Thursday, September 22, 2011

Study showing multitasking interferes with learning of college students now available online

When we first blogged about this article, "Examining the Impact of Off-Task Multi-tasking with Technology On Real-Time Classroom Learning" in Computers and Education (2011), it was only available behind a paywall. But now it's been released to the public gratis so click here if you'd like to read the full study.

Here's the abstract again, FYI.

The purpose of the present study was to examine the impact of multi-tasking with digital technologies while attempting to learn from real-time classroom lectures in a university setting. Four digitally-based multi-tasking activities (texting using a cell-phone, emailing, MSN messaging and Facebook) were compared to 3 control groups (paper-and-pencil note-taking, word-processing note-taking and a natural use of technology condition) over three consecutive lectures. Comparisons indicated that participants in the Facebook and MSN conditions performed more poorly than those in the paper-and-pencil use control. Follow-up analyses were required to accommodate the substantial number of students who failed to comply with the limited use of technology specified by their assigned conditions. These analyses indicated that participants who did not use any technologies in the lectures outperformed students who used some form of technology. Consistent with the cognitive bottleneck theory of attention (Welford, 1967) and contrary to popular beliefs, attempting to attend to lectures and engage digital technologies for off-task activities can have a detrimental impact on learning.

(jbl).

September 22, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Georgetown clinical fellowships available

Here are the details:

GEORGETOWN UVIVERSITY LAW CENTER CLINICAL TEACHING FELLOWSHIPS

Georgetown University Law Center is pleased to announce the availability of up to 16 clinical graduate fellowships commencing in the summer of 2012.  Georgetown Graduate Clinical Teaching Fellowships offer new and experienced attorneys the opportunity to combine study with practice in the fields of clinical legal education and public interest advocacy.

Each fellowship is associated with one of the Law Center's clinical programs, and each program varies in purpose, requirements, and duties.

All of the clinical fellowships, however, share a common goal: to provide highly motivated lawyers the chance to develop skills as teachers and legal advocates within an exciting and supportive educational environment.  Graduates of Georgetown's clinical fellowship program have gone on to a wide variety of positions in law teaching and public interest law settings.  Well over 100 Georgetown fellows are now teaching at law schools across the country, including five Deans of law schools and several Associate Deans or Directors of clinical programs.

Many others are leaders in the public interest arena.

Fellows enroll in a two-year program during which they are in residence at a Georgetown clinic.  Fellows directly supervise J.D. students enrolled in the clinics, assist in teaching clinic seminars, and perform work on their own cases or other legal matters.  Fellowships usually begin in the late summer, with an intensive orientation designed to introduce fellows to clinical teaching methods. The orientation is part of our Elements of Clinical Pedagogy course, a year-long teacher training program.  Upon completing the requirements for graduation, fellows are awarded the degree of Master of Laws (Advocacy). We are currently seeking fellows to work in the following areas: appellate litigation; civil rights; communications law; criminal defense; domestic violence; environmental law; federal legislation; HIV/AIDS law, housing and community development; juvenile delinquency; trade policy and health care policy; and political asylum. 

 The fellowship program currently offers an annual stipend of approximately $53,000 (taxable), plus all tuition and fees in the LL.M. program.  Health insurance and other benefits are also provided. As graduate students, fellows are eligible for deferment of their student loans during their two years in the fellowship.  They may also be eligible for their law school=s loan repayment assistance program.

 With the exception of fellows in the Center for Applied Legal Studies and the Street Law Program, all fellows must be members of the D.C. bar.  Fellowship applicants who are admitted to a bar elsewhere must apply to waive into the D.C. bar upon accepting their fellowship offer.  The Law Center will reimburse the expense of waiving into the D.C. bar incurred by those fellows who have already taken the bar exam elsewhere prior to accepting their fellowship offer.

 Applications must be sent directly to the director of the clinic or program in which the fellowship is sought and not to the Graduate Programs Admissions Office.  Application deadlines vary by fellowship.

For descriptions of each fellowship and a list of application deadlines, please visit our web site at http://www.law.georgetown.edu/clinics/fellowships.html, or request a brochure by e-mailing us at clinics@law.georgetown.edu or calling (202) 662-9100.

(jbl).

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pew study on text-messaging habits shows 20-somethings send 110 texts per day

Some interesting findings from this recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project that have implications for law profs and lawyers alike (as the college-age subjects of the study eventually turn into clients). For law profs, it's interesting to note that students are probably doing more writing than at any time in history yet the kind of reflective writing skills needed to succeed in law school are in decline. That's no shocker given that most of this writing is done outside an academic context and instead consists of exchanging lots of shorthand notes.

Among the Pew findings:

  • Some 83% of American adults own cell phones and three-quarters of them (73%) send and receive text messages.
  • 31% of that group said they preferred texts to talking on the phone, while 53% said they preferred a voice call to a text message. Another 14% said the contact method they prefer depends on the situation.
  • Heavy text users are much more likely to prefer texting to talking. Some 55% of those who exchange more than 50 messages a day say they would rather get a text than a voice call.
  • Young adults are the most avid texters by a wide margin. Cell owners between the ages of 18 and 24 exchange an average of 109.5 messages on a normal day—that works out to more than 3,200 texts per month—and the typical or median cell owner in this age group sends or receives 50 messages per day (or 1500 messages per month).
  • Overall, the survey found that both text messaging and phone calling on cell phones have leveled off for the adult population as a whole. Text messaging users send or receive an average of 41.5 messages on a typical day, with the median user sending or receiving 10 texts daily – both figures are largely unchanged from what we reported in 2010. Similarly, cell owners make or receive an average of 12 calls on their cells per day, which is unchanged from 2010.

Download the full study here or view a summary here.

(jbl).

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

U.S. News and The Marketing of Legal Education

Kenneth Lasson has posted an article on SSRN entitled Compelling Orthodoxy: Myth and Mystique in the Marketing of Legal Education.  The article mainly concerns the effect of U.S. News rankings on legal scholarship. The core of his theory is:

"For better or worse, 'building the brand' has become not only the primary goal of a law school's strategic identity plan, but inextricably bound up by the annual rankings of U.S. News & World Report."

"The near-obsessive preoccupation with this standard by most law deans and faculties has in turn yielded perhaps the most obtrusive contemporary intervention into legitimate legal scholarship. Whether true or not, the clear perception is that the more prestigious the institution's law review and those in which its faculty publishes, the higher its position in the standings. At least one consequence is that student editors feel strongly inclined to select articles based on the the author's reputation or law-school affiliation, rather than on an article's merits. Similar pressures may drive them to choose the type of highly theoretical but impractical pieces that are held in high regard by many law professors."

(esf)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legal skills scholarship: "Legal forms as rhetorical transaction: competency in the context of information and efficiency"

By Professor Kirsten Davis (Stetson) and available at 79 UMKC L. Rev. 667 (2011). From the introduction:

Using legal forms, that is, using existing documents as a template for drafting, is an age-old lawyering practice. Courts sometimes require form use and publish forms, for example, in conjunctions with their local rules. Commercial publishers sell forms: originally in print, and now electronically, including not only traditional legal forms, designed to be models for drafting wills and contracts, but also briefs and motions filed in previous cases, stored in word-searchable databases and meant to be used as examples or models for drafting. Statutes prescribe form use or provide legislatively approved forms, such as in the context of advanced directives like living wills or health care powers of attorney. Moreover, improved technology has resulted in document assembly systems, computer-based products that use an underlying legal document to guide the user through an interview to produce “error-free” legal documents in a “fraction of the time” it previously took lawyers to produce those same documents.

 The prevalence of legal forms, the increasing amount of information available to legal practitioners, the need for efficiency in legal practice, and the continuing ethical requirement of competent practice demands that the issue of competent legal form use be explored. Although one approach by those teaching students about legal drafting can be to discourage form use or discuss form use with a healthy dose of finger-wagging, the idea that lawyers will ignore forms or chose not to use them is unlikely and impracticable because, as various legal publishers point out, forms can save lawyers time and money. In addition, form use, if done well and with reliable and well-composed forms, can help a lawyer practice more efficiently and provide a lawyer with useful information to assist her in competently drafting a document. Accordingly, the legal profession needs an approach to the use of forms in practice that takes into account the need for efficiency, the increased availability of information, and the professional obligation of competence.

 When a lawyer uses a form as a template or model for drafting a legal document, she is attempting to competently enter a particular legal discourse community-to communicate information in a way that is recognized by the intended audience and to effectuate a specific purpose that audience acknowledges. Rhetorical theory recognizes this as a “rhetorical situation,” a confluence of “persons, events, objects, relations, and an exigence which strongly invites utterance.” Using a form to enter a legal discourse community is a rhetorical act, an act meant to establish, maintain, and transform a particular legal community. And forms themselves are rhetorical documents-a component of a communicatively constructed transaction that includes the form itself, the form's original author, the form's current user, and a broader communicative context that includes past, present, and even future, yet-to-be-defined audiences. Once form use is recognized as rhetorical, then rhetorical theory, a theoretical perspective that seeks to explain the production and reception of texts and discourse, becomes a valuable lens through which to analyze form use and to address the problems of being efficient, managing information, and competently using forms in the legal profession.

 Accordingly, this article first describes the tensions among efficiency, information overload, and competency in form use. Then, it examines the various definitions of “form,” those emanating from the vernacular, from formbook producers, from case law, and finally, from a rhetorical perspective based upon the rhetorical theory of Kenneth Burke. It next describes a rhetorical theory of form use in the legal profession based on an extension of Kenneth Burke's theory of literary form and creates a unique “rhetorical taxonomy” of legal forms. Finally, this article offers an approach for competent legal form use in practice based upon this taxonomy.

(jbl).

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

For Students: How to Ask for a Reference Letter

Here is an article on the subject from Canada’s University Affairs (Affairs universitaires). Most of us would find nothing new here, but based on my experience, our students probably would. The article gives detailed advice and is worth distributing. If you have additional advice, please  think about adding a Comment.

(ljs)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alternative Law Careers – Why Don’t They “Count”?

I have seen numerous posts recently about the statistics of law school graduates who don’t become lawyers.  For example, the Balkanization Blog has this post. There are many alternative career paths for law schools graduates (for instance, my career path as a law librarian) that should “count” as success for law school statistics.  I’m not sure that “JD required” is the right benchmark anymore – maybe it should be “JD preferred” or jobs where an advanced degree is required. 

Here are some useful resources for anyone interested in exploring these “alternative” legal career paths:

Deborah Arron, What Can You Do With a Law Degree?: A Lawyer’s Guide to Career Alternatives Inside, Outside & Around the Law (1999)

Susan Echaore-McDavid, Career Opportunities in Law and the Legal Industry (2007)

Gary A. Munneke & William D. Henslee, Nonlegal Careers for Lawyers (2006)

Ursula Furi-Perry, Fifty Unique Legal Paths: How to Find the Right Job (2008)

Deborah Schneider & Gary Belsky, Should You Really Be a Lawyer?: The Guide to Smart Career Choices Before, During & After Law School (2010)

Heidi McNeil Staudenmaier, ed., Changing Jobs: A Handbook for Lawyers in the New Millennium (1999)

Kimm Alayne Walton, Guerrilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Job of Your Dreams (2008)

(dkh)

September 21, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Study by National Jurist Magazine finds law school externships have increased by 45% in past decade

From National Jurist:

Law schools have increased the number of externship opportunities by 45 percent over the past ten years, according to a study by National Jurist magazine.

The magazine, which used data from the 2002 and 2012 editions of the “Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools,” will publish a list of the 20 20 law schools with the highest percent of externships to enrollment in the Fall issue of preLaw magazine.

Over the past ten years, 48 percent of law schools have made significant increases in the number of externships offered. These schools have almost tripled the number of opportunities — increasing from a combined 5,274 to 14,394 positions. Opportunities have been flat at the remaining 52 percent of law schools.

The University of Utah saw the greatest growth, increasing from 0 to 278 field placements. Michigan State grew from 18 to 352, and University of Illinois ramped up from 56 to 257.

“I am a big believer in clinical education and giving students as much experience as possible while they are in law school,” said Hiram Chodosh, dean at the University of Utah’s law school. “We have a heavy emphasis on teaching through leadership and teaching practice through experience.”

He credits the school’s rise in externships to the growth in its diverse set of clinical programs, including clinics for innocence, victims’ rights, civil rights, the environment, new ventures and appellate practice.

The 400-student law school prides itself on completing 45,000 hours of public service per year, a bulk of which is spent on its clinical programs.

Chodosh said that the school’s presence in Salt Lake City, a growing hub for technology, keeps those externship numbers up.

“It helps to be within or on the edge of a major city,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to develop rich clinical program in a community where you have population and commercial types of activity.”

University of Illinois says its externship program has skyrocketed due to both student demand and the sense that it offers something unique to students at the right time in their education.

“Most law students want to begin to work in the legal field as soon as possible,” said Jennifer Pahre, director of externships at UI, where most of its students complete an externship following their first year of law school.  

Externships are popular because they allow students to try different areas of law on for size before committing to a certain field.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

September 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Prosecutor Shows Jury Slow-Motion Video of Murder

In 2007, the defendant shot a police officer in a Dunkin Donuts in Philadelphia. That fact is uncontested. For the jury, the issue was whether the offense was first or second degree murder. There was a surveillance video of the murder, and the prosecutor showed it in slow motion. (Remember the ending of the movie Bonnie and Clyde?) The trial judge overruled the objection that the slow-motion showing would prejudice the jury. The defendant was convicted of first degree murder. 

The issue is now before the state’s Supreme Court. Based on reports of the oral argument. The state’s attorney justified the showing by asserting that the slower video allowed the jury to assess the defendant’s intent. Upon further questioning, the attorney seemed unable to support this statement. Based on reports of the oral argument, I am not sure whether the Court will throw out the trial verdict I am flabbergasted. Commonwealth v. Jordan.

(ljs)

September 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Interesting Debate Over Same-Sex Dorms Playing Out At Catholic University Law School

An interesting debate is playing out at Catholic University over the law school's new policy of eliminating co-ed dorms and instead creating same-sex dorms. Catholic Law School's position at its most basic is explained in the below quote from Catholic University President Victor Nakas,

"The transition to single-sex residence halls – a return to a policy that was once common – is rooted mainly in a desire to curb the abuse of alcohol and to stymie development of a “hook-up” culture at the University.  The University’s decision will contribute to strengthening its educational process and the holistic development of its students. . . ." 

The plan is being opposed by George Washington University Law Professor John Banzhaf who contends the move to same-sex residence halls is an unlawful form of discrimination under Washington D.C.'s Human Rights Act. As you can imagine Catholic disputes Banzhaf's position and believes the plan to move to same-sex dormitories is legally permissible.

For a more detailed discussion of the controversy see the link below.

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2011/09/19/law-professor-continues-to-battle-catholic-university-over-same-sex-dorms/

(TAB)

September 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Presentation pointers

The Harvard Business Review’s HBR Blog Network includes a post with advice about making oral presentations. Useful reminders even for those with experience in public speaking (or in making a pitch to a client or potential client), and helpful advice for newbies to the task.

Jerry Weissman, Never Ask ‘Does That Make Sense?, HBR Blog Network, September 14, 2011.

(cgw)

September 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Free webcast on an ever-popular topic for new lawyers: What They Didn’t Teach You in Law School

Tomorrow, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time), the Practising Law Institute will offer a free webcast for new lawyers beginning practice in a law firm. Topics include:

  • Getting to know your colleagues and your competition
  • Acting as an ambassador for your firm
  • Developing a reputation as a team player
  • Becoming a valued resource for co-workers and clients
  • Earning cooperation from non-legal staff
  • Nurturing client relationships
Approved for CLE in most jurisdictions (see webcast webpage for details).

Practising Law Institute, Welcome to the Firm: Now What? What They Didn’t Teach You in Law School (audio only) (September 21, 2011).

(cgw)

September 20, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Been away from practice and need to brush up on your legal skills?

Then you may be interested in the "New Directions" program at Pace Law School which is designed to help attorneys return to practice after an extended absence as well as help those who have never practiced develop their legal chops.  Here's a brief description of the program followed by enrollment  information for the next session which will begin in January.

From the New Directions website:

Are you an attorney who has taken a leave from practice or never practiced? Would you like to return to the practice of law, or an alternative legal career, but you’re not sure how or where to begin? Would you like to bring your legal skills up to speed, learn and practice on-line legal research, develop a resume, refresh your interviewing skills? Would you like to obtain a current practical legal experience and, as a result, develop a current writing sample, references, and networking contacts?

 

Pace Law School has developed a unique and innovative program, New Directions, to give lawyers the substantive law updates, professional skills and practical experience they need to return to the legal marketplace, either as practicing attorneys or professionals working in alternative legal careers.


PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

 

  • Comprehensive program consisting of practical legal skills, a substantive law curriculum and career guidance
  • Externship with sponsor organization which provides practical experience, supervision and mentoring
  • Diverse curriculum covering a wide range of practice areas
  • A specially tailored legal research and writing course
  • Individualized career counseling and guidance
  • Substantive and career-related reading materials and resources
  • Assistance  with  preparation of job-seeking tools, including creation of a resume and cover letter
  • Enhancement of job-seeking skills, including preparation for interviews through, among other things, mock interviews
  • Instruction in classes  earning over 24 New York State CLE credits
  • An unlimited number of additional CLE classes through Pace Law CCLE at no extra cost for one year from the first day of the Session
  • Networking within the legal community
  • Access to job postings during the program and for an additional three months after completion of the program.

New Directions is accepting applications for the upcoming session, which (tentatively) runs from January 17 – June 29, 2012. The deadline to apply is December 1, 2011.  Pace will be hosting two information sessions in advance of the deadline. They are:

October 20, 6-8 p.m., Gerber Glass Lounge (3rd floor), Pace Law School, 78 North Broadway, White Plains, NY. RSVP by October 12, agewirtz@law.pace.edu

November 18, noon-2 p.m., Pace Midtown Center, Room 811, 551 Fifth Ave., New York, NY. RSVP by November 11, agewirtz@law.pace.edu

(jbl).

September 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

7th Circuit bench-slaps attorney for poor writing threatening him with loss of federal bar membership

[Updated with new link - thanks to a reader for letting us that the opinion has been removed from the original site]

Wow. The 7th Circuit really tee-ed off on this plaintiff's attorney for filing an "incomprehensible" complaint and then writing an appellate brief that is so bad, according to the court, that the attorney has been ordered to show cause as to why his license to practice before the 7th Circuit should not be revoked.

The case, Stanard v. Nygren, No. 09-1487, slip op. (7th Cir. Sept. 19, 2011), [try this link if the previous one is dead] involves an alleged violation of the plaintiff's civil rights because the local sheriff apparently required him to hire county deputies as a private security force for an outdoor performance venue the plaintiff had constructed. After giving the plaintiff's attorney three tries at filing an "intelligible" complaint at the trial level, the district dismissed the action with prejudice. The plaintiff then appealed and the 7th Circuit affirmed making things worse for the plaintiff's attorney by ordering him to show cause as to why his license to practice before that court should not be revoked. In addition, the attorney must send a copy of the court's order to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. 

Youch.

Here are some excerpts:

Slip op. at 2 [or here]:

      "We affirm. The district court was well within its discretion to reject the second amended complaint and dismiss the case with prejudice. Each iteration of the complaint was generally incomprehensible and riddled with errors, making it impossible for the defendants to know what wrongs they were accused of committing. Maksym's persistent failure to comply with basic directions from the court and his open defiance of court orders amply justified the judge's decision to dismiss with prejudice. Moreover, like his pleadings in the district court, Maksym's appellate briefing is woefully deficient, raising serious concerns about his competence to practice before this court. Accordingly, we order Maksym to show cause why he should not be suspended from the bar of this court or otherwise disciplined under Rule 46 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Finally, we direct the clerk to send a copy of this opinion to the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission."

 Slip op. at 13 [or here]:

      "Applying these principles here, the district court was well within its discretion in refusing to accept Stanard's proposed second amended complaint. We agree that it crossed the line from just 'unnecessarily long' to 'unintelligible.' Though the complaint was far longer than it needed to be, prolixity was not its chief deficiency. Rather, its rampant grammatical, syntactical, and typographical errors contributed to an overall sense of unintelligibility. This was compounded by a vague, confusing, and conclusory articulation of the factual and legal basis for the claims and a general 'kitchen sink' approach to pleading the case. This was Maksym's third attempt to draft a comprehensible pleading, yet his effort to comply with the court's earlier directions was half-hearted at best; the proffered second amended complaint was rife with errors. We include a sampling to provide an understanding of its shortcomings: [omitting list on pp. 13-16, including footnote 7, which reproduces a 345-word sentence and runs about 1.5 pages in the slip opinion]"

 Slip op. at 20-21 [try this]:

      "One final note: Compounding the problems he exhibited in the district court, Maksym failed to file a reasonably coherent brief on appeal. All the deficiencies that plagued the various versions of the complaint also infected his briefs here. Maksym never directly addressed the issues before this court, relying instead on cases of marginal or no relevance. In the table of authorities in his opening brief, he cites 81 cases, but almost all of them are completely irrelevant to the issues presented here. In his reply brief, after the defendants had crystallized the issues, Maksym again failed to meaningfully-or even comprehensibly-articulate an argument. His appellate briefing was characterized by a reliance on irrelevant, conclusory, and often incoherent arguments of which the following is a representative example: 'Plaintiffs claims were not "intelligible"- no "needle in a haystack" as Appellees' claim.'"

A big hat tip to our own Twitter brief-writing champion Chris Wren for this story.

(jbl).

September 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Online Marketing for the Smaller Firm

Competing with the big firms is often a challenge. When it comes to marketing yourself online, the Law Firm Web Strategy Blog (Sept. 13) offers advice:

1. Focus on your specialties.

2. Emphasize service—the personal touch.

3. Offer a fair price—but not too low a price.

The blog posting offers detailed how-to advice.

(ljs)

September 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Case Briefing - Resources for Law Students

The topic of discussion this weekend on @lawschoolchat was case briefing.  It was interesting to see the opinions/suggestions from students about case briefing as a study tool and what they thought were the best study aids.  BTW, Examples & Explanations (especially for “Contracts”) was the clear favorite.

Here are some useful resources to help students master case briefing:

Andrew J. McClurg, 1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor's Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School (2009)

Shana Connell Noyes & Henry S. Noyes, Acing Your First Year of Law School: The Ten Steps to Success You Won't Learn in Class (2008)

Ruta K. Stropus & Charlotte D. Taylor, Bridging the Gap Between College and Law School: Strategies for Success (2009)

Peter T. Wendel, Deconstructing Legal Analysis: A 1L Primer (2009)

Westlaw & LexisNexis – students can read the case summaries prepared by the editors (although this is no substitute for writing a case brief, I am told that students use this tool to be “prepared” for being called on in class).

Happy briefing!

(dkh)

 

September 19, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Do those long "privilege" disclaimers at the end of emails really protect against inadvertent waivers?

Even if they don't, what's the downside to including them other than creating a minor annoyance? And as one commenter pointed out, a disclaimer may be effective insofar as it identifies the body of the email as "confidential." From the Economist:

Spare us the e-mail yada, yada.

“IF THIS e-mail is received in error, notify the sender immediately.” “This e-mail does not create an attorney-client relationship.” “Any tax advice in this e-mail is not intended to be used for the purpose of avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code.” Many firms—The Economist included—automatically append these sorts of disclaimers to every message sent from their e-mail servers, no matter how brief and trivial the message itself might be.

E-mail disclaimers are one of the minor nuisances of modern office life, along with fire drills, annual appraisals and colleagues who keep sneezing loudly. Just think of all the extra waste paper generated when messages containing such waffle are printed. They are assumed to be a wise precaution. But they are mostly, legally speaking, pointless. Lawyers and experts on internet policy say no court case has ever turned on the presence or absence of such an automatic e-mail footer in America, the most litigious of rich countries.

Many disclaimers are, in effect, seeking to impose a contractual obligation unilaterally, and thus are probably unenforceable. This is clear in Europe, where a directive from the European Commission tells the courts to strike out any unreasonable contractual obligation on a consumer if he has not freely negotiated it. And a footer stating that nothing in the e-mail should be used to break the law would be of no protection to a lawyer or financial adviser sending a message that did suggest something illegal.

So why are the disclaimers there? Company lawyers often insist on them because they see others using them. As with Latin vocabulary and judges’ robes, once something has become a legal habit it has a tendency to stick. Might they at least remind people to behave sensibly? Michael Overly, a lawyer for Foley & Lardner in Los Angeles, thinks not: the proliferation of predictable yada-yada at the bottom of messages means that people have long since stopped paying any attention to it.

So what should you do in the event of an inadvertent disclosure? The Lawyerist blog suggest that the steps you take immediately upon learning of it will likely be the most relevant evidence to a court trying to decide whether the privilege has been waived.

(jbl).

September 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Client files infested with rodents and bugs may be destroyed

Thanks to our sister publication the Legal Profession Blog for this arcane bit of practice management advice. The story refers to an order from the South Carolina Supreme Court which ruled that an attorney appointed to protect the interests of another attorney's clients (presumably because the first attorney was censured or disbarred?) can destroy the client's files if they have not been maintained in a sanitary or safe manner.

On several occasions, an attorney appointed to protect the interests of another lawyer's clients...has notified the Court that the lawyer's client files are not maintained in a sanitary and safe condition. In some cases, the attorney to protect has advised the Court that the lawyer's client files are moldy and/or infested with rodents and insects. As a consequence, the attorney to protect clients' interests is hesitant to inventory the lawyer's client files, to remove original documents from the client files, and to relinquish control of the files to the lawyer's clients upon client request.

(jbl).

September 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pacer fees will increase

Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is increasing from 8 cents a page to 10. From the Law Librarian Blog (quoting a story from the federal courts website) :

In separate action, the Conference responded to inflationary pressures by increasing, effective November 1, certain miscellaneous fees for federal courts. The newly approved court fee schedule, the first inflationary increase in eight years, is expected to result in an estimated $10.5 million in additional fee revenue for fiscal year 2012. Fees in appeals, district, and bankruptcy courts are affected. The income the Judiciary receives through miscellaneous fees allows it to reduce its annual appropriations request to Congress.

The Conference also authorized an increase in the Judiciary's electronic public access fee in response to increasing costs for maintaining and enhancing the electronic public access system. The increase in the electronic public access (EPA) fee, from $.08 to $.10 per page, is needed to continue to support and improve the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system, and to develop and implement the next generation of the Judiciary's Case Management/Electronic Case Filing system.

The EPA fee has not been increased since 2005. As mandated by Congress, the EPA program is funded entirely through user fees set by the Conference. Implementation of the two-cent per page increase will take a minimum of six months.

The Conference was mindful of the impact such an increase could have on other public entities and on public users accessing the system to obtain information on a particular case. For this reason, local, state, and federal government agencies will be exempted from the increase for three years. Moreover, PACER users who do not accrue charges of more than $15 in a quarterly billing cycle would not be charged a fee. (The current exemption is $10 per quarter.) The expanded exemption means that 75 to 80 percent of all users will still pay no fees.

(jbl).

September 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"10 Things Every Law Student Should Know Before Starting At A Law Firm"

The list is from Lateral Link via Above the Law.  Most of it is equally good advice for getting ahead in law school too but  especially pertinent may be the tip about making your rough drafts as good as possible - the more effort you put into them, the quicker you'll move up the learning curve.

Be professional…always – You will establish your reputation early in your career, so be wary about your emails, phone calls, and conversations. Reputation at the firm matters and junior associates’ (and summer associates’) reputations carry with them for many years. It takes years of diligence and trust to develop a reputation; it only takes one unprofessional email (and feature story on Above the Law) to ruin it. (Ed note: we used to refer to this as the coral reef syndrome in law school - as in "it takes thousands of hours to build a good GPA [or coral reef] and all it takes is one bad grade [or storm] to destroy it."
Know your deadlines - For every assignment, always ascertain the deadline and find out if it is a soft or hard deadline. A hard deadline is the absolute final date that an assignment must be completed by (i.e. a filing date); soft deadlines are typically internal to the firm or a partner. Regardless of the type of deadline, you should be diligent either way and get your assignments complete on time. By knowing your deadlines and planning in advance, you can plan your personal life around your professional life. Sometimes deadlines will interfere no matter how diligent you are with your schedule. In that case, suck it up unless it is really important.

Make your rough drafts solid - A rough draft should be as close to perfect as possible. "Rough" only refers to the legal analysis, not the writing, grammar, or spelling. Your rough draft should not look like a drunk text you sent the previous weekend, so no cute abbreviations or emoticons. Any notations or comments that make sense only to you should be removed or clarified.

Network early and get connected - Firms are very political and knowing the right people can make a huge difference in which direction your career takes. Get to know and work with the most influential people at the firm (partners and associates) and you will greatly improve your working experience and longevity. Even though it’s been over a year since the last big firm associate layoff, you should never forget that you may fall victim to a future round of layoffs. It is a lot harder to fire someone you know and like than a person you only know on paper. Furthermore, if you are well-connected within your firm, there will be more people willing to go to bat for you (whether that means a good assignment, promotion, or getting to keep your job).

Read the rest of the tips here.

(jbl).

September 18, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0)