Monday, February 28, 2011

"The Future of Legal Ed" symposium: Laws schools must impart intellectual depth, make students practice-ready, and keep tuition reasonable

The big Future of Legal Ed conference sponsored by the Iowa Law Review wrapped up on Saturday (papers to be published).  Among the issues discussed, according to this summary from the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

  • More personalized, hands-on law school training costs gobs of money (see this post too).
  • Law faculties are generally conservative when it comes to curricular reform having little reason to change the way they've been doing things for decades. 
  • Training lawyers who plan to hang a shingle involves different curricular choices than training students to work for a large firm.  Law schools have done a decent job focusing on the latter; with respect to the former, not so much.
  • The ABA is presently studying ways to give law schools more curricular flexibility so schools can better respond to a profession that's changing at warp speed.
  • Yet schools must be careful to the extent they shift towards a more practical education that they don't short change traditional goals like cultivating a commitment to social justice

Meeting these challenges, according to Iowa Law Dean Gail B. Agrawal, will require educators to balance the following considerations:

"We need to prepare students to be client ready on Day 1 and have the intellectual foundations of a wise judge and the courage and commitment to take on the unpopular cause or client," she said. "And we have to do it in three years or less without increasing the cost of legal education."

That's all? Piece of cake.

You can read the rest of the CHE's coverage of the conference here.


February 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Indiana Tech considers adding a law school

That would bring the total to 5 for the state of Indiana and a total of 7 within a 3 hour drive of Fort Wayne where Indiana Tech is located.

From the

The Indiana Tech Board of Trustees announced Friday the creation of a committee to look at the feasibility of opening a law school in Fort Wayne.

The committee will submit a preliminary report and recommendation to the board May 13, according to a written statement from the university.

Daniel G. McNamara, president of the Allen County Bar Association and a partner at Eilbacher Fletcher LLP, said the question about the possibility of a law school in Fort Wayne should be whether it will be a good one.

. . . .

The creation of a law school, though, would fit nearly perfectly with the mission statement of the local bar association, he said.

“I could see the local bar association having a very good working relationship with a law school here in town,” he said.

You can read the rest here.

Hat tip to Above the Law.


February 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

2010 survey of Florida lawyers: 51% are less profitable due to recession; 19% are considering a career change

According to the results published today of the 2010 Florida Bar's Economics and Law Office Management Survey, most lawyers have experienced decreased profits since 2008, many have had to adjust their billing rates due to the economy and more than a third are considering either leaving the law or changing their practice area.  Among the findings:

  • 51% of those attorneys surveyed have experienced a decrease in profits the past two years.
  • 41% report that their firms have been unable to increase salaries due to the recession.
  • 34% have adjusted their billings rates.
  • More than 20% have laid-off non-lawyer staff.
  • More than 60% expect economic conditions will not improve in the next two years.
  • 19% are considering starting a new career, 14% are considering a new practice area and 9% are considering going solo.

Here is additional survey data for 2010:

Survey respondents indicated the median salary — not including additional bonuses and compensation — for lawyers with fewer than three years of experience was $60,000, down $5,000 from two years ago; $70,000 for those in practice three to five years, also down $5,000 from 2008; and $85,000 for those with six to eight years of experience, five grand less then two years ago. Associates with more than eight years experience had a median salary of $100,000, $10,000 less than in 2008. Partner salaries also were down by $5,000 coming in at a median of $120,000.

The survey found 79 percent of Florida lawyers are in private practice, while 15 percent are government lawyers or judges. The remainder work as corporate counsel, for legal aid offices, or for other employers.

Sixty-five percent of respondents reported working in a firm or other legal setting with five or fewer lawyers, while 12 percent say they work with over 25 attorneys. Overall, 77 percent work in firms consisting of 10 or fewer lawyers, with 31 percent indicating they are sole practitioners.

. . . .

The 2009 median net incomes — including additional bonuses and compensation — broken down by legal classification are as follows:

• Partners, $180,000.

• Corporate counsels, $100,000.

• Sole practitioners, $80,000.

• Associates, $75,000.

• State government attorneys, $60,000.

You can read more here.

Hat tip to Professor Debra Curtis.


February 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

An International Scam Aimed at Lawyers

According to a Pennsylvania grand jury indictment, over 80 law firms in the U.S. and Canada have been bilked out of more $32 million by this scam. If a potential international client asks you to cash a check from a third party and send the proceeds to the client, subtracting your fee, watch out! The check  probably is bogus, and after  you cash it,  the bank will expect you to make good on it. Here is an article from the Legal Intelligencer explaining how the scheme works.


February 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Amazing Race update

I blogged last week that one of my students, Cara Rosenthal, is currently competing in the popular reality TV show The Amazing Race.  In case you missed tonight's episode, she and Jaime are still solidly in the hunt.  Scenes for next week's episode, though, suggest they have a car accident in the land of the rising sun.  We'll have to wait until next Sunday, at 8:00 p.m. EST (on your CBS affiliate), to find out whether it affects their chance for the million dollar prize!

Random bit of The Amazing Race trivia: the portion of tonight's episode filmed in Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia, is the same place where The Road Warrior was filmed.


February 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tips for solo practitioners

More law grads than usual will decide to hang a shingle this year because they don't have a better option.  Here are some good tips for going solo you may want to pass along to your students or give them to your career services people so they can pass them along as appropriate.  First up is this post from the Lawyerist:

  • Invest in your website.
  • Find a support network.
  • Network, network, network.

You can read the rest here.

Next is this advice from a new column at Above the Law that focuses on small practice issues:

Do you want to run a business, or do you want to practice law?

'Both' is the wrong answer.… 

I’m not saying you can’t do both, because every lawyer who successfully launches a law firm is both running a business and practicing law. But the question isn’t 'Can you …?' It’s 'Do you want to …?' And what your motivation is for starting your own firm is critical to whether you’ll succeed.

FWIW the notoriously critical ATL commenters, for the most part,  found this column very helpful and informative. You can read the rest of it here.


February 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

To improve your public speaking skills, don't be an "actor," be a "sport" instead.

Here is some really good advice to pass along to students (or attorneys or even professors for that matter) who may be struggling to find their mojo when it comes to public speaking.  If workshops or advice with a thespian angle don't float your boat, try this approach instead courtesy of the Harvard Business Review:

[T]hink of practicing speaking skills as practicing a sport. 

With a sport, you're not pretending to be someone else. You are training your body and your mind to achieve feats of skill — building your muscle memory with drills and repetition.

Even leaders who prefer a couch to a tennis court tend to rise to the challenge of approaching things like Venus Williams or Roger Federer — step by step, practiced move by practiced move. So get it out of your head that you have to "perform," to be someone else, be fascinating, to hold their attention like a Johnny Depp or a Natalie Portman. To be a better public speaker, you just need to get out of your own way, so we can see you for who you really are. Glimpsing that authentic core can be riveting, and that's where the sport comes in.

To approach speaking as a sport, leaders need to be aware of their own potent skills. They need to know their bodies: their instruments, and how versatile, flexible and capable they are. They need to know how things work. Where does your voice come from? What can you accomplish with gesture and movement? And how do you organize the flow of information through your body so that it has maximum impact? What's the game plan of a particular meeting or presentation, and what tools can you use to make sure it plays out the way you want it to?

You can read more here.


February 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do law school "specialty programs" attract students? Do they help students get jobs?

Law school applications are down. The word is getting out to prospective students that the job market is awful and may not improve anytime soon, if at all.  Yet new law schools keep getting built.  Step outside the top tier and competition for students is going to intensify.  Perhaps some  schools will even have to close.  Law schools, like the grads they turn out, are going to have to get serious about marketing themselves to stay in business.

Offering "specialty programs" - such as intellectual property, international law or tax - is one strategy more schools might try. But do they work in terms of attracting students and then helping them get jobs once they graduate?

Back in 2003, Kevin Houchin of the Lawyerist blog, wrote a seminar paper while in law school called "Specialization in Law School Curricula: A National Study" in which he surveyed prospective law students, matriculated law students, law grads, employers and members of the NALP about those questions.  Among the findings:

  • Among prospective law students, the opportunity to specialize at the J.D. level is definitely a factor in the law school decision. While it was probably not the deciding factor for the majority of prospective law students, the opportunity to specialize can be a deciding factor when a prospect is choosing between “second-choice” schools.
  • Among law grads, about half reported that the opportunity to specialize in a particular subject during law school was unimportant to their decision about which law school to attend while 5% reported that specialization opportunities was critical to their decision.
  • With respect to employers, the hiring professionals who participated in the study indicated that completion of a specialized program does not necessarily give graduates a competitive advantage in the job market, with the possible exception of those hiring in tax and patent practices. In some cases, specialization might even hurt a candidate’s prospects of employment if the hiring attorney feels that the specialized program has hampered the student’s general legal education.
  • In stark contrast to the view of the employers surveyed, most prospective and current law students felt that participation in a specialized program makes them more attractive to potential employers.
  • The few law faculty members who participated in the survey expressed the fear that offering speciality legal study programs comes at the expense of providing students with training in the fundamentals which schools at present struggle to cover sufficiently.  One faculty member called "specialty programs" a "hoax" and "the worst marketing gimmick law schools have come up with (right after the US News rankings and just before the glossy brochure)."

You can read Mr. Houchin's full report, all 82 pages complete with lots of bar graphs illustrating survey results from the various constituents, here.


February 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Practice Management Presentations to Law Students

Deborah McMurray has a great post on her Law Firm 4.0 blog about her recent presentation to a group on students at SMU Law School. The post is called "Law Practice Management Class - SMU Law School. What's on their minds."

She focused on marketing on the Internet, but centered her talk around two questions and the students's answers to those questions.

She asked them:

  1. When you think of starting your careers in a year or two, what is the biggest opportunity you see that the Internet can bring you?
  2. What is your greatest fear when you think about the Internet and your career?

The post shares their answers and their concerns. Deborah notes that the students concerns about the impact of the Internet on the profession track the concerns of lawyers. It's fascinating reading.

Deborah also links in the post to her presentation slides.

There does seem to be a bit more of a trend in the last year or so of inviting people knowledgeable on law practice managment to speak to law students.

I (Dennis Kennedy) will be speaking to a group of students at the University of Missouri Law School in April about careers, social media, technology and whatever else students have on their minds. I'm looking forward to it. As Deborah indicates in her post, there definitely seems to be demand for these types of sessions.


February 27, 2011 in Practice Management, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3)

What Are They Reading on Campuses?

To answer that question, the Chronicle of Higher Education collects information from a number of campus bookstores. Here are the results for January. The data covers hardbacks and paperback trade books. I don’t know if including ebooks would change the results. On the list, I see little in the way of serious fiction or nonfiction. Of course, your definition of those terms may differ from mine.



The Girl Who Played With Fire
by Stieg Larsson




The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson




Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner




Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia
by Elizabeth Gilbert




Sh*t My Dad Says
by Justin Halpern




by Suzanne Collins




Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea
by Chelsea Handler




Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time
by Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin




The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents Earth (the Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race
by Jon Stewart




Assholes Finish First
by Max Tucker







February 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Where are the lawyers and how much do they make?

The ABA Journal has teamed up with legal job market expert and Indiana Law Professor William Henderson to provide readers with a detailed, geographic breakdown of where the lawyers are and how much they earn.  According to the Journal:

Using a variety of government statistics detailed later in these pages, Henderson and the ABA Journal have undertaken a study of the business of law that attempts to define some of the important long-term changes in the industry and to identify the influences that are propelling them.

In this, the first installment of a periodic series, we look at the geography of lawyer salaries, showing where the jobs are and what they pay. Using actual salary data reported to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on employed lawyers—whether they are associates or government attorneys or corporate counsel—we've mapped out average lawyer pay by county. We've also defined the top 35 legal markets, which soak up two-thirds of the jobs and 75 percent of the payroll. And we've identified 10 smaller markets whose average salary figures may surprise you—lesser law markets that are paying big-city bucks.

The article is accompanied by lots of graphs and charts including a map of the U.S. that shows the approximate average salary of lawyers in every market.  One slight discrepancy I notice off-the-top of my head is the list showing the top 35 marketplaces based on salary.  Included for each city on the list is the average salary per attorney (including private and public sectors), followed by the number of lawyers in that city as well as the number of law schools feeding that market.  Students using this information to make a decision about where to go to law school in order to avoid competition upon graduation might be mislead.  For example, Denver is listed as a top 30 market having only one law school cranking out new grads.  Yet U. of Colorado is a second school only 30 minutes away.  Cambridge-Boston is listed as the # 26 top market with only 4 law schools churning out new lawyers but there are at least 2 more schools in that location (not including, I think, the new U. Mass School of Law).  The West Palm Beach/Boca area is listed as the 30th top market having no law schools yet if you drive an hour south you'll run into at least 4.

With that caveat, enjoy the article here.


February 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Young Lawyers Division Calls for Truth in Law School Education

The ABA Young Lawyers Division has adopted a “Truth in Law School Education” resolution and is submitting it to the ABA House of Delegates. According to the National Law Journal, it seeks to provide potential  students with accurate information about the cost of law school and the jobs and salaries of lawyers:

 For instance, the resolution urges law schools to stipulate on their Web sites and acceptance notices what percentage of graduates are in full-time, part-time and temporary positions. It also calls for schools to provide median salary statistics for different types of employment rather than provide a single median covering both private law firms jobs and other jobs such as public interest — a statistic that can be misleading to prospective law students since law firm jobs typically pay more than public interest jobs. Additionally, the resolution calls on law schools to report the "actual" cost of legal education by disclosing the per-credit costs, and average cost of living expenses.

The ABA section that is revising accreditation standards is also looking into requiring accurate data on these matters.


February 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Facebook Fraud?

Connecticut's top lawyer wants Facebook to reveal how it detects and disables fake accounts after a state lawmaker complained that her identity was misused in a scam to solicit money from her friends.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said Monday that Rep. Kim Rose alleged that Facebook did not respond quickly to take down the site after repeated complaints that her name and photographs were being used without her permission.

This summary is from a longer article on

The Connecticut Attorney general is investigating.  The message is be very cautious with social networking sites.


February 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Symposium on the future of legal education happening today and tomorrow

Thanks to the TaxProf Blog for reminding us of this.  Click here for the current schedule of speakers and topics


February 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Friday fun: "The Day They Took the Laptops"

"We had always thought they were bluffing . . . ."

Here's a fantastic mock-movie trailer by some GWU law students.  Special kudos to the student who's able to imitate the voice of that movie-trailer narrator guy. 

This totally rules.  Enjoy!


February 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

One survey of university students finds that 80% text-message during class

But students were split on whether they should be allowed to do so.  From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

A survey of students at the University of New Hampshire found high rates of texting during class, and plenty of guilt about the behavior.

The survey, of 1,000 students at the university, found that a majority felt guilty about about sending text messages in class when they were not supposed to. Despite those feelings, 80 percent of the students said they normally send at least one text message in each of their classes. Business students conducted the survey for a marketing-research course.

Chuck Martin, an adjunct professor in the business school who teaches the course, says the students expected to find that most students would, like them, want to be allowed to text during class.

But views among surveyed students were actually mixed, with 40 percent of students in favor of allowing texts, 37 percent opposed, and the rest neutral.

You can read more here.


February 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

First they came for the educators, then they came for the prostitutes . . . .

Who's next?  Last week we told you that Nevada's governor wants to cut $47 million out of UNLV's budget leading to potentially devastating cuts at the law school.  On Tuesday, Senator Harry Reid said he wants to end legalized prostitution in Nevada.

From CNN:

Addressing state legislators Tuesday in Carson City, the Democrat said it was time for an "adult conversation" on a topic that often spurs as much awkward laughter as it does serious debate. He warned the state's Wild West tradition has become an impediment to economic growth, causing companies to think twice before relocating there.

. . . .

Reid's suggestion was met largely with silence.

You can read more here.


February 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Some law schools are holding the line on tuition increases

Several legal news outlets are reporting that some schools - Ave Maria, Maryland, U. Miami and U. of New Hampshire (nee Franklin Pierce Law Center) - are freezing tuition (here, here and here). Here are the specifics from the National Law Journal:

The University of Miami School of Law froze tuition this year and will again keep tuition the same at $37,418 for all current students next academic year.

"The decision to hold the line on tuition increases is a significant step toward improving the value proposition of law school in these challenging times," Broderick said. "Given the current economic climate and the debt loads that law school graduates are facing, a tuition freeze is one very tangible way to demonstrate commitment to our students."

Tuition at Broderick's school — which was formerly known as Franklin Pierce Law Center but is now affiliated with the University of New Hampshire — is $39,900 per year.

Even with the freeze, those tuition bills are still going to result in some mighty hefty non-dischargeable debts upon graduation. Prospective law students - please do the math beforehand and proceed with caution. 

In related news, we reported last week that Albany is reducing its incoming 1L class size purportedly in response to the the poor job market for law grads.  Over at the Faculty Lounge, Dan Filler makes the point that elite schools who make the decision to reduce class size in order to maintain selectivity can make up for the lost revenue through transfer students; other schools, not so much.


February 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law schools have gone astray and only by reconnecting with the needs of the practicing bar can they be saved

Based on this excerpt, that seems to be the premise of this forthcoming book by Walter Oslon, a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and author of the blog Overlawyered, called Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America. According to the excerpt, the author traces the history of American legal education from a business school-like model that prepared students to make a living in their chosen career to theory-driven institutes focused almost exclusively on the pursuit of scholarly prestige and academic ranking:

In a law school fully oriented toward an academic model, certain things are expected. Not only will full-time faculty members beneeded, but those faculty will need to engage in scholarship. So the rapid rise in the ranks of faculty was sure to lead to a boom in research, conferences, and the output of law reviews, of which no self-respecting law school could afford to be without a few. "Law reviews are unique among publications," explained Northwestern's dean Harold Havighurst half a century ago, "in that they do not exist because of any large demand on the part of a reading public. Whereas most periodicals are published primarily in order that they may be read, the law reviews are published primarily in order that they may be written.

. . . .

There is a limited supply of the sorts of creme-de-la-creme students who can engage in round-the-clock discussions of policy and political philosophy while also cribbing the standard law school curriculum in odd hours. And so quite evidently most law schools are destined to fall short if they try to be Yale. Yet powerful forces influence them to make a show of trying anyway. The upshot is that School #77 in the U.S. News standings feels obliged to do its best impersonation of a little Yale, complete with interdisciplinary centers, globetrotting star professors, and unreadable theoretical output. The accreditation pressure to adopt more academic models also played a role here, as did faculty's own wish to move up to more demanding and highly ranked institutions.

. . . .
The underlying problem is that legal education in America--- much more so than, say, medical education---arranges itself according to an exquisitely calibrated and widely agreed-on hierarchy of quality and status. The student with an indifferent record from a low Tier I school will come into opportunities unavailable to the student with a sterling record at a high Tier II, let alone a Tier III. The decisions made by all the involved parties help reinforce the stratification process. Applicants tend to sort themselves among schools with great efficiency by following the oft-given advice to enroll in the highest-ranked school at which they are accepted, whatever its geographic or financial pluses or minuses. In turn, the ranking of schools depends heavily on the test scores of the students who attend, so schools that have recently done well tend to continue to do well. School administrators themselves, whatever their declared devotion to egalitarian ideals, are supremely aware of the status distinctions, and generally act as if their prime goal in life were to maximize their rank in the standings, with not a few of them engaging in rather grubby dodges and cheats to inflate their U.S.News standings. . . . . A tiny slip in the rankings can spell heartbreak for administrators; a minor advance can help make a career.
. . . .

Equally significant, the unmooring of law schools from the actual world of law was being noticed outside the walls. "Law schools and law firms are moving in opposite directions," observed the federal judge Harry Edwards in a widely noted 1992 speech. He added that "many law schools---especially the so-called 'elite' ones---have abandoned their proper place, by emphasizing abstract theory at the expense of practical scholarship and pedagogy." Practicing lawyers were losing the benefits of the ethical as well as operational guidance that a more down-to-earth legal academia might have offered.

Matters have improved in the decade or two since then, and the credit should go not only to highly visible critics like Kronman, Sherry, and Edwards but also to an unsung body of critics, namely students themselves. All along, in their evaluations and course choices, they had exerted a clear preference for the grounded over the airborne, for black-letter law over ideology, for mastery of useful skills and topics over arid metaphysics. Say what you will about careerism, but it just might have saved the day.

You can read the rest here.

Hat tip to Stephanie West Allen.


February 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Retreat for Faculty and Students

Last weekend, I took part in a retreat with a group of law students, three other professors, and the chaplain of my law school. The goal of the retreat was to help students think about their futures as lawyers and what kind of lawyers they wanted to be. All of us took part in some very open conversations that led to insights for the faculty members as well as the students.

 Although the retreat was not religious in nature, we used as prompts three  short videos from Boston College professor Father Michael Himes. These very effective videos explored three central questions.

1. What gives me joy?

2. What am I good at?

3. Does anyone need you to do it?

 I can’t recommend the videos or the experience more highly. Here is the link to the first video.



February 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)