Monday, October 31, 2011
My choice is Legal Argument: The Structure and Language of Effective Language by James A. Gardner. I think that at least one first-year class should teach this book and its methods in detail. You cannot teach Gardner's method in just one class. The teacher needs to teach it throughout a semester so that it will stick.
Gardner believes that legal reasoning relies too much on analogical reasoning. Rather, " all legal argument should be in the form of syllogisms."
A syllogism is deductive reasoning:
1. Major premise
2. Minor premise
1. All men are mortal
2. Socrates is a man
3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
Gardner goes into great detail on how to use syllogisms to develop legal arguments. He then shows how to use the method to write up the argument. I especially like his example in Chapter 8 on an Endangered Species Act Violation.
For a way to incorporate syllogisms (and other methods of legal reasoning) into a small-scale paradigm, see my article Legal Argument and Small-Scale Organization at http://ssrn.com/abstract=979656 .
From the Chronicle of Higher Ed:
College students are taking social media to a new level, using Web sites like Facebook to communicate with other students about their coursework, according to results of a new survey on student technology use.
Nine out of 10 college students say they use Facebook for social purposes, like writing status updates and posting pictures. And the majority, 58 percent, say they feel comfortable using it to connect with other students to discuss homework assignments and exams. One out of four students even went so far as to say they think Facebook is “valuable” or “extremely valuable” to their academic success.
The survey was conducted in June by the Educause Center for Applied Research, and was taken by 3,000 students from more than 1,000 colleges. The results show how technology is shaping students’ lives both inside and outside the classroom.
Kevin Roberts, chief information officer of Abilene Christian University, says technology is merging the academic and social aspects of students’ lives.
“Learning takes place beyond the 50 minutes you spend in class,” Mr. Roberts said. “So using Facebook, while you’re talking about the Rangers game, students just throw in, ‘Oh, by the way, did you understand what Dr. So-and-So was talking about today?’”
Some students say they still want to keep their social and academic lives separate, as noted in an earlier Chronicle story. In the survey, 30 percent of students say they prefer to draw a line between these two worlds.
Students are taking to other social networks, too. More than 30 percent of students say they use sites such as Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Google+. Nearly a quarter of students report using social studying sites, such as CourseHero and GradeGuru, and 11 percent say they wish instructors would incorporate these sites into the curriculum more often.
The idea of students wanting professors to integrate more technology use into the classroom was a common takeaway from the survey. After e-mail, learning-management systems and e-textbooks were the two technologies that students wanted instructors to use more frequently, according to the survey.
Learning-management systems are used by 73 percent of students, and e-books or e-textbooks by 57 percent.
Even though those technologies are commonplace on most campuses, some students say that their instructors don’t use them effectively or that they themselves don’t have the skills they need to use them effectively.
“Students are saying they want to see classes taught more like how they live their lives,” Mr. Roberts said. “I don’t think they just want technology for technology’s sake.”
The National Law Journal has started a blog called The Law School Review to spark discussion about some of the vexing problems confronting legal education these days including the usual suspects like rising student tuition loan debt in the face of diminishing job opportunities.
In today's post, Indiana U. Professor William Henderson, an expert on the legal marketplace, talks about the day of reckoning facing law schools if they don't adapt to the profound structural changes taking place in law practice like outsourcing and the automation of many routine lawyering tasks. One question he says law schools need to think deeply about is what skills will tomorrow's lawyers need in light of these changes and how do law schools, already under intense financial pressure, pay for it given that most skills training is labor intensive and hence expensive.
[T]he artisan craft of lawyering is gradually giving ground to a new generation of legal entrepreneurs that use new technologies and businesses processes to improve quality and reduce costs of various legal products and services. The thrust of this movement is to standardize, offshore or automate many of the tasks formally performed by U.S.-licensed lawyers. This tech-driven approach will dramatically improve lawyer productivity; yet, it is also likely to reduce the demand for traditionally trained law school graduates.
In the years to come, many of the most lucrative, challenging and innovative opportunities will lie at the intersection of law and other disciplines. Law schools are ill-equipped to teach many of these critical competencies, such as teamwork, collaboration, project management, finance, marketing, statistics, knowledge management and effective communication across knowledge domains. This retooling challenge entails both new substantive knowledge and unfamiliar teaching methods. Regarding the latter, most of these skills and competencies require experiential teaching—i.e., learning by doing.
Here is the brutal truth: the resources to pay for this retooling are going to have to come at the expense of traditional scholarship. Time is our primary asset; this is a painful tradeoff because scholarship is the most enjoyable part of the job for many law professors. Further, unlike prolific scholarly writing, retooling curriculum does not enhance one's prospects of getting a lateral appointment, so many law professors will not come to this party willingly.
You can continue reading Professor Henderson's post by clicking here.
Those of us in the law school world are well aware of the criticisms of the accreditation system—some on the mark and some not. At the request of the Department of Education, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity was charged with proposing reforms. Its draft is now available, and its conclusions appear very tentative.
If we look for tentative proposals that may remain, we find a major one: Reducing the role of accrediting agencies in determining an institution’s eligibility for federal student aid and giving a monitoring role to the federal government. The result may mean separating the accrediting function from the function of determining eligibility for federal aid. I have to wonder who would do the monitoring and how political the determinations would be.
Here’s the link to an analysis at Inside Higher Ed.
A column in SLAW today has me thinking about legal research training for our law students. I don’t think that the training the law students receive from the database vendors is a substitute for the legal research (and advanced research) instruction law students receive from academic law librarians. I hope that never becomes the case and I agree with Professor Berring that I too, will “go down fighting.”
I think that the proliferation of search engines like Google and other free web resources creates an even greater need for vendor-neutral research instruction. Students today need to understand the role of many more tools. As teaching librarians, we are information experts and it is our role to help law students understand how to use all of the research tools available to them in a fashion that produces good, comprehensive, and cost-effective research results. It is through instruction and practice that the students learn these skills and develop the expertise needed to be effective researchers. I want my students to enter the work world with confidence to use many resources in their legal research assignments and to stand out as a cost-effective and productive contributor. This is accomplished, in my opinion, by exposing the students to various resources (and formats), allowing them to experiment and use many sources, and letting them develop the expertise needed to be able to decide which tool is best for which job. This takes instruction, practice, and time. I don’t think that can be accomplished through vendor training. I think the need for legal research courses in law school will (and should) continue.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Tips from the Lawyerist blog for getting a private sector job that hits the sweet-spot between good pay and reasonable hours:
There are well over a million lawyers in the United States; 75 percent of them are in private practice. Many of the rest work for the government. Based on these numbers, it is reasonable to assume that considerably less than ten percent of lawyers work for corporations. The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), which is the bar association for in-house lawyers, has only 28,000 members. Obviously, in-house opportunities are scarce – especially in this unsteady economy.
That said, there are in-house positions available for lawyers who are persistent and patient. Unless your skill-set is a perfect match for the employer’s needs, the search for an in-house position can take many months – and very possibly years.
Here are the questions I am most-frequently asked when coaching lawyers:
What are the odds of getting an advertised in-house position?
From what I hear, each advertised in-house position receives well over a hundred resumes. As one of these many applicants, you must first stand out by demonstrating your exact skills and experience. If you make the initial cut, you will still be likely competing with at least five to six candidates with similarly strong credentials. The odds are daunting.
Given daunting odds, what is the best strategy?
Networking, networking, networking. Let’s go back to the advertised job. How do you get your resume selected from the initial towering stack? By knowing someone at the company who can put in a good word for you. How do you improve the 6:1 odds at the interview stage? Again, by having an advocate within the company. The more you network throughout your career, the more likely you will have this valuable contact when you need it.
Plus, conventional wisdom holds that about 75 percent of jobs are never advertised. How do you learn about these “hidden market” opportunities? Once again, the answer is networking. You must be persistent in maintaining, leveraging and expanding your network within a targeted universe of in-house contacts.
What type of experience do I need?
Although some corporations hire right out of law school, most do not. Typically, businesses want to hire law-firm lawyers with transactional experience representing companies within their industry. Most companies, even the large ones, have few litigation management positions. It can be a tough sell to convince the decision-makers that your litigation experience is sufficient for general corporate work.
Should I limit my search to the legal department?
Think broadly. Corporations frequently have positions in their regulatory or compliance departments in addition to their legal departments. Lawyers offer the skill-set for these jobs, which are predicted to expand – especially in the health care, banking and energy industries. Employment lawyers can consider the human resources department, estate planners a bank’s trust department, and litigators the area of insurance claims adjustment.
Do other skills come into play?
Many companies are looking for lawyers who supplement their legal skills with business acumen or specific industry knowledge. If you have a target industry in mind, as you should, start laying the groundwork. Join industry organizations. Enroll in classes and attend conferences. Volunteer for organizations industry leaders support. Not only will you enhance your resume, but you will meet new people and add them to your network.
What about project or contract experience?
To gain experience, consider approaching companies in your target industry with an offer to do routine project or contract legal work at a lower cost than the rates charged by their regular law firms. In other words, work as a solo for a while (from home or onsite) to gain corporate experience in your target industry. Small companies without legal staff are good candidates. Larger corporations with legal departments might have some overflow work available.
Continue reading here.
Admissions officers do more online background checks of law school applicants than those applying to other programs.
According to a new survey from Kaplan Test Prep as reported by the National Law Journal:
A poll by Kaplan Test Prep found that law school admissions officers are far more likely to investigate applicants' digital trails than are those handling undergraduate or business school admissions.
Of the 128 law school admissions officers who responded to the poll, 41% said they had researched an applicant using a Web search engine, while 37% said they had looked up an applicant on Facebook or another social networking site. By comparison, only 20% of undergraduate admissions officers and 27% of business school admissions officers said they had done so.
It appeared that law school administrators take social media and online activity seriously — 32% told Kaplan that they had found something online that hurt an applicant's chances of gaining admission. That compared with 12% of undergraduate admission officers and 14% of business school admissions officers.
"These findings makes sense in context with what we consistently hear from law school admissions officers, which is that while admissions are based on high LSAT scores, strong GPAs and compelling personal statements, an overarching theme…is whether an applicant is able to exercise good judgment," said Jeff Thomas, director of pre-law programs at Kaplan. "Clearly, an applicant's digital trail can be an indicator of whether or not she or he possesses this quality."
The fact that aspiring lawyers must pass character and fitness tests before they are admitted to the bar, and must follow codes of conduct once they are admitted, gives law schools an added incentive to closely screen candidates, Thomas said.
Kaplan polled 869 prospective law students who took the Law School Admission Test in October, and found that 77% objected to admissions officials considering their online personas. However, just 15% said there was something online that would hurt their applications.
Law Schools are not the only professional schools that groan over the US News rankings. Medical schools have the same complaints. Recently US News held a meeting with med school deans to discuss the rankings. The deans voiced all the familiar complaints.
Medical school deans swung hard at U.S. News & World Report's annual medical school rankings in a panel discussion here on Thursday, painting the magazine's methodology as a one-size-fits-all measure that is flawed by its use of inadequate metrics, low response rates, conflict-of-interest issues, and a "reputational" survey that may be based on decades-old perceptions.
The sad part about it is the US News editors did nothing but defend themselves. They seem unable to accept well-deserved criticism. Here is a report from the Chronicle of Higher Education online.
Last week, I posted about Daniel Kahneman's concept of engaged versus lazy thinking. Of course, we all want to be engaged thinkers. The key question then is how do we become engaged thinkers. One answer is contained in an article on Mind Hacks entitled "Make Study More Effective, the Easy Way." The authors state that "if you want to learn something, you have to think about it deeply." In other words, "You’ll remember better (and understand much better) if you try and re-organise the material you’ve been given in your own way."
Accordingly, law students should brief all the cases that they read (as we tell them to), rather than using canned outlines. Students should also do legal skills exercises in synthesis, syllogisms (I will have a post on syllogisms on Tuesday), and case analogies. Most importantly, they should outline the course themselves, rather than than relying on commercial outlines or ones done by other students.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Harking back to the days of carbon paper, Wite-Out and typewriter ribbons is this iPhone app from Doormouse Mfr. It gives texting the look, feel and even sound (!) of typing on an old Remington. Available for only a limited time from the iTunes Apple Store here.
Hat tip to Cool Hunting.
Some of our students, loaded down with debt, may find some help with the changes that President Obama has made to the Federal Student Loan Program. Here is an explanation of the changes and their applicability by Ron Lieber, who writes the “Your Money” column for the New York Times. Please pass this information along.
Friday, October 28, 2011
My own view is that when students confront a PowerPoint presentation, they are strongly tempted to tune out. I think that because of too many PowerPoint presentations, they expect more such presentations to bore them.
In any case, if you are a PowerPoint devotee and want to avoid the pitfalls of bad presentations, you may enjoy Don McMillan’s humorous youtube, “Life After Death by PowerPoint.” Learn about the many things you may be doing wrong.
(ljs) Thnx to Joe Dellapenna
Skills faculty opening: U. Cincinnati seeks Director of Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic
The University of Cincinnati College of Law invites applications for the Director of its Domestic Violence and Civil Protection Order Clinic, part of our new Center for Race, Gender and Social Justice. The position is a twelve-month, long-term contract position, with renewals for additional terms available.
Since 2005, students in the Clinic have represented over 500 victims of domestic violence, stalking,
sexual assault, and human trafficking in civil protection order hearings. The Clinic provides students
training on practicing law and the art of trial advocacy in the context of domestic violence. Taken in the third year, the semester‐long program includes extensive training and gives students hands-on
experience counseling and representing clients from the community. Students practice in the Hamilton County Domestic Relations Court and the Court of Common Pleas.
Qualifications: Candidates must have a distinguished academic record, including a J.D. from an
accredited law school, and must be licensed to practice law in Ohio (or have the ability to become
promptly licensed). Experience in public interest representation, including significant litigation
experience, experience involving domestic violence and family law, and/or clinical teaching or
supervisory experience is preferred. A successful applicant should have excellent lawyering, communication (oral and written), and interpersonal skills.
Salary: Competitive and commensurate with experience.
Starting Date: August 1, 2012.
Apply at www.jobsatuc.com. for position #211UC1888. Attach a resume, cover letter, and contact
information for three references.
For more information, contact: Professor Tim Armstrong, Chair, Non-tenure Track Faculty Committee, University of Cincinnati College of Law, PO Box 210040. Cincinnati, OH 45221‐0040.
Application Deadline: Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Review of applications will begin on November 1, 2011.
The University of Cincinnati is an Equal Opportunity Affirmative Action employer. Applications are
especially encouraged from women, persons of color, and others whose background and experience
would contribute to the diversity of our faculty.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Wealth is a relative thing. A $160k starting salary for NYC BigLaw associates doesn't quite mean as much as you think (though no one can deny it's still a sweet deal by any measure) when you realize that the average monthly rent for a 1 bedroom apartment is $3500. To help make sense of it all comes this helpful guide from NALP that ranks cities based on salary purchasing power using the NYC BigLaw starting salary as a benchmark. Below is a chart that shows how cities nationwide stack-up:
Median Reported Private Practice Salaries in Selected Cities Ranked by Buying Power of the Salary-Class of 2010
|City||Reported Median Salary||Salary Required to Yield New York City Buying Power*||Buying Power Index|
|Los Angeles, CA||160,000||100,700||1.589|
|St. Louis, MO||100,000||66,840||1.496|
|Newport Beach, CA||160,000||108,100||1.480|
|Menlo Park, CA||160,000||115,340||1.387|
|Mountain View, CA||160,000||115,340||1.387|
|Palo Alto, CA||160,000||115,340||1.387|
|Kansas City, MO||100,000||72,240||1.384|
|San Francisco, CA||160,000||121,110||1.321|
|Salt Lake City, UT||95,000||74,380||1.277|
|New Orleans, LA||90,000||71,645||1.256|
|Fort Worth, TX||79,000||67,280||1.174|
|Las Vegas, NV||80,000||75,270||1.063|
|San Antonio, TX||75,000||70,680||1.061|
|New York, NY||160,000||160,000||1.000|
|San Diego, CA||90,000||97,670||0.921|
|Des Moines, IA||60,000||67,210||0.893|
|Baton Rouge, LA||54,500||70,980||0.768|
|Little Rock, AR||54,000||71,275||0.753|
|Oklahoma City, OK||50,000||67,800||0.737|
|Fort Lauderdale, FL||62,000||85,470||0.725|
|Long Beach, CA||72,000||100,700||0.715|
|San Jose, CA||80,000||115,340||0.694|
*For ease of presentation, these figures have been rounded to the nearest $10.
Click here to get some additional analysis from NALP.
Hat tip to the National Law Journal.
According to the CNBC story that accompanies this, the guy in the video is now doing well having landed another job. His former employer, the Providence Renaissance Hotel? Given the 2 million hits this video has received, not so much.
Hat tip to Doreen.
Today, many attorneys add to their websites “blawgs,” that is, blogs discussing legal issues. No doubt, the blawgs serve as a source of information for others and also as a marketing device. Horace Frazier Hunter, a Richmond, Virginia, lawyer found himself before the state disciplinary board charged with several ethical violations. Bar counsel argued that because Hunter discussed his cases on his website blawg, he was engaged in advertising and should have attached a disclaimer. The state ethics rule forbids conduct that:
advertises specific or cumulative case results, without a disclaimer that (i) puts the case results in a context that is not misleading; (ii) states that case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case; and (iii) further states that case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case undertaken by the lawyer. The disclaimer shall precede the communication of the case results. When the communication is in writing, the disclaimer shall be in bold type face and uppercase letters in a font size that is at least as large as the largest text used to advertise the specific or cumulative case results and in the same color and against the same colored background as the text used to advertise the specific or cumulative case results.
Hunter responded that his news and commentary enjoy First Amendment protection. The bar committee rejected his argument and imposed a public admonition. Hunter plans an appeal. I would not be surprised to see this issue popping up around the country.
I also wonder why the bar counsel felt it appropriate to single out one attorney for disciplinary action instead of simply issuing an opinion directed at all Virginia attorneys.
Here is a link to an article in the newsletter of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which, in turn, includes links to the bar counsel’s charge and to a newspaper article on the case.
A post in Bloomberg Business Week provides information on the new research institute funded by Google. The institute, located in Germany, will “explore the impact of the digital age.”
This story in the Washington Post adds that the institute will “tackle issues such as Internet privacy, freedom of expression and civil liberties.”
A post from the UK Register includes these quotes from Google:
"This is not a 'Google Institute'," the company stressed in a blog post. "It is an independent academic body. Google will not interfere with the research."
"Of course, Google is keenly interested in better understanding the interaction between the web, academia and society. But we need experts to help us all understand how the web is changing our world."
Most resumes and job applications are handled online. I found this interesting post from the On Careers column in U.S. News that provides tips to help your resume, cover letter, and application stand out and make it through the automated system.
Here are some of the tips:
- Use keywords and phrases from the job description;
- Tailor your resume for the job and take out anything older than ten years;
- Make sure you follow all directions and use the format requested by the job posting; and
- Make sure you do not have any typos.
Hat tip Law Practice Mgmt (@LawPracticeTips)
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
This post from the Lawyerist blog offers advice to law students hoping to secure a job offer when exams did not go the way you would have liked. One piece of advice is to take some clinical courses to bolster your practical skills.
Lots of people who get good grades do law review/journals and tend to become obsessed with their grades. Many of them are too busy to actually work as a law clerk somewhere. That is your chance to separate yourself from them.
Start networking and find an opportunity to do some real legal work. Depending on the employer, legal experience can be more important then law review. Another good option is to sign up for a law school clinic.
For advice on how to respond to those pesky job interview questions about those same less-than-stellar grades, click here.
From National Jurist Magazine:
The Legal Sector lost 1,300 jobs last month, according to the September Bureau of Labor Statistics Report. Hiring was down for the second month in a row, the report indicated. The Legal Sector has shed 3,500 jobs overall in the past year, since September 2010.
Fortunately, there is also some good news. While law lags behind, the economy in general seems to be picking up. Overall, the economy added 103,000 jobs. That figure was better than analysts’ had expected, according to the AmLaw Daily.
There are several growth areas listed in the BLS report. Employment in professional and business services increased by 48,000. Healthcare also showed growth -- 44,000 of the jobs recently added were in the Healthcare sector.
The temporary help industry grew as well — in the past three months, this sector has added 53,000 jobs. Employment also increased in computer systems design and the construction industry. Hopefully the legal sector will follow soon.