Friday, February 18, 2011
Albany is the second law school this week to announce plans to cut its budget. Unlike UNLV which is being forced to make huge cuts due to a state fiscal crisis, Albany is doing so in response to a decrease in applicants. From the National Law Journal:
Albany plans to reduce the size of its incoming class from 250 to 240 and cut 2% from its $32 million budget — a $600,000 reduction. The school has also nixed pay raises for employees and is raising tuition by 4%, though dean and president Thomas Guernsey said that increase isn't enough to offset the lost tuition revenue that will result from the smaller class.
Albany has received about 20% fewer applications this year. Reducing the class size is intended to help the school preserve the academic qualifications of the new class, and to ensure they have access to jobs when they graduate, said Guernsey.
'This is really a reflection of the job market,' Guernsey said. 'It seems like the right business judgment at this time, given the economy.'
You can read more here.
The Delaware Court of Chancery properly regards itself as “the nation's preeminent forum for the determination of disputes involving the internal affairs of the thousands upon thousands of Delaware corporations and other business entities through which a vast amount of the world's commercial affairs is conducted.” Thus, when that court presents guidelines for preserving electronically stored information (ESI) in litigation, courts and lawyers listen.
According to the Court, “Once litigation has commenced, if a litigation hold notice has not already been disseminated, counsel should instruct their clients to take reasonable steps to act in good faith and with a sense of urgency to avoid the loss, corruption or deletion of potentially relevant ESI.” The Court notes that the definition of “reasonable steps” will differ depending on the case. “In most cases, however, a party and its counsel (in-house and outside) should:
• Take a collaborative approach to the identification, location and preservation of potentially relevant ESI by specifically including in the discussion regarding the preservation processes an appropriate representative from the party's information technology function (if applicable);
• Develop written instructions for the preservation of ESI and distribute those instructions (as well as any updated, amended or modified instructions) in the form of a litigation hold notice to the custodians of potentially relevant ESI; and
• Document the steps taken to prevent the destruction of potentially relevant ESI.”
Here, from U.S. Law Week online, is (1) a summary written by attorney Kevin F. Brady of Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz LLP and (2) the court guidelines.
The study, called "Young Adults’ Credibility Assessment of Wikipedia" and published in February issue of Information, Communication & Society, found that college students don't know how Wikipedia entries are created or edited. None of 210 participants in the study checked the history or discussion page for the Wikipedia entries they examined.
In an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Ed, one of the study's author's said that she "found it surprising that members of the 'digital native' generation . . . remain unaware of the way in which the online encyclopedia functions."
Here's the study's abstract:
Wikipedia, a publicly edited online encyclopedia, is accessed by millions of users for answers to questions from trivial to high-stakes topics like health information. This new type of information resource may pose novel challenges for readers when they evaluate the quality of content, yet very little is known about how Wikipedia readers interpret the material they find on the site. Do people know that anyone can edit the site? And if so, what does this lead them to believe about the reliability of the material they find? This study analyzes the information-seeking behavior of a diverse group of 210 college students as a first step toward addressing these questions. We find that a few students demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the Wikipedia editing process, while most have some understanding of how the site functions and a few lack even the basic knowledge that anyone can edit the site. Although many study participants had been advised by their instructors not to cite Wikipedia articles in their schoolwork, students nonetheless use it in their everyday lives. This paper lays the groundwork for further research to determine the extent of Wikipedia knowledge in the broader population and in additional diverse contexts.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
A nonprofit called Imagination Station Detroit is trying to raise $50,000.00 by March 11 to erect a statue of Robocop in the City of Detroit. As the fund-raising campaign states: "Part Man. Part Machine. All Crowd Funded."
For more information, or to donate to the cause, click here.
Have you seen the popular website Groupon that offers "ridiculously huge" bargains for goods and services in your city? Here's how it works according to BNA's E-Commerce and Law Report (subscription required):
Groupon describes itself as 'an alternative to traditional advertising' that uses 'collective buying power.' According to its website, Groupon negotiates on a case-by-case basis with businesses that are interested in offering a deal. After an agreement is reached, Groupon writes the ad copy and sends out an 'email blast' to registered customers who have signed up to receive the daily deal. Customers who want the deal pay for it on the Groupon website with a credit card. If enough customers sign up for an offer, it goes through. Groupon e-mails vouchers to the customers, keeps a percentage of each sale as its marketing fee, and mails a check for the balance to the business.
So, can a lawyer offer discounted legal services this way? That's the question presently pending before a North Carolina state ethics board which has issued a preliminary opinion indicating "no" because such a practice represents illicit fee sharing.
More from the BNA E-Commerce Newsletter:
Alice Mine, the state bar's ethics counsel and assistant executive director, told BNA that at a Jan. 20 meeting the bar's ethics committee voted to send the inquiry to a subcommittee for further study. “So the proposed opinion (which was prepared by staff) will not be published for comment and will just be the ‘jumping off point' for the subcommittee's discussion,” she said. Whatever the subcommittee recommends will be considered by full committee at its next meeting on April 21, according to Mine.
From our sister publication the Law Librarian Blog:
Legal Research Methods in a Modern World: A Coursebook, 3d ed., by J. Paul Lomio, Henrik Spang-Hanssen and George D. Wilson (DJØF Publishing, Feb. 2011) has been published. This coursebook is the first legal research guide that addresses the internationalization and globalization of both the new curriculum for law schools (especially in the U.S.) and the changing practice of law. From the book's companion website:
Legal Research Methods in a Modern World: A Coursebook is a revised and expanded edition of "Legal Research Methods in the U.S. and Europe", 2nd edition. With the inclusion of chapters on China, Russia, England, and on researching foreign law generally, the title has been changed to reflect the broader scope. It is intended to be used as a coursebook for several alternative courses on legal research.
As for American legal research, it explains the impacts and effects of the major changes and developments that have occurred very recently, including the introduction of Bloomberg Law, WestlawNext and the revolutionary Law.gov movement.
Read Joe Hodnicki's commentary here.
When students face writing for a law review or for a seminar, they often find the task mystifying. Their 1L Legal Writing course did not fully prepare them for this endeavor. And in college, few received the training to produce a professional document of this caliber. To the rescue comes a new book by Jessica Clark (George Washington) and Kristen Murray (Temple), “Scholarly Writing: Ideas, Examples, and Execution” (Carolina Academic Press). The book joins two other books in assisting students with scholarly writing: Eugene Volokh, Academic Legal Writing; and Elizabeth Fajans & Mary Falk, Scholarly Writing for Law Students.
The Clark & Murray book guides the student step-by-step through the process. It offers three helpful aids: (1) The book illustrates its points by including numerous excerpts from samples of student scholarly writing. (2) It offers a series of sidebars called “Bright Ideas,” which give the student practical tips on how to go about implementing the concepts that the book presents. (3) It includes quizzes and checklists to keep the student on track.
Professor Ralph Brill of the Chicago Kent College of Law has submitted a very thoughtful Comment to the American Bar Association Standards Review Committee responding to the proposal of two deans favoring removal of any requirements for tenure or job security from ABA standards. Removing these requirements would make it possible for law schools to hire teachers on “at will” contracts only. He notes the consequences of the proposal for Legal Writing faculty:
As I argued above, the school that decides to abolish job security and make all faculty “at will” employees will have some difficult choices to make in carrying out its mission. As I argue above, the replacement for tenure/job security contracts in the hiring process will now be money, pure and simple. To get first-rate doctrinal faculty, a dean will have to pay a larger salary and other perks to make up for the fact that the faculty member is not assured that she/he will be retained, even if she/he does a fantastic job of teaching, writing and service. Deans interested in USNWR rankings will still be trying to get the most productive scholars available. Money will have to do it.
But if the money will be going for the doctrinal faculty hires, and for this year’s new free agent, what will happen to those who historically have been the orphans of the faculty – the legal writing faculty? The money will not be inexhaustible. So, it figures that a dean will conclude that these are the easiest faculty to replace, at low cost. One can revert to staffing legal writing as it was done 50 years ago, when I first started out. A dean can hire young people straight out of law school, provide them one of the many books now available that weren’t in existence when I started, and let them teach for a while.
I note that clinicians might face the same fate. Here is the link to Professor Brill’s full Comment.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
That's the money quote from this article in lawjobs.com:
[T]here seems to be a mentor mania these days--the belief that your career will be doomed without some sort of guru by your side. The notion is that you won't get the choice assignments or develop (or inherit) key clients unless there's someone to watch over you.
My view: Nice if it happens, but don't depend on it. Frankly, getting a good mentor is as elusive as finding true love.
'For the most part, formal mentoring programs don't work,' says Orrick partner Patricia Gillette. That's particularly true for women, she adds. 'Women don't necessarily get aligned with the strongest partners,' says Gillette. 'They are frequently assigned to female partners who have no business.' In most instances, she adds, firms mean well, believing that women will find more affinity with another woman.
But Gillette also says that women--more than men--buy into the mentor fallacy: 'I actually think women have focused way too much on mentors.' Not having a mentor, she explains, 'has become an excuse for a lot of women,' says Gillette. 'Women will say, 'I can't be successful because I have no role models, and men are not good role models." The problem, she says, is that associates get so fixated on the concept of the ideal mentor that they fail 'to forge their own careers,' and become their own advocates.
You can read more here.
UNLV system faces potential "financial collapse" due to budget cuts; law school may need to trim $2 million
As you may know, Nevada has been hit harder by the recession than almost any other state. Unemployment hovers around 14%. During the past 3 years, the UNLV system has had to cut approximately $50 million from its budget due to the state's fiscal problems. A new budget is now pending before the state legislature that, if approved, would require the university system to cut another $47 million. As the Las Vegas Sun reports:
UNLV President Neal Smatresk told a somber Faculty Senate on Tuesday that the administration was planning a kind of bankruptcy to deal with its budget crunch.
Under the "financial exigency" plan, tenured professors could be fired and whole departments and programs more easily closed down.
The legislature has until June to make a final decision on the budget so it's premature to talk about lay-offs and cuts says the Board of Regents. Nevertheless, the University Provost has asked the deans of each school, including the law school, to prepare a crisis plan indicating how they'll make the cuts if they become necessary. According to an internal memorandum from UNLV's Provost, the law school would have to cut more than $2.2 million if the pending budget is approved in its present form.
The Provost ends his memo on a very somber note by saying that "to think that we are even discussing these kinds of reductions and cuts brings me great sadness."
This article is co-authored by Professors Robert Kuehn of Washington U. School of law and U. Michigan Professor Bridgett McCormack. As you may know, Professor Kuehn is President of the Clinical Legal Education Association and has been a champion of job security rights for skills profs (here and here).
His new article is available at SRNN here. From the abstract:
Recently, there have been a number of well-publicized attacks on law school clinics over their legal representation of unpopular individuals and organizations, which brings them in opposition to powerful business and political interests. This article analyzes the effects of forty years of publicized interference in law school clinics on law clinic attorneys and clinical legal education, and the lessons that can be drawn from this extended history. The article includes a typology of outside interference in clinics, provides empirical support for the negative effects of this interference on the attitudes and actions of clinic attorneys, and argues that there are a number of important lessons from this historical and empirical analysis that can help avoid or minimize future efforts to interfere in the cases handled by law clinics. The article concludes that the legal profession and legal educators must do more to ensure that the important role law clinics play in access to legal assistance, especially to those who are unpopular or whose cause is controversial, is not hampered by the continuing specter of interference.
Today and tomorrow, students at U. Miami will be voting on a "bill of rights" that seeks to guarantee for them, according to the author, "fairness" in legal education. The "bill of rights" includes such things as the "right" to have exam questions apportioned fairly among the topics covered in class, the "right" to not purchase course materials that aren't covered on the final exam, and the "right" to not be marked unprepared when asked in class about material not covered in the day's reading.
It sounds like somebody is pissed at their professor.
Further, in this job market, I hope the author(s) can remain anonymous to prospective employers.
Below is the full "bill of rights." You can read the rest of the story, along with Elie Mystal's commentary, here at Above the Law.
Over on the Lawlygagging blog, we find “15 Crazy Lawsuits.” My favorite is the suit by the mayor of Batman, Turkey (pop. 70) who is suing Warner Brothers and Christopher Nolan, the director of “Dark Knight,” for using the town’s name without permission. You may easily pick another favorite.
(Thnx to Jim Maule)
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
This sounds like a great program. The Moritz College of Law has partnered with several big corporations to provide nine to twelve month in-house counsel fellowships for new law grads. Participants will have a mentor, participate in client meetings and work with outside counsel. The story in the National Jurist Magazine doesn't say whether the fellowships include a stipend - presumably they do - how much it is or who pays it. But the networking opportunity alone should be worth its weight in gold.
The fellowship program is also a recognition that the legal job market has changed insofar as in-house departments going forward will be doing more of the work that used to go to law firms.
'Historically, law firms have provided most of the legal profession's most post-graduate training opportunities,' Patricia R. Hatler, executive vice president, chief legal and governance officer at Nationwide [one of the corporate participants in the program] said. 'As corporations become an increasing share of the legal employment universe, it is important for in-house legal departments to participate in more formal, post-graduate educational opportunities.'
You can read the rest here.
This past spring, Nancy Schultz and I put out the fifth edition of “Legal Writing and Other Lawyering Skills.” Across the top of the very attractive cover are the words “Aspen Publishers.” In the coming months, we will put out the third edition of “Persuasive Writing for Lawyers.” The attractive cover page will bear the words “Wolters Kluwer,” but not “Aspen Publishers.”
For some time, Wolters Kluwer has owned Aspen, and now the rage for branding has caught up with the Aspen name. Branding is supposed to increase recognition of the company name. Here is how Wikipedia defines corporate branding:
Corporate branding is the practice of using a company's name as a product brand name. It is an attempt to use corporate brand equity to create product brand recognition. It is a type of family branding or umbrella brand. Disney, for example, includes the word "Disney" in the name of many of its products; other examples include IBM and Heinz. This strategy contrasts with individual product branding, where each product has a unique brand name and the corporate name is not promoted to the consumer.
Still, it is difficult to see how branding helps Wolkters Kluwer here. The legal market knows and respects the Aspen name. That market is not going to be interested in other products in the Wolters Kluwer family. I wonder what is to be gained by this move.
This is pretty amazing - a Smartphone app that scans the bar code of books and converts the information into several well recognized citation forms which are then emailed to you. While this particular app doesn't work for legal citations, that can't be far off. From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:
Quick Cite, which costs 99 cents and is available for both iPhones and Android-based phones, uses the camera on a smartphone to scan the bar code on the back of a book. It then e-mails you a bibliography-ready citation in one of four popular styles—APA, MLA, Chigaco, or IEEE.
. . . .
The application isn’t perfect.
E-mailed citations don’t indicate which style is being implemented, so users who switch between different citation styles will have to keep tabs on the differences when using the scanned citations. Another challenge is that bar codes only became standard on books in the 1970s, according to the U.S. ISBN Agency, which is run by R.R. Bowker, so books published earlier might not work with the program.
The developer says that updates are planned to address these issues.
You can read more here.
A new book called World Wide Mind by Michael Chorost discusses the intriguing possibility of wiring people with computers and the internet so that we can "know" the thoughts and feelings of others. The book also discusses the behavioral consequences of being "plugged-in" 24/7. For instance, having constant and instantaneous access to email would likely make crack seem as innocuous as occasionally nibbling on M&M's.
The author cites Harvard professor Dr. John Ratey, author of several popular books on the human brain, who says that email can become a physical addiction.
'Each e-mail you open gives you a little hit of dopamine,' Mr. Chorost writes, 'which you associate with satiety. But it’s just a little hit. The effect wears off quickly, leaving you wanting another hit.'
Dr. Ratey, he says, calls this 'acquired attention deficit disorder.' Think about how this addiction to the quick informational hit would be compounded many times over by those implanted BlackBerrys shooting off constant information. 'The effort would be so low, the rewards so intermittent, and the payoff so good, that a savage compulsion would result.
When they finally roll-out the brain implant internet chip, I think I'll take a pass.
You can read the rest of the review of Mr. Chorost's book here, courtesy of the New York Times.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Some topics are better not to joke about. From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:
A tenured professor at the Widener University School of Law has been placed on administrative leave and is fighting to keep his job after students complained about his frequent hypothetical references in class to the school’s dean being shot, according to the News Journal of Wilmington, Del. The newspaper reported today that the students had complained about the professor, Lawrence Connell, partly because they regarded his hypothetical discussions of the shooting of Dean Linda L. Ammons, a black woman, as violent, racist, and sexist. Administrators there have responded by accusing the professor of a pattern of inappropriate speech and behavior. Mr. Connell’s lawyer says his client refused an offer by administrators to let him back on the campus if he recanted the statements that had offended students and underwent psychiatric evaluation. The lawyer accused Ms. Ammons of going after Mr. Connell because of his conservative views. The newspaper says administrators at Widener declined to comment.
Here's a very interesting post from our sister publication, the Law Librarian Blog, showing the results of a Pew Research Center study called "Generations and Their Gadgets" that plots gadget ownership based on demographics.
- Cell phones are by far the most popular device among American adults, especially for adults under the age of 65. Some 85% of adults own cell phones overall. Taking pictures (done by 76% of cell owners) and text messaging (done by 72% of cell owners) are the two non-voice functions that are widely popular among all cell phone users.
- Desktop computers are most popular with adults ages 35-65, with 69% of Gen X, 65% of Younger Boomers and 64% of Older Boomers owning these devices.
- Millennials are the only generation that is more likely to own a laptop computer or netbook than a desktop: 70% own a laptop, compared with 57% who own a desktop.
- While almost half of all adults own an mp3 player like an iPod, this device is by far the most popular with Millennials, the youngest generation—74% of adults ages 18-34 own an mp3 player, compared with 56% of the next oldest generation, Gen X (ages 35-46).
- Game consoles are significantly more popular with adults ages 18-46, with 63% owning these devices.
Employment change. Employment of lawyers is expected to grow 13 percent during the 2008-18 decade, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth in the population and in the level of business activity is expected to create more legal transactions, civil disputes, and criminal cases. Job growth among lawyers also will result from increasing demand for legal services in such areas as healthcare, intellectual property, bankruptcy, corporate and security litigation, antitrust law, and environmental law. In addition, the wider availability and affordability of legal clinics should result in increased use of legal services by middle-income people. However, growth in demand for lawyers will be constrained as businesses increasingly use large accounting firms and paralegals to perform some of the same functions that lawyers do. For example, accounting firms may provide employee-benefit counseling, process documents, or handle various other services previously performed by a law firm. Also, mediation and dispute resolution are increasingly being used as alternatives to litigation.
Job growth for lawyers will continue to be concentrated in salaried jobs as businesses and all levels of government employ a growing number of staff attorneys. Most salaried positions are in urban areas where government agencies, law firms, and big corporations are concentrated. The number of self-employed lawyers is expected to grow slowly, reflecting the difficulty of establishing a profitable new practice in the face of competition from larger, established law firms. Moreover, the growing complexity of the law, which encourages specialization, along with the cost of maintaining up-to-date legal research materials, favors larger firms.
Job prospects. Competition for job openings should continue to be keen because of the large number of students graduating from law school each year. Graduates with superior academic records from highly regarded law schools will have the best job opportunities. Perhaps as a result of competition for attorney positions, lawyers are increasingly finding work in less traditional areas for which legal training is an asset, but not normally a requirement—for example, administrative, managerial, and business positions in banks, insurance firms, real estate companies, government agencies, and other organizations. Employment opportunities are expected to continue to arise in these organizations at a growing rate.
As in the past, some graduates may have to accept positions outside of their field of interest or for which they feel overqualified. Some recent law school graduates who have been unable to find permanent positions are turning to the growing number of temporary staffing firms that place attorneys in short-term jobs. This service allows companies to hire lawyers on an “as-needed” basis and permits beginning lawyers to develop practical skills.
Because of the keen competition for jobs, a law graduate’s geographic mobility and work experience are assuming greater importance. Willingness to relocate may be an advantage in getting a job, but to be licensed in another State, a lawyer may have to take an additional State bar examination. In addition, employers increasingly are seeking graduates who have advanced law degrees and experience in a specialty, such as tax, patent, or admiralty law.
Job opportunities often are adversely affected by cyclical swings in the economy. During recessions, demand declines for some discretionary legal services, such as planning estates, drafting wills, and handling real estate transactions. Also, corporations are less likely to litigate cases when declining sales and profits restrict their budgets. Some corporations and law firms will not hire new attorneys until business improves, and these establishments may even cut staff to contain costs. Several factors, however, mitigate the overall impact of recessions on lawyers; during recessions, for example, individuals and corporations face other legal problems, such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, and divorces—all requiring legal action.
For lawyers who wish to work independently, establishing a new practice will probably be easiest in small towns and expanding suburban areas. In such communities, competition from larger, established law firms is likely to be less than in big cities, and new lawyers may find it easier to establish a reputation among potential clients.
And here are the earnings figures (a bit dated since the stats were last updated in December, 2009 - but still interesting):
In May 2008, the median annual wages of all wage-and-salaried lawyers were $110,590. The middle half of the occupation earned between $74,980 and $163,320. Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest numbers of lawyers in May 2008 were:
Management of companies and enterprises $145,770 Federal Executive Branch 126,080 Legal services 116,550 Local government 82,590 State government 78,540
Salaries of experienced attorneys vary widely according to the type, size, and location of their employer. Lawyers who own their own practices usually earn less than those who are partners in law firms. Lawyers starting their own practice may need to work part time in other occupations to supplement their income until their practice is well established.
Median salaries of lawyers 9 months after graduation from law school in 2007 varied by type of work, as indicated in table 1.
Table 1. Median salaries, 9 months after graduation
Business 69,100 Government 50,000 Academic/judicial clerkships 48,000
SOURCE: National Association of Law Placement
Most salaried lawyers are provided health and life insurance, and contributions are made to retirement plans on their behalf. Lawyers who practice independently are covered only if they arrange and pay for such benefits themselves.
You can read the rest of the BLS report on lawyers here.
Hat tip to Joseph Harbaugh.