Monday, March 28, 2011

Dos & Don’ts for Court

The Minnesota State Bar Association’s publication, “Bench and Bar”, has a regular column “Tips & Traps” where experienced lawyers can post their advice to newcomers.  A post in the March, 2011 issue is just too good to not pass on through this blog.

Author Susan Dickel Minsberg (Law Offices of Susan Minsberg – St. Paul, MN) put together these tips based on behavior she had observed in the courtroom:

"Do not walk into a courtroom with a swagger – this is not the ... Grammys.
  Do not use inflammatory language during an argument – it will only be used against you in rebuttal.
  Do turn OFF your cell phone or smart phone.
  Do comb or brush your hair – you don’t want to look like you just got out of bed.
  Do take your sunglasses off of your head.
  Do not act like you are in charge of the courtroom – the judge is.
  Do not interrupt the judge.
  Do not interrupt opposing counsel.
  Do not lose your temper.
  Do not whine.
  Do not rely on your claim that something is true because you said so.
  Do be on time and prepared.”

It seems like some folks just need to be reminded of what many of us take for granted as obvious decorum and professionalism.  Don't be afraid of giving your students advice that you might think is obvious!


March 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A video on how to make better PowerPoint slides for the classroom or for practice

PowerPoint can be a great classroom teaching tool.  But it can also undermine student learning to the extent professors jettison complexity in order to make the lecture fit the format of a PowerPoint slide. In one article I read about the dangers of teacher over-reliance on PowerPoint, the author said we risk turning our students into the "pancake people" when sophisticated ideas are "flattened" and squeezed of any nuance in order to shoehorn them into the bullet-point format of a slide.  To mitigate the effects of PowerPoint compression, you may want to check out this video from Microsoft's "Casual Office" blog that explains how to make PowerPoint more useful in the classroom, for clients, the boss or whomever.

You can learn more here.

Hat tip to the Chronicle of Higher Ed.


March 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Large survey shows most high school students cheat

And a related study found that cheaters overestimate their ability to do well without having to resort to cheating. From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

A new series of studies has found that a majority of students cheat, and that those who do often have inflated expectations of how well they can perform without cheating. In a survey of 40,000 students at public and private high schools, 59.4 percent admitted to cheating on a test, and one in three said they had cheated on a test twice or more in the past year. Another study, by Harvard Business School and Duke University, found that students who were given the opportunity to cheat on a test predicted they would perform just as well on a second test when they weren’t given the opportunity to cheat.
. . . .
The results of the study suggest that some cheaters set themselves up to fall behind academically after becoming overly confident about their abilities . . . .

You can read the rest here.


March 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How much money do e-textbooks save students?

Not as much as you might think according to a recent column in the Chronicle of Higher Ed called "iPads: Boon or Bane to College Teaching?"  The article questions whether requiring students to buy a $500.00 iPad, which can then be loaded with e-textbooks, is a cheaper alternative to buying p-textbooks. At present, though, e-textbooks are only about 20% cheaper than their hardcopy counterparts. Unlike p-textbooks, however, students can't recoup a portion of their initial cost by selling their e-textbooks back to the bookstore at the end of the semester because the licensing agreements prevent it. 


March 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is Academic Scholarship Doomed in Texas?

The UT System Board of Regents, led by Chairman Gene Powell, has hired consultants who have publicly stated the fundamental view that academic research is not valuable and that tenured faculty could be replaced by lower-cost lecturers. These consultants propose a formula that excludes research in valuing faculty. They only want to look at any immediate financial value of research that can be proven on a current basis.

 This report comes from the President of the alumni association of the University of Texas, and it is appalling in what it says about how the overseers of higher education in a major state understand the purposes of academia. Although many would agree that higher education faculty should devote more time to teaching and less to scholarship, the apparent thinking of the Board of Regents goes too far. Here is the letter from the head of the alumni association. The slogan of  the University of Texas is “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You.” As applied to the Regents, they certainly are.

(ljs--a UT Law Alum)

March 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Post-Facebook and Twitter, what's the next "big thing" in social media?

From the Harvard Business Review:

The rapid emergence of Facebook and then Twitter as major marketing channels drives the fear that there will always be a Next Big Thing, that as soon as you master one social media channel, the next one will pop up and require you to learn a whole new set of tools, and acquire a whole new set of relationships. People often ask me: How do I keep up?

My answer: There will always be a next thing, but there may not be a Next Big Thing. For the same reason I used to tell my clients that the online community window was closing (it's now largely closed), the social network window is closing too. People are invested in Facebook, people are invested in Twitter. You may choose to include emergent tools (like FourSquare or Groupon) in your marketing plans, but there probably won't be another must-use social network like Facebook or Twitter. Those users have made their choices; their social media hours are largely spoken for.

You can read the rest here.


March 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

What Do Top Executives in NonProfits Make?

Here is the September 2010 report from GuideStar. The data was collected from information reported on Form 990 and Form 990-EZ--forms that nonprofits must file with the IRS. The executives make less  than I would have thought.


March 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Preventing Embezzlement: Steps to Take

In law firms, corporations, and nonprofits, embezzlement seems to take place with surprising frequency. On the Legal Intelligencer blog (March 23), Joseph Barbagello suggests steps to take to reduce the possibility of internal fraud:

- Employing solid anti-fraud measures, including separations of various accounting duties, and physical safeguards;
- Requiring dual signatures on all large checks;
- Conducting reconciliations of escrow accounts to subsidiary ledgers;
- Educating management and employees by implementing an anti-fraud training program;
- Implementing an anonymous and confidential fraud reporting mechanism;
- Conducting random fraud audits in addition to regularly scheduled fraud audits;
- Implementing a process for oversight of fraud risks via a governance or audit committee; and
- Implementing HR background checks (when permitted by law) that include past employment verification, criminal and civil background checks, credit checks, drug screening, education verification and reference checks.

I would add: Keep an eye on people who don't take vacations. They may be afraid that in their absence, someone will look at their records and discover misdeeds.


March 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Do Business Clients Look for on A Law Firm Website?

On this youtube, business development trainer Larry Bodine list the three things that business clients look for on a law firm’s website:

Industry experience

Representative clients

Case histories 

He offers the Jones Day website as a good example.

Here’s a link to the youtube. Worth four minutes of your time.


March 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

More evidence that legal educators shouldn't abandon p-textbooks in favor of e-textbooks

Despite the omnipresence of electronic media, paper is proving to be quite resilient. Some have called the traditional paper-based book an example of a technology that defies improvement.  What's interesting is that the preference for paper and books can't be explained by generational differences. Instead, they seem to possess characteristics that makes the medium objectively better suited to certain reading tasks than a screen. Click here to read about what those characteristics might be.

Several student opinion surveys bear this out. This most recent survey of undergrads, as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, found that the ability to print the contents of an e-textbook is an important consideration to students in choosing between formats:

California State University is running one of the nation’s largest pilot studies of e-textbooks, involving thousands of students on five campuses, and one of the biggest findings so far boils down to the cliché the devil is in the details. Whether or not students liked their digital textbooks depended on what rules publishers set on how the digital books could be used.

. . . .

'Every publisher has a little bit different terms and conditions,' said Gerard L. Hanley, senior director of academic technology services at California State University’s office of the chancellor. Such rules, including whether a student can print the whole book or only a portion of it, or whether the text can be downloaded to a computer or only accessed online, 'really impact the students’ ability to use the content,' he added.

. . . .

Among the 662 students who answered a survey [about using e-textbooks] after the fall term ended, about one-third said they were satisfied with the experience, one-third said they were neutral, and one-third said they were dissatisfied, officials said.

You can read the rest here.


March 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Even in small towns, the Yellow Pages are dead

Do attorneys still advertise in the Yellow Pages rather than create a website? I would have thought "no" until I read this column from the Lawyerist which implies that the advertising medium of choice for rural practitioners might still be the phone book rather than the web. The point of the column is that even rural practitioners need to establish a web presence. And if you're a new law grad planning on going solo, you need to follow this advice too, regardless of your location:

A big reason law offices maintain a web presence is branding. It can be easy for rural attorneys to dismiss the need to use the web in order to communicate who you are to prospective clients. After all, you run into your client base every day… at the grocery store, high school basketball game, etc. However, even if you are fully confident that potential clients in your area know about you, you have to be easy to get a hold of in order for them to hire you. While you might rely on the belief that potential clients can use the phone book, many people use search engines to look up information. This is especially true as more and more people use smart phones. At minimum, your contact information and areas of practice need to be able to be found online.

You can read here two more reasons why any phone book hold-outs should establish a web presence pronto.


March 25, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Friday Fun: Don't waste valuable time berating young associates; outsource it instead!

Outsourcing is hot right now. And with select billing rates approaching $1,000 per hour, clients are no longer going to tolerate paying for partner time spent yelling at associates. So do what any cost-effective firm does now a days; outsource your verbal abuse!  Here's how courtesy of my new favorite legal humor blog, the Big Legal Brain:

When needed, I outsource all of my petty and abusive ["P&A"] behavior to TSD Outsourcing.  

Sponsored Post. This post is proudly sponsored by TSD Outsourcing (Третирани како кучиња служба), global leaders for all P&A outsourcing needs. Contact Boblec at TSD Outsourcing today and mention that C. Hank Peters sent you over. You’ll get a free month of P&A services plus the personal attention of being one of Big Legal Brain’s VIP referrals.

It’s great. I call up one of the P&A outsource vendors (inexplicably, most of the best vendors are located in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), tell them what I need, and within a few hours the petty emails start, then a phone call or two, and I’ve got my staff back in line. But if you need some really powerful stuff, most P&A vendors have stateside agents available on call, 24/7, that you can hire for that oft-needed physical presence. It allows you to maintain your cool but still instill that old-fashioned need for intimidational motivation that has become a lost art in most modern law firms.


March 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Schools Receiving the Most Applications

Here’s the list complied by U.S. News. 

Law School

Full-Time Applicants in 2010

U.S. News Law School Rank

Georgetown University Law Center



Columbia University Law School



University of California--Los Angeles School of Law



University of Virginia School of Law



Boston University School of Law



New York University Law School



University of California--Berkeley School of Law



George Washington University Law School



American University Washington College of Law



Duke University Law School



 And here’s the story from Yahoo News. Note the absence of many top ranked schools.


March 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

As far back as the Bronze-Age, writing teachers complained about their students

I'm reading an interesting book called Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf that explains from a neuroscience perspective how man first learned to read and write. Historians believe that writing began in ancient Sumeria around 5,000 B.C. as an early accounting method used to keep track of the trade in goods. Professor Wolf talks about the earliest writing instructors worked in "tablet houses" teaching students to copy early cuneiform symbols onto clay tablets. On page 37, the author notes:

This took years of practice. It is little wonder that newly discovered practice tablets depict miserable students in each year with their teacher, followed by the oft-repeated-line 'And then he caned me.'

And today's students think feedback is harsh! Sheesh.


March 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Social Networking – Netiquette for Job-Seeking Students

I conducted a “researching the employer” session for our students yesterday.  The session was designed to help students prepare for job interviews and to research to find potential employers (based on area of practice, geographic location, firm culture etc.).  One of the things we also talk about in these sessions is the research that a potential employer may (should) conduct about the student/job seeker.  I encourage the students to Google themselves and to make sure they aren’t posting things on Facebook or other sites that they wouldn’t want a potential employer to discover. 

Just as many law firms and businesses are developing social networking policies and training programs, law students should be exposed to this information as well.  Our students should be encouraged to use sites like LinkedIn for their professional social networking.  They need to understand the importance of a professional appearance even in their on-line environments. 

The Work Buzz (blog for reported on a survey of employers explaining how and where employers are looking for information on candidates during the hiring process. 

“The survey finds that only 7 percent of U.S. consumers (aka job seekers) believe available online information about themselves affected their job search. Yet, 70 percent of recruiters and HR professionals have rejected a candidate for information they found online...  In the U.S., 75 percent of surveyed recruiters and professionals say their organizations have formal policies that require them to do online digging. Based on those figures, the concern seems to have changed from whether or not your online reputation will affect your job hunt to how it will affect your job hunt.”

It’s clear that our students should be responsible about having a professional online image.  We need to make sure they get that message loud and clear!


March 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Legal job market predicted to take a turn for the better.

From the National Law Journal:

The employment picture is looking up for recent law grads — at least a little bit.

New figures from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) show that offer rates to summer associates rose from the historic low of 69% in 2009 to 87% in 2010. That 18% increase puts offer rates back in the ballpark of the 90% offer rates of 2008, which was the last summer program season before the financial crisis hit in earnest.

'These numbers describe a soft bounce in the market,' said NALP Executive Director James Leipold. 'Clearly, from a recruiting perspective, the most dramatic impact of the economic downturn has passed, and law firms are beginning to return to the market for new law school graduates with more confidence than they had at the height of the recession.'

However, Leipold warned that recruiting gains in 2010 were minor, and that the legal industry is still recovering.

. . . .

'My expectation is that this slow growth in entry-level recruitment activity will continue, but it will be some years before we see a return to the sort of robust recruiting levels we saw in 2006 and 2007," Leipold said. 'And as for summer associate class size, we may never see those numbers return to what they were before the recession.'

You can read the rest here.


March 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New scholarship: "Now I see: redefining the post-grade student conference as process and substance assessment"

This one is by Professor Cassandra L. Hill, Thurgood Marshall School of Law, and Professor Katherine T. Vukadin, Howard University School of Law. It can be found at 54 How. L.J. 1 (2010). From the introduction:

The task of guiding law students toward success in legal writing is an urgent one. Law students could once expect to develop their writing skills after law school graduation. But today's legal employers are increasingly reluctant to shoulder the burden of teaching new law graduates essential practice skills. The American Bar Association's MacCrate report and the recent Best Practices in Legal Education    report emphasize that law schools must better equip students to enter the legal profession. Legal writing professors should answer this challenge by using every tool at their disposal to refine and improve students' legal writing skills.

One such tool is the post-grade student conference - the one-on-one conference a student might request after receiving a poor memorandum or brief grade. Unlike a routine student-faculty conference, the post-grade conference comes at a critical juncture. The conferencing student may be frustrated and angry over a poor grade and is at risk of letting the disappointing grade color his or her future attitude and performance in the legal writing class. The student may request a conference to discuss or even challenge the poor grade. The resulting post-grade conference presents an opportunity to reach the student most at risk of missing important practice skills and to change the student's approach and trajectory in legal writing.

To chart a new course in legal writing, however, the student must first see why past practices failed. This Article posits that a poor legal writing grade most often results from problems in not just one area, but in two distinct areas that should be analyzed separately: (1) the writing process, and (2) the resulting substance of the student's writing. To maximize the post-grade conference's value as a teaching opportunity, the legal writing professor should therefore organize the post-grade conference as a review of these two distinct areas in which students can falter. Instead of focusing on point deductions and marginalia, the conference should first deconstruct the writing process through a student interview and then deconstruct the student's written product. To capture this analysis, the professor can prepare a list of individualized Writing Targets - specific lessons learned in the conference - that the student carries forward in completing future assignments. A discussion about point deductions and grading curves should come last. When the student views point deductions as the result of the student's writing process and substantive product, the student walks away with both an understanding of the grade and the means to improve.

Part I of this Article describes a typical conference, which provides contrast for the focused process and substance review presented in Part II. Part II describes the process interview and assessment and the substance interview and assessment. Part III describes the Writing Targets document that professor and student prepare during the conference. Here, the Article focuses on the post-grade legal writing conference, but the process and substance approach is equally applicable to conferences in doctrinal and skills courses.


March 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Seventh Circuit: attorney drove litigation "off the rails"; reference to "malpractice suits" tosses major hint to clients

In an opinion by Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook, the Seventh Circuit excoriates appellants' counsel for his major role in sending the litigation "off the rails." The opinion includes an overt suggestion to appellants that they might consider malpractice suits:
    The events recounted in this opinion show that Greco is a menace to his clients and a scofflaw with respect to appellate procedure. The district court may wish to consider whether he should remain a member of its bar. Would-be clients should consider how Greco has treated Lee, Washington, and Moore. Greco has not asked for a hearing on the disciplinary order to show cause, and we now conclude that he has comported himself unprofessionally. We reprimand Greco for this unprofessional behavior and fine him $5,000, payable to the Clerk within 14 days. Greco must send Lee, Washington, and Moore copies of this opinion so that they may consider whether to file malpractice suits against him.

Lee v. Cook County, No. 10-2013, slip op. (7th Cir. Mar. 22, 2011).


March 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Therapy Dogs for Law Students

Yale Law School, renowned for competitiveness and its Supreme Court justices, is embarking on a pilot program next week in which students can check out a “therapy dog” named Monty along with the library’s collection of more than one million books.”

Here’s the link to the New York Times articles. As a lifetime lover of dogs, I enthusiastically endorse the program. By why stop with law students? I suspect they would like their profs to have therapy dogs as well. And when they start practicing, they will want their supervisors  to have dogs too.


March 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

More on teaching concise writing in the age of Twitter and texting

Further to our post yesterday about writing for a Twitter audience is this essay from 3 Geeks and a Blog called "The Art of Shorter Writing."

Andy Selsberg’s op-ed in The New York Times this weekend got me thinking about the difficulty of professional writing in the age of Twitter. As someone that was taught the standards of a five-paragraph essay, or a 500-word report paper, the modern style of professional writing simply doesn’t fit this mold any longer. Many will blame Twitter for the reduction in the length of communications, but as I think about it, this has been an evolving process for a number of years… most likely starting with the boom in e-mail communications starting in the mid-1990’s.

. . . . .

Unfortunately, many of the people that are reading what we have to write don’t have the time or the interest to read your introduction, explanation of ideas, and conclusion, so they tend to skim through and pick out the highlights of what you’ve written. So, like it or not, your writing is already getting scaled back by the reader, and hopefully they haven’t missed the real highlights that were shrouded in those 15-20 sentences.

You can read the rest here.


March 23, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)