Wednesday, February 29, 2012
If you weren't aware of that already, check out this story from the ABA Journal blog.
Perfectionism can be linked to procrastination, according to a consultant who has written a book on time management.
Productivity consultant Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out, tells the New York Times that perfectionists often need deadline pressures to force themselves to finish projects.
She elaborates in a blog post. “Perfectionists feel compelled to do everything at the same level of excellence, often driven by a ‘If I can’t do this perfectly, I’m not going to do it at all’ mentality,” she writes. Morgenstern suggests practicing “selective perfectionism”—deciding which tasks need to be perfect and which can be done just well enough. Delegating trivial tasks can also help.
The most effective people focus on progress over perfection, according to corporate trainer Rory Vaden. He outlines the extent of the problem in an interview with the Times. In one survey, employees admitted wasting, on average, two hours a day at work, he says.
Star Jones said the following on the Today Show concerning disgruntled law school grads: "Jones, a litigatrix turned legal commentator, said that there was “no way” the suits would be successful. She suggested that the plaintiffs should focus their energies on their job searches rather than blaming others. 'No one’s going to hand you a job,' she said. 'I hate whiners!'"
Another commentator said this: Donny "Deutsch, who is not a lawyer, viewed the controversy from a cultural rather than legal perspective. 'This isn’t a legal issue,; he said. 'This is what I call the Whiny Generation…. Talk about Brokaw’s ‘Greatest Generation’ — this is the opposite.'"
The full article is here.
P.S. As Lou said in a post a couple of weeks ago, I am only reporting the news. I do think the comments are harsh.
Here’s a thoughtful post from guest blogger Ruth Anne Robbins, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Lawyering, Rutgers Law School—Camden.
It is moot court season. Law students looking quite purposeful in their conservative suiting as they tell you that they will have to leave class early today or that they will be missing a class or two next week. It’s the season when all law schools and practitioners involved with these competitions might tell ourselves that we can use them to help reform legal education.
The existing paradigm of moot court competition has been in place for several decades. Teams of students prepare briefs and practice oral arguments about some of the nattier legal issues facing experts in a particular field of law. There’s a minimal record involved, and the standard of review is usually de novo. The competitions prioritize pure legal analysis and the technical skill of advocacy at the high federal levels. Although faculty coaches can provide feedback during the oral argument practices, the students write their briefs without the individualized feedback that students received in their legal writing courses.
If we want to teach our students essential skills that they will need and use early in their legal careers, organizers of moot court competitions need to reassess their pedagogical goals..
When we talk about modifying the law school curriculum to better help our students become “practice-ready,” we are actually talking about helping students become client-ready. Clients need lawyers to muck around in facts, to problem-solve, and generally to exercise judgment as well as technical skills. To get there, we need to create more lawyering moments for our students: a combination of legal analysis, factual analysis, skills, and client-centeredness. Clinicians are experts at creating these moments. It makes sense to make these moot court programs more clinical.
What does a client-centered moot court program look like? It looks like a program that:
1. Bridges legal writing and clinical education.
2. Focuses on persuasive advocacy on behalf of a lifelike client.
3. Teaches students to understand and then tell the client’s story in order to advocate for an outcome that is acceptable to the client.
4. Asks the student to grapple with much more common mixed standards of review.
5. Permits a professor to give individualized feedback on the brief as well as the oral argument.
In other words, make the moot court competition worthy of being a part of modern legal education.
This post from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog discusses the 2011 law journal circulation data.
“George Mason University law professor Ross E. Davies, who delights in calling out law reviews for puffing up their circulation numbers, has crunched the 2011 data. It wasn’t a good year.”
Access Professor Davies’ article and data here.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
That's the title of a new article by Professors Morgan Cloud and George B Sheperd (both Emory) and available here on SSRN. In the article, the authors posit that law deans who submitted false data (graduate employment figures, entering class LSAT scores, etc.), to bolster their school's USNWR rankings may have committed criminal fraud.
From the abstract:
A most unlikely collection of suspects - law schools, their deans, U.S. News & World Report and its employees - may have committed felonies by publishing false information as part of U.S. News' ranking of law schools. The possible federal felonies include mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, racketeering, and making false statements. Employees of law schools and U.S. News who committed these crimes can be punished as individuals, and under federal law the schools and U.S. News would likely be criminally liable for their agents' crimes.
Some law schools and their deans submitted false information about the schools' expenditures and their students' undergraduate grades and LSAT scores. Others submitted information that may have been literally true but was misleading. Examples include misleading statistics about recent graduates' employment rates and students' undergraduate grades and LSAT scores.
U.S. News itself may have committed mail and wire fraud. It has republished, and sold for profit, data submitted by law schools without verifying the data's accuracy, despite being aware that at least some schools were submitting false and misleading data. U.S. News refused to correct incorrect data and rankings errors and continued to sell that information even after individual schools confessed that they had submitted false information. In addition, U.S. News marketed its surveys and rankings as valid although they were riddled with fundamental methodological errors.
Hat tip to the Chronicle of Higher Ed.
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, it is important to teach our students to think outside the box so that they can come up with creative answers. Creativity has two parts: thinking up a unique solution, then criticizing it to make sure it works. The first part is called "brainstorming," which means to come up with as many ideas as possible without being critical. Being critical is the second step.
Here is a classic problem. Come up with as many uses of a brick as possible. Do not be critical in this stage! Then, determine how many of your uses might be practical.
From the always informative Lawyerist blog:
There are several good reasons to publish while in law school. First, you will already have to write at least one comprehensive paper during your three years at law school—so why not try to get it published. Moreover, you may be surprised at how little additional work will be required to make it publishable. Depending on your topic and area of expertise, your work may be exactly what a particular journal is looking for.
Second, some journals will publish student work, but will only publish a non-student’s work if the person is an expert in the field. As such, your status as a student can get you an opportunity and audience that you would not otherwise have.
Finally, there may be a significant cost savings associated with publication as a student because many students have the benefit of submitting their papers to as many journals as they like for free through an on-line submission vehicle called ExpressO. If you are not a student, you must pay $2.20 per journal. With hundreds of journals, this can become costly.
What Are The Benefits of Publishing?
Apart from the practical reasons for publishing while in law school, there are also several benefits. First, publication looks excellent on a resume. Moreover, if you publish, you will gain instant credibility and employers, scholarship committees and others will immediately conclude that you are able to write well. Also, a publication will help you find a job and will make you eligible for other accolades such as scholarship money, clerkship positions and praise from faculty and peers. A published work will also assist you if you desire a law professor position some day.
The development of a scholarly piece of work will also enhance your research and writing skills. As with any lengthy paper, you will have to devote a significant amount of time to research. This will not only enhance your knowledge in a particular subject area but will also force you to access various database libraries to search for relevant material. Moreover, a significant amount of time will have to be spent formatting the paper and the related citations and this focus on the detail and blue book format will help you as a lawyer.
Finally, if you publish you will put your name in print and this is a good feeling. You should be proud if you publish something and there is no better feeling than receipt of the finished product with your name boldly splashed across the cover.
How Do I Start?
The first step in the process involves selecting a topic. This sounds easy but unfortunately there is an additional step that must be done. Once you have settled on a topic, you have to conduct something called a preemption search to ensure that your topic has not been written about in the past. This does not mean that you cannot write about the same topic as others but rather means that if you do, you must make it different in some way. The preemption search process involves searching databases for similar topics and reviewing the articles to see what they have covered.
Continue reading here.
Online Law Grads Can't Take N.Y. Bar ExamNew York has the right to keep graduates of online law schools from taking the state's bar examination, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided Feb. 16 (Bazadier v. McAlary, 2d Cir., No. 10-4956, 2/16/12).In an unpublished summary order, the court endorsed the conclusion of the district court that the admissions rules at issue do not violate applicants' rights to equal protection or freedom of association.The lawsuit was filed by Frank A. Bazadier, a 1999 graduate of Northwestern California School of Law, an online correspondence law school not accredited by the ABA. He was admitted to practice law in California. When Bazadier applied to take the New York bar exam, however, he learned that he was ineligible because he graduated from a correspondence law school.District Judge Gary L. Sharpe decided that the complaint did not allege a viable equal protection claim. In his opinion, Sharpe found that Bazadier simply invoked the First Amendment in conclusory language without stating any facts to support his claim that the bar exam rules constitute content-based restrictions on speech and association.The state argued, Sharpe noted, that the different treatment of correspondence-based study is rationally related to the state's interest in ensuring a competent bar. Correspondence-based study lacks the direct supervision typical of classroom-based education, the state contended, and therefore provides less assurance that work is actually being done by the enrolled student and that the student is getting an adequate legal education. Sharpe credited this argument and found that it provides a rational basis for disqualifying bar applicants who studied law through correspondence.Describing the district court opinion as “thorough and well-reasoned,” the court of appeals affirmed. Rational basis was the correct standard of review, the court ruled, because Bazadier's claims did not implicate a fundamental right or a suspect class. The challenged rules “are not based upon the content of the instruction provided by a law school and do not favor or disfavor any form of speech on the ideas or views expressed,” the court said. “Rather, the Rules are occupational regulations that express a preference for one form of legal pedagogy over another.”
The National Law Journal has ranked the top 50 law schools by the percentage of JD grads who took jobs with the nation’s 250 largest firms. It also identifies the schools where these firms recruited the most graduates and where the most alumni were promoted to partner.
The Go-To Law Schools
The 50 law schools with the highest percentage of graduates who go on to NLJ 250 firms.
The schools that top NLJ 250 firms relied upon most to supply first-year associates.
Associates Promoted to Partner
Law schools that saw the most alumni promoted to partner in 2011.
Here’s another link.
I’m not sure we need another ranking. The success of a school’s ranking here depends on a number of factors including the culture of the law school, the location of the law firm, and the reputation of a school among law firms when that reputation may be out-of-date. The importance of this ranking also depends on whether you think getting a job with a megafirm is the goal of all law students.
Datasift (UK) is offering a service that will allow users to search tweets back to January 2010 according to this post from the BBC News.
“Until today, only the previous 30 days of tweets were available for companies to search. Regular users can access posts from the past seven days….The cost to businesses will depend on the company's size, with Datasift's entry-level package costing £635 ($1,000) per month for "individuals or developers".
Some privacy concerns have been expressed as a result of this movement to mine and archive Twitter:
“People have historically used Twitter to communicate with friends and networks in the belief that their tweets will quickly disappear into the ether," argued Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International. ..Companies can get detailed reports showing activity around a certain term or topic "The fact that two years' worth of tweets can now be mined for information and the resulting 'insights' sold to businesses is a radical shift in the wrong direction. “
It will be interesting to watch this unfold in the coming weeks and months.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Learning by Doing by Heather Gardiner. Some excerpts:
Osgoode dean Lorne Sossin advocates more hands-on learning in legal education. Regardless of the type of experiential learning, whether it’s participating in one of the law school’s clinics or one of its various intensive programs, he says it breaks down the barriers between the classroom and community, effectively creating better learning opportunities for students. “What we’re hoping is it sets our graduates up to have a real advantage that not every graduate of every law school will have,” he says. “[It’s] that experiential component that is very much what gives them insight into, for example, the different perspectives or lenses that a client might have, or a regulator might have, or the government might have, or the justice system might have. You start to look at issues from those different perspectives when you’ve seen how they play out in action. I think those are things that if you just go to law school and sit in the classroom for three years, you’re just less likely to get exposed to.”
Adam Campbell, an articling student at labour and employment law firm Harris & Co. LLP in Vancouver, agrees that his time at the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre was his most memorable experience during law school. At the clinic, he worked on one main file related to storm water and the infrastructural issues with the city’s drainage system. He says his clinical work was much more inspiring than any of his classroom work, and even more beneficial than his articling term so far. “At times I actually found [the clinical work] more useful than the articling period that I’m doing right now. I had way more control over an actual file for the entire thing than I have so far while articling,” he says.
In an article he wrote for 4Studentsonline, Michael Oxman points out the benefits he got from working at UVic’s Business Law Clinic. “I found it useful to get feedback from lawyers as opposed to law school professors. While professors may compare work against theoretical models and research papers, practitioners are focused on how work functions in the real world. Rhetoric and purple prose are discouraged. Rather than contemplating remote hypotheticals, students are pushed to consider the practical realities of running a business and the tangible concerns of business people.”
Doug Ferguson, director of Western’s Community Legal Services clinic, says there are several ways for law schools to integrate more practical training into their curricula. He says students should have the choice to take a certain number of credits in clinical and ethical courses to reduce or eliminate their articling term — much like the option suggested by the LSUC’s articling task force. Universities could integrate articling into the three years of law school, or offer a capstone course or a simulated summer program where students work at a virtual law firm, similar to the program at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, he suggests. These alternatives would also help address the current articling crisis in Ontario, he adds.
(Scott Fruehwald) (hat tip: Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Blog)
The synopsis below was sent to me by the author, Professor Kim Novak Morse of Saint Louis University School of Law. According to Professor Morse, this study is part of her Ph.D. dissertation. The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Laptops and law students go hand in hand in the classroom nowadays. I would not be alone when I say, I find myself having a pang of annoyance toward laptop users since their laptop commitment strikes me as disrespectful. Pedagogically speaking, teaching to heavy laptop users frustrates the typical visual cues faculty rely on that demonstrate students grasp of the information being taught. In effect, teaching to classroom laptop users eerily comes close to teaching to an empty classroom (or so it seems).
Beyond frustration, however, more and more faculty are turning toward banning laptops in the classroom citing, at minimum, that classroom discussion is completely stymied, or worse, students are failing to learn.
The outright banning of laptops seemed hasty to me since most of the reasons for doing so were anecdotal, or based on student-self reporting of misuse. In order to get an objective picture of off-task laptop behavior, I initiated an empirical study. For the entire Fall 2010 semester, in an IRB-approved observational-study, six of my research assistants and I observed five different law classes where students used laptops (total population size of 95).
In the study, we observed two first-year courses, one second-year course, and two third-year courses at one law school. The research assistants sat throughout the classroom and manually timed, with special software, how often students went on or off-task.
Four research questions drove the study:
1. What is the actual extent of laptop misuse in class?
2. Does off-task behavior correlate to final course grade?
3. What classroom conditions promote off-task behavior?
4. What classroom conditions redirect laptop users’ attention away from off-task behavior?
The results from the study reveal that indeed students are off task in class; however, it is not as extensive as we thought, nor is it the population of students we thought it was (of course, this depends on whether you are an optimist or pessimist). Second-year students were off task the most time, at 42% of the entire semester. First-years were off task approximately 35% of the time for the semester while third-years spent approximately 28% of their class time off task. Regarding how many individual students were ON-task at a given instant, roughly 82% of third-years, 69% of first years, and 50% of second-years were NOT misusing their laptops (chart 1).
Interestingly, students who had higher LSATs were off-task more than students with lower LSATs (chart 2 & 3). In fact, higher LSAT students reported that they often are off-task in classrooms and only redirect their attention back to the lecture when they need clarification on topics.
While the numbers indicate that students are off-task, my second research question sought to answer whether more off-task behavior might correlate to lower final course grade. Through statistical analysis, the results indicate that there is no correlation between high off-task behavior and lower final course grade (chart 4). Nor is there a correlation between low off-task behavior and higher final course grade. Such results support the idea that students learn outside of class as well as in class and, though they may miss ideas in class due to off-task behavior, they often learn or supplement it through readings, study groups, clinics, etc.
1) Student laptop users tend to go off-task when X-(anything) occurs for 4 minutes or more...
2) When professor is engaged in Socratic method with one student, there is a an increase in off-task behavior by other students.
3) When a classmate engages with professor, there is an increase in off-task behavior by other students.
4) When professor is monotone, or, overly uses one linguistic intonation style, students tend to increase off-task behavior.
5) Approximately 40 minutes into class, off-task behavior increases.
6) When professor calls on students in expected order, off-task behavior increases.
Just as students went off-task when certain conditions existed in the classrooms, my study also captured when students re-directed their attention away from off-task behavior. Faculty can employ the following strategies:
1) “Announcing-the-Good-Stuff” Strategy: Students redirect attention away from off-task behavior when professor provides big-point-summaries, rule formations, definitions, and conclusions.
“Ultimately, courts look at X...”; “The upshot is...”
2) Using the “Rupture Strategy”: Students decrease off-task behavior when directed to an item in a book, chalkboard, digital presentation, in-class task, etc.
“Look at page X...”; “On the chalkboard you see...”;
“On the screen, notice X...”, “Write a brief X...”
3) “Changing-up-the-Voice” Strategy: Students redirect attention away from off-task behavior when the professor prefaces content with signal phrases like:
“This would be a good exam question...”
“ I want to flag for you...” , “The critical idea here is...”
Or, by using linguistic mannerisms like intonation, especially rising intonation found in questions:
“And, how would you know X ?”; “Because........?”
4) “Problem-Posing” Strategy: Students redirect attention when the professor asks a problem-solving question to the class (less so than targeting one student).
“How might we determine X...?”
“If we alter X, what might Y?”
Students redirect attention away from off-task behavior when the professor manages “the duration of any X” so it doesn’t exceed 4-5 minutes. For example, the professor 1) may present info (5 min or less) switch 2) ask a question to the class (5 min or less) switch 3) direct students to book (5 min or less) switch 4) ask an individual a question and have student respond (5 min or less). switch, etc. 6)“Moving-into-student’s-space” Strategy: Students redirect attention when professor moves toward off-task individuals (but surprisingly only for a short time).
Some faculty may feel it is just simpler to ban laptops than employ some of the “workaround strategies” offered above. Before doing so, however, I would urge faculty to recall that the study indicates that the majority (82%, 69% & 50%) of the students are not misusing their laptops. In fact, students are listening-- counter to the common assumption that everyone is monkeying around.
Article originally posted 2/25/2012 on Best Practices in Legal Education Blog by Center of Excellence in Law Teaching at Albany Law School.
Personally, I prefer Leonard Cohen’s Tower of Song. However, I also like the Tower of Books at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center. Every year, there are more out-of-date law books. I’m glad some people have found a way to use them. Here’s a photo as well as a photo of a tower of law books at the bookstore at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that the Research Works Act (“legislation to bar public-access requirement on federal research”) is dead.
“The science-publishing giant Elsevier pulled its support on Monday from the controversial Research Works Act, hours before the bill's co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives declared the legislation dead.”
You can find the bill text, HR 3699, on Thomas here.
You can read Elsevier’s statement here.
Much of what we teach in law school is legal protocols--systematic methods to approach a legal problem. However, thinking outside the box is important, too. A lawyer who thinks outside the box comes up with creative solutions to clients' problems and advances the law. Examples include Brandeis with his Brandeis brief, applying strict liability to products liability, and using equal protection to advance the civil rights movement through the law.
Can you solve this classic problem in thinking outside the box?
A bus gets caught in a tunnel because the bus is slightly taller than the tunnel. The bus driver tries to back out, but is unsuccessful; the forward momentum of the bus has caused it to become really stuck. A tow truck also cannot get the bus out. There is a way to get the bus unstuck. What is the solution?
I have put the answer in the comments.
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Here's an interview with a law school scam-blogger by Long Island's Cable News Channel 12 that puts a human face on the consequences of overwhelming student loan debt. JDPainterguy is a pseudonym for John Koch, a graduate of Touro Law School who borrowed $69k in 1996 to finance his legal education. After failing the NY bar three times, he couldn't find a job that paid enough to service his student loan debt and also pay his other bills. As a result, he defaulted on his student loans and the added stress caused his marriage to fall apart. Because of the default penalties he incurred, his total debt has now ballooned to more than $304k. He tells the Channel 12 reporter that although he's currently enrolled in an income-based repayment program, interest still adds more than $2k to his balance each month. Mr. Koch estimates that he'll owe more than $1 million by the time he reaches "retirement" age, 23 years from now.
New scholarship: "Alternative Justifications for Academic Support III: An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Academic Support on Perceived Autonomy Support and Humanizing Law Schools"
By Professors Louis N. Schulze Jr. (New England) and Adam Ding (Northeastern) and available here on SSRN. Professor Schulze says this is the final article in his “Alternative Justifications” trilogy, and it details the findings of a two-year empirical study on the impact of ASP on law students. The hypothesis of the study is that as students' participation in ASP increases, students' perception of "autonomy support" and "humanizing" grows as well.
From the abstract:
This article details the findings of a two-year empirical study on the impact of a law school academic support program (ASP) on law students. The hypothesis of the study was that as students' participation in a well-resourced, open-access ASP increases, students' perception of "autonomy support" and "humanizing" grows as well. The study concludes, based upon statistically significant data, that law school ASPs impact students in positive ways and therefore are worth the investment. This article is the third in a series designed to show that law school academic support measures positively impact students' well-being and lead to a more robust educational experience.
It's a troubling trend. The total amount of debt that has been used to pay for legal education has risen to $3.6 billion, up from less than $2 billion just ten years prior. And if the current trends continue, that figure could reach $7 billion by 2020.
It's not a problem that has gone unnoticed. Legal education observers are worried, recent graduates are frantic and law schools are looking at their options. ...
[T]here is no easy or simple answer to the problem. ... The reason for the debt is easier to understand: law school tuition continues to outpace inflation. It increased by 74% from 1998 to 2008.
Why does tuition continue to grow? Most agree it is related to the number of law professors walking around law school campuses nowadays. Faculty salaries make up a majority of a law school's budget. And law schools increased their faculty size by 40% from 1998 to 2008, according to a National Jurist report. That meant almost 5,000 law professors were added in 10 years, with the average student-to-faculty ratio dropping from 18.5-to-1 in 1998 to 14.9-to-1.
And why did law schools expand their faculties so rapidly? Law has become more complex and specialized. Law schools today offer far more course than ever before, and specializations. But critics point out that the race to do better in the U.S. News & World Report annual rankings has also fueled the growth.
Read the full article here (free registration required).
Here are the tell-tale signs from Education Week Teacher. Although the article is for the K-12 audience, it applies to us as well. I think there are many teacher-leaders among us who do not realize their potential to aid others in becoming better teachers.
Sign #1: You wish you had an impact beyond your classroom.
Sign #2: Colleagues often ask you for advice.
Sign #3: You "think big" about problems.
Sign #4: You want to take new teachers under your wing.
Sign #5: You always want to know more!
Saturday, February 25, 2012
From a website called LitReactor:
1. Who and Whom
This one opens a big can of worms. “Who” is a subjective — or nominative — pronoun, along with "he," "she," "it," "we," and "they." It’s used when the pronoun acts as the subject of a clause. “Whom” is an objective pronoun, along with "him," "her," "it", "us," and "them." It’s used when the pronoun acts as the object of a clause. Using “who” or “whom” depends on whether you’re referring to the subject or object of a sentence. When in doubt, substitute “who” with the subjective pronouns “he” or “she,” e.g., Who loves you? cf., He loves me. Similarly, you can also substitute “whom” with the objective pronouns “him” or “her.” e.g., I consulted an attorney whom I met in New York. cf., I consulted him.
2. Which and That
This is one of the most common mistakes out there, and understandably so. “That” is a restrictive pronoun. It’s vital to the noun to which it’s referring. e.g., I don’t trust fruits and vegetables that aren’t organic. Here, I’m referring to all non-organic fruits or vegetables. In other words, I only trust fruits and vegetables that are organic. “Which” introduces a relative clause. It allows qualifiers that may not be essential. e.g., I recommend you eat only organic fruits and vegetables, which are available in area grocery stores. In this case, you don’t have to go to a specific grocery store to obtain organic fruits and vegetables. “Which” qualifies, “that” restricts. “Which” is more ambiguous however, and by virtue of its meaning is flexible enough to be used in many restrictive clauses. e.g., The house, which is burning, is mine. e.g., The house that is burning is mine.
3. Lay and Lie
This is the crown jewel of all grammatical errors. “Lay” is a transitive verb. It requires a direct subject and one or more objects. Its present tense is “lay” (e.g., I lay the pencil on the table) and its past tense is “laid” (e.g., Yesterday I laid the pencil on the table). “Lie” is an intransitive verb. It needs no object. Its present tense is “lie” (e.g., The Andes mountains lie between Chile and Argentina) and its past tense is “lay” (e.g., The man lay waiting for an ambulance). The most common mistake occurs when the writer uses the past tense of the transitive “lay” (e.g., I laid on the bed) when he/she actually means the intransitive past tense of “lie" (e.g., I lay on the bed).
Contrary to common misuse, “moot” doesn’t imply something is superfluous. It means a subject is disputable or open to discussion. e.g., The idea that commercial zoning should be allowed in the residential neighborhood was a moot point for the council.
5. Continual and Continuous
They’re similar, but there’s a difference. “Continual” means something that's always occurring, with obvious lapses in time. “Continuous” means something continues without any stops or gaps in between. e.g., The continual music next door made it the worst night of studying ever. e.g., Her continuous talking prevented him from concentrating.
6. Envy and Jealousy
The word “envy” implies a longing for someone else’s good fortunes. “Jealousy” is far more nefarious. It’s a fear of rivalry, often present in sexual situations. “Envy” is when you covet your friend’s good looks. “Jealousy” is what happens when your significant other swoons over your good-looking friend.
“Nor” expresses a negative condition. It literally means "and not." You’re obligated to use the “nor” form if your sentence expresses a negative and follows it with another negative condition. “Neither the men nor the women were drunk” is a correct sentence because “nor” expresses that the women held the same negative condition as the men. The old rule is that “nor” typically follows “neither,” and “or” follows “either.” However, if neither “either” nor “neither” is used in a sentence, you should use “nor” to express a second negative, as long as the second negative is a verb. If the second negative is a noun, adjective, or adverb, you would use “or,” because the initial negative transfers to all conditions. e.g., He won’t eat broccoli or asparagus. The negative condition expressing the first noun (broccoli) is also used for the second (asparagus).
8. May and Might
“May” implies a possibility. “Might” implies far more uncertainty. “You may get drunk if you have two shots in ten minutes” implies a real possibility of drunkenness. “You might get a ticket if you operate a tug boat while drunk” implies a possibility that is far more remote. Someone who says “I may have more wine” could mean he/she doesn't want more wine right now, or that he/she “might” not want any at all. Given the speaker’s indecision on the matter, “might” would be correct.
9. Whether and If
Many writers seem to assume that “whether” is interchangeable with “if." It isn’t. “Whether” expresses a condition where there are two or more alternatives. “If” expresses a condition where there are no alternatives. e.g., I don’t know whether I’ll get drunk tonight. e.g., I can get drunk tonight if I have money for booze.
10. Fewer and Less
“Less” is reserved for hypothetical quantities. “Few” and “fewer” are for things you can quantify. e.g., The firm has fewer than ten employees. e.g., The firm is less successful now that we have only ten employees.
Read the remaining ten - including "farther v. further," "since v. because," "disinterested v. uninterested," and my favorite "effect v. affect" - by clicking here.
Hat tip to the Lawyerist blog.