Thursday, January 26, 2012

Public Speaking: What Do I Do With My Hands?

This question is a common one for lawyers and law students. It is easy to become self conscious about gesturing –or not gesturing. In this video, consultant Brian Johnson offers practical advice as well as a simple theory: Gestures have to flow so that ideas can flow.

(ljs)

January 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Teaching Skills in Tax Class

I have long thought that tax would be a good course in which to incorporate skills exercises because it is hard to memorize and understand the tax code and rules without applying them.

Abstract:  As our students continue to enter a legal profession that is changing and as the models for the delivery of legal services continue to evolve, so should our pedagogy. Thus, the modest objective of this piece is to share my experience, and offer some thoughts, about developing and integrating practice-oriented experiential modules into tax lecture courses. This article explains and reflects upon two exercises that I have used to provide students with opportunities to play the role of a lawyer in transactional tax planning settings. Both exercises are intended to help students begin to see how they can turn their growing substantive knowledge into “useful tax advice.” By “useful tax advice,” I mean informative and understandable advice that comprehensively addresses the client’s economic objectives (including, but not limited to the client’s tax objectives) and that gives the client a clear appreciation of the benefits and risks of a tax-related business decision; as a result of this advice, the client should be able to make an educated choice.

I hope that others can use, and hopefully improve upon, the exercises discussed herein. Moreover, I hope that, when creating and implementing experiential modules in their classes, others can use my reflections to avoid my mistakes and build on my successes. Ultimately, I hope that I can make even a small contribution to the development of the professoriate and to our collective endeavor of helping law students become lawyers.

(Scott Fruehwald)

P.S.  There is also a book in the Skills & Values Series on tax skills.  Federal Income Tax by Michelle L. Drumbl & Deborah S. Kerns (LexisNexis 2011).

January 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Time management tips from the Harvard Business Journal

This article can be summed as follows:  "You can't get it all done so don't even try."

The Biggest Myth in Time Management

Brad* is as hard a worker as anyone I know. He's not just busy, he's keenly focused on getting the right things done. And it pays off — he is the largest single revenue generator at his well-known professional services firm.

A few days before Thanksgiving, Brad flew from Boston to Los Angeles with his family. He was going to work for the first few days and then relax with his family. During the flight, he decided not to use the plane's internet access, choosing to talk and play with his children instead. A five-hour digital vacation.

When they landed, Brad turned on his BlackBerry and discovered that a crisis had developed while he was in the air and he had close to 500 email messages waiting for him.

So much for a digital vacation.

The truth is, we can't ever really get away from it. There is no escaping the nonstop surge of email, text, voicemail, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn — and that's just the technology-based stream. How can we ever catch up?

We can't.

The idea that we can get it all done is the biggest myth in time management. There's no way Brad can meaningfully go through all his email and there's no way any of us are going to accomplish everything we want to get done.

Face it: You're a limited resource.

Each day only has 24 hours and we can't sustainably work through all of them.
On the one hand, that's depressing. On the other hand, acknowledging it can be tremendously empowering. Once we admit that we aren't going to get it all done, we're in a much better position to make explicit choices about what we are going to do. Instead of letting things haphazardly fall through the cracks, we can intentionally push the unimportant things aside and focus our energy on the things that matter most.

There are two main challenges in doing the right things: identifying "the right things" and "doing" them.

Most of us manage our time reactively, making choices based on the needs that land on our desks. To determine the "right things," we need to make deliberate choices that will move us toward the outcomes we most want. Which, of course, also means that we need to make deliberate choices about what not to do. The world will take what it can from us. It's never been more important to be strategic about what we choose to give it.

In terms of the second challenge — "doing" or following through — we need tools and rituals. We need an environment that makes it more likely that we will do the things that matter most and less likely that we will waste our time with meaningless, unproductive diversions. We need to know how to prioritize properly, delegate deliberately, tabulate to-do lists, and mitigate multi-tasking.

But which tools work best? Which rituals will help us follow through? If you spend all your time discovering and using all the advice you get from me and others, it could become a distraction to the work itself. Here's a process to help you avoid turning time management into another excuse to procrastinate on your most important priorities.

  1. Think for a moment about the time-management problems you face. Do you leave the office with a nagging feeling that you worked all day but didn't get your most important work done? Do you feel like you aren't taking advantage of your talents and passions? Are you distracted by little things? Avoiding big hairy projects? Do you interrupt yourself with email and other distractions? Try taking this three-minute quiz to discover where you are distracting yourself the most.
  2. Once you've identified your biggest time-management challenges, choose a single one to tackle. Maybe you're not clear on your "right things." Maybe you use the wrong rituals. Maybe you strive for perfection. Pick the challenge that most often gets in your way. Then choose one time-management tactic to solve that challenge — just one of the many good suggestions you've encountered here and elsewhere.
  3. If that tactic works, repeat the process with another challenge. If it doesn't, try a new tactic. Continue to approach things this way, one at a time, so you can be sure what works for you and what doesn't.

Brad, overwhelmed by his hundreds of emails, put his BlackBerry away and did nothing until he arrived in his hotel room. Then, using his laptop, he triaged his now more than 500 emails based on what he knew were his most important priorities, answering the ones he needed to and deleting the majority of them. Within an hour, he was done. He shut his laptop, left his BlackBerry in his room (gasp!), and enjoyed a fun, chaos-filled dinner with his family, which, at that time, was precisely the right thing for him to do.

*Names and some details have been changed.

(jbl).

January 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

As blogs replace term papers, the critical writing skills of students suffer

At least that's what defenders of the traditional term paper say in this article from the New York Times Educational Life section in last Sunday's paper.  Professor Cathy Davidson of Duke, author of Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, is a strong advocate for substituting blogging for staid term papers. But term papers have their advocates too.

Blogs vs. Term Papers

Of all the challenges faced by college and high school students, few inspire as much angst, profanity, procrastination and caffeine consumption as the academic paper. The format — meant to force students to make a point, explain it, defend it, repeat it (whether in 20 pages or 5 paragraphs) — feels to many like an exercise in rigidity and boredom, like practicing piano scales in a minor key.

And so there may be rejoicing among legions of students who have struggled to write a lucid argument about Sherman’s March, the disputed authorship of “Romeo and Juliet,” or anything antediluvian.

. . . .

Across the country, blog writing has become a basic requirement in everything from M.B.A. to literature courses. On its face, who could disagree with the transformation? Why not replace a staid writing exercise with a medium that gives the writer the immediacy of an audience, a feeling of relevancy, instant feedback from classmates or readers, and a practical connection to contemporary communications? Pointedly, why punish with a paper when a blog is, relatively, fun?

Because, say defenders of rigorous writing, the brief, sometimes personally expressive blog post fails sorely to teach key aspects of thinking and writing. They argue that the old format was less about how Sherman got to the sea and more about how the writer organized the points, fashioned an argument, showed grasp of substance and proof of its origin. Its rigidity wasn’t punishment but pedagogy.

Their reductio ad absurdum: why not just bypass the blog, too, and move right on to 140 characters about Shermn’s Mrch?

“Writing term papers is a dying art, but those who do write them have a dramatic leg up in terms of critical thinking, argumentation and the sort of expression required not only in college, but in the job market,” says Douglas B. Reeves, a columnist for the American School Board Journal and founder of the Leadership and Learning Center, the school-consulting division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. “It doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting blogs. But nobody would conflate interesting writing with premise, evidence, argument and conclusion.”

The National Survey of Student Engagement found that in 2011, 82 percent of first-year college students and more than half of seniors weren’t asked to do a single paper of 20 pages or more, while the bulk of writing assignments were for papers of one to five pages.

Is it any surprise that so many law students don't have good, critical writing skills?

You can read the rest of the article here.

(jbl).

January 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Improving Leadership Skills

At the Harvard Business Review blog, executive Pekka Viljakainen recounts how his leadership skills plummeted when he went from managing a relatively modest number of employees to a much larger number. By surveying his employees, he found out what they wanted:

1. Influence. They said they expected to have influence on company leadership. They wanted somebody who owns the game, but they wanted influence, too.

2. Equality. They really expected that everybody in the company would be treated equally. Of course there will be salary differences, but the way people have impact should be same everywhere — and the opportunity to share in the value of that impact should be the same, too.

3. Understanding. One thing they said that was surprising to me was that they expected the board to be really on the ball as to what was going on in the company. They couldn't understand how somebody could decide on a strategy without knowing specifically what to do.

I think these themes would resonate with people we supervise, our support staff and our students.

(ljs)

January 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Web Profiles – No Resumes

The Wall Street Journal Careers column published this interesting item yesterday.

A New York venture-capital firm wants applicants to send links “representing their web presence” instead of resumes. 

“Companies are increasingly relying on social networks such as LinkedIn, video profiles and online quizzes to gauge candidates' suitability for a job. While most still request a résumé as part of the application package, some are bypassing the staid requirement altogether.”

Google still reads resumes of applicants, but Todd Carlisle, their director of staffing, says: “he reads résumés in an unusual way: from the bottom up.

Candidates' early work experience, hobbies, extracurricular activities or nonprofit involvement—such as painting houses to pay for college or touring with a punk rock band through Europe—often provide insight into how well an applicant would fit into the company culture, Dr. Carlisle says.

Plus, "It's the first sample of work we have of yours," he says.”

Hat tip Nicole Black (@nikiblack)

Does your school help law students build a web presence?

(dkh)

January 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Encouraging Legal Writing Scholarship

If we are going to change legal education, we need legal scholarship upon which we can base the changes.  Judy Stinson has written an article on how to encourage legal writing scholarship.

Generating Interest, Enthusiasm, and Opportunity for Scholarship: How Law Schools and Law Firms Can Create a Community and Culture Supportive of Scholarship

Abstract: Legal scholarship educates. The goal of this essay is to help lawyers and academics interested in improving legal writing create more scholarship. By creating a culture where scholarship is the norm — where scholarship is both an expected product of our intellectual pursuits and an expected creator of knowledge in the field — we can increase overall scholarly activities as well as our professional satisfaction.

(Scott Fruehwald)

January 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Great networking opportunities abound in legal skills classes

So says this article from the Lawyerist blog.  More specifically, upper level legal skills electives are usually taught by adjunct-practitioners who may know about job openings or, if you do a really good job in the class, that adjunct may hire you herself one day.

How Law Students Can Network with Adjunct Professors

Most attorneys highly recommend taking practical skills classes in law school. Skills-based classes are a great chance to develop skills you may otherwise not develop during law school.

Many of these classes are taught by adjunct professors—which provides an excellent networking opportunity. May the most of those opportunities by following some of these tips.

Step 1: realize the value of the networking opportunity

All professors provide a valuable networking opportunity. But many students overlook adjunct professors because they aren’t tenured professors. That may be true, but many adjuncts can actually be more helpful to a law student’s job search. Adjuncts are practicing law in big firms, government jobs, and even run their own practices.

Your adjunct professor might be part of an OCI hiring panel, part of a recruitment committee, or may directly hire individuals if they own their firm. Your adjunct is also probably pretty good at networking if they are teaching a class.

In other words, they might be able to help you get a job, might be able to put in a good work for you, or at a minimum, can help you develop networking skills.

Step 2: make yourself known (in a positive way)

Unlike tenured professors, adjuncts probably only teach one or two classes, and are not around campus. That means your chances to interact may be limited to before/during/after class. Asking questions before or after class is great way to have an actual conversation with your professor and show your interest in the class and actually getting to know them.

During class, you don’t have to answer every question or voice your opinion on every topic. You do, however, have to do more than sit in the back and check your Facebook page. Classes with adjunct professors are usually smaller, which makes it that much easier to spot non-participants.

The more of a relationship you can build with your adjunct, the more likely they are to help you out. Doing well in the class helps, but if you can develop a relationship over the semester, that is just as important.

Step 3: ask for feedback and incorporate it

Practical skills classes usually involve simulations, which provides more opportunities for feedback than one final exam. On top of that, you are going to get feedback from attorneys who are out in law-talking-land interacting with judges, clients, and opposing counsel. In other words, this is very valuable feedback.

Don’t be satisfied, however, with the voluntary feedback you receive. Pick a couple things you want to improve on and ask for feedback on those particular points. When you get feedback (assuming it’s constructive and helpful), incorporate that into your next simulation.

Showing improvement establishes that you can listen, you can improve, and you are actually interested in becoming a lawyer. All of those things will leave a great impression with an adjunct.

Step 4: saying thank you is never a bad idea

Adjunct professors are rarely motivated by financial reasons for teaching a class. Most adjuncts do it because they enjoy teaching and want to help law students become better lawyers.

That means they get satisfaction from hearing about how law students enjoyed the class, learned to do a specific skill, or even learned what not to do. Taking that extra step can a long way towards building a relationship.

Networking isn’t always easy, but it isn’t rocket science either. Follow these tips and start creating some relationships that will be beneficial down the road.

Bomb-proof advice indeed.

(jbl).

January 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

National Jurist editorial on changing law schools

Here's the take of Jack Crittenden, editor of National Jurist Magazine, on the changes taking place in legal education. Rather than seeing broad, sweeping reforms, Mr. Crittenden instead observes many individual schools experimenting with curriculum reform, enhanced skills training and other programs intended to better help students cope with the structural changes many believe are taking place in the legal services marketplace. But tenure and the cost of faculty salaries may place limits on how much law schools are able to adapt down the road. 

How legal education is changing, albeit slowly.

At this year’s annual gathering of law professors and law school administrators, known as the AALS Conference, the subject of change hung over the event as perhaps never before. All of the bad publicity about legal education over the past few years has not gone unnoticed by the leaders in legal education.

Indeed, there was more talk of change than ever before. And even more importantly, behind that talk, there is action.

As Judith Areen with Georgetown Law Center said at the conference, the current crisis has awakened legal education and that is the best defense against complacency.

Law schools across the nation are making changes to address the ongoing concerns. I spoke with deans who are taking aggressive steps to improve their career placement services, and who are bringing more hands’ on practical skills into their curriculum.

The level of experimentation and innovation is at its highest level since I began covering the market 20 years ago. But most observers don’t see the change, because it is happening on a school-by-school basis, and not through an organization like the ABA.

And thank goodness. The ABA has never been an instrument of change and likely never will be. Its greatest act of change only came because it was forced by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Law schools have the ability and power to enact change within the existing guidelines. But some changes would make that process much easier.

Take law faculty tenure for example. Many deans have been openly complaining for a few years now that the tenure rules bind them and force greater expenses.

Jim Chen, dean at University of Louisville, pointed out at the conference that “the single biggest cost in legal education is ourselves. When will salaries do down and tenure abolished?”

It was an over-the-top question, to be sure. Perhaps designed more to shock the audience out of complacency. But underlying his question is the single biggest obstacle to change in legal education.

The law school model is built on tenure, and professorial salaries are by far the biggest expense.

In most struggling industries, management simply cuts out the poor performing segments and reduces the number of employees — bringing the business into equilibrium.

But, tenure does not allow you to easily downsize legal education. Law schools have added more than 5,000 law professors over the past ten years. It would take legal education 20 to 30 years to bring itself back to its smaller size.

But that does not mean legal education can’t adapt. As Areen pointed out to Chen at the AALS conference, only one-fourth of new hires are given tenure. And I think we can expect that number to drop.

. . . .

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

January 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ten Most Annoying Management Phrases of 2011

Here they are from macro man. I have included only a small bit of the explanations. Here is the link.

10 - Internalise - As in "What you have all failed to internalise is that there has been a paradigm shift.” It appears to just mean learn or remember but as telling someone to learn or remember something appears instructive, suggesting they internalise it will sound more empathetic, but at the severe cost of sounding like a clone-monkey.
9 - Hi, I hope all is well - With the birth of the email there came an awkward period when the formality of letters, with their "Dear Sir / Yours sincerely" had to be detuned to fit in with the new immediacy and informality. But 2011 has seen a pernicious ingress of a new form of insincerity with the addition of "I hope all is well" to the "Hi".
8 - Weaponise price opacity - As the scarcity of new Himalayan Pink Salt in the financial market takes its toll on the bottom lines of financial institutions it is becoming more important for them to make sure that they maximise the profitability of existing basic products. Opacity of price is critical in this process but weaponising it? Wow.
7 - Ideation - What happened to good old "have a think" or "come up with some ideas"?
6 - Stakeholder Community - Not a Transylvanian village but the new plural of stakeholder.
5 - Socialise - When issues got out of hand in the old days you would normally either just tell the boss or perhaps "take it upstairs". But now a cunning adaptation of the old mantra of "My profit, our loss" has invoked a caring sharing attitude to screw-ups by "socialising" them. As in "I think we should socialise this issue with senior management and the stakeholder community".
4 - Complementary - Odd one this, and it's really down to our own stupidity, but we have regularly opened emails this year expecting some nice free service only to re-read it and find it's not "complimentary" but something expensive and homeopathic.
3 - Bandwidth - "I'm sorry I can't action that, I don't have the bandwidth” become the generic replacement for "I don't have the time/resources/authority or inclination".
2 - Geosourcing - Why you lose your job to someone in a different part of the world. "The support function has been geosourced" or "How's the front office geosourcing project going?” It's the sharp end of a simple belief of ours that if there is someone able and willing to do your job for less than you, you are toast.
1 - Reaching out - The origins and epidemiology of this disease has us suspecting it's the product of some Class of 2011 Management School somewhere. If you are about to call an investor for some documents you don't "reach out to the client", you phone or mail them. If you want to know why a trade hasn't settled you don't "Reach out to Bangalore" you "call back-office". So let's just kill that one right now before someone gets accused of molestation.

(ljs)

January 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Another Warning on the Law School Student Debt Crisis.

There have been a number of articles in the popular press on the looming law school debt crisis.  Here is a well-researched scholarly article on the subject.

The Coming Crash in Legal Education: How We Got Here and Where We Go Now by Richard W. Bourne.

Abstract: This paper will first track the ways in which the legal services market has grown and changed over the past forty years. It will then track the major changes that have attended legal education during the same period and the increasing dependence of the legal education industry on student debt. The paper will then explore why, at long last, the boom-times may have run their course and why, at some point, painful changes will likely occur. Though they cannot be described in detail, the author will attempt to outline the likely nature of the changes that will occur. Finally, the paper will briefly explore how the predicted reckoning may yet lead to an improvement in the marketing of legal services and an enhanced role for law schools in preparing new attorneys for the new bar they will be joining.

(Scott Fruehwald)

"All a poet can do today is warn."  Wilfred Owen

January 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Better editing techniques lead to better briefs

If you believe the old saying that "there's no such thing as good writing, only good re-writing" then these editing tips from the Texas Lawyer are sure to make you a better writer.

Get it Write: Embrace Editing Techniques to Improve Briefs

How do mistakes make it past even the most careful writer's eyes? Thinking about how that happens is the key to discovering editing techniques to prevent it in briefs.

Writers often can edit others' work much more thoroughly than their own -- probably because committing something to memory happens quickly after writing it down. Mistakes often arise from this problem of memory.

Once text lodges in the author's memory, his eyes may focus on the brief, but they don't really see, read or criticize its content. The brain remembers what it thought the document said or projects what it intended the document to say. Unless the text sounds odd inside the theater of the mind, the writer does not slow down to spot problems in the text. As a result, the prose is not as good as the writer thought it was, and the brief does not actually say what the lawyer thought it said.

. . . .

1. Slow down. When it comes to editing, fast and good are mutually exclusive. Hurrying or skimming means not editing well.

2. Start early. To slow down, counsel must begin editing long before the brief is due. This means completing the drafting long before the deadline. Few lawyers practice this way. But this may explain why so much legal writing is garbage

3. Edit from a printed copy. Screen reading encourages skimming, and skimming encourages missed errors. See rule No. 1, and slow down.

4. Go somewhere else. There's something about getting up from the desk and going to the library or the park that frees the brain to focus differently. This also requires stepping away from the computer.

5. Edit standing up. Editing is a particularly good time to use a stand-up desk or counter. The brain is more awake when the body is upright. And when the body is tired of standing, the brain needs a rest, too.

6. Read out loud. I mean it. Literally read out loud. Doing this prevents a writer from overlooking awkward syntax or run-on sentences. Stumbling over the words or needing to take a breath mid-sentence means it's time to rewrite.

7. Edit the first sentence of each paragraph. Crafting these first sentences perfectly and putting them in the right order lays a solid foundation for the entire brief and frames a sturdy structure for paragraphs. A judge reading on screen may not read much more than those topic sentences anyway.

8. Read backward. The secretary for one of my blog readers literally reads the brief from back to front. I don't know if I could do this, but I use a version of the technique, editing the paragraphs in reverse order or from last paragraph to first. This forces me to slow down and read, and it prevents me from relying on memory.

9. Mark the beginnings and ends of sentences. These visual marks will reveal whether the brief has grown monotonous by, for example, having too many sentences of the same length. The marks also will reveal that sentence that seems to go on forever, barely giving the reader a chance to breathe, tempting the judge to go back onto Facebook or LOL Cats or something -- anything -- more interesting than that brief about the rules of statutory construction -- z-z-z-z-z-z.

10. Circle subjects and verbs. Are sentence subjects near the beginning of sentences, or do lengthy, preparatory clauses obscure them? Are the subjects near the verbs through which they are acting, or do lengthy parenthetical clauses derail the train of thought? Are the subjects doing the acting, or has the document lapsed into passive voice? Circling subjects and verbs helps to banish all of these problems and enhance clarity.

11. Give it to someone else. Famous authors such as Philip Roth and Jonathan Franzen need editors and proofreaders. Attorneys do, too. Every firm has that one fantastic proofreader, and everyone knows who that is. The very last thing before filing, counsel should give that person the brief. This stellar proofreader has not memorized the brief and probably doesn't know the case. If he or she thinks the brief is clear, then it really is. If he or she doesn't get it, then work remains to be done.

Hat tip to Law.com.

(jbl).

January 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reaction to Apple's decision to enter the e-textbook market

Last week we told about Apple's decision to enter the e-textbook market. Today the Chronicle of Higher Ed has gathered some of the thoughts and reactions by academics from around the web.

Campus Reactions to Apple’s Entry Into E-Textbook Market

Last week Apple released free software to make e-books for the iPad, declaring that the company intended to “reinvent the textbook.” Apple also updated its iTunesU service, first released four years ago, to make it possible for professors to put syllabi, lecture videos and audio recordings, and e-textbooks into one spot for students.College administrators and professors had mixed reactions to the news: some said it could spur far greater adoption of digital textbooks, while others criticized the product for relying too heavily on Apple products, leaving out key support for PC’s and tablets running Android software.

Below are some points made by campus leaders, in interviews or on their blogs:

Making it easy-to-create books will help authors keep textbooks more up-to-date.
“Providing constant content updates through the Cloud is key,” argues Jed Macosko, associate professor of physics at Wake Forest University, in an analysis he published on the university’s PR Web site. “Educators will be able to create more quickly and for free, which lowers costs and improves accessibility for students. Some people might worry that content will become unreliable, but what we’ve seen with Wikipedia is that the cream of the crop typically rises to the top.”

Apple’s announcement is far from revolutionary, and in fact locks content in the company’s products.
“What a lost opportunity,” wrote Audrey Watters, on her Hack Education blog. “If this is a revolutionary announcement about reshaping textbooks and educational content, we must ask revolutionary for whom? For wealthy schools? For students who have iPads at home and parents willing to pay out of pocket for supplementary textbook materials? For publishers?” The passionate post drew cheers on Twitter from many professors. As David Parry, an assistant professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas, Tweeted, “this isn’t about ‘changing everything’ for education, is about reconfiguring the business models of textbooks ie who profits.”

Apple will likely refine its e-textbooks over time, as it did with the iPod and iPhone.
“Instead of expecting Apple to save education, why don’t you appreciate the waves they’re making in the water and use that momentum to keep the conversation focused and moving?,” argued Tim Owens, on his blog. He noted that the iPhone was criticized at first because it lacked some hoped-for features, but the company has added many of them in subsequent releases. “We got a lot of interesting things today, and all I hear are people unhappy,” he added. “When we set the ship on fire before it has even made it out of the dock we’ll never get to sail.”

The spotlight on e-textbooks will help all players.
Even if Apple’s new products don’t catch on, the media frenzy around its announcement helped raise interest in digital offerings, said Kyle D. Bowen, Purdue University’s director of informatics. “The most important outcome of yesterday’s announcement was to bring mainstream attention to textbooks and the issue of e-textbooks,” he added. “Textbooks are really kind of an outdated form of delivering this content, and we see somebody trying to come up with something slightly different.” Mr. Bowen and his team at Purdue have built their own build-a-textbook tool, called JetPack.

More professors will try making custom textbooks for their courses.
“If there were a way to ‘publish’ a book only targeting my class, by converting those outlines I’ve made into short chapters on each topic, well… Why not?” writes Chris Wolverton, a biology professor at Ohio Wesleyan University, on his blog. He says he could quickly take his notes and slides and crank out an e-book with Apple’s new authoring software. Though only students with iPads could easily view the full multimedia version, he could distribute a PDF for other students. “Having the freedom and flexibility to put together a little book to accompany a specialty course is an attractive idea to me, one that I plan to experiment with.”

Alumni offices and other departments can now enter the e-book world.
“While Apple is aiming this at textbook authors and publishers, there’s no reason we can’t easily create rich multimedia versions of our college magazines using it,” argued Mike Richwalsky, director of marketing services at John Carroll University. “Apple just made it redonkulously easy to put your alumni magazine on the iPad—and, best of all, they did it for free.”

Click here to check out more comments about Apple's e-textbooks.

(jbl).

January 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

More Male Partners Going Part-Time

More  on our Jan. 20 posting about NALP's report on legal employment. More male partners  are going part-time. The supporting evidence is not dramatic, but is significant. Here are excerpts from an article on The Careerist.:

According to NALP's just released survey, only 6.2 percent of lawyers at big firms work part-time—and the number is trending downward, albeit slightly:

But here's the curiosity: Despite that downward trend, a steady stream of partners is opting for part-time. "The growth rate of part-time work among partners has been greater, rising from 1.2 percent in 1994 to 3.6 percent in 2010 and 3.5 percent in 2011," reports NALP.

What's more, that uptick is coming from men: "In 2006 almost 72 percent of part-time partners were women. In 2011 that figure was about 66 percent. In 2010 that figure had dropped to 64 percent."

NALP suggests no reason for the trend. Maybe some guys are looking for a better quality of life.

(ljs)

January 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Book on Teaching Legal Writing

Strategies and Techniques for Teaching Legal Analysis and Writing (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, 2012) by Amy Vorenberg.

Abstract: This book is intended to help new (and not so new) law teachers prepare for their first year of teaching Legal Writing.

(Scott Fruehwald)

January 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The story of highlighters

Ever wonder about the origin of the highlighter?  Today we take them for granted but there was a time when the humble highlighter had as profound an effect on people's reading habits as contemporary e-reading devices like the Kindle.  To learn the interesting history of this ubiquitous reading aid, check out this article from the Sunday New York Times Magazine section.

Who Made That?

The Hand-Held Highlighter

Once, when readers wanted to remember something, they had to mark important passages with thin, wobbly lines in drab, hard-to-relocate colors. Before the rise of the highlighter, says Dennis Baron, a University of Illinois professor and the author of “A Better Pencil,” attentive readers relied on “a combination of underlining and marginal notes.”

Like so much else, that began to change in the 1960s. It was then that the Japanese inventor Yukio Horie created a felt-tip pen that used water-based ink. The following year, in 1963, the Massachusetts print-media giant Carter’s Ink developed a similar water-based marker that emitted an eye-catching translucent ink. They called it the Hi-Liter.

As with Horie’s invention, capillary action pulled ink through a filter — similar to the one in a cigarette — to the paper’s surface when a writer pressed the highlighter to paper. Just as important as the ink’s smooth, even application was its color: see-through yellow and pink, which both drew the eye and neatly delineated a piece of text without obscuring it. The fact that the highlighter’s ink was water-based, rather than alcohol-based, helped prevent it from seeping through paper.

By the 1970s, highlighting was already overtaking underlining as the dominant way to refer back to something important, or just kind of important. In 1978, Dennison, the predecessor to today’s binder-and-label behemoth Avery Dennison, had gobbled up Carter’s Ink and was ready to introduce the next great innovation in text-marking technology: fluorescent colors. This class of pen, which has come to dominate the medium, achieves its unearthly glow by absorbing UV rays and re-emitting them into the visible spectrum.

The highlighter’s appeal has flourished in the digital age. Most word-processing and e-reader software products have a highlighter function. And the hand-held highlighter continues to evolve, too. In the early ’80s, the fiber tip gave way to polyethylene beads molded into porous heads. (The plastic squeaks less, and the ink flows more smoothly.) When the highlighter business saw that it wasn’t being embraced by holdouts who preferred pens, it made the dual highlighter/pen. There are now retractable highlighters. And flat ones. And ones that smell like pizza.

But Steve Raskin, a senior marketing director for Avery Dennison, says 85 percent of sales go to the classics: yellow and pink.

(jbl).

January 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Teaching legal skills in Qatar - Part 3

Here's the third installment from our guest blogger Professor Rob Hudson on teaching legal skills in the Middle East (click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2).  In this final post, Professor Hudson describes what it's like to be a faculty member and law librarian at Qatar University.

The first point about being faculty here at the College of Law in Qatar is that there are almost no Qataris on the faculty. All but two of the law professors are from somewhere else and most are on three year contracts, although extensions exist, but tenure does not exist. The faculty is multinational and multi-lingual so that we have our faculty meetings in a room with simultaneous translation through wireless headsets. Many of the faculty are from Egypt or Lebanon and are on leave from faculty status in those countries. Others, including Dean Hassan Okour, are from Jordan. The Dean has a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Ghana, Canada, Germany, France, the US, and the UK are part of the international mix too. The majority of faculty are men. The degrees of faculty at the College of Law include many PhDs and LLMs. Few have a JD or LLB as their terminal degree. The Faculty of Law split from the Sharia Faculty to be autonomous in 2006.

Qatar University is investing in major new facilities as part of the strategic plan and international accreditation efforts. Faculty at the College of Law benefited with a new building, shared with the business school,  and a new library this year.  The accreditation efforts of QU College of Law are focused on both SACS and the ABA from the United States. The ABA standards are entirely self-imposed as no avenue for accreditation outside of the US currently exists.  I have joint status at the College of Law and the Library and as law librarian take the Chapter Six requirements from the ABA to heart as I develop the law collection from minimal to functional.  Significant differences from US law schools are that half of the classes are taught in Arabic and no American law classes are in the curriculum at all. Classes are being proposed in all areas of legal studies, including advanced legal research, so the curriculum is still evolving.  Grants are heavily supported by the University and research is gaining emphasis in a traditionally instruction-driven academic environment.

The work here includes faculty housing, family benefits including schooling, work permits for family members, and travel.  My family is with me from the US and my oldest girl is in an international school. One of the greatest benefits to me as an American expat is to see the way my children are enriched culturally by living in an international destination like Doha. Faculty housing is often in gated compounds. I exercised the option to live off-compound at the Pearl to be closer to work and the Gulf. Faculty and their families here need to spend great amounts of time establishing Qatari permanent residency and the University works hard to make the process go fast. This includes University buses and intake specialists that will move a new faculty member from appointment to appointment at government departments. I still think it took me three months before I got a Qatari driver’s license! Return flights to Miami for my family are part of the yearly compensation and we have enjoyed trips to Malaysia and the UAE this year.

I like the schedule. The work week is Sunday to Thursday and the working day typically lasts from 7am to 2 pm. I go to church on Friday mornings with my family! I dislike the traffic and consider it to be the only danger next to the dust in a country ranking so high in quality of life.

For a US law librarian like me the idea that text is read right to left in Arabic, books open from the right cover, and the indexes are on the left is difficult. I still open books only to find I am looking at the back cover. Accessing Arabic books correctly on the shelf means that stacks and call numbers progress from right to left and from bottom to top for some of the collection. With the new library at Qatar University and our move in February 2012 to that facility we are faced with the dilemma of interfiling English and Arabic books while each demand completely opposite organization.  Also, the entire collection – English, Arabic – is in the process of a reclassification to LC from Dewey so we are quite busy. The ILS used is Millennium like at many US law schools but it is so recent the library has grand wooden card catalogs in the hall of the staff area.

Technology is good here in Qatar. Electronic resources are being integrated  by Qatar University with Blackboard use mandatory for all classes. Databases for legal research are ideally both in English and Arabic for navigation and content. Arabic text is best displayed in PDF as it often distorts in other formats like HTML. Few databases live up to this ideal.  Very few law students carry laptops here although all have smartphones. The challenge for skills instructors like me is to persuade the students to use mobile technologies like iPad and Blackberry and schedule classes in the instructional labs with computers. Blackberry Messenger is more effective to communicate with law students than email!

My struggle is to make legal research skills and library services relevant for the law students. Workshops and classes seem to be poorly attended and I wonder sometimes if I am making a difference.  My heavy John Wayne American accent probably does not help and I wish I spoke Arabic. Fortunately I am integrated into the writing courses and provide assessment for 15% of the grade in legal research and writing. I am developing a reading knowledge of Arabic, slowly. 

Qatar is less known than neighboring Dubai but becoming the economic and tourist hub for the region. There is no Great Recession here. The dynamic is very interesting and I enjoy living and working here.  The University is creating an international law school for the region .

My experiences are included on the Qatar University Law Librarian blog  .

Dr. Rob Hudson

Lecturer/Law Librarian

Qatar University, College of Law

PO Box 2713

Doha, Oatar

rhudson@qu.edu.qa

Thanks, Rob, for an interesting series of posts. You're welcome back here anytime.

(jbl).

January 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

ABA Committee Proposes Changes in How Law Schools Report Employment Data

Many have accused some law schools of reporting job data in a way that suggests misleadingly positive information. The ABA Standards Review Committee has responded by recommending detailed disclosure. There are high points of its proposal:

• Law schools would have to report the number of graduates upon which their published salary figures are based.

• Law schools must stipulate whether graduates are in long-term or short-term positions, or in jobs funded by the school.

• Law schools must report on their Web sites the retention rates for conditional scholarships and provide that information when offering those scholarships.

Here is a full report from Law.com

(ljs)

January 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legal Skills Exercises in Legal Writing Textbooks

While the move to publish casebooks that contain legal skills exercises is very recent, legal writing texts have long included legal skills exercises, and they have gotten even better in recent years. For example, Writing and Analysis in the Law, by Helene S. Shapo, Marilyn R. Walter, & Elizabeth Fajans contains a wealth of miniskills exercises. They have exercises on case analysis, applying precedent, identifying relevant facts, synthesizing cases, statutory analysis, analyzing cases and statutes to provide large-scale organization, case synthesis to create small-scale organization, working with different types of arguments, etc. I am especially impressed with their case synthesis exercises, which I have used for many years, and how they use case synthesis exercises to help organize on the large-scale and small-scale levels.

Similarly, Legal Writing: Process, Analysis, and Organization by Linda Holdeman Edwards contains many skills exercises. Particularly helpful are her extensive exercises on formulating rules.

If anyone wants to send me a list of their favorite legal skills exercises in legal writing texts, I will be happy to put them together in a post when I have enough entries. (Lw111989@aol.com)

(Scott Fruehwald)

January 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

How to punctuate bullet points

Bullet points are a great rhetorical technique because not only do they communicate a lot of information in a concise fashion but they also work as a visual device indicating the relationship between ideas.  Experts tell us that particularly when it comes to screen reading, bullet points are essential for  connecting with busy readers who tend to scan the screen for information rather than read left-to-right, top-to-bottom like they would a printed page (here and here).  

So check out this post from the Business Writing blog on how to punctuate bullet points discussing when to use periods, semicolons and when to omit punctuation altogether.

Punctuating Bullet Points

In business writing courses, the most common question about punctuation involves how to punctuate bullet points. It's important, since these days we write as many bullet points as paragraphs.

Let me tell you how I punctuate them, and then I will touch on other ways recommended by prestigious style manuals.

Here is what I recommend:

  • Use a period (full stop) after every bullet point that is a sentence (as these bullets do).
  • Use a period after every bullet point that completes the introductory stem.
  • Use no punctuation after bullets that are not sentences and do not complete the stem.
  • Use all sentences or all fragments, not a mixture.

Directly below is an example of bullet points that complete the introductory stem. Below that example is a version that does not need periods.

I like living in Seattle because of its:

  • Access to culture, natural beauty, and work opportunities.
  • Moderate climate--not too hot or too cold.
  • Liberal politics and social attitudes.

Here are the things I like about living in Seattle:

  • Access to culture, natural beauty, and work opportunities
  • Moderate climate--not too hot or too cold
  • Liberal politics and social attitudes

There is an exception to putting periods after bullet points that complete the stem sentence: If they are one word or a short phrase that feels like an inventory or shopping list, do not use end punctuation. Below is an example:

I like living in Seattle because of its:

  • Culture
  • Natural beauty
  • Work opportunities
  • Moderate climate
  • Liberal politics
  • Social openness

I follow The Gregg Reference Manual's rules on punctuating bullets. I like the approach because it is crisp and clear. 

Garner's Modern American Usage, a reference manual I respect and use, also inserts periods at the end of bullet points--if they begin with a capital letter. However, Garner notes:

"If you begin each item with a lowercase letter, put a semicolon at the end of each item, use and after the next-to-last item, and put a period after the last item."

The Chicago Manual of Style has pages of rules and examples of bullet points, but it agrees with the Garner style quoted above, calling the style "vertical lists punctuated as a sentence." Here is my example of that style:

It is my responsibility to [Garner uses a colon here but Chicago does not]

  • provide participant prework questions for your roster of attendees;
  • review participants' responses and writing samples; and
  • customize the workshop to match individuals’ and the group’s needs.

To me, the style above is too fussy for business writing. It doesn't look crisp or energetic.

You can read more here, or even better click on this link for Ms. Gaertner-Johnston's article on "Best Practices for Bullet Points.

(jbl)

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January 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)