Thursday, October 25, 2012

Worst Cities for Young Attorneys

The National Jurist lists the worst cities for young attorneys, based on earning potential. The bottom three, starting with the worst, are Little Rock, Louisville, and Dayton. Of course, a young attorney may choose a residence based on factors other than money.

(ljs)

October 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Most recent grads say law school was a positive experience

Despite graduating with high debt loads and uncertain job prospects, most students rated their law school experience as a very positive one according to a recent Kaplan survey.  As reported by the National Law Journal:

Law school retains luster for many recent graduates

Unemployment apparently hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of many recent law graduates for their alma maters. 

Nearly all of the recent graduates surveyed by test preparation company Kaplan Inc. in August gave their law school either an "A" or "B" grade, even though more than half had yet to find legal jobs.

Kaplan queried 705 members of the class of 2012 about their education, and 37 percent gave their law school an "A." Another 53 awarded a "B" and 9 percent offered a "C." A mere 1 percent of students gave their law school a "D," and none outright flunked their school.

Of those surveyed, 56 percent had yet to secure a law job. But the respondents remained optimistic: more than half—63 percent—were confident they would land a job within three months.

"Most students who enter law schools do so with a lot of passion and excitement about the educational experience awaiting them and also the eventual goal of practicing law, so it's encouraging that most new law graduates feel their schools provided them with a productive three years," said Kaplan Bar Review vice president and general manager Steven Marietti.

Even though the surveyed law graduates rated their educational experience highly, 28 percent said their alma mater hadn't adequately prepared them for the bar exam.

(jbl).

October 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Survey finds nearly one-third of college faculty use social media to teach

According to a recent study done by Babson Survey Research Group.

New survey from Babson Survey Research Group and Pearson cites fewer barriers to adoption, with emphasis on video, blogs and wikis for instruction

College faculty have evolved their use of social media for professional, personal and instructional use, with a decrease in concerns around the value and amount of time spent using social media, according to a new report from the Babson Survey Research Group and Pearson. The survey results will be presented during Pearson’s “Social Media for Teaching and Learning” event today at the Sheraton Boston Hotel from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

The annual survey of nearly 4,000 teaching faculty from all disciplines in higher education, representing U.S. higher education professors, examined both the personal and professional impacts of social media.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • 64.4 percent of faculty use social media for their personal lives, 33.8 percent use it for teaching
  • 41 percent for those under age 35 compared to 30 percent for those over age 55 reported using social media in their teaching
  • Faculty in the Humanities and Arts, Professions and Applied Sciences, and the Social Sciences use social media at higher rates than those in Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computer Science
  • Blogs and wikis are preferred for teaching, while Facebook or LinkedIn are used more for social and professional connections
  • 88 percent of faculty, regardless of discipline, reported using online video in the classroom

“Faculty are clearly becoming more comfortable leveraging social media in their personal, professional and instructional lives,” said Jeff Seaman, Ph.D., co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group. “Social media is no longer seen as time-consuming to learn and use, which shows that faculty are more proficient and better acquainted with the social media tools available to them.”

Continue reading here.

(jbl).


October 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

“This” and Faulty Pronoun Reference

At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Lucy Ferriss discusses the problem of using the word “this” and not making clear to whom or what “this” refers. Here’s an example from a student paper:

  1. Because Character A, who loves him, is not aware of her own potential, she is more desirable to Character B who is able to use this to his own benefit.
  2. Critic X’s ideas are particularly applicable when examining how B participates in indirect narration. This is most clearly seen by comparing the description of Character C from the narrator’s perspective to moment when we are taken inside B’s thoughts.
  3. Character Y’s interactions serve as a red flag to us as readers, warning us that he is not a voice that can be trusted. The most significant moment that demonstrates this is just after Character Z gives her speech.

The technical name for the problem is “faulty pronoun reference.” I frequently come across this problem in my students’ work. As Ferriss suggests, the writer using “this” inappropriately may not have a clear idea of what “this” refers to. The problem, then, extends beyond a grammar goof to unclear thinking.

(ljs)

October 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

There's An App For That.

Kathy Vinson has developed an app for a writing checklist.  She describes it as: "The new iPhone app, iWrite Legal, includes tips for clear communication, writing checklists, and other resources designed to help students thoroughly revise, edit, and proofread a legal document."  You can download it at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iwritelegal/id561864315?mt=8.

(Scott Fruehwald)

October 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Plans for a new law school in Illinois?

That would bring the total number of law schools in Illinois to ten.  At a time when at least one  prognosticator is saying that the anticipated gap between the number of future law grads and available jobs is "mind blowing" you think I'm joshing you, right? No, I'm not.  From the Peoria Journal Star:

Luciano: Judge shares a vision of a Bradley law school

PEORIA —

Bradley University College of Law.

Sound intriguing? Some people - including a federal judge, a law school dean and the BU provost - think so. Moreover, a group of legal experts concluded in a hush-hush study - never revealed publicly until now - that central Illinois boasts a market for a law school.

That assessment might raise eyebrows, inside and outside legal circles, in light of increasingly daunting job prospects for new law grads. But, even under a continued economic gray sky nationwide, proponents say a Bradley law school could be conceived with niche studies and new-model curricula that would better position graduates for employment, especially in this area.

"I think there's opportunity, even if the times are difficult," says study-group member James Shadid, chief U.S. district judge for the Central District of Illinois, based in Peoria and encompassing 46 counties. "But if we're going to be like all the rest, then there's no reason to be there. So, the discussion has centered on, how can we be different?"

Shadid and the rest of the team focused on a law school's viability only in terms of potential enrollment, education and employment. The next step would involve economic and fund-raising realities. But from a classroom perspective, the future looks brightly optimistic, advocates say.

"I'm excited about the idea," Shadid says. "Whether it happens remains to be seen."

(Note: Since 1997, I have taught part-time at Bradley. However, as can be attested by longtime readers - including chagrined administrators at the school - I've never shied from kicking or prodding the university, when warranted.)

Shadid, 55, is one of about 10 members of the study team. He stresses that his views hold no more weight than others'. However, the notion of the law-school study started with him.

 

You can continue reading here.

(jbl).

October 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge Alex Kozinski on why lawyers should not use block quotes

In a video interview with legal writing expert Bryan Garner, Judge Kozinsky explains that when he sees a block quote in a brief, he skips over it.  While the author thinks an indented block quote signals to the reader "very important point" Judge Kozinsky sees it as so much "yada, yada, yada."  Worse, it connotes laziness on the part of the brief's author.  A lawyer who seamlessly integrates short quotes into her own sentences, as long as it's done sparingly, is doing her job according to Kozinsky. But block quotes indicate that the lawyer didn't spend enough time trying to assimilate the point in order to be able to explain it to the judge in her own words. Instead, the block quote comes across as a legal writing crutch.

So, while the lawyer may think block quotes are a great way to underscore important points, Kozinsky says instead that when he sees them, his mind starts to wander.  He thinks about other cases, "gardening," raising chickens (yes, Judge Kozinski owns chickens) or his next snowboard trip to Aspen. As a result, you've completely lost him as a reader and that's not good.

Check out Bryan Garner's video interview here (you may need a plug-in to watch it) or check out a partial transcript here courtesy of the Lawyerist blog.

Hat tip to Legal Blog Watch.

(jbl).

October 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Volume 9 of “Legal Communication & Rhetoric” is Out

The journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors, Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD, has published an impressive set of articles. Here is the table of contents for volume 9 with links to the texts of the articles.Preface

October 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 22, 2012

The New Economics of Law School: Growth Is Dead.

Yesterday, I discussed a series of articles by Bruce McEwen on the new economics of law firms.  His thesis is that law firms went through an unprecedented rate of growth between 1980 and 2008, and that this economic basis ended with the economic crisis in September 2008.  In order to survive law firms must look to other industries whose economies have been based on the usual economic reality--economic growth based on population growth.  Such a model requires innovation and simplicity.

In reading his article, I was struck by the close resemblance between his analysis of law firms and the new economics of law schools.  Like law firms, law schools underwent unprecedented growth before the 2008 recession.  Now, law schools are facing fewer applications, a level of tuition that many students cannot afford, dissatisfaction from students and employers, and pressure to make innovations.  Many commentators believe that this trend will continue, and some have even predicated that a number of law schools will fail.

As McEwen proposed for law firms, law schools must simplify and innovate to survive.  As is well known, most law schools today continue to follow a modified version of the Langdellian model from over 100 years ago.  Most law schools want to be like Harvard and Yale, despite the fact that they will never achieve what Harvard and Yale have.

Law schools must be innovative in both their economic structure and their curriculum.  Law schools must find ways to reduce tuition and student debt.  Many of today's law school graduates are leaving law school with debts that will take many years to pay off.  Law schools must cut back on frills, such as shiny new buildings and large administrative staffs, and create innovative ways to reduce tuition and law school debt.

It is equally important that law students be equipped for today's law practice.  There has been a ton of articles written on innovation in legal education based on the latest research on teaching and learning.  How about this for a simple model.  First, all classes should teach both doctrine and application by having a significant problem-solving element in each class.  Second, all law schools should offer students the opportunity to take several legal skills, clinical, and experiential courses in their third year.  Of course, all law schools should not adopt the same model, but rather experiment in curriculum and teaching.

To sum up some of McEwen's suggestions:

1. Law schools must face the fact that growth is limited.  Growth for most businesses usually is the same as population growth.

2. Law schools need to take the long view.

3. The customer--students employers, clients--must be the focus of innovation.

4. Experimentation is the key.

5. Law schools need to simplify to innovate. 

6. The Dean has to be the “Chief External Officer” to manage external pressure and the “Chief Innovation Officer” to push the innovation agenda forward. [Neither of which roles comes naturally to most lawyers.]

In Part Six of his series, McEwen declares that he is not optimistic that law firms will embrace change, and I am afraid that the same applies to law schools.  McEwen notes that innovation involves risk and failure and that lawyers are afraid of risk and failure.  He argues, "Alone among the professions—I submit—we are statistically innumerate and implacable in our refusal to entertain probabilities, odds, reasoned judgments, and cost/benefit tradeoffs. . . . Other industries, and companies, learn through failure. We bury our failures. But this fault – and make no mistake, it’s a categorical fault – is in our nature as lawyers."

We have predicted several times on this blog that those law schools that refuse to innovate will die.  Therefore, law school faculties and administrations  must abandon this lawyer mindset against risk and failure, and, instead, adopt an entrepreneurial one.  Otherwise, the future is dim for legal education.

(Scott Fruehwald)

October 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tips on how to stop procrastinating and better manage your time at work

From Harvard Business School Professor Robert Pozen who has authored a new book called Extreme Productivity. This video interview with Professor Pozen is courtesy of The Business Insider.

(jbl).

October 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Does Gov. Romney Speak in 1950s Language?

According to an article in last Sunday’s New York Times,  Governor Romney’s word choices are a throw back to the 1950s:

As he seeks the office of commander in chief, Mr. Romney can sometimes seem like an editor in chief, employing a language all his own. It is polite, formal and at times anachronistic, linguistically setting apart a man who frequently struggles to sell himself to the American electorate.

Even in private meetings, he does not permit vulgarities.

 I wonder if this criticism reflects the culture of some in a few eastern states and in one western state. I suspect that in much of the country, “Romneyspeak” reflects how normal people talk.

(ljs)

October 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The New Economics for Law Firms: Growth Is Dead

Bruce McEwen has posted a six-part series of articles on the Adam Smith, Esq. blog entitled Growth is Dead.   This is a very important set of articles for anyone interested in the economics of law firms.

He writes, "From more or less 1980 until approximately September 15, 2008, the industry of BigLaw enjoyed an unprecedented run of growth in revenue, profitability, and headcount, with compound annual growth rates in the middle to high single digits for virtually that entire period, with only the occasional hiccup.  This is almost unheard of in modern economies. . . .  Everything changed with the Great Reset."  The result: "Clients, who had always had power but might not have known or exercised it, realized they did and they could. This will not change back. Pricing pressure is here to stay."  Most importantly, "The BigLaw industry suffers from excess capacity on several levels, including a surfeit of JD graduates being churned out by US law schools, too-high levels of leverage among traditional associate ranks, overpopulated ranks of non-equity partners, underperforming equity partners."  He concludes, "And excess capacity at the most fundamental level, I fear, means too many undifferentiated firms chasing too much of the same types of business, and tempted to engage in short-sighted, self-defeating pricing to keep revenue flowing."

McEwen suggests that to solve these problems, law firms should look to how other industries have been solving similar problems for a long time.  Growth in most industries means a rate approximating population growth.  One source he looks to concerning this reality is A.G. Lafley, CEO of Proctor & Gamble:

"1. In an age of disruption, growth is getting increasingly difficult. [That's precisely the point.]

2. Companies need to take the long view. Lafley said he finds it hard to watch CNBC for more than 7 minutes because the focus is so short term. 

3. The customer needs to be the center of the innovation equation. When Lafley took over as CEO in 2000, he said he saw too many managers on their cellphones, or buried in spreadsheets, in essence “showing customers their behind.”

4. Experimentation is key. Lafley talked about the value of giving customers even crude prototypes to test an idea. He also described how different parts of his organization approach innovation differently, and that’s a good thing. 

5. Complex organizations need to simplify to successfully innovate. Lafley said he seeks Sesame Street simplicity. 

6. The CEO has to be the “Chief External Officer” to manage external pressure and the “Chief Innovation Officer” to push the innovation agenda forward. [Neither of which roles comes naturally to most lawyers.]"

In sum, "I dwelt on P&G under Lafley because they faced a market landscape with intrinsically limited growth, as do we, and he approached it in ways we would never dream of, including inviting ideas from outside the firm and developing totally new products in segments thought to be stagnant. . . . I dwelt on A.J. Lafley and P&G earlier because they confronted these Darwinian pressures of the marketplace a dozen years ago, and responded in an enormously creative, not to mention successful, fashion. Will we have the imagination, the applied intellectual horsepower, and most critically of all the unswerving resolve, to do the same?"

There is much more to learn from this series of articles.

(Scott Fruehwald)

October 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wall Street Journal reports many clients now balk at legal research charges

It's been widely reported for some time that many clients balk at paying, in effect, to train new law firm associates. But today's online WSJ says that one recent survey of in-house legal departments found that 80% object to the charges submitted by outside counsel for legal research while 69% said that their clients believe they shouldn't have to pay for it all.  At least one large, corporate client has gone so far as to purchase its own subscription to Wexis and makes outside counsel to use that instead.

Law Firms Face Fresh Backlash Over Fees

After the recession sparked a widespread revolt over generous law-firm fees, clients are increasingly raising objections to big bills for legal miscellany.

Invoices for food, photocopies and legal research—items that once were rubber-stamped by companies—are drawing howls. As for charges for first-class flights? Clients are simply saying, "No more."

Some routine costs, such as an attorney's cab fare to the courthouse, are minuscule compared with the huge sums lawyers bill for work on complex mergers or lawsuits. But other items, such photocopying, often pile up and can amount to millions of dollars a year for some big companies.

"The expenses can add up," says Stewart Aaron, a litigation partner who heads the New York office of Arnold & Porter LLP. "Clients…are paying more attention."

. . . .

Johnson & Johnson has its own strategy for curbing charges for legal-research services. The health-care-products company maintains its own subscriptions to legal databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. It asks law firms to use its accounts when doing work for the company. A J&J spokesman says the practice is one of several used to reduce costs for outside legal work.

. . . .

The changes represent a shift from the way many law firms are accustomed to doing business. "Ten to 15 years ago there were only a couple of corporations that took this seriously," says David Paige, a legal-fee consultant and managing director at Sterling Analytics Group LLC. "Legal bills were considered untouchable."

Big law firms used to bill their clients for everything from word processing to photocopies and faxes—so-called soft costs firms incurred while doing client work. Those charges came on top of lawyers' hourly rates.

Law firms were "able to charge 20 to 25 cents a copy," says legal consultant Rob Mattern. "I remember having conversations with executive directors who said the soft costs were one of the larger individual areas of revenue for their firms."

Still, attorneys aren't supposed to make a profit from soft costs. While law firms may pass on "reasonable charges," according to a 1993 opinion by the American Bar Association, "the lawyer's stock in trade is the sale of legal service, not photocopy paper, tuna fish sandwiches, computer time or messenger services."

Clients started clamping down on legal bills more than a decade ago, and the approach gained popularity as the economy tanked. Today, many in-house lawyers view back-office charges with increased skepticism. A poll of 64 law firms this year by Mr. Mattern's firm, Mattern & Associates LLC, found that 80% of respondents had clients who balked at paying for legal research and 69% said they had clients who simply wouldn't pay at all.

Hat tip to Legal Research Plus.

(jbl).

October 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Women Lag in Top Law Review Jobs

From the National Law Journal:

Women remain underrepresented in top law review leadership positions, according to data from New York Law School and Ms. JD, a nonprofit organization that supports the advancement of women in the legal profession.

Women comprised just 31 percent of editors-in-chief at the flagship journals of American Bar Association-accredited law schools last year, and only 29 percent of top editors at the flagship journals of law schools that landed among the top 50 in U.S. News & World Report's annual ranking, the Law Review Diversity Report concluded. That figure declined by 5 percent since the previous year.

(ljs)

October 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Most lawyers are not good business people

And many lawyers acknowledge as much given the new emphasis on the need to teach them business skills (here and here). From the Business Insider:

New Survey Shows Why Lawyers Are Terrible At Doing Business

A recent legal intelligence survey by ALM looked at how well law firms can act like businesses.

The takeaway?

They can't.

"The level of commitment leading law firms are showing to strategic planning is moving in the right direction, but the rate of substantive progress is still frustratingly slow,” the report found, according to The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog. “There is genuine cause for concern.”

Only one in eight law firms has a strategic plan for improving profits and retaining their best talent, The Am Law Daily reported Tuesday.

And even the firms that do have a plan often aren't able to execute it very well.

Firm leaders need to start learning about business goals and becoming familiar with "the financial health of the firm" or they'll never succeed at running a successful business, LexisNexis's director of consultants Bo Yancey stated in the report.

(jbl).

October 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Presidential Campaigns Pay Attention to Fonts.

In the Legal Writing world, we are just beginning to think about the role of fonts in improving readability and in making our writing more persuasive. However, the presidential campaigns are way ahead of us. They carefully buy particular fonts to use in particular messages and even pay vendors to create new fonts for them.

You can find an extensive discussion at the Content Strategist.

(ljs)

October 20, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Network 'yer face off!

Great advice for all law students hoping to secure a job upon graduation. As Woody Allen has said, "Ninety percent of life is just showing up." From Kathryn Minshew of the Daily Muse via the Harvard Business Review blog:

Never Say No to Networking

When new entrepreneurs ask me for advice, I sometimes tell them to NYFO — Network Your Face Off. Nearly everything I've accomplished in the past two years, from speaking on CNN to watching my company cross 1.7 million users in less than a year, can be directly traced back to connections I've made and help I've received from a network that is vast, diverse, and active.

The best networking suggestion I can offer? Always say yes to invitations, even if it's not clear what you'll get out of the meeting. I'm not arguing for long, pointless, unstructured conversations with everyone you meet. But many of my most fruitful relationships have resulted from a meeting or call in which I was not entirely sure what would or would not come of the conversation.

You could call it making your own luck, by increasing the odds of making the right connection. Because you can't assume that you know much about someone you don't know very well. You may know their occupation, industry, and job title — but you don't know what they may be an expert in, and you certainly don't know who they know.

Of course you can't possibly take every meeting. But regularly connecting without a reason or purpose — with people who seem to be doing interesting things — can have unexpected benefits. Two of the people who were instrumental in recommending me for Forbes 30-under-30 were serendipitous connections. Some of the best partnerships we've secured for The Muse (the company I founded) came through casual acquaintances who saw me and made a mental connection — even when I didn't.

Hand in hand with this philosophy comes another, highly complementary strategy: When you want something, broadcast that to everyone you meet. When talking about your desires for your business, be honest. A little candor, a little vulnerability, goes a long way in turning a conversation from trite to meaningful. For a period in January, I desperately wanted to land a partnership with Yahoo. For an entire month, I answered every "How are things going?" question with some variation of: "Great! I just started YCombinator, which has been an adventure. Now I'm trying to put together a partnership with Yahoo. How are things with you?"

Ninety-seven times out of a hundred, the conversation continued as normal, with a reciprocal introduction or update and additional exchanging of information and small talk. But three people I spoke to were different: They immediately responded by suggesting they had a former colleague, relative, mailman, or friend at Yahoo, and would I like an introduction? In thirty days, I went from no relationships at Yahoo to three warm introductions to power players who could make my desired content syndication partnership happen. Six weeks later, Daily Muse content went live on Yahoo! Shine.

I didn't know any of those three people had a Yahoo connection; in fact, they were hardly the ones I would have deemed most likely. And quite frankly, if I had sent out an email asking one hundred people in my network if they knew anyone at Yahoo, it would certainly have felt like an imposition. But the strategy of taking a broad range of meetings and letting everyone know the problem I was tackling — that strategy worked, and it has worked again and again in the months since. When doing this, be sure to deliberately pick problems that can be solved by introductions (fundraising, talking to certain companies) rather than those that require the sustained thoughts of individuals (product decisions, specifics of growth strategies).

You may be asking, how can I make these connections in the first place? Show up, and often. This should be obvious, but as a busy entrepreneur it's amazing how unappealing it is to socialize with people you don't know when you're working 16-hour days. But everything starts with showing up.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

October 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Texas Firm Offers New First Years $185,000

From the Texas Lawyer:

Litigation firm Bickel & Brewer is offering its 2013 first-year associate class a base annual salary of $185,000, an increase of $10,000 over the firm’s current first-year associate base salary of $175,000, says William Brewer . . . .

“The goal here is always to be ahead of the curve,” Brewer says. Although the overall economy is still lackluster, Brewer says business is good for the firm, which handles large, complex litigation, and it wants to maintain its position as a salary leader. “We’re blessed,” Brewer says. “The fact is the firm is just doing great.” The firm has offered permanent positions to eight third-year law students, he says. The base salaries exclude bonuses, which are discretionary, he says.

Sixteen of the state’s 25 largest firms are offering their 2013 first-year associates salaries ranging from $120,000 to $160,000. Most of the large firms also offer guaranteed bonuses to associates during their first year.

I’m used to my recent graduates making as much as I do, but the disparity here is a bit discomfiting.

(ljs)

October 19, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Attorney sanctioned for ex parte gift of wine to judge

Last August we told you about a South Florida attorney whose vituperative response to a bankruptcy court's order (among other things, the attorney called the court's findings "half-baked") raised eyebrows around the blogosphere (here and here). The attorney then got himself into deeper trouble by sending the judge a bottle of wine along with an ex parte note offering to privately patch things up. As a result, the court sanctioned him, he appealed and the Eleventh Circuit just affirmed. The South Florida Lawyers Blog takes it from there:

Boy I remember the days when you could smooth over a dispute with a federal judge simply by delivering a nice bottle of wine and a hand-written note on the judge's doorstep.

Actually, I don't ever remember those days.

Regardless, the 11th has weighed in and affirmed the sanctions order:

Gleason has identified no authority supporting his contention that the First Amendment shields from sanctions an attorney who files an inappropriate and unprofessional pleading and then contacts a presiding judge ex parte with an offer to share a bottle of wine and “privately” resolve their dispute. When an attorney files inappropriate and unprofessional documents, a court may impose sanctions based on its “inherent power to oversee attorneys practicing before it.” Thomas v. Tenneco Packaging Co., 293 F.3d 1306, 1308 (11th Cir. 2002) (upholding a district court’s decision to sanction an attorney who submitted documents containing personal attacks on opposing counsel).

In the present case, the bankruptcy court found that Gleason’s written submissions to the court and sending a judge a bottle of wine with an offer to resolve their differences privately amounted to “sanctionable professional misconduct.”

Oh well,  I hope somebody drank it, a nice bottle of wine is a terrible thing to waste.

So the lesson, kids, is that you shouldn't call the judge deciding your case a nimrod and then send an ex parte gift of booze in a misguided effort to apologize. 

(jbl).

October 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Making legal education more practical while containing costs

Law schools struggle to find a balance between providing students with a more practical education (which usually means smaller, closely supervised "skills" courses) while not saddling students with even more debt by way of a higher tuition bill.  From Inside Higher Ed:

Law Schools Get a New Look

Critics of law schools have two main objections: they’re too expensive and they don’t adequately prepare students to work as lawyers.

New York University is the latest law school to try to address the second issue. Motivated by the 2008 financial crisis, Dean Richard Revesz convened a committee of leading lawyers, all NYU Law alumni, to evaluate the school’s curriculum. The committee found five areas for improvement, and NYU announced Wednesday new initiatives aimed at better training (and training better) lawyers.

The curriculum enhancements include a study abroad option during the third year of law school, a chance to spend a semester in Washington, D.C., a “pathways” program for third-year students who have a specific area of law they want to specialize in, an increased focus on business and financial education, and a leadership development program.

So far, most of the programs are optional, except for a financial literacy course that will be required of first-year students; Revesz said the school will evaluate the effectiveness of the various initiatives and could require them down the road. For now, he expects that most students will opt to take advantage of at least one.

Most of the new programs are aimed at improving the third year of law school, a topic that has been particularly controversial in the discussion of legal education. Since the American Bar Association got rid of its three-year requirement (it now requires a certain number of units instead), there has been much talk about just how necessary that third year really is.

Some law schools have introduced an accelerated option that allows students to earn a J.D. in five semesters, but those students still take the same number of courses and pay the same tuition. Others, like NYU, have tried to revamp the third-year experience, usually by focusing on clinical learning. A survey by the ABA found that between 2002 and 2010, law schools increased all aspects of “skills instruction,” like clinical practice and externships.

“Our feeling was what we should do is make the third year as meaningful as possible,” Revesz said.

The ABA survey also found that 76 percent of curriculum changes were driven by the evolving demands of the job market. That, Revesz said, is largely what influenced the development of the new programs at NYU.

But curriculum changes aimed at addressing the tough job market often fail to address the difficult financial situation of many law students, and this has some experts on legal education worried.

Kenneth Anderson, a law professor at American University, writes on the blog “The Volokh Conspiracy” that law school less an investment, as it may once have been, than a bet. That’s because, he writes, the job market for lawyers is tough, and the cost of education is high.

“It doesn’t really matter how great the education is if it simply costs more than its rate of return to a student,” Anderson writes.

Yet, improving education (rather than trying to reduce prices) is the tack that most law schools, including NYU, have been taking. Barry Currier, interim consultant on legal education for the ABA, said that while some schools have frozen tuition, it’s rare to see a school take steps to actually reduce its costs or the prices it charges students.

“Most schools are focusing on trying to improve education,” he said. “They’re mindful of cost, but not really trying to reduce cost.”

The price of a legal education is a frequent topic of discussion, Currier said, but the goal of offering cheaper education often conflicts with the goal of providing better education, and it seems the latter typically wins.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for a school like NYU, Currier said.

“It’s perfectly in line with where NYU sees itself in the market, but not too many schools are going to be able to do this,” he said.

For Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, that’s the core of the issue.

“For the NYUs, Chicagos, Harvards, and Yales of the world, this might be the direction they need to take their schools, but the problem happens when the schools below them start to emulate them,” McEntee said. “That’s part of the reason the price of education has gone up.”

McEntee thinks programs aimed at improving legal education distract law schools from the question of cost, which he believes should be the main issue. He says no school has figured out a way to make education more efficient and to reduce tuition, and as legal jobs and salaries dwindle, students are being put in a difficult position.

“This can’t go on and it won’t go on,” he said.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

October 18, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)