Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Juror held in contempt of court for "friending" via Facebook the defendant in a civil case

The Texas judge in this case had instructed the jurors not to discuss the case with anyone and not to contact any of the parties or witnesses. After the judge learned that one of the jurors, 22 year old Jonathan Hudson, had "friended" the defendant, a woman, via Facebook, he was dismissed from the jury. After his dismissal but before being discharged from jury duty, Hudson again contacted the defendant via Facebook (was he seeking a date?). With that, the judge found Hudson guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to community service. Here's a link the judge's order and here's the full story via the Tex Parte Blog.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Advice for new law grads going solo

Recent law grads who can't find jobs are hanging shingles in records numbers according to a report released by the NALP. And while going solo right out of law school is daunting in the best economic conditions, some who've taken the plunge are finding that things are working out better than they expected. This story from the Connecticut Law Tribune (via describes a couple of recent law grads who have been able to build a practice in a short amount of time by networking like crazy, placing ads and cutting overhead to the bone.  Here's an excerpt:

Jason G. Doyon, a graduate of Western New England University School of Law, . . .  started his own practice just as the economic downturn began in December 2007. He said he started making money at his East Windsor general practice within five months and may hit six figures this year.

Not bad for a guy who was forced for a time to return to the factory where he had worked as a high school kid after graduating from law school. "Ultimately, I just got frustrated with submitting résumés and applications for jobs and not getting anything back. Ultimately, I decided to put my degree to use. Enough was enough," Doyon said.

He built up a clientele via word of mouth, networking and a small ad in a local weekly newspaper. A member of the moot court team in law school, he said he does some criminal defense work, along with wills and trusts, real estate closings and landlord-tenant law.

Like his peers, Lucas Hernandez credited mentors with helping to guide him to a successful career when he decided his first boss in the legal field would be himself.

"I wanted to be my own boss; I wanted to work in the community I was from," said Hernandez, who had an office in Bridgeport for several years before recently moving to Stratford.

After working in a family business for several years following graduation from Cornell University Law School in 2000, he was ready to take the plunge. And he did it the hard way in 2004. "I literally got my start in the legal field by pounding the pavement," Hernandez said. "I started going door to door. I told attorneys, 'I'm a new attorney. I'm able to do research and court appearances and here's my card.'"

One older attorney told him he was crazy to go out on his own. But others offered him all the help they could. In one instance, a lawyer offered him free office space if he could clear a working area in the basement.

If you're looking for more advice on how to succeed as a solo (without really trying), you may want to check out which is maintained by Connecticut practitioner Susan Cartier Liebel. According to her bio, Liebel teaches a course at Quinnipiac School of Law called How to hang a shingle right out of law school." We're not endorsing this site but instead merely passing along information to any readers who might be interested.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

In Settling a Dispute With A Client, a Lawyer Cannot Ask the Client to Forswear Filing an Ethics Complaint

Lawyers may not ask their clients to forswear filing an ethics complaint as a condition of settling an attorney-client dispute, the New Jersey Supreme Court's ethics committee has advised (New Jersey Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Professional Ethics, Op. 721, 6/27/11).

“Attorney discipline is not a private cause of action or private remedy for misconduct that can be negotiated between an attorney and the aggrieved party,” the committee explained. 

See U.S. Law Week online. I  wonder how this ruling would apply to a  nondisparagement clause in a letter of engagement or a law firm’s employment contract.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Citation Manager – Zotero Now Available as Stand-Alone (Zotero Everywhere)

Zotero is now available (in Beta) as a stand-alone citation management tool.  From the Pace Law Library blog:

“Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself.”

Many law librarians use and recommend Zotero as one of the few tools that play nice (or at least somewhat nice) with Bluebook.  More information and download from Zotero here

When working on a paper or brief with many footnotes and citations, starting early with citation management is preferred to “fixing” citations at the end.  Using a tool like Zotero can help.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Building a Professional Network Starts During 1L

A recent post from Law Practice Today caught my attention as I watch the new 1Ls begin to form relationships/study groups with each other.  

Some of these friendships are likely to be long lasting and will help to create a professional network that will serve the students well as they enter the field and through the years as they practice law.  The post offers some great advice, not only for those new attorneys entering practice, but for the new students just beginning their first year of law school:

"Where to Start
Establishing professional friendships takes time and sweat equity. It is built up slowly over time as incremental deposits by first helping others… It means staying in regular contact with the circle of legal peers you've developed over the years from law school, friends and acquaintances from past cases. Using, but not abusing, these professional friendships with other lawyers is just the start. Giving back and sincerely helping others before you ask help from them matters perhaps most of all."

The full post is here.
It seems like a good discussion to have with law students.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Helpful study tips for new law students

The advice below comes from the Lawyerist blog. To me, the single, most important tip is to pay attention in class and take good notes. As a legal writing professor who often has to spend class time on rote tasks like how to format a memo or how to draft a "question presented," I always provide students with concrete examples to follow. No need for students to waste time re-inventing the wheel when generations of lawyers have already done that work. All students need to do is copy down the examples.  Yet I'm always surprised how many don't.  The students who get the better grades aren't necessarily "better" or brighter but they are certainly the ones who take better notes.  So, if you, too, want a better grade, take good notes.  Your teachers want you to succeed and you may be surprised to find out just how many helpful tips we put right under the noses of those who are paying attention.

Follow a Consistent Schedule

New law students should treat law school like a full time job, or more. People often remark how different law school is from undergraduate studying. One notable difference is the dramatic increase in the hours required outside of class to master the material. Manage your time by creating a study schedule that includes attending class, pre-class reading, reviewing material after class, and grappling with the big picture (a.k.a. outlining).

Scheduling your time in law school is important, so you know what to expect from day to day. A helpful way to stay on top of short-term assignments and deadlines is to use a weekly work planning template. As you fall into your study routine, revaluate it from time to time, being sure to make the most of your most productive days and times of day: using your maximum focus and brain power on the toughest law school tasks.

Build in time to rest and relax every now and then, and you’ll help stave off depression while motivating yourself to study harder in anticipation of the break. You can also consider using stricter timekeeping tools to monitor how you use your time and adjust accordingly.

Don’t Get Behind

Despite your best attempts to stick to a realistic study schedule, you’ll find there is a heck of a lot of reading in law school. Very dense, often boring, confusing reading that buries the lede like you wouldn’t believe. It is so easy to get behind, only to be overwhelmed when you realize there aren’t enough hours in the day to catch up. If that happens, don’t catch up. Move on to stay on top of where you need to be today. Don’t ignore that material you missed, just give yourself the leeway to skip an assignment that’s already passed, make note of it, and beg some solid class and reading notes on the topic off of your friends.

Even better than letting go of missed assigments is to not get behind in the first place. Use the first week of classes to feel out your pace and preferences for good study habits. Realize that it’s ok to take five, six, or even ten minutes per page on really tough material, as long as you’ve given yourself the time to complete the reading. When you find yourself facing days when there’s more than can be done in the hours remaining, selectively try out studying shortcuts, like reading a few online case briefs before skimming the edited cases in your book. New law students will likely all face this problem at least a few times in a course, so be willing to lean on other law students for support, too.

Pay Attention in Class

Class time in most law school classes is not when you learn rules of law. You will pick up some so-called blackletter law along the way, but mostly that will come when you study on your own or in your study group. Class time is when the professor tells you how to excel on her exams. Not directly, perhaps, but listen carefully and you’ll begin to hear patterns in what she finds important, or perspectives she favors on particular topics. At first, you’ll be drowning in how to brief, scrambling to concisely state the facts of the day’s case, or just trembling in fear of being called on. But acute observation will tip you off to important clues of what will and won’t be tested and how to approach various issues that will arise in your final exam

Create a system for indicating in your notes when the prof harps on or is dismissive of a topic or opinion. It can be as simple as a star, asterisk, or typing: “She spent a lot of time on defining bilateral contracts!” When you’re reviewing to study, this will help you focus on areas the professor likes, which, inevitably, are more likely to appear on a test.

Paying attention in class sounds like common sense for new law students. However, many law students succumb quickly to the peer pressure of in-class distractions of the technological variety. I remember distinctly the first time I logged onto Facebook during class. I was sure I’d be struck by lightning, or at least the professor would sense it and call me out. In fact, the world didn’t end, when I stopped paying attention, and that was a very dangerous lesson. Do what you can to resist the temptation to chat up your peers during class. Turn off your wireless, take paper notes, or just keep your browser or gchat closed, and you’re much more likely to catch vital tidbits that will improve your study habits and thereby your grades.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The longer teachers talks, the more students' minds wander

That's the conclusion of this study published in Applied Cognitive Science and available here (subscription required). Interestingly, the researchers note that most of the formal research on adult attention spans has involved people whose job it is to spend long periods of time staring at a screen like military radar operators. Little research has been done on the attention spans of college students or the effect of lectures on those attention spans. This study concluded that "mind wander" increases the longer the teacher lectures.  From the abstract:

Understanding the factors underlying variation in attentional state is critical in a number of domains. Here, we investigate the relation between time on task and mind wandering (i.e., a state of decoupled attention) in the context of a lecture. Lectures are the primary means of knowledge transmission in post secondary education rendering an understanding of attentional variations in lectures a pressing practical concern. We report two experiments wherein participants watched a video recorded lecture either alone (Experiment 1) or in a classroom context (Experiment 2). Participants responded to mind wandering probes at various times in the lecture in an effort to track variations in mind wandering over time. In addition, following the lecture, memory for the lecture material was tested. Results demonstrate that in a lecture mind wandering increases with time on task and memory for the lecture material decreases. In addition, there was a significant relation between mind wandering and memory for lecture material. Theoretical and practical applications of the present results are discussed.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

The most useful law school electives according to the alums of one school

The Volokh conspiracy is reporting on a survey that asked alumni of George Washington U. Law School to pick the most useful elective they had as students as well as identify the course they wish they'd taken but didn't.  Out of the 13,000 surveyed, here's what the 576 who responded said:

The three most useful elective courses students took, according to the responses received:
1. Evidence — 156 respondents (27%)
2. Administrative Law — 120 respondents (21%)
3. Corporations — 105 respondents (18%)

Regarding the electives alums said that in hindsight they wished they'd taken, here are the results:

1. Complex litigation (50 votes)

2. Administrative law (48)

3. Pretrial advocacy (46)

4. Corporate finance (41)

5. Law & accounting (38)

And here's the list of courses that had high enrollments when the alums were students but did not make the list of important courses once they began practicing:

V]ery popular courses taken during that same period were Criminal Procedure (555 students), Negotiation (532 students), Legal Drafting (424 students), Trusts and Estates (423 students), and International Law (330 students). For those courses, their utility, as judged by our respondents, included Criminal Procedure (35), Negotiation (34), Legal Drafting (37), Trusts & Estates (19), and International Law (14)

You can read the original survey results and report from GW here and more commentary courtesy of the Wall Street Journal Law Blog here.

Hat tip ABA Journal blog.


August 31, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Educating Judges About Animal Cruelty

On the blog (August 22) of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, ALDF attorney Geoff Flek discusses his experience with some judges presiding over animal cruelty cases:

In the last few months, I've had judges in criminal cruelty and fighting cases refer to a case as "The Woof-Woof" case, ask at a restitution hearing, "Why should a defendant convicted of animal fighting be responsible for reimbursing rescuers the costs of rehabilitating rescued dogs?", strike a juror sua sponte on his own because she revealed she was a member of the ASPCA, and comment, "This is just a dog case - what's the big deal?"

He emphasizes the need to educate judges and the community about the importance of these cases and the link between animal cruelty and violence to humans.


August 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A New Type of Law School For the Next Generation of Law Students

First, I would like to thank James and Lou for inviting me to contribute to this very interesting and insightful blog. I hope that my contributions can add to the engrossing and important conversations already taking place on this blog with respect to legal skills and legal education.

To that end, I would like to make my first post focused on the changing nature of legal education. The need for more experiential learning as a part of legal education (so that law students can graduate with a much better idea of how to be lawyers and not just really good law students) has been recognized within the legal education community for some time (See the infamous Carnegie Report found here for a interesting discussion concerning this issue).

However, the below "thought experiment" put forth previoulsy by Dean Roger Dennis of Drexel Law School focuses on how to actually organize a law school and structure the legal curriculm to provide law students not just with the best legal education, but also to address the rising cost of law school tuition. Dean Dennis poses several interesting questions regarding the effectivness of this proposed model.  I would be interested in hearing others thoughts as well as answers to the questions posed.   

The No-Frills Law School

"We are in the midst of back to school blogging blitz about the future of legal education, particularly focused on issues related to the interaction of cost, student debt, and the job prospects for our students.  To further the discussion, as a thought experiment, I present a model of an ABA-accredited, university-based private law school covering all its costs at the $20,000-per-year tuition level.

The Class of 1957 College of Law will have 500 students.  It will not offer any financial aid; one price for all will create $10 million in revenue.  Let’s imagine how this revenue will be expended.

The law school’ s full time faculty of twenty will be recruited from the legion of highly talented experienced practitioners who would bring much to the classroom but do not want to produce traditional law review scholarship.  They will be pleased to work at the law school for $100,000 per year plus benefits.  Because the law school will not have a scholarly mission, full-time faculty members will teach three courses per academic term.  It will not have a sabbatical program.  Faculty professional development will be focused on improving teaching, nothing else.  The curriculum will be meat and potatoes, no seminars on postmodern jurisprudence or corporate governance in the EU for The Class of 1957.  Instead, all students will take many efficiently scheduled required courses such as evidence, commercial law, federal income tax, business organizations, trust and estates, family law and legal drafting.  Students in these courses will be required to do many exercises graded by teaching assistants.  Every student will also take pre-trial and trial advocacy, taught by the many noted practitioner friends of the dean.  The law school will add to its teaching resources by also using adjuncts to teach significant portions of the non-core upper-level doctrinal curriculum, as do most other law schools.  Beyond our trial advocacy and legal drafting programs, the experiential education program will be based on other simulation courses and well monitored externships.  In sum, the teaching budget will be $3.5 million.

Freed from the need to support faculty scholarship, the law library can meet all the needs of the 1957 Law School community, with a collection development and personnel budget of $1.25 million.  Of course, the law school will have the usual array of student services such as career placement and academic support.  Also, it will provide general administrative support for the institution.  The budget for direct operating expenses and support will be a generous $3 million.  Indirect support to cover shared university expenses will cost $2 million.  After all, the president and provost do need to be paid.  It also would be wise to pay those pesky utility bills and other building expenses.  That leaves an annual $250,000 contingency fund.

So here are some questions about the 1957 Law School.  Do the economics work?  Would you send your kid to this school?  More generally, is the model attractive to a sufficient number of qualified students who are likely to pass the bar so that 1957 Law School could attract a class?  As a competitive matter, is the price sufficiently low, considering the discounting practices of competitors?  Would enough potential employers give the 1957 Law School students a chance?  Answers to my questions fervently sought."

August 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Cognitive Science and Plain Language

As I have mentioned previously on this blog, I believe that understanding brain science is becoming an important legal skill.  Julie Baker has written an article applying aspects of brain science to legal writing, specifically plain language.

And the Winner Is: How Principles of Cognitive Science Resolve the Plain Language Debate

Abstract: “Legalese – you mean jargon? Legal jargon? Terrible! Terrible!” – U. S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, 2010.

This statement captures the prevailing view in the teaching and practice of legal writing – that “legalese” is bad and must be eradicated; and that plain language should be employed as the alternative to legalese. Yet defenders of legalese remain – and they argue that the language of the law is intertwined with the law itself, such that “simplifying” this language detracts from its meaning and makes it less precise. How, then, is a legal writer to write?

This article posits that the two different methods are not polar opposites, but rather are “endpoints” on the spectrum of language available to the legal writer. To explain this view, the article begins by reviewing what we mean by “legalese” vs. “plain language,” and how the one has fallen into disfavor while the other has become the prevailing method in legal writing pedagogy and practice. The article then undertakes a study of Cognitive Science, particularly Cognitive Fluency – the measure of how easy or difficult the mental process feels when the brain receives information. Fluency principles are critical to the understanding of the preference for plain language, which until now has been supported only by anecdotal and empirical surveys.

Applying fluency principles to legal writing, the article demonstrates that most of the time, plain language is, in fact, the right way to write, as it is “fluent” and thereby inspires feelings of ease, confidence, and trust in readers (whereas legalese is “disfluent,” engendering feelings of dislike and mistrust). The article suggests, however, that there are times when the legal writer’s analytical or persuasive goals may be served by more difficult, less fluent language – and that, going forward, an approach aimed at moderating fluency will produce the most effective legal writing. Thus, no language (except, maybe, “law French”) should be prohibited entirely; but all language should be considered as the range of options available to the skilled legal writer.


(hat tip: Gabriel Teninbaum) 

August 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge publicly criticizes attorneys for misspelling in brief

The case is a murder trial in Brooklyn involving the kidnapping, death and dismemberment of an eight year-old boy. The judge criticized the attorneys representing the defendant for misspelling "canon" of ethics as "cannon" of ethics and more generally questioned whether they were competent enough to represent a defendant accused of such a serious crime. The judge further criticized the attorneys for briefly discussing the case on their Facebook pages.

From the New York Times:

The judge [Justice Neil J. Firetog] in the case of Levi Aron, the Brooklyn man accused of murdering an 8-year-old Borough Park boy in July, upbraided Mr. Aron’s lawyers on Tuesday for their handling of his defense and questioned whether they were experienced enough to handle such a complex case.

. . . .

The judge chastised the two [defense attorneys] for briefly discussing the case on their Facebook pages, and for defending their client in this public forum. (He even scolded Mr. Bazile for misspelling “canon,” as it relates to ethics. “Two N’s means a cannon that shoots at something,” he said.)
. . . .

The judge grilled them about their experience. Mr. Bazile said he had tried one homicide case; Ms. McCann said she had tried six cases, with three ending in acquittals.

Justice Firetog said that had the two lawyers not been retained, he would have assigned more experienced ones to defend Mr. Aron.

You can read the rest here.


August 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Facebook introduces new privacy settings

Now, everytime you add a picture, comment or any other content, Facebook will ask you to specify who can see it.  The change went into effect last week.

From the New York Times:

Privacy worries have bedeviled Facebook since its early days, from the introduction of the endless scroll of data known as the news feed to, most recently, the use of facial recognition technology to identify people in photographs.

At the nub of all those worries, of course, is how much people share on Facebook, with whom and — perhaps most important — how well they understand the potential consequences.

The company has struggled to find a balance between giving users too little control over privacy and giving them too much, for fear they won’t share much at all. Seeking a happy medium, Facebook announced changes on Tuesday that it says will help users get a grip on what they share.

When the changes are introduced on Thursday, every time Facebook users add a picture, comment or any other content to their profile pages, they can specify who can see it: all of their so-called Facebook friends, a specific group of friends, or everyone who has access to the Internet. These will be indicated by icons that replace the current, more complicated padlock menu.

Similar controls will apply to information like users’ phone numbers and hometowns and whether they like, say, death metal bands, on their profile pages. Users will no longer have to seek out a separate privacy page to tweak who sees how much of that personal information. Nor will they have to bother to remember what those settings were.

Company officials say they hope the changes will simplify the process of establishing who knows what about your life on the Internet — and hopefully, save a few people the embarrassment of unwittingly sharing too much.

“We want to make this stuff unmistakably clear,” Chris Cox, vice president for product at Facebook, said in an interview. “It has to be clear that Facebook is a leader in how people control who sees what.”

Implicit in these changes is the challenge brought on by Facebook’s own success. It is used by 750 million people worldwide, with varying degrees of knowledge about what it means to have a life online. There is the looming prospect that the company will go public, along with the abiding concern about potential government regulation or litigation stemming from privacy issues.

Not least, there is the need for Facebook to cultivate the trust of its users, amid growing competition from Google’s nascent social networking service, Google Plus, which emphasizes more compartmentalized communications with different sets of friends and acquaintances.

. . . .

Privacy advocates warned that the new tools did not address a concern about sharing location. One Facebook user can publish information about another user’s whereabouts without his or her consent — whether it’s an employee at the beach on the day he or she called in sick or a husband at a strip club without his wife’s knowledge.

Other privacy experts say that if users believe they have control over who sees what, they are more likely to share.

“I think it’s part of an evolution to push back at the notion that Facebook is trying to trick you into sharing,” said Jules Polonetsky of the Future of Privacy Forum, which is based in Washington. “You’re more likely to do so when you know what you’re doing.”

You can read the rest here.


August 30, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 29, 2011

“But enough about me, let’s talk about you... what do YOU think of me?”*

Interesting and favorable review in yesterday’s New York Times Sunday Book Review of a book — “The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us” — about what the pronouns and “style” or “function” words we use reveal about us. The book originated in “unexpected findings” arising from the use of “remarkably stupid” word-counting programs:

     Pennebaker admits that word-counting programs are “remarkably stupid,” unable to recognize irony, sarcasm or even the basic contextual clues that allow us to distinguish which meaning of a word is intended. Yet these “stupid” programs have led to a series of unexpected findings ever since Pennebaker first saw the need for one 20 years ago. At the time, he and his graduate students were working through thousands of diary entries written by people suffering from depression, analyzing how people deal with traumatic moments. Writing about trauma seemed to help some people, but why? To answer the question, his team created a program to read the diary entries automatically and count words related to different psychological states, like anger, sadness and more positive emotions.

     Helped by a grad student sleuth named Sherlock Campbell, Pennebaker looked past the content-­related terms to discover that a change in the use of function words, particularly pronouns, was the best indicator of improved mental health. Recovery from trauma seemed to require a kind of “perspective switching” — reflecting on problems from different points of view — that shifts in pronoun use could facilitate.

     “The Secret Life of Pronouns” outlines in lively and accessible detail how that initial discovery led Pennebaker to appreciate the many ways in which function words reveal our interior lives. He has found strong correlations according to such factors as gender, age and class. For instance, women, younger people and people from lower social classes more frequently use pronouns and auxiliary verbs — words that supposedly signal both lower status and greater social orientation. Lacking power, he argues, requires a deeper engagement with the thoughts of one’s fellow humans.

The review suggests (to me, anyway) that the book highlights some fertile territory for those who teach legal writing to explore.

Ben Zimmer, The Power of Pronouns, N.Y. Times, Sunday Book Review, August 28, 2011, p. 16 (reviewing The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us, by James W. Pennebaker).

* CC Bloom [Bette Midler in Beaches]: “But enough about me, let’s talk about you... what do YOU think of me?


August 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Collaborative Peer Editing: A Method of Assessing Learning Outcomes

Professor Cassandra Hill has published her article, “Peer Editing: A Comprehensive Pedagogical Approach to Maximize Assessment Opportunities, Integrate Collaborative Learning, and Achieve Desired Outcomes” at 11 Nevada Law Journal 667 (2011). Here is the abstract:

This article examines an underused teaching strategy - collaborative peer editing - through the lens of student learning outcomes and assessment measures. The American Bar Association (“ABA”) recently proposed sweeping changes to law school accreditation standards that focus less on input measures, such as the school’s facility, faculty size and budget, and more on output measures, such as the school’s bar passage and employment rates. This shift will require law schools - and law professors - to articulate student learning goals and assess their achievement. To do so, law professors must find efficient techniques to assess students’ performance. Peer editing presents such an opportunity.
This Article shows how to leverage peer editing into an engaging teaching opportunity and in-depth assessment of student learning. When effectively designed, a comprehensive peer editing assignment considers projected outcomes and assessment, together with class dynamics, student engagement, and required training. This approach results in more practice-ready students, with improved teamwork, writing, and editing skills.

Part I of this article discusses the benefits both students and professors receive from collaborative peer editing exercises and outlines the challenges of peer editing. Part II shows professors how to design an assessment-focused peer editing assignment by systematically approaching the assignment in stages: (1) planning, (2) the “pitch” and training, (3) implementation and (4) assessment. Part III urges the law school community to incorporate student-to-student feedback across the curriculum. The introduction of peer editing in all law school classes will improve students’ writing and bring a team approach to the educational process. My approach focuses on legal writing but works equally for clinical and doctrinal law school classes.


August 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rats! Twitter's too slow today. Guess I'll go back to bed.

Today’s New York Times includes an article about a research paper posing an interesting theory on the impact of a government’s efforts to control social media during periods of social unrest (e.g., during open rebellion). The article notes that shutting down Internet access to social media can have a radicalizing effect. A blog post by the chief technology officer of a company that assesses the way the Internet operates across the world raises a complementary notion: making access merely inconvenient instead of impossible might have a de-radicalizing effect.

The research paper focuses on the Egyptian government’s decision to shut down all access to the Internet and cellphone service, while the blog post looks at the effect of Libya’s different decision:

     “The disruption of cellphone coverage and Internet on the 28th [in Egypt] exacerbated the unrest in at least three major ways,” [Navid Hassanpour, the author of the research paper,] writes. “It implicated many apolitical citizens unaware of or uninterested in the unrest; it forced more face-to-face communication, i.e., more physical presence in streets; and finally it effectively decentralized the rebellion on the 28th through new hybrid communication tactics, producing a quagmire much harder to control and repress than one massive gathering in Tahrir [Square].”

     In an interview, he described “the strange darkness” that takes place in a society deprived of media outlets. “We become more normal when we actually know what is going on — we are more unpredictable when we don’t — on a mass scale that has interesting implications,” he said.

     Mr. Mubarak’s government collapsed and the former president, at age 83, now finds himself being wheeled into a Cairo court on a hospital bed to face charges of corruption and complicity in the killing of protesters.

     Jim Cowie, the chief technology officer of Renesys, a company that assesses the way the Internet is operating across the world, believes that another besieged leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, may have taken note of the Egyptian experience.

     In a blog post on the company’s Web site, “What Libya Learned From Egypt,” Mr. Cowie writes that in March, Libya toyed with the idea of pulling the switch on its Internet service.

     Libya’s leaders “faced this same decision in the run-up to civil war,” he wrote, “and each time, perhaps learning from the Egyptian example, they backed down from implementing a multiday all-routes blackout.”

     Sophisticated governments will realize that “shutting down radicalizes things,” he said in a phone interview. What is more useful to governments, he said, was “bandwidth throttling,” recognizing that “Internet is something you can meter out.” This “metering out” is meant to make the experience less reliable and responsive, he said, so that video streaming is hesitant and Web pages are slow to load.

     Iran, Mr. Cowie said, was one of a number of countries that have realized that “you don’t turn off the Internet anywhere — you make it less useful,” controlling which neighborhoods get it, for example.

Noam Cohen, Link by Link: In Unsettled Times, Media Can Be a Call to Action, or a Distraction, N.Y. Times, August 29, 2011, p. B3 (national edition).


August 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do we need to teach students e-discovery skills?

This story from Forbes (hat tip ATL) is about e-discovery moving to the cloud but what really caught my attention is just how big the e-discovery industry is expected to become.  According to Forbes, e-discovery software and services generated $3 billion in revenues for 2010 and that number is expected to double in the next two years. It's not clear to me the extent to which large scale opportunities exist in the e-discovery industry for lawyers (rather than software designers), putting aside the question of whether it's wise for law students to incur heavy debt for a career in e-discovery even if that's an option.

It is abundantly clear, though, that law grads must understand the technological issues involved in e-discovery including how to search for meta-data to prevent the inadvertent waiver of the attorney-client privilege or other mistakes that could compromise the client's case.  Graduating students who don't understand these issues may be a bit like graduating ones who don't understand the significance of deadlines; they will be malpractice cases waiting to happen.  And while digital natives are fluent in social networking, the use of the web and video-games, some commentators have suggested that they have little to no understanding of the technological issues that underlie it all.

What, if anything, should law schools be doing to impart to students the skills needed to competently assess and handle e-discovery issues? I know what you're thinking - there already isn't enough room in the curriculum to teach students some of the most basic skills they will need in practice without adding "technology 101" to the mix. And besides, who on the faculty has the technological know-how to teach such a course?  Unless a faculty member has come from practice within the past few years, they most likely don't have the expertise to do it either.  Perhaps librarians (as information technology experts), vendors (we often use Wexis reps teach those technologies to students) or IT department personnel could do it.

What do you think? Are these the kinds of skills we should be adding to a "practice-ready" curriculum and if so what would such a course look like and who would staff it? Please share your thoughts below.


August 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Please welcome Professor Todd Berger to the LSP Blog

We're very pleased to have Professor Todd Berger from Rutgers-Camden joining us on the legal skills blog as a contributing editor. Professor Berger is a clinician and former criminal defense attorney. From his bio:

Todd A. Berger is a 2003 graduate of Temple University School of Law.  He also earned an L.L.M. in Trial Advocacy from Temple University in 2007.  He is currently the Managing Attorney of the Federal Prisoner Reentry Project at Rutgers School of Law-Camden. Prior to coming to Rutgers he worked as an assistant public defender with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, representing indigent defendants throughout all stages of the criminal justice system, from preliminary arraignment through trial and post-verdict motions.  He worked as a supervisor in both the Municipal Court and Felony Waiver Units, assisting new attorneys in trial preparation and courtroom practice.  He also served in the Major Trials Unit representing clients in jury trials involving the most serious non-homicide felony charges.  He was also a Lecturer in Law at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law where he taught the Criminal Defense Clinic.  

Professor Berger will be covering the clinical legal education beat among other topics. We look forward to his contributions.


August 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tennessee gets another law school

Belmont College of Law has just opened for business in Nashville which brings the number of schools in that city to three - the others being Vanderbilt and U. of Nashville. Tennessee now has  a total of six law schools including the University of Tennessee and the provisionally accredited Lincoln Memorial - both in Knoxville, as well as the University of Memphis.

There are 130 students in the first year class and according to this story from the New York Lawyer, it plans to have a total enrollment of 325 by 2014.  It's a given that Vanderbilt draws most of its students from a national pool rather than locally but even so, can a city of approximately 600,000 support this many law schools? According to NYL, the median LSAT score of the inaugural class exceeded expectations suggesting there's more demand than classroom seats.


August 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Crafting your “Elevator Pitch”

So, just what is an elevator pitch? According to Jeffrey Paul Baumgartner: 

An “elevator pitch” is a short, self promotional statement which you can deliver when time is limited. The term came to prominence during the dot-com boom when every other person seemed to be starting up an Internet company and looking for venture capital funding. It comes from the scenario of finding yourself in a lift – or elevator, as Americans call it – with someone who can help you out professionally, such as an investor, business partner or potential employer. In a minute, the lift will reach its destination and the other person will leave, so you only have a few seconds to say something to capture that person's interest.

The aim of an elevator pitch should not be to make a sale, get a job or nab a sack full of money from a venture capitalist. Rather, it is to start a conversation. The ideal outcome of an elevator pitch is for the other person to look at her watch and say, “I've got a free hour. Let's go have a coffee and talk about this.”

His posting offers how-to-craft-it guidance.


August 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)