronicle of  Higher Education reports  of two studies of student evaluations that seem to have some science behind them. Here is the big message:

The three most-powerful predictors of learning were students' levels of agreement with these statements: "The instructor was clear and understandable," "The supplementary materials (e.g., films, slides, videos, guest lectures, Web pages, etc.) were informative," and "The course over all as a learning experience was excellent."

The least predictive evaluation questions, by contrast, were "The syllabus clearly explained the structure of the course," "The exams reflected the material covered during the course," and "The instructor respected the students."

There was a “modest correlation” between high evaluations and student learning. Which students are less likely to fill out evaluations?

  • Students who earn D's and F's in a course are 23 percent less likely than others to fill out the course's evaluation forms.
  • Students' response rates are six percentage points higher for courses in their majors than for those outside their majors.
  • Response rates varied significantly by major. Students in so-called "realistic majors," which include biology and computer science, were much more likely to fill out evaluation forms than were students in "social majors," which include communications and psychology.
  • Students appeared to exhibit "survey fatigue." If they received 11 or more online surveys (including course evaluations) from the university in a semester, their response rates tended to decline.


December 20, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Is free wi-fi access coming to a federal building near you?

A recent bill has been introduced into Congress that would mandate free wi-fi access in all federal buildings.  According to Professor Rubinstein at our sister publication the Adjunct Law Prof blog:

It's called the Wi Fi Net Act. S.3995 was introduced by Senator Snowe and only has one sponsor. Therefore, it seems as if this Bill is not going to be enacted into law anytime soon.

I'm with brother Rubinstein on this one, it's a great idea. 


December 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New scholarship - the role of social networking in the lives of law students

This article, by Elon Professor Erik Fink, is entitled "Law school & the web of group affiliation: socializing, socialization, and social network site use among law students" and can be found at 27 J. Marshall J. Computer & Info. L. 325 (2010).  From the abstract: 

Online social network sites ("SNS") have emerged as a significant socio-technical phenomenon in the past several years. Scholars from various disciplines have examined these sites to develop a better understanding of their social significance and implications from a variety of perspectives. Within the burgeoning field of SNS studies, one strand of work focuses on the place of SNSs in students' educational experiences and the potential pedagogical applications of SNSs. However, the SNS phenomenon generally, and its educational/pedagogical significance in particular, have received scant attention from legal scholars. This article examines the place of SNSs within the contemporary law school experience, through a case-study of students at one law school. The article gauges differences in Facebook by students' age, gender, race/ethnicity, and other characteristics and analyzes students' Facebook communications as they pertain to the performance of law student identity and role.


December 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Google's new laptop computer does away with "caps" lock

I'm not sure I like this idea since it's going to make it a lot more cumbersome to type "all caps" without the lock.  However, Google in its great wisdom has decided to do away with the "cap" lock for its new CR-48 Chrome notebook

Thanks to the (new) legal writer for the tip.


December 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Digital natives" may not be as tech-savvy as many of their professors assume

This blog post from the Columbia University Center for New Media Teaching and Learning ("CNMTL") summarizes several studies which support the growing consensus that multi-tasking is a myth (there are finite limits, owing to million of years of evolution, on how much information the human brain can intake at one time).  Further, today's digital natives (the first generation to grow up completely immersed in computer technology) may not be as tech-savvy as their professors assume:

Popular press on the matter claim that 'digital natives' have a natural aptitude to use networked technologies, possess new and exciting skills such as the ability to multitask, and hold sophisticated knowledge and information literacy because of the contemporary web culture in which they live. These unique abilities are due to lifelong exposure to computers--the first generation to be born into the Web. The prominence of these technologies in the lives of young people forces some to believe these claims prima facie, but education researchers are increasingly finding contradictory evidence.

Surveys conducted by a number of university researchers show that 'digital natives' appear to have surprisingly superficial understanding of new communication technologies, especially the how and why that underlie them. Studies also find that students use these technologies primarily for very limited and mundane purposes, and have weak information-seeking and analytical skills. As Hargittai (2010) and colleagues concluded at the end of their study on how university students find and evaluate web content: 'While some have made overarching assumptions about young people's universal savvy with digital media due to their lifelong exposure to them (e.g., Prensky, 2001; Tapscott, 1998)...empirical evidence does not necessarily support this position.'

The blog post includes a podcast from a presentation at the New Media in Education conference held at Columbia in October as well as links to several research studies on the facts and myths about "digitial natives."  The blog author advises teachers that while the classroom use of technology is justified as long as it advances the educational ball (which it clearly does in certain applications), using it simply on the assumption that digital natives learn better in a technology-rich environment is a mistake. 

Check out the full blog post, with lots of links to relevant research, here


December 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Applied Storytelling: The Vampire as Archetype

In both folklore and today’s popular culture, the vampire’s prominence proves that it is an archetype.

In addition  to Dracula, Vampyr, the Twilight Saga, and a  multitude of  second rate  horror flicks, think about the Dementors in the Harry Potter books:

Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them... Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself...soulless and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.

For more on HP and archetypes, see Ruth  Anne Robbins’ creative article, “Harry Potter, Ruby Slippers and  Merlin: Telling the Client’s Story Using Characters and Paradigm of the Archetypal Hero’s Journey,” 29 Seattle Law Review 767 (2006).

 In the field of applied storytelling, the question would be: How could you use the vampire archetype to tell the story of your case? Here is one possible scenario. You are representing a young person who has engaged in criminal mischief. Perhaps you argue that he just got in with the wrong crowd. Despite his efforts to stay on the straight and narrow, his corrupt companions continued to suck the goodness out of him. But there is still hope for him.


December 19, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Outcome/Assessment for Paralegal Programs

Law schools continue to try to decipher the American Bar Association’s call for outcome/assessments of legal education programs. Just what does the ABA have in mind? Paralegal programs that have or seek ABA approval encounter the  same ambiguous requirement. Here is a provision from the ABA Guidelines for the Approval of Paralegal Education Programs:

E. The program must have an organized plan for evaluation, review, and

improvement of the program. There must be regular assessment of the extent

to which a program meets its stated goals and objectives.

F. Assessment and evaluation may be accomplished through assessment tools

that best measure the program’s goals and objectives. The adequacy of the

assessment will be evaluated by:

1. The quality of the assessment instruments and methodology;

2. The frequency with which assessment is conducted;

3. The degree of participation, such as the response rate on surveys, so as to

ensure the validity and reliability of assessment findings;

4. The extent to which input is sought from graduates, employers, students,

advisory committee, faculty, school administrators and a cross-section of

members of the legal community;

5. The written summary and analysis of the assessment findings;

6. The extent to which the results are shared with the advisory committee,

faculty, administrators, and others; and

7. The extent to which assessment findings are used to make changes in the


 Here is an excerpt from  a report form that ABA-approved paralegal programs must submit:

  1. Attach as Exhibit I:

      a. a copy of the program’s written assessment plan;

      b. a list of the assessment activities conducted during the past three years; and

      c. a summary and analysis of the results obtained by each assessment activity.



December 18, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ways that lawyers can use Twitter more effectively

I don't use or follow Twitter (each of us has to draw the line on what additional technology we have time for and/or adds value to our daily lives - see this blog post from Attorney At Work for practical advice on how to do just that).  Although many lawyers don't use Twitter either, others do see the benefits.  Here's an article from the National Law Journal that advises lawyers on ways they can use Twitter to enhance their practice.   Among the suggestions is that it can be an effective research tool (since the popular press often Tweet stories before they go live elsewhere), clients sometimes prefer to use Twitter as the fastest way to get in touch with their lawyers, and Twitter can be an effective business development tool by using it to market your expertise to existing and would-be clients.

Check out all the reasons Twitter might be a good fit for your practice here.


December 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Student "note" of interest: "War of the words: how courts can use dictionaries consistent with textualist principles"

This law review note was written by Duke 3L student Phillip A. Rubin (who is also working towards a degree in psychology and neuroscience) and is available at 60 Duke L.J. 167 (2010).  From the abstract:

Dictionaries have an aura of authority about them - words mean what the dictionary says they mean. It therefore seems only sensible that courts seeking the plain meaning of language would look to dictionaries to find it. Yet to employ dictionaries as objective sources of meaning is to use them in a manner inconsistent with their creation and purpose. Previous scholarship has identified the Supreme Court's increasing reliance on dictionaries in construing statutes and constitutional provisions, and several articles have discussed different inherent problems with this practice. This Note builds upon that scholarship by bringing together the problems identified in prior articles, by identifying additional problems, and by proposing a set of best practices for courts seeking to use dictionaries in a manner consistent with textualist principles. Unless a principled approach is adopted, judges invoking dictionaries in textualist analysis are open to criticism for, at best, using dictionaries incorrectly - and, at worst, using them to reach their preferred outcomes.


December 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New "skills" scholarship: "Making effective use of practitioners' briefs in the law school curriculum"

This article is authored by Widener Professor Anna P. Hemingway and can be found at 22 St. Thomas L. Rev. 417 (2010).  From the introduction:

Many law students attend school for three years and go on to graduate, pass the bar exam, and begin practicing law without ever reading court documents produced by practicing attorneys.  This happens because although law schools teach students how to write many of the documents that are produced for court, rarely do professors use these documents in the classroom to teach.  Instead, professors assign edited case opinions in text books for law students to read.

Case opinions are useful to teach students the law. They are, however, just end products, and consequently, show students only how a case concluded, not how it began or how it was argued or how it progressed through the legal system.  This lack of exposure to legal arguments can leave students with an incomplete understanding of the legal process.

Continue reading

December 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (1)

AALS Events I Will Not Be Attending

For those of you journeying to San Francisco for the AALS Annual Meeting, here’s the final program, listing where events and sessions will take place. It is 220 pages and available only electronically. Because I do  not cross  picket lines,  there are some events  that  I will not be  attending; they  take place at the Hilton. I recognize that some people of good will  take a  different position.

 Here is a list of events and sessions at the Hilton that I was planning to attend or seriously thinking about attending. I am including page numbers from the program that describe them.

 Exhibit Hall (1)

Transactional  Law & Skills (7)

Legal Writing Section Business Meeting (8)

Legal Writing Luncheon (30) (I have asked for a refund)

Real Estate program on  green buildings (36)

AALS Site Evaluation Workshop (45)

AALS Presidential Programs (60)

Committee on Research Program (84)

Section on Legislation (97)

Legal Writing Section (103)


December 17, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)