Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Of metaphors, spies and "black ops"

Now this is interesting (and useful to anyone who's interested in the "science" of persuasion). From The Atlantic:

A small research arm of the U.S. government's intelligence establishment wants to understand how speakers of Farsi, Russian, English, and Spanish see the world by building software that automatically evaluates their use of metaphors.

That's right, metaphors, like Shakespeare's famous line, "All the world's a stage," or more subtly, "The darkness pressed in on all sides." Every speaker in every language in the world uses them effortlessly, and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity wants know how what we say reflects our worldviews. They call it The Metaphor Program, and it is a unique effort within the government to probe how a people's language reveals their mindset.

"The Metaphor Program will exploit the fact that metaphors are pervasive in everyday talk and reveal the underlying beliefs and worldviews of members of a culture," declared an open solicitation for researchers released last week. A spokesperson for IARPA declined to comment at the time.

IARPA wants some computer scientists with experience in processing language in big chunks to come up with methods of pulling out a culture's relationship with particular concepts."They really are trying to get at what people think using how they talk," Benjamin Bergen, a cognitive scientist at the University of California, San Diego, told me. Bergen is one of a dozen or so lead researchers who are expected to vie for a research grant that could be worth tens of millions of dollars over five years, if the team scan show progress towards automatically tagging and processing metaphors across languages.
. . . .

Every writer (and reader) knows that there are clues to how people think and ways to influence each other through our use of words. Metaphor researchers, of whom there are a surprising number and variety, have formalized many of these intuitions into whole branches of cognitive linguistics using studies like the one outlined above (more on that later). But what IARPA's project calls for is the deployment of spy resources against an entire language. Where you or I might parse a sentence, this project wants to parse, say, all the pages in Farsi on the Internet looking for hidden levers into the consciousness of a people.

"The study of language offers a strategic opportunity for improved counterterrorist intelligence, in that it enables the possibility of understanding of the Other's perceptions and motivations, be he friend or foe," the two authors of Computational Methods for Counterterrorism wrote. "As we have seen, linguistic expressions have levels of meaning beyond the literal, which it is critical to address. This is true especially when dealing with texts from a high-context traditionalist culture such as those of Islamic terrorists and insurgents."

Click here to read more.

Hat tip to Stephanie West Allen.


May 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dr. Seuss Explains Civil Procedure

At Florida State, Professor Elizabeth Burch uses the rhymes of Dr. Seuss to explain the concepts in her Civil Procedure course. From her article in the Green Bag:

What follows are a few secret kernels of civil procedure wisdom

courtesy of Dr. Seuss. They are so blindingly simple and elucidate

policy in terms so basic that they threaten to ruin the whole lot of

us civil procedure types. Gone are Latinate phrases like subpoena

ducus tecum; gone is the mystery that shrouds Pennoyer and its ilk;

gone is the bleary theory that is Erie. With a bit of hocus pocus and a

dash of mumbo jumbo, this essay embarks on a clandestine caper

through the court system, jurisdiction, Erie, pleading, discovery,

and joinder. Just hearing those words again made you tense, didn’t

they? But soon you’ll be jogging to joinder and jammin’ to jurisdiction.

It’s civil procedure galore, as you’ve never felt it before.

For example, a lot of discovery is about:

Waiting for the fish to bite

or waiting for wind to fly a kite

or waiting around for Friday night

or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake

or a pot to boil, or a Better Break

or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants

or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.

(“Oh, The Places you’ll Go!”)

(Thanks to Kristen Allen)


May 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

More on non-partnership career choices for lawyers - it's "outsourcing" that keeps jobs in U.S.

Here's our previous report on the law firm mini-trend of hiring "staff attorneys" for less pay.  Last week the New York Times published this story fleshing out the details a bit more. Other than having to move to some not very popular cities, this sounds like a really good option for attorneys who would rather trade money for less time at the office.

The nation’s biggest law firms are creating a second tier of workers, stripping pay and prestige from one of the most coveted jobs in the business world.
Make no mistake: These are full-fledged lawyers, not paralegals, and they do the same work traditional legal associates do. But they earn less than half the pay of their counterparts — usually around $60,000 — and they know from the outset they will never make partner.

Some of the lawyers who have taken these new jobs are putting the best face on their reduced status. “To me there’s not much of a difference between what I’m doing now and what I would be doing in a partner-track job,” said Mark Thompson, 29, who accepted a non-partner-track post at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe when he could not find a traditional associate job. “I still feel like I’m doing pretty high-level work — writing briefs, visiting client sites, prepping witnesses for hearings.”

. . . .

Lawyers like Mr. Thompson are part of a fundamental shift in the 50-year-old business model for big firms.

Besides making less, these associates work fewer hours and travel less than those on the grueling partner track, making these jobs more family-friendly. And this new system probably prevents jobs from going offshore.

But as has been the case in other industries, a two-tier system threatens to breed resentments among workers in both tiers, given disparities in pay and workload expectations. And as these programs expand to more and more firms, they will eliminate many of the lucrative partner-track positions for which law students suffer so much debt.

Mr. Thompson is one of 37 lawyers in Orrick’s new program, which is based in this small Rust Belt city an hour southwest of Pittsburgh. An international firm headquartered in San Francisco, Orrick is one of a handful of law firms, including WilmerHale and McDermott Will & Emery, experimenting with ways to control escalating billing rates.

“For a long time the wind was at the back of these big law firms,” said William D. Henderson, a historian at Indiana University-Bloomington.

“They could grow, expand and raise rates, and clients just went along with absorbing the high overhead and lack of innovation. But eventually clients started to resist, especially when the economy soured.”

For decades, firms used essentially the same model: charging increasingly higher rates for relatively routine work done by junior associates, whose entry-level salaries in major markets have now been bid up to $160,000 (plus bonus, of course), a sum reported by the big law schools. Even under pressure to reduce rates, firms are reluctant to lower starting salaries unilaterally for fear of losing the best talent — and their reputations.

“Everyone acknowledges that $160,000 is too much, but they don’t want to back down because that signals they’re just a midmarket firm,” said Mr. Henderson. “It’s a big game of chicken.”

So now firms are copying some manufacturers — which have similarly inflexible pay because of union contracts — by creating a separate class of lower-paid workers.

At law firms, these positions are generally called “career associates” or “permanent associates.” They pay about $50,000 to $65,000, according to Michael D. Bell, a managing principal at Fronterion, which advises law firms on outsourcing.

These nonglamorous jobs are going to nonglamorous cities.

Orrick moved its back-office operations to a former metal-stamping factory here in 2002, and in late 2009 began hiring career associates. Costs of living are much cheaper in Wheeling than in San Francisco, Tokyo or its 21 other locations, saving $6 million to $10 million annually, according to Will A. Turani, Wheeling’s director of operations.

“It’s our version of outsourcing,” said Ralph Baxter, Orrick’s chief executive. “Except we’re staying within the United States.”

You can read more here.


May 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Innovative "law without walls" program has U.S. law schools partnering with each other as well as foreign institutions

From Time Magazine:

Partnering with institutions like Harvard Law School, University College London Faculty of Laws and the Peking University School of Transnational Law in Shenzhen, China, LawWithoutWalls uses state-of-the-art technology to share new legal concepts and tools across borders and in tandem with experts from fields like business, who often join the interface along with legal scholars. "We're taking the dynamic interaction that happens in a real law classroom and applying it to an online process across cultures and disciplines," says Michael Bossone, a program co-creator who had to experiment with various Web applications (Zoho works best against the "Great Firewall" of China) to make it all function.

In this class, the lecture hall is cyberspace, a videoconference linking students and professors in places as far-flung as Miami and Shenzhen. And the topic on this particular day isn't torts — it's the controversial boom in legal-process outsourcing (LPO) and other cost-saving devices for law firms.

At the top right of the screen, Bao Shengyuan, 28, a student at Peking Transnational, asks about pitfalls: "Shouldn't there be ethical obligations for nonlawyers who provide assistance outside the firm?" Former American Bar Association President Carolyn Lamm agrees. She raises issues like protection of client information when LPO workers in countries like India, and not a firm's own associates, review case documents, especially via the Internet. "We're witnessing the restructuring of the legal profession," she says, "but we still have to ensure rules like attorney-client privilege."

. . . .

One goal of LawWithoutWalls is to prepare today's law students — who are graduating into one of the bleakest hiring landscapes in memory — for all sorts of different global legal work, like trade litigation: for example, since 2005, annual caseloads at the American Arbitration Association's International Centre for Dispute Resolution have risen more than 50%.

Another big shift that the program aims to illuminate is the "commoditization" of law, embodied by Britain's 2007 Legal Services Act. It permits nonlawyer ownership of law firms and lets them offer nonlegal products like financial services — a reform many legal purists decry as barbarians crashing the bar, though backers insist it improves competition and access to legal services. When this semester's 23 LawWithoutWalls students (who also hail from Fordham Law School and New York School of Law) gathered at a Miami conference in April to present course projects, University College London student Anna Pope found herself clueing U.S. students in to the new "alternative business structures" of British law — and their potential conflicts. If a law firm can be listed on a stock exchange, Pope asked, should it represent a plaintiff suing a bank with which many of the firm's shareholders have accounts?

Either way, "lawyers everywhere have to be more commercial-minded today," says Pope, 31, an attorney training to be a professor. "This course is a wonderful way to break down barriers and question the old way of doing things." And DeStefano Beardslee thinks the U.S. can't resist the new way of doing things for long. "Today," she says, "issues across the pond inevitably become our issues as well." States like North Carolina are considering law-firm reforms similar to Britain's. Meanwhile, "alternative" firms like New York–based Axiom Law, which technically aren't law firms but offer the menu of legal, financial and other services now provided in Europe, are sprouting up in the U.S.

Read more here.

Hat tip to Stephanie West Allen.


May 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

ABA considers accrediting foreign law schools while attorneys here fear more lost jobs

From the Asian Lawyer via Law.com:

Dean Jeffrey Lehman is generally pleased with the progress of the new law school he oversees. The former dean of University of Michigan Law School and onetime president of Cornell University has seen enrollment at the three-year-old school go from 53 extremely bright and highly motivated students per class to 80.

He will also soon have recruited eight full-time faculty members to work alongside a star-studded roster of visiting faculty that has included Harvard professors Charles Ogletree and Jack Goldsmith. Ground will be broken later this year on a stunning new Kohn Pedersen Fox-designed law school building.

The one sticking point has been accreditation by the American Bar Association. Which seems like it should be a no-brainer, except that this law school is located in Shenzhen, China.

Lehman has long hoped to make the Peking University School of Transnational Law (STL) the first law school outside the United States to be accredited by the ABA, which would allow its graduates to take the bar exam in any U.S. state.

Though its students are almost all Chinese, the school teaches a predominantly U.S. law curriculum in English and employs a faculty whose members mostly hold J.D.s from American law schools. Lehman and other supporters see the school as promoting U.S. law and the values behind it as a sort of legal lingua franca in an increasingly globalized world.

But that aim has run headlong into the still-weak U.S. legal job market. Fears of a tide of new overseas competition for scarce work were evident in many of the 60 comments the ABA received in response to a special-committee report released last fall recommending the accreditation section begin considering foreign schools.

"As a long-time ABA member, I have no doubt why so many people refuse to join the association or leave shortly after joining," wrote Kelley Drye & Warren partner Steven Moore. "This proposal makes absolutely no sense, unless we just want to implode the legal field in the United States and get our unemployment rate in the double digits for decades to come."

A number of law student groups have voiced similar economic arguments. The student bar association of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law said the proposal would have "an unjustifiable impact upon employment for current and future attorneys from the United States."

Several law school deans expressed concern that accrediting foreign schools would undermine their L.L.M. programs. Such programs, they argue, offer foreign law students critical immersion in U.S. culture they would not receive at overseas schools like STL. Fordham Law School Dean Michael Martin wrote that lower-cost overseas schools could under-price U.S. schools, leading to a "race to the bottom" that "would ultimately have the effect of eroding our system of legal education."

Continue reading here.




May 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Memorial Day 2011

Perhaps the most moving poem of World War I is “Flanders Fields” by Lt. Col. John McCrae:

In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Here is a video with a reading of the poem by Michael Haynes with an addition verse from “For the Fallen” by McCrae's friend Laurence Binyon as well as photos from that war.

The last verse distracts us from the sadness of these military cemeteries. A few years ago, I visited the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach in Normandy. As I walked through the rows and rows of monuments—over 10,000--and read the names of the brave young men whose lives ended in the D-Day invasion. I also thought of their families, many of whom never were able to cross the Atlantic to visit the resting places of their loved ones. Let us honor those who protected us, but let us remember that war is horrible.


May 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UC Irvine's Innovative Curriculum

A few days ago, I mentioned UC Irvine Law School's innovation of putting a course in the first year on legal profession and ethics.  According to an article written by two UCI professors, UC Irvine has reinvented the entire law-school curriculum by infusing "each of a law student's three years with hands on experiential learning.  Our students will learn by doing, performing the tasks of lawyers under the close supervision of some of the best professors in the country."

It is good to see that more law schools are adopting innovative models of legal education with emphasis on practical learning.  This will put pressure on other law schools to bring legal education into the 21st century.


May 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What Do Undergrads (Our Future Students) Want in Life?

What Do Undergrads (Our Future Students) Want in Life?

Perhaps sadly, the answer is to make money. A recent article on the Chronicle of Higher Education online supplies the evidence:

This tendency is corroborated by the survey that UCLA has administered to an enormous number of incoming freshmen since 1966, asking them, among other things, what was most important to them. In the 1971 survey, the top three answers were “to help others who are in difficulty” (68.5%), to become an authority in my field (66%), and “to keep up to date on politics” (57.8%), all values consistent with being a good citizen. In 2001, the same survey found that “being very well off financially” (a distant fifth in 1971) topped the list at 73%. Help others in difficulty had slipped to 61.5%, while “keep up to date with political affairs” had dropped all the way to 28.1%.

The article ties this finding in with the decline in students majoring in the humanities and the rise in business majors. As a humanities major (History) long ago, I find this data disappointing and evidence of a misunderstanding of the contribution that the humanities make to ones future life. Not only do they make you a better citizen and enrich your personal life, they also make you more creative in your professional life and teach you valuable lessons about the human condition.


May 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

2008 grad files class action against law school for deceptive employment stats

From the National Law Journal:

The debate over the accuracy of law school graduate employment statistics — or lack thereof — has moved into court.

A 2008 graduate of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law filed a class action in California state court on May 26, alleging that the school committed fraud by misrepresenting the employment statistics for its recent graduates.

"For more than 15 years, TJSL has churned out graduates, many of whom have little or no hope of working as attorneys at any point in their careers," the complaint reads.

According to the complaint, plaintiff Anna Alaburda graduated with honors from the San Diego law school in 2008 and passed the California bar examination, but has been unable to secure full-time employment as an attorney. She sent more than 150 resumes to law firms and received only one job offer that was "less favorable than non-law related jobs that were available to her."

Alaburda has been working as a document reviewer on a project-by-project basis. She accrued more than $150,000 in student loans during her law school years, the complaint says.

Alaburda was lured to the school by statistics reported by U.S. News & World Report in 2003 indicating that 80% of its graduates were employed after nine months. She "reasonably interpreted these figures to mean that the vast majority of TJLS graduates would find employment as full time attorneys."

"The foregoing statistics were false, misleading, and intentionally designed to deceive all who read them," it reads.

In fact, the figures included all recent graduates who were in part-time jobs or non-legal jobs, which is how law schools calculate their "employed after nine months" figures for the American Bar Association and U.S. News, the complaint reads.

Continue reading the NLJ story here. More coverage via The Law School Transparency Project here.



May 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

"The American Teacher" - a new documentary

Although it focuses mostly on secondary school teachers, I thought some of our readers might still find it interesting.  From Education Week Teacher:

Narrated by Matt Damon, "American Teacher" seeks to counteract popular misconceptions about the teaching profession by showing, in a style of close-up realism, what teachers actually do and what their lives are really like—and how continued neglect of the profession may be jeopardizing the nation's future. The film interweaves portrayals of five stellar K-12 educators from different parts of the country as they navigate daily challenges and try to manage the "logistics" of their lives. Examples of the teachers' obvious professionalism and skill are set against, sometimes to comic effect, the near-Dickensian nature of their working conditions and scheduling demands. There is a memorable scene in which one of the teachers, trying to get information about maternity leave, is forced to spend 18 minutes of her sole 20-minute free period on hold with the central office HR department. (Later, after a mere six weeks' leave, she is shown frantically scrambling around her school trying to find a place to pump breast milk.)

Continue reading

May 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Teaching Ethics in the First Year

I have previously posted on the need to teach professionalism throughout the curriculum.  UC Irvine Law School requires a course on the Legal Profession in the first year.  Ann Southworth and Catherine Fisk, two faculty members at UC Irvine, have written an article on this course. 

"This essay, which is part of a symposium on UC Irvine Law School’s innovations in legal education, describes the required, year-long, first-year course on the Legal Profession. Responding to a number of calls for improved law school instruction on the legal profession and professional ethics, the course offers students an empirically grounded understanding of actual practice realities and critical perspectives on those practices, drawn from history, sociology, philosophy, economics, and psychology. It situates issues of legal ethics and professionalism in broader contexts, including the history and social structure of the bar, the market for legal services, and the organizations of practice. It relies heavily on theoretical and empirical literature about the profession, as well as case studies, simulations, and commentary by guest speakers. We require our students to engage with issues of the profession from the very start of law school, and we pitch the course in terms that appeal to the students’ self-interest – as an effort to help them chart successful, rewarding, and responsible careers in law. This essay describes the premises, goals, circumstances of creation, and content of our Legal Profession course. We also assess the success of the course and identify continuing challenges."

In my first year in law school, I felt like I was learning courses in isolation; I had no context.  Maybe, this kind of course will help students better understand how things fit together.


May 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Report on Jobs for New Law School Grads

From the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) comes this report:

For the class of 2009, [NALP] reported the employment rate nine months after graduation was 88.3 percent for graduates for whom employment status was known. Of that 88.3 percent, 55.9 percent of graduates are in private practice, 13.5 percent are in the business industry, 10.1 percent are in government, and 8.7 percent are in a judicial clerkship. In an interview with BNA May 3, James G. Leipold, Executive Director of NALP, noted that these splits remain relatively constant each year, even during and after tough economic periods.

For 2010, the overall employment rate nine months after graduation was around 87 percent, he said. (NALP will release complete 2010 employment data in late May or early June.)

 As for salaries:

NALP's 2009 report of survey data from recent graduates reported that compensation for beginning attorneys at the “big law firms” in 2009 was around $160,000 in major metropolitan areas. The mean salary for the entire class was about $93,000. Leipold was quick to point out, however, that very few salaries actually hovered around the mean. In fact, 34 percent of 2009 graduates who reported salaries made between $45,000-$65,000 and about 25 percent of graduates responded that they made around $160,000 per year. The class of 2011 can expect a similar, reverse Bell curve type of salary distribution. 

According to NALP, during the past year, the number of employers interviewing on campus has increased.

The full story is at U.S. Law Week online.


May 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Happy Birthday to a very special person

Life's a rollercoaster and there's no one I'd rather share the ride with than you.

In the words of the immortal Ernie K. Doe "I'm so glad I'm your man!"

Happy Birthday, baby.


May 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Should We Try to Match Each Student With a Preferred Learning Style?

Maybe not. In an article that should gain some attention, Professor Aida Alaka argues that the matching of preferred learning styles with particular teaching styles may not result in better learning. “Learning Styles: What Difference Do the Differences Make?”, 5 Charleston Law Review 133 (2011):

Many education psychologists and others involved in researching educational theories are highly critical of the notion that students possess fixed learning styles that teachers must address in order for students to learn. In the last few years, two comprehensive literature reviews have been conducted to assess the theoretical and research bases underlying the spectrum of learning style theories. And yet, many in legal education think of the existence of learning styles as being settled fact. They also think of them rather narrowly—primarily as a question of whether one has a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic style—although many learning style theories exist. This Article explores the controversy surrounding learning styles and presents the critical bases for the controversy. It explains that most disinterested researchers are particularly skeptical of the “matching hypothesis”—that is, that one must teach to specific styles.


May 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday Fun: "Two Law Profs Discuss What They Are Planning To Do To Integrate Legal Skills Into Their Courses"

A viral YouTube video that I somehow missed until now. From our buddies at the Law Librarian blog.

Personally, this gave me a headache about 20 seconds in.


May 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Court denies defendant's motion to compel plaintiff to "friend" him on Facebook to gain access to photos

A Pennsylvania court recently denied a defendant's request that plaintiff accept his Facebook "friend" request to gain access to plaintiff's photos in connection with a personal injury action she brought following a car accident. The defendant in the case conceded liability but contested the plaintiff's injury claim which involved some serious facial lacerations.

During the plaintiff's deposition, the defendant learned that she had a Facebook account. When the defendant tried to access it, however, he discovered that the plaintiff had her privacy settings switched on and thus the defendant couldn't access some pre- and post-accident photos available there. Accordingly, the defendant brought a motion to compel asking the court to order the plaintiff to "friend" him so that he could gain access to the photos at issue.  Relevant to the court's ruling may have been the fact, as the plaintiff argued, the defendant already had in hand several pre- and post-accident photos produced during discovery.

From the blog Law Technology News:

The plaintiff in a car accident case does not have to accept a friend request on Facebook from the defendant so that the defendant can have full access to the plaintiff's postings and pictures, a Bucks County, Pa., Common Pleas Court judge has ruled.

In Piccolo v. Paterson, Judge Albert J. Cepparulo issued a one-paragraph order denying the motion to compel filed by defendants Lindsay S. Paterson, Lee Anne Paterson, Linsey Paterson, and Allstate Insurance.

The defendants wanted access to the photos of plaintiff Sara Piccolo that she posted of herself on the social networking site.

. . . .

In Piccolo's response to the defense motion, Lipman argued that defense counsel had only asked at Piccolo's deposition about the pictures she posted on Facebook, not any textual postings. He said Paterson had already been provided "as complete a photographic record of the pre-accident and post-accident condition" of Piccolo as she "could reasonably have a right to expect in this case."

Piccolo allowed the insurer to come to her home in 2008 and take photographs of her face. She also gave the defense 20 photos of her face from the week following the accident as well as five photos from the months just before the accident. She allowed the defense to take more pictures at the September 2010 deposition.

"Defendant Paterson has not made a prima facie showing of need for access to the non-public pages of [Piccolo's] Facebook account," Lipman said in his motion. "She has all the photographs she can reasonably use from every different period before and after the accident and she has not asserted that there is likely to be any text in the non-public postings that is material or will likely lead to the discovery of material evidence."Lipman said Piccolo concedes that her Facebook account "is probably not protected by any evidentiary privilege that has been recognized in Pennsylvania." But he cited Rule of Civil Procedure 4011(b), which precludes discovery that would cause unreasonable annoyance, embarrassment, oppression or burden.

Because the defendant already received from plaintiff several photos showing her face before and after the accident, the court's decision to deny the defendant access to her Facebook photos probably speaks little about a future court's willingness to compel access to a party's Facebook page.

You can read more coverage here.


May 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Student transfers hurt the schools they leave behind

The National Law Journal's report on Professor Jeffrey Rensberger's article "Tragedy of the Student Commons: Law Student Transfers and Legal Education."

The law school transfer system benefits individual law students, but it's hardly a boon for the less-prestigious schools that invest in promising students only to see them leave following their first year.

That's the conclusion reached by South Texas College of Law Professor Jeffrey Rensberger, who examined law student transfers for an article in the Journal of Legal Education. Rensberger said Wednesday that he wrote the article largely because little attention has been paid to the subject.

"There hasn't really been a well thought out discussion of transfers in legal education," he said. "People talk about it, but it hasn't been studied in a comprehensive manner."

After analyzing the numbers and patterns of transfer students as well as the overall cost to legal education, Rensberger concluded that the transfer system is inefficient and causes more harm to the schools students leave than benefits to the schools to which they transfer.

The former see losses in tuition money, quality classroom participation, bar passage rates and alumni prestige. The latter gain little, since transfers tend to land at institutions that already enjoy stronger reputations, alumni networks and bar passage rates.

"From the standpoint of legal education as a whole, this is a bad thing," Rensberger wrote. "It may be and probably is good for the student who transfers, but it also imposes costs on those who do not transfer."

Rensberger analyzed class size data provided to the American Bar Association by law schools to identify transfer trends. He found that during each of the past four years, between 2,265 and 2,400 students transferred to ABA-accredited schools. They accounted for about 5% of the national 2L class.

Law schools varied widely, however, in the number of transfer students they accepted. Rensberger looked for the biggest gainers, and found that 26 schools had 2L classes with 10% or more transfer students (five of those schools had 20% or more transfer students). Most schools, however, had 2L classes in which transfer students comprised 5% or less.

Unsurprisingly, transfer students tended to move toward schools with higher rankings, as determined by U.S. News & World Report, Rensberger found. That casts doubt on the idea that most law students transfer because of changes in their life situation, he wrote.

Similarly, students tended to transfer to schools with higher bar passage rates. Schools with a net gain had an average bar passage rate of 88.2%, while net loser schools had an average of 78.9%. Additionally, transfers gravitated to law schools with higher median LSAT scores. It didn't appear that most transfer students were lured by lower tuition.

"On the whole, transfers slightly increase the cost of legal education for those transferring," Rensberger wrote. "Moreover, the financial effect on schools that receive high volumes of transfers and schools which lose high volumes of transfers is large."

For instance, he reported, the school that received the most transfers saw a $3.4 million increase in revenue as a result, while the school that lost the most students forfeited $5.2 million.

When one student transfers out, schools must replace that lost revenue by accepting a transfer student in his or her place, Rensberger wrote. That new student likely will have credentials inferior than the one who left and the move creates similar problems for the law school from which he or she came.

Furthermore, the transfer of students who perform well during their 1L year most likely depresses the bar passage rates of their original law schools, he continued. At the same time, it may boost the bar passage rates at the schools into which the students transfer. The benefits to the new school and the loss to the old school are not equal, Rensberger concluded.

"The loss of a few percentage points in pass rate is much more significant to a school that is already struggling with a pass rate below the state average," he wrote. "In short, as to bar pass rates, transfers have the effect of making the rich richer and the poor poorer; and in the context of bar pass rates, poverty is more significant than wealth."

Along the same lines, the transfer of promising students decreases the quality of classroom discussion at the original law schools, since those students tend to represent the "cream of the academic crop," Rensberger wrote.

Similarly, transfer students create a net loss of high-performing alumni for the schools they leave behind. "Law schools are stronger when their alumni are stronger," he wrote. "An alumnus who is an especially successful practitioner, an esteemed judge, or even an academic adds to the reputation of the school."

Finally, the student transfer system may help law schools game the U.S. News rankings, since they can boost their selectivity scores by admitting fewer 1Ls and set higher LSAT cutoffs. They can then fill that gap with 2L transfers students who had lower LSAT scores, since they won't affect the median LSAT figure used in the rankings.

You can continue reading here.


May 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Passive voice redux

Tardily following up Scott Fruehwald’s Writing Tip of the Week on passive voice, I’ve linked below to an article I wrote several years ago that I think complements Scott’s tip.

E-Prime, Briefly: A Lawyer’s Experiment with Writing in E-Prime,” Clarity, No. 48 (December 2002)

E-Prime, Briefly: A Lawyer Writes in E-Prime,” Michigan Bar Journal (July 2007) (slightly edited reprint of Clarity article)


May 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Keeping a Clean Online Image

Law students should recognize that potential employers will likely check on their online images when making hiring decisions.  In a training session that I lead with our career services office, I recommend that students take a look at their online image and make sure they are not putting information out there that will come back to bite them come job search time.

A recent study by Reppler revealed that 47% of Facebook users have profanity on their FB walls.  Another recent study found overwhelming references to drinking.  This is not the image you want to present to a potential employer.

Hat tip Mashable


May 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Creating the Optimistic Classroom

“Always look on the brighter side of  life” goes the ironic Monty Python song. Maybe we want to temper that view with a little realism. Nonetheless, taking a positive approach with students in the classroom and in private discussions can result  in a better learning  environment. In her article, “Creating the Optimistic Classroom: What Law Schools Can Learn from Attribution Style  Effects,” 42 McGeorge L. Rev. 319 (2011), Professor Corie  Rosen shows that a pessimistic style contributes to depression among law students and impedes their learning. In contrast, a positive teaching style contributes  to a successful learning experience:

This Article will address the linked problems of declining subjective well-being and increasing depression among law students, and will explore the way that depression in law students is produced and reinforced by pessimistic attribution style. Next, this Article will address the potential effects of using the language of optimistic attribution in law school classroom feedback, and methods professors might use to access and build that language into their feedback methodology. Finally, this Article will examine the possible effects of an optimistically-oriented learning environment. Perhaps, instead of giving up [FN6] or falling prey to depression, [FN7] students exposed to the language of optimism in their *321 classrooms may develop healthier psychological defenses to a difficult environment. In the face of both perceived and actual failure, [FN8] students who have learned optimism [FN9] may remain more motivated and, therefore, prove more successful than students who have not been so exposed. [FN10]


May 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)