Saturday, December 15, 2012

Student loan debt forgiveness under IBR program may mean big tax bill later on

The loan forgiveness portion of the income based repayment ("IBR") program means that participating law grads may get hit with a big tax bill at the end of their repayment schedule since debt forgiveness is deemed "income" by the IRS. And what could turn out to a very large tax bill will have to paid immediately since, as the NYT coyly points out, the IRS doesn't have an income based repayment program for taxes owed.  From today's New York Times:

For Student Borrowers, Relief Now May Mean a Big Tax Bill Later

Those breathing a sigh of relief that their student loan payments are now in line with their income may want to re-examine the rules that set the payment in the first place. There could be a tax time bomb looming, slowly ticking away. And defusing it is not a big part of the policy discussion in Washington at the moment.

This potential tax bill is a byproduct of federal efforts, including the newly expanded income-based repayment program, that allow you to limit the monthly payments on most federal loans to what you can afford to pay. There’s a formula that uses your income to determine your payment. Then, the federal government forgives any remaining balance, usually after 10 to 25 years.

The catch comes with the forgiveness, since you generally have to pay income taxes on any forgiven debt (unless you were in a program for teachers or worked in a public service job, in which case the taxes go away). For many people, especially those who finished graduate or professional school with six figures of debt, the tax bill could be well into the five figures. And when it comes, you are supposed to pay in full, immediately.

Figuring out just how many people will be in this situation — and just how high the tax bill could be — is a tough task, and not many experts have tried it.

. . . .

Trying to pinpoint the scope of the looming tax issue starts to get more complicated pretty quickly. Not all eligible students will sign up for income-based repayment, since some will not hear about it, will ignore it when they do, will assume or be told (incorrectly) that they can’t qualify or will worry that there is some kind of catch. For those who sign up, it’s awfully hard to predict how many will eventually have some debt forgiven a couple of decades from now.

But Jason Delisle, who has written extensively about the income-linked repayment programs as director of the federal education budget project at the New America Foundation, points to an Office of Management and Budget effort that took a stab at it. The O.M.B. assumed that 400,000 borrowers from 2012 through 2021, each with a beginning average loan balance of about $39,500, would each eventually receive loan forgiveness of about $41,000. Yes, you read that right. The forgiven debt will be more than the original balance, albeit many years later.

At $41,000 of loan forgiveness, the federal tax bill could easily be over $10,000 depending on your tax bracket. There are also state income taxes to contend with, depending on where you live.

But the numbers can go much higher. Stephanie Day earned her bachelor’s degree in her 40s after a divorce, intending to enter the field of social work. She finished in the depths of the recession and could not find work, so she returned to school to get a master’s in psychology to bolster her credentials.

Even then, the jobs available near her home in Seattle were slim, so she moved to a town on the border of New Mexico and Texas for a position there. One home invasion and 12 months of misery at being apart from her children later, she’s now back in Seattle and paying just $30 each month on her $80,000 or so in debt via the income-based repayment plan.

Ms. Day has run the numbers and can foresee a situation where the government will forgive more than $100,000 of her debt, given that her unpaid balance keeps growing thanks to the low payments.

. . . .

“Let’s say your debt has grown to $180,000 over 20 years, and by that point, you’re making $120,000,” he said. “If $180,000 is being forgiven, then you’re looking at paying taxes on $300,000 in total income in one year. At that point, you’re over the $250,000 income category, my friend.”

. . . .

[W]orries about a tax bill a couple of decades from now shouldn’t scare you away from signing up for the income-based repayment plan if you need it. But however the numbers turn out, anyone enrolled in the plan ought to be thinking hard about salting away some money, somewhere, for the eventual tax bill.

After all, no matter how high the bill, there are severe penalties for not paying it right away. The Internal Revenue Service, alas, does not have an income-based repayment program.

You can read the full article here.


December 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Most Notable Quotes of the Year

For the past seven years, Yale Law associate librarian Fred Shapiro has released his “most notable quotes of the year.” As you might expect, the quotes topping the list for 2012 are political. Here are the top four:

1. "There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what ... who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims. ... These are people who pay no income tax. ... and so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Mitt Romney, remarks at private fundraiser, Boca Raton, Fla., May 17 

2. "We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet (in Massachusetts). I went to a number of women's groups and said, "Can you help us find folks?" and they brought us whole binders full of women."

Mitt Romney, second presidential debate, Hempstead, N.Y., Oct. 16 

3. "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business — you didn't build that."

Barack Obama, remarks at campaign appearance, Roanoke, Va., July 13 

4."Please proceed, Governor."

Obama, second presidential debate, Hempstead, N.Y., Oct. 16 (lead-in to Romney's denial that Obama had called Libya attack an act of terrorism). 

You can find the rest here (USA Today). And here you can view accompanying videos (Business Insider).



December 15, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 14, 2012

New legal skills scholarship: "Collaborating With the Real World: Opportunities for Developing Skills and Values in Law Teaching."

This article is by Professor Charity Scott (Georgia State College of Law) and available at 9 Ind. Health L. Rev. 409 (2012).  From the introduction:

    Law professors know and teach the law. Law students, however, need to learn more than just the law. To be successful lawyers, they need to learn how to keep learning the law for the rest of their professional careers, which is a self-reflective skill that law professors generally do not teach in their classrooms. Law students also need to learn a broad range of practical interpersonal and behavioral skills that are essential for good counseling and representation of clients. In addition, they need to internalize habits, values, and attitudes about professional work that will sustain both the quality of their work and their satisfaction with their professional lives in the future.

Many law professors who teach doctrinal law classes assume that their students will get an introduction to these skills and attributes of good professional practice through a clinic or externship experience in law school, or else that their students will just figure it out as they go along in their careers, as perhaps the law professors themselves did after graduation. Traditionally, classroom law professors have focused on improving students' knowledge of the law, their cognitive skills in analyzing its application to new contexts, their ability to think quickly and argue orally in the Socratic classroom, and to a lesser extent, their skills in writing. Despite decades of calls for legal education reform, classroom law professors have not thought it their responsibility to offer opportunities for their students to learn the wide set of skills, values, and attributes that good lawyers exemplify.
As a result, law students have mostly learned how to be and think like law students. They have not learned how to be, think, and act like lawyers.
Even if this state of affairs in legal education worked satisfactorily for law school graduates in the past, it is not working well now in times of economic downturn, and it will not work well for the future given the changing global environment of law practice. Increasingly, clients are refusing to pay for young associates to learn these skills and values on the job, and employers are deciding to hire only lateral attorneys who have managed to learn them at someone else's billable expense.


December 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Learning to Use Computers. Learning to Use Books

For those of us raised in a non computer world, the transition to computers was challenging. In  medieval times, was the transition from scrolls to books also a challenge? You can find out here. With subtitles and very funny.


December 14, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advice for new attorneys on how to handle opposing counsel

We've all been there, right?  Taking or defending our first deposition right out of law school when a  more seasoned opponent tries to exploit our lack of experience for his client's benefit.  Well, forewarned is forearmed so all greenhorn lawyers and lawyers-to-be take heed of the following advice courtesy of the Lawyerist blog if you want to avoid the most common tactics experienced attorneys sometimes use to browbeat their inexperienced colleagues. 

“The rules don’t say/require/allow that”

Really? Because that’s exactly what the rules say.

There’s a good chance, actually, a really good chance that you have read the rules more recently than whoever you are dealing with. My practice is approximately 99% litigation and I get into discovery disputes on the hour, every hour (ok, that’s a little dramatic). Let’s just say discovery disputes are a regular occurrence and they usually involve the same issues.

Before I object to responses (or respond to objections to mine) I read the applicable rule. Then I read it again. Then just to be sure, I read it again. Then I read case squibs in my civil procedure bible. Then I object (or respond).

Most young attorneys follow the same pattern, because we are young and because we are cautious. Before saying anything to big nasty opposing counsel, you want to cover your bases and make sure you’re correct. Or at least arguably correct, depending on your mood that day. So, unless opposing counsel does the same thing, you have, be definition, read the rules more recently than them.

Re-reading the rules serves two purposes. One, it will reassure you that you are, in fact, 110% correct. Two, it will allow you to shove the rule down opposing counsel’s throat when they say “well, the rules don’t require that we ______”

Or, they might say something like . . .

“That may be the rule, but that’s not how it works here in _____”

That is the oldest, lamest, and most ridiculous statement consistently offered by an attorney trying to confuse a young attorney. Don’t buy it for one second. Or if you do buy it for one second, ask them what rule supports their statement.

Opposing counsel may very well think that things should work a certain way, or regularly work a certain way. But that doesn’t mean you have to work that way.

Again, I’m not a wily old veteran. But I’ve called more than one opposing counsel out on this very rationale, and they consistently cave. Admittedly, sometimes it has involved getting a federal magistrate on the phone. Fortunately, federal magistrates also read the rules quite literally and have a low tolerance for frivolous discovery disputes.

Not only will you get what you want (hopefully), it sends a strong message to them to stop messing around. It won’t always stop them, but it should lessen it. And once you call them out a few times, they might actually start following the rules.


December 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Does Getting Paid by the Hour Increase Your Happiness?

The answer may be yes, according to a study by Sanford DeVoe and Jeffrey Peffer, “When Is Happiness About How Much You Earn? The Effect of Hourly Payment on the Money Connection,” 2009 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 35 (2009). Here is the abstract:

We argue that the strength of the relationship between income and happiness can be influenced by exposure to organizational practices, such as being paid by the hour, that promote an economic evaluation of time use. Using cross-sectional data from the US, two studies found that income was more strongly associated with happiness for individuals paid by the hour compared to their non-hourly counterparts. Using panel data from the United Kingdom, Study 3 replicated these results for a multi-item General Health Questionnaire measure of subjective well-being. Study 4 showed that experimentally manipulating the salience of someone’s hourly wage rate caused non-hourly paid participants to evince a stronger connection between income and happiness, similar to those participants paid by the hour. Although there were highly consistent results across multiple studies employing multiple methods, overall the effect size was not large.

What does this study suggest about the happiness of academics who are not paid by the hour? On the other hand, how many academics who used to keep track of billable hours are glad they have left that practice behind?


December 13, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Legal hiring was up in November - third month in a row.

The legal sector added 200 jobs in November according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (via AmLaw Daily) which brings the year to date total to a net gain of 8,200 jobs according to the running tally below (AmLaw Daily is reporting a net gain of 6,900 jobs since January 2012).  Here's how it breaks down month by month:

Hat tip to AmLaw Daily.


December 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Arizona will allow 3Ls to take bar exam giving them head start in job hunt

The Arizona Supreme Court will begin allowing on a trial basis 3Ls to take the bar exam beginning in February.  Part of the impetus is to give students an advantage in the hunt for a job so they can begin practicing law almost immediately after graduating rather than waiting until the summer bar exam results are posted in the fall.  The experiment will last through 2015 when the Arizona Supreme Court will evaluate its success. This will make Arizona the only state in the nation where students who are required to attend an ABA accredited law school can sit for the bar months before they graduate.  The National Law Journal has the full story:

Arizona Supreme Court to allow 3Ls to sit for the bar

The Arizona Supreme Court gave the green light December 10 to an experimental proposal allowing third-year law students to take the bar exam before they graduate, a move law school officials hope will give students a leg up in the job market. 

Under the revised rule, 3Ls who meet eligibility requirements can take the bar exam offered in February, several months before graduation. The proposal was approved as a temporary pilot project from January 2013 until the end of December 2015. Law school officials and other stakeholders will have to file a report with the court by November 1, 2015.

"It addresses several criticisms of legal education: it's too expensive, the third-year students are unfocused and students have to wait so long after graduation until they can take the bar and be ready to practice," said University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law associate dean Sally Rider. "It addresses all those concerns."

. . . .

But Judy Stinson, associate dean for academic affairs at Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, said the proposal included provisions aimed at addressing those concerns. The revised rule requires students to have no more than eight semester hours left to finish after the exam and restricts their course load leading up to the exam.

"It's a nice step by the Supreme Court to allow us to really help our students," Stinson said. She noted that a number of public employers and small firms in the state won't interview applicants until they're licensed to practice, so the revised rule means students won't have to wait in limbo before applying for those jobs. The status quo "really does delay the amount of time before they start offsetting the cost of their education," she said.

Continue reading here.


December 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Measuring Courses by the Credit Hour: Is the End in Sight?

In 1906, the Carnegie Foundation invented the “credit hour”  as a way of measuring the value of courses. Now, that foundation may be having second thoughts. From Inside Higher Ed:

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching on Tuesday announced that it would use a $460,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to study the Carnegie Unit, which forms the basis of a time-based measurement of student learning. The credit hour calls for one credit per hour of faculty instruction and two hours of homework, on a weekly basis, over a 15-week semester.

A virtual gold standard in higher education, the credit hour is deeply ingrained as a measuring stick for academic quality, accreditation and access to federal financial aid.

But it is viewed by many as outdated and inadequate as a measure for student learning. Critics say the focus on “seat time” has stymied progress on promising approaches like online programs that are self-paced and competency-based -- where students earn credits for proving what they know, not for how long they spent on course material.

Legal Education is even more antiquated that Carnegie. The American Bar Association measure the value of courses by the number of “contact minutes.”  Standard 304(b) reads:

(b) A law school shall require, as a condition for graduation, successful completion of a course of study in residence of not fewer than 58,000 minutes of instruction time, except as otherwise provided. At least 45,000 of these minutes shall be by attendance in regularly scheduled class sessions at the law school.




December 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are Unpaid Law Firm Internships Illegal?

Professor Eric M. Fink thinks so.

No Money, Mo’ Problems: Why Unpaid Law Firm Internships are Illegal & What to Do about It

Abstract: Unpaid internships for law students appear to be on the rise in law firms, as in other sectors of the economy. I argue that such unpaid internships are illegal under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and raise ethical questions under the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Moreover, the practice of law firms offering unpaid internships in lieu of paid employment substantially harms law students and law school graduates, who face an increasingly tight market for paid legal employment.

While law students collectively have an interest in ending this illegal and exploitative practice, they have a disincentive against taking action themselves, lest they hurt their prospects in the already perilous postgraduate job market. To address this collective action problem, I propose a three-pronged institutional response.

First, the U.S. Department of Labor should investigate the practice of law firms using unpaid student interns, and take legal action against FLSA violators. Second, state bar authorities should investigate and take disciplinary action against lawyers and firms whose practices regarding unpaid law student interns violate ethics rules. Finally, the American Bar Association and the American Association of Law Schools should educate lawyers and law schools about the legal and ethical problems with unpaid private law firm internships, and adopt and enforce standards to discourage the practice.

(Scott Fruehwald)

December 12, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

More than half of New York law schools saw bar passage rates drop this year.

The overall percentage of first time bar takers for New York's July exam is still quite good at 85% though it represents a drop of one percent from the year before.  I was always under the impression that the overall bar pass rate for New York was much lower; that it was a much more difficult exam.  But apparently that's not the case.  Still, among the eight schools that saw their bar pass rate drop this year, even if only slightly, administrators are concerned enough that some schools will form a "task force" or engage in similar self-reflection to figure out what they can do by way of curricular reform or program changes to boost student bar scores.  As the competition for good applicants gets more fierce in light of declining law school applications, so too does the pressure on  schools outside the very elite to maintain above average bar pass rates.  The New York Law Journal has the story.

Eight Law Schools Post Lower Bar Pass Rates

In a reversal from last year, eight of New York state's 15 law schools have reported lower pass rates for first-time candidates who took the July bar exam. In 2011, eight schools reported improved pass rates over the prior year.

This year's turn-around resulted in the state's first-time candidate average pass rate dropping one percentage point, to 85 percent.

With its 70 percent pass rate for the July exam, New York Law School experienced the most precipitous plunge this year, down 10 percentage points from 2011.

The result dropped New York Law to last place among the state's law schools, a full 4 percentage points behind 14th place Touro Law Center.

Anthony Crowell, who was named dean of New York Law in May after teaching there as an adjunct for nine years, said he was "very disappointed" with the exam results.

"No new dean wants to come into office with this kind of news," he said. "This is not what I would have expected of the school and I know that the school is better than this, the students are better than this."

To improve pass rates going forward, Crowell said he has formed an 11-member task force called "Foundations for Success." The committee, he said, will conduct "a top-to-bottom review" of the class that took the July exam as well as previous classes, and will evaluate the school's programs to ensure that students are offered as much "counseling and support as possible."

For example, he said, each student preparing for the July 2013 exam "will have an individualized coaching and counseling plan. That to me is critical."

. . . .

Touro Law, for example, reported the second biggest percentage decline this year, to 74 percent from 83 percent last year. The result dropped the school to the #14 slot from #9.

Patricia Salkin, who became dean of Touro Law earlier this year, called the rate "disappointing."

. . . .

Touro Law, she added, plans to "redouble our efforts" to ensure more students take advantage of "bar preparation supports."

With its 83 percent pass rate, St. John's University School of Law dipped below the state average for the first time in several years. Last year, the school posted an 88 percent pass rate.

Noting that "bar passage has always been a strength of St. John's," Dean Michael Simons said that to keep the pass rate up, the school earlier this semester began a new initiative focused on preparing the most at-risk students for the exam.

"I am optimistic that effort will bear fruit in the years to come," he said.


December 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Semester’s End: Leaving Your Students with a Positive Impression

Even if your course has gone only so-so, it’s not too late to send your students out with a positive impression.  Psychological findings point the way. The key is to give your students some “peak experiences” and end with a peak experience. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education explains. Here are some excerpts:

A key insight from hedonic psychology and happiness metrics is that the experience of pleasure or pain (how it is sensed in the moment) is largely erased by the memory of that pleasure or pain (how it is viewed in retrospect). The duration of pleasure or pain would seem be key to the experience but actually has little impact on the memory. (For an introduction to hedonic psychology and happiness metrics, see the Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman's 2011 book Thinking, Fast and Slow, which offers a retrospective on his career, including some of his pioneering work in this area.)

In other words, we don't remember pleasure or pain by how long it lasts. What we remember, research shows, is a combination of the feeling of great intensity (the moment of "peak" pleasure or pain) and the impression left by the final moments of the experience (the "end," and particularly, whether it is better or worse than preceding moments). Hence, the "peak-end" rule.

For me, the biggest reassurance of this experience is that it's OK to have off days and low points in every course. You can't possibly be always at the top of your game, week after week, and still meet all the other demands placed on college faculty members outside of the classroom. And from the standpoint of having a lasting impact on students, maybe there's no reason to try to be.

Consistency is important, but it doesn't have to be the unobtainable goal of consistency at one's peak. Being reasonably good, or merely adequate throughout a course, while offering students some peak moments and a decent semester wrap-up, might actually make more of a lasting impression upon the students in the class.




December 11, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Top iPad app recommendations for lawyers

These are courtesy of Brett Burney of Macs in Law via the blog Attorney@work:

[Here is] Burney['s] list of 10 he believes should be on any lawyer’s iPad: GoodReader, PDF Expert, Documents To Go Premium, Evernote, Noteshelf, Atomic Browser, LogMeIn, Lawstack, Keynote for presentations and TrialPad.
  • One of the best uses for the iPad in a law practice is to read and annotate documents. GoodReader has excellent annotation tools for PDF files, including the ability to highlight text and insert text boxes, sticky notes and comments. “It means I don’t have to carry around highlighters and sticky notes,” says Burney, and annotation tools like squiggly lines and arrows let you “get your John Madden on.”
  • PDF Expert is a must for creating simple fillable forms and getting graphical signatures on a document, says Burney. Say you download a PDF form from a court website onto your iPad. You could “open in” PDF Expert, fill in the form, ask your client to sign it, then save it and send it off—all online within the app.
  • There’s no Microsoft Office app for iPad, but there are apps that approximate it, like Documents To Go Premium. It lets you view and edit Microsoft Office documents. It’s good for basic text editing only, however, not formatting.
  • Sometimes those state court and government sites require Internet Explorer—and you’re out of luck in Safari. Atomic Web Browser gives you the ability to “identify browser as …” Internet Explorer or Firefox so that you can still view those sites from your iPad.


December 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

What Useful Purpose Does the AALS Serve?

At the Professor Bainbridge blog, we get one answer: none. Stephen Bainbridge writes:

At Prawfs, Dan Rodriguez comments:

What are your good ideas for the AALS as an organization going forward, especially in these remarkably difficult times for legal education?  I have the opportunity to play a leadership role in the association for the next little while (being nominated as president-elect at the upcoming annual meeting).  My sense is that we can do much better as a group in furthering the myraid objectives of the law professoriate.  Moreover, I would like to use my (small) bully pulpit to advance objectives that are critical to our collective future.

I [Professor Bainbridge] have various thoughts to be sure.  What are yours?

The best thing we could do with the AALS is to disband it:

I can't think of one useful thing the AALS does except to provide a massive schmooze fest for faculty to network at taxpayer and student expense. And while that's fun, it doesn't justify the organization's existence.



December 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UConn Law Adopts “Hands On” Learning Requirement

From the Connecticut Law Tribune (excerpts)

The University of Connecticut School of Law has answered the call to provide more real-world experience for its students. Starting with the class that begins next fall, all students will be required to complete at least one supervised "live-lawyering experience" before they can receive a J.D.

In announcing the new program, Willajeanne F. McLean, the interim dean at the law school, said that fewer than 20 U.S. law schools have a similar requirement. "These programs offer an essential supplement to classroom-based learning," McLean said. "By adopting this requirement, we are signaling our continuing commitment to preparing our students to practice law, and to do so competently and ethically."

UConn's new program will allow students to fulfill the requirement in many ways. They will be able to enroll in one of the school's 15 clinical programs, or participate in externship clinics where they would work with nonprofits, state agencies, judges and legislators.


December 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Domain Transfer

An important learning skill for law students is domain transfer (transfer of knowledge).  Domain (area of knowledge) transfer is taking knowledge or skills from one domain and using it in another domain.  Examples would be applying principles of federalism to choice of law, a psychological test to help solve a legal problem, or  a policy from torts to a property case.

The leading article on domain transfer in legal scholarship is True North: Navigating for the Transfer of Learning in Legal Education by Tonya Kowalski.

Abstract: "As lifelong learners, we all know the feelings of discomfort and bewilderment that can come from being asked to apply existing skills in a completely new situation. As legal educators, we have also experienced the frustration that comes from watching our students struggle to identify and transfer skills from one learning environment to another. For example, a first-semester law student who learns to analogize case law to a fact pattern in a legal writing problem typically will not see the deeper applications for those skills in a law school essay exam several weeks later. Similarly, when law students learn how an equitable doctrine like unclean hands applies to a particular torts problem in one class, only the smallest percentage will then see the potential application for the doctrine in a contracts course with another professor. Fortunately, research in “transfer of learning” offers the legal academy tools to help students encode knowledge – whether doctrine or skills – in such a way that they know better when and how to retrieve it for later use.

This Article is the first to offer legal educators a comprehensive approach to the transfer of learning across the entire curriculum. It is also the first to propose that law schools should employ maps based on schema theory to help students encode knowledge for future transfer, as well as to conceptually integrate their courses. This approach uses meta-schema based on core lawyering skills - in both their abstract and applied forms - in order to help students attain a basic sense of orientation and to know how particular skills will manifest, depending on the contexts in which they are used. This “Core Skills Approach” then goes beyond the use of maps to encourage students to use maneuvers, including a wide array of transfer strategies, to cue previous knowledge across the conceptual bridges that span the distance between school and practice."

This is an important article, which everyone in legal education needs to read.

(Scott Fruehwald)

December 10, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Words to avoid in your LinkedIn profile

Although I've got a LinkedIn profile myself, the only time I use it is to accept "friending" requests.  In other words, like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, I never use it.  I've still wondered, though, whether law students really get jobs through LinkedIn as opposed to people working in other professions where, for all I know, it might be the gold standard of networking options.  Out of curiosity, do you, dear reader, know of any law students who've gotten jobs - even indirectly - through LinkedIn versus the old fashion, face-to-face style of networking (which is still the best way to find a job despite the prevalence of cyber alternatives).

I've certainly noticed that many law students and recent grads have created LinkedIn profiles and since the time commitment involved is de minimus, I guess there's little reason not to have one. If it's been a successful networking tool for even a few students, so much the better.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say.

So assuming you've got a LinkedIn profile, you might as well heed the advice of the site's own networking gurus by avoiding the following buzzwords which they say may hurt your chances of finding a job since they are so overused, they turn-off prospective employers.  From The Business Insider:

LinkedIn has scoured the profiles of its 187 million members and come up with a new list of overused, useless buzzwords. 

These are the words that can be an instant turnoff to a recruiter who sees them over and over again because they show that you aren't "dynamic" with great "communication skills," but the opposite.

. . . .
So, if you are using any of these 2012 buzzwords, fire up your LinkedIn profile right now and scrub them out. Here they are, in order of how overused they are:
  • Creative
  • Organizational
  • Effective
  • Motivated
  • Extensive Experience
  • Track Record
  • Innovative
  • Responsible
  • Analytical
  • Problem Solving
You can continue reading here to learn what "buzzwords" have been deemed turn-offs to overseas recruiters too.

December 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Professionalism Videos

Six new videos that dramatize professionalism issues for law students are now available free online. Widener Law Legal Writing Professors Mary Ann Robinson and Alison Kehner partnered with WoltersKluwer to create the videos as teaching tools. All the videos are brief – half are only about five minutes long – and they are punctuated with music and editing techniques that enliven the content for an up-and-coming audience.

The videos and related teaching materials are available here.

Some of the video stories establish that positive habits or traits developed in law school will pay dividends when professionalism challenges arise on the job. Others show different approaches to professionalism issues that surface in practice. Professors can use the videos individually or in a group, depending on classroom needs. Teaching materials available for each vignette are intended to foster conversations about the situations that play out in each story.

The vignettes explore:


Social Networking:

Misuse of Technology:

Anticipating Consequences: Managing Client Expectations:

Handling Mistakes:

 Self-Direction (& Law School Study Skills)



December 9, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cleveland-Marshall joins growing list of law schools launching incubator program

For links to other schools that started solo incubator projects, click here, here, here and here. Like those schools, Cleveland-Marshall says it wants to provide post-grad support to those students who plan to open their own practice after passing the bar.  And like some of the other incubator projects around the country, CM plans to achieve that goal through a combination of subsidized office space and paring recent grads with mentors who are volunteering through the Cleveland Metro Bar Association. One of the cool features of this particular incubator project is that because it's housed in the school's law library, every student will be able to interact with and observe the participants in action which could lead to some key teachable moments for those who are contemplating solo or small firm practice themselves upon graduation.

The National Law Journal has the complete details.

Cleveland solo incubator reflects students' choice of careers

The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law is the latest to announce plans for a solo incubator. The school will spend approximately $1.2 million to create a suite of offices in its library for rental at low prices to recent graduates launching their own practices. 

Solo incubators are widely seen as a way for schools to help graduates establish practices at a time when law firm hiring has slowed. Around 10 such programs have been created at schools including the City University of New York School of Law; Thomas Jefferson School of Law; Chicago-Kent College of Law; the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law; the University of Maryland School of Law; and Pace Law School.

Cleveland-Marshall dean Craig Boise insisted that his school's incubator is not a response to the job market. "We looked at our data, in terms of where our students were going into practice, and we saw that about 15 percent go into solo practice on a fairly consistent basis," he said. "We thought, 'We're really not doing enough to prepare them.' "

Two years ago, the school formed a task force to look at the issue, and since then has established programs geared toward helping students start solo firms. Courses on practice management and professionalism and ethics will be prerequisites, Boise said.

Boise visited CUNY's incubator, launched in 2007. "I was inspired," he said. "There were graduates who were really helping each other and there was a real sense of community. I think it's hard to be isolated, running a practice from your basement, and these graduates had really bonded."

Cleveland-Marshall plans to construct 15 offices plus conference rooms and a reception area in unused space within the law library, located close to the courtrooms in downtown Cleveland. Graduates will rent space at low cost and have use of the law library for between 18 and 24 months while they get their practices off the ground. Existing students, meanwhile, will have an opportunity to observe graduates at work.

Some incubators have tightly structured training and pro-bono requirements, but Cleveland-Marshall's program will be fairly hand-offs, Boise said. "These are students who will be struggling to make a practice work," he said. "I don't see the value of saddling them with pro bono requirements."

Still, the subsidized office rents would make it easier for the new solos to charge lower rates and improve access to justice, he said.

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December 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pre-Writing: What, When, Why & How

At the Legal Writing Institute One Day Workshop at George Washington University Law School, Laura Graham (Wake Forest) offered a valuable presentation on the importance of carefully introducing beginning students to the process of pre-writing.  Her presentation grows out of a survey of what 1L students think they are going to learn in their first Legal Writing course. Here is a link to her self-explanatory powerpoints.

We await the forthcoming book on the subject, authored by Laura and her colleague Miki Felsenburg( (Spring 2013 Carolina Academic Press).

And many thanks to Iselin Gambert and her colleagues for organizing a great conference!


December 8, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)