Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tips for improving your interpersonal skills

In these times of a very tough job market for new law grads, the so-called "soft skills" of interpersonal relations are at least as important as traditional legal skills.  In this column from the blog attorney@work, Loyola-Chicago Adjunct Professor of legal skills Desiree Moore provides a summary of the key interpersonal skills law students and recent grads should hone for success on the job:

  • Be reasonable and even-tempered at all times. Do not display extreme emotions, and do not take frustrations out on anyone (this includes your administrative assistant—the best way to get in trouble as a new lawyer is to treat staff in a disrespectful manner).
  • Be enthusiastic. Express enthusiasm at the prospect of working on any project assigned to you.
  • Get to know your colleagues. Ask them about their work and their interests.
  • Be humble. You are at the bottom of the food chain. Your likability, and not your credentials (even if impressive), is going to carry the day.
  • Steer clear of office gossip or any office dynamics with which you are not comfortable. Use discretion, and keep your personal drama out of the workplace.
  • Do not take things personally. You are there to do a job. Period. Do not view minor exchanges or critiques of your work as personal affronts. Criticism in particular is expected, and you should use it to improve your skills.
  • Demonstrate that you are a reliable person. Act responsibly and responsively. Always do what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it; even if you have promised to do something that is ultimately insignificant, you will build credibility by consistently doing exactly what you say you are going to do. Be on time; better yet, be early—for everything. Do your work quickly, efficiently, and with purpose. Where appropriate, keep your supervising attorney apprised of your progress.
  • Work hard. Early in your career, demonstrate that you are willing to put in long hours and late nights. Volunteer to take over or help out on projects and cases wherever you might be needed. Figure out how to get work done quickly, efficiently, and well. Create strategies for limiting distractions throughout the day. Where necessary to get work done, turn your email alerts off and make conversations with people in the office short. In other words, show that you mean business most of the time.

Continue reading here.


June 16, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are Young Lawyers Less Willing to Negotiate Agreements?

According to one of my lawyer friends, older lawyers are complaining that younger lawyers are less willing to work at negotiating their way out of cases and conflicts. They hold fast to demands and don’t want to give an inch.

Given the plethora of law school courses on mediation, negotiation, and the like, one would think that younger lawyers would be more willing to find solutions to conflicts. I speculate that with the tight job market, the recalcitrant lawyer fears cutting a deal, going back to the firm, getting criticized for giving away too much, and placing his  or her job in jeopardy.


June 16, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

When Should You Take Your Husband’s Name?

First, disclosure: My wife and I have different last names. So I sometimes get called “Mr. Brennan.” I don’t correct the speaker. Big deal. On the other hand, the phone book lists my last name, not hers. Consequently, her clients have a harder time tracking her down after hours.

At The Careerist, Vivia Chen lists reasons for and against a name change:

1. When you've been indicted or convicted. You need a clean start to launch your career and life, so hook that unsuspecting sucker and take his name as fast as you can!

2. When your maiden name is a spelling nightmare. Let's face it: Names like "Jones" or "Baker" are better for your brand in the corporate world than "Konekhamsompnou" or "Oubonlamphanh."

3. When your maiden name has an unfortunate connotation. Can it be easy to ascend the social or career ladder with a last name like Coffin, Rat, Falik, Smut, or Turd? Don't think so.

4. When your maiden name is notorious. I don't care how much family pride you have, I'd ditch any name associated with major dictators, serial killers, terrorists or assassins.

5. When you despise your father. Actually, quite a number of people told me they have daddy issues, and would happily erase any paternal connection, if given the chance.

But even if you don't suffer from any of the above, there are still compelling reasons to take your husband's name. No, no—not because of those tired middle-class reasons—like how wonderful it is to wave the family flag or how proud you are to bear the last name of the love of your life. Puh-leeze. Let's try to be a bit more imaginative.

The top two reasons to change your last name in my book are:

 - When you marry royalty. I don't blame Kate Middleton one bit for dropping her last name to take on the the title of "Duchess of Cambridge." Hey, I'd do it in a flash.

 - When your husband's name will get you a table at a popular restaurant. Maybe this is just a New York thing, but I suspect that a name like Rockefeller, Forbes, Trump, or Lauder will get the maître d's attention real fast and put you on top of that wait list.


June 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Knowledge automation software is a disruptive technology that may replace lawyers

In a New York Times Op-Ed, Paul Krugman discusses a new report by the business consulting firm McKinsey & Company that describes several disruptive technologies and the likely impact they will have on the labor market.  One such technology is described generically as "automation of knowledge work." 

The McKinsey report describes this technology as sophisticated artificial intelligence software and "machine learning" which will be able to perform many "knowledge worker" tasks that had previously been considered "impossible or impractical" to do by machine.  This new fangled software will be able to answer "unstructured" questions from clients and customers (i.e. those posed in the language of ordinary conversation rather than precisely formulated queries) which opens up the possibility of "sweeping change" in the way such knowledge work gets done.  The report further posits that sophisticated analytical software might be used to augment the work of highly skilled workers (law partners, for example) meaning that some of the lower skilled workers who had previously provided support work (i.e. associates) would see their jobs disappear in favor of automation.   

Clearly, this kind of thing has already been happening in the legal field for some time as predicative coding software has replaced armies of document review software at some large firms (and providing more sophisticated analytical data than its human counterpart in the process).  It's also the kind of thing Richard Susskind has been predicting for years would happen since, in his opinion, some of the day-to-day work done by lawyers is not that sophisticated and thus is easily amenable to automation.

Returning to Mr. Krugman's Op-Ed, he thinks that if the above predictions turn out to be correct, the middle class is kind of screwed.  The solution?  We're going to need a good government-funded safety net to provide for all the displaced "knowledge workers."  Yikes.

You can read Mr. Krugman's Op-Ed here, the McKinsey Executive Summary here and its full report here.


June 15, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 14, 2013

New scholarship on motivating law students to learn.

In a new article by Professor Cassandra Hill (Thurgood Marshall), she argues that in the discussion of effective classroom teaching, what often gets lost in the shuffle is that students must take responsibility for their own learning.  Professor Hill discusses strategies for motivating students and assessing their commitment to coursework in the context of measuring learning outcomes.  The article is titled The Elephant in the Law School Assessment Room: The Role of Student Responsibility and Motivating Our Students to Learn and can be found at 56 How. L.J. 447 (2013) and here on SSRN. 

From the abstract:

The American Bar Association’s proposed new accreditation standards call for law schools to assess the effectiveness of their academic programs. Law schools are now doing so, quickly giving rise to an assessment movement that closely examines desired educational outcomes and professors’ efforts to attain them. But assessment has to date focused on the professor, who is just one part of the professor-student partnership. All but ignored are the contributions and motivation of the other critical component — the student.

This Article posits that to assess academic programs’ effectiveness, assessment must evaluate the contributions of students and not just professors. With such data, professors could target students’ progress and motivation strategically, making strides in both teaching and learning.

Part I of this Article sets out the responsibility for learning shared between professor and student and examines existing research in the field of student responsibility for learning. Part II explains the profound benefits of assessing student responsibility, and Part III presents methods for measuring student perspectives and participation. Part IV identifies practical strategies for igniting students’ motivation and commitment to learning.

Assessment aims to prepare students for legal practice. But unless law professors consider the level of responsibility students take for their own education, any assessment results will lack proper context. By assessing students’ contributions too, professors can take the necessary steps to enhance their students’ academic and professional competence.


June 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Attorney Blogger Violates Ethics Rules

From Litigation News (ABA Section on Litigation):

A divided Virginia Supreme Court upheld the imposition of discipline against an attorney for authoring an Internet blog discussing the results of his client’s case without a disclaimer that case outcomes were not guaranteed. The majority ruled that a partial economic motivation for writing the blog was sufficient to categorize it as commercial speech subject to regulation rather than protected political speech under the First Amendment.

Disciplinary Proceedings
In Hunter v. Virginia State Bar [PDF], a criminal defense lawyer authored and maintained a blog on his firm’s website that mainly discussed concluded cases in which he obtained favorable results. All published information was part of the public record. Other blog posts consisted of the attorney’s critique of the criminal justice system. The blog did not provide any disclaimer that the cases mentioned did not guarantee or predict outcomes in future cases.

The full article is worth reading. It suggests to me that the Virginia court has not kept abreast of electronic communication or the realities of law practice.


June 14, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tips for overcoming procrastination

Following up on Scott's post below, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog has a nice summary of the article by David Rasch and Meehan Rasch on combating procrastination for law students and lawyers (profs too).  Their tips include:

Face your fears: “Lawyers stereotypically turn to logic for comfort, but if you increase your capacity to accept, feel, tolerate, and understand the emotional side of your nature, you will increase your capacity to write productively.” That means articulating your dread or denial into sentences like, “If I don’t write this memo, I’ll fail the class and flunk out of law school.”

You’re not so bad: While confronting those feelings, don’t be so down on yourself, the authors advise. “Debilitating thoughts that plague legal writers….are generally exaggerations and distortions of the truth that have gained too much power from their endless internal repetition.”

Change of scenery: “Negative feelings about a work space may also trigger avoidance,” say the authors, who share the tale of a “big-firm lawyer” gripped by anxiety after she was tasked with “several massive drafting projects by a difficult supervisor.” Her writing picked up after she left town and worked remotely from ”a pleasant cafe near the beach where she had done much of her writing during law school.”

Alcohol isn’t the answer: “Though some very well-known and prominent lawyers and writers have had serious addictions and mental health disorders, legal writers should not view a manic episode, excessive drug use, or alcohol as the path to improved productivity.”

Click here to read the WSJ post and here to read the Rasch's article itself.


June 13, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Oprah’s Harvard Commencement Address

On May 31, Oprah addressed Harvard’s graduating class. Here is an excerpt:

It doesn’t matter how far you might rise — at some point, you are bound to stumble. Because if you’re constantly doing what we do — raising the bar — if you’re constantly pushing yourself higher, higher, the law of averages predicts that you will, at some point, fall. And when you do, I want you to know this, remember this: There is no such thing as failure — failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.

Now, when you’re down there in the hole, it looks like failure. . . . And when you’re down in the hole, when that moment comes, it’s really okay to feel bad for a little while — give yourself time to mourn what you think you may have lost — but, then, here’s the key: Learn from every mistake. Because every experience, encounter, and particularly your mistakes are there to teach you and force you into being more of who you are.

And then, figure out what is the next right move. The key to life is to develop an internal moral, emotional GPS that can tell you which way to go.

For more excerpts, please click here at Brain Pickings.



June 13, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Two Helpful Articles from Meehan and David Rasch

DU Law announces new experiential legal practice curriculum

From DU's press release:

This fall the University of Denver Sturm College of Law will launch its new Experiential Advantage Curriculum, which will allow students to spend a full year of their law school career in real or simulated practice settings. By the time they graduate, students will have a year's worth of legal practice experience.

“Denver Law is committed to creating practice-ready law school graduates,” says Denver Law Dean Martin Katz. “This is a major milestone in achieving that goal.”

The Sturm College of Law has long been recognized as a pioneer in experiential learning, opening the nation’s first law school clinic in 1904. The school was cited in 2012 by U.S. News & World Report Magazine as one of three law schools demonstrating “best practices” in the field.

The new Experiential Advantage Curriculum combines live client clinics, high - quality externships -- including a new Semester in Practice Externship--and legal simulation courses. Among the simulation courses are the Carnegie Integrated Courses, also new, which provide training in doctrine, written and oral skills, and emphasize the development of professional identity.

Students who opt into the program will take 24 credit hours of experiential learning courses in their second and third years in addition to their 6 credit first-year Lawyering Process course. The result is that at least a third of their three-year law school career will consist of experiential learning opportunities.

“Experiential courses put our students in the shoes of practicing lawyers in real and simulated legal matters,” says Professor Roberto Corrada, the Mulligan Chair of Modern Learning at Denver Law. “Getting to do this for a full year during law school, guided by expert professors and mentors, provides unparalleled opportunities for our students to develop as lawyers.”

“Employers have told us repeatedly that they are looking for graduates with real or simulated practice experience, and the skills and perspective that come from such experience,” says Dean Katz. “We believe that the Experiential Advantage Curriculum will provide our graduates with a significant advantage in the job market.”

The Experiential Advantage Curriculum will be available to all Denver Law students arriving in the fall of 2013 or later. While the program is optional, all Denver Law students are required to take at least one experiential learning course during their second or third year.

More information on the Experiential Advantage™ Curriculum can be found at the Sturm College of Law’s website:

The program marks the fulfillment of one of the most important goals in Denver Law’s strategic plan, notes Dean Katz. The plan called for the school to build sufficient curricular capacity to offer students an all-experiential year as part of its Modern Learning Initiative.

Denver Law also is looking into the possibility of creating an Experiential Advantage™certificate, which would formally distinguish graduates who undertook a year of experiential learning while still in law school.

Denver Law is an active participant in “Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers” (ETL), an initiative of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver. ETL is edicated to facilitating and supporting experiential learning in law schools to create excellent, practice-ready lawyers. A total of 28 law schools with a shared focus on experiential learning are members of ETL’s consortium.

Hat tip to National Jurist Magazine.


June 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

In Memoriam: John F. Sutton

I have neglected to note the passing of one of my great law professors, John Sutton. In addition to making major contributions to the development of legal ethics, he was an excellent mentor and an exemplary man. He cared about his students. Long ago, I marveled at his teaching and still haven’t been able to live up to the standard he set. Here is an excerpt from the ABA Journal’s obituary. It contains links to full obituaries. A life well lived.

John F. Sutton, a one-time dean at the University of Texas Austin School of Law, FBI special agent and drafter of the ABA's Model Code of Professional Conduct, has died at age 95.

Sutton died Friday of complications due to old age, his family told the Austin American-Statesman.

Born in Alpine, Texas, in 1918, Sutton spent time as a cattle rancher before attending the University of Texas in 1936. He earned his law degree in 1941.

Sutton served with the FBI as a special agent at the start of WWII, then served in the U.S. Army Reserves as a 1st Lt. in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps during the Korean War. He was in private practice from 1950-1957 in San Angelo, a practice he maintained with his wife Nancy Ewing, who was his law school classmate, and his father, retired Judge J. F. Sutton, according to his obituary in the San Angelo Standard-Times.

Sutton joined the law school faculty at his alma mater in 1957 and taught for 46 years until his retirement at age 85 in 2003. Sutton went on to become dean of the law school in 1979 and served as dean until 1984.

From 1965-1970, Sutton was one of the original draftsman of the ABA's Model Code of Professional Responsibility, which replaced the ABA's 1908 Canons of Ethics. Later, Sutton consulted on the drafting of the association's Model Rules of Professional Conduct.


June 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

California considers proposal to mandate skills training for admission to the bar

[Note - this post was updated on 6/13 to reflect the Task Force's June 11, 2013 "Phase 1 Final Report"].  A task force created by the California Bar to examine possible reforms to admission requirements has filed its "final" report recommending that a mandatory "pre-admission skills program" be adopted by the California Supreme Court.  If adopted, it would require law schools to provide 15 units of course work in practical skills training spread over three years (as an alternative, candidates for admission to the California Bar would have to participate in an approved externship or comparable program).  Obviously, this is big news for both California law schools as well as everyone else in legal ed. since as goes California, so goes the nation (at least sometimes).

Below are the pertinent details of the task force's "final" recommendations.  You can access its full report here.

• Pre-admission: A competency skills training requirement fulfilled prior to admission to practice. There would be two routes for fulfillment of this pre-admission competency skills training requirement: (a) at any time in law school, a candidate for admission must have taken at least 15 units of course work that is designed to develop law practice competencies, and (b) in lieu of some or all of the 15 units of course work, a candidate for admission may opt to participate in a Bar-approved externship, clerkship or apprenticeship at any time during or following completion of law school;

• Pre-admission or post-admission: An additional competency skills training requirement, fulfilled either at the pre-or post-admission stage, where 50 hours of legal services is specifically devoted to pro bono or modest means clients. Credit towards those hours would be available for “in-the-field” experience under the supervision and guidance of a licensed practitioner or a judicial officer; and,

• Post-admission: 10 additional hours of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (“MCLE”) courses for new lawyers, over and above the required MCLE hours for all active members of the Bar, specifically focused on law practice competency skills training. Alternatively, credit towards these hours would be available for participation in mentoring programs.

With respect to when and where within the curriculum California law schools will have to provide mandatory skills training, here's what the task force said: 

Why 15 units and when must those units be taken while in law school? We make no pretense to having drawn upon a rigorous formula for measuring what should count as substantial. We simply took as a rule of thumb that, in a traditional law school model, where all or most of the first year is devoted to doctrinal courses, 25% of the final two years of school would be devoted to experiential learning in clinics, externships, and skills courses. But the timing of when these units must be earned is secondary. In many law schools, where competency skills training is included in the traditional first year doctrinal courses offerings, the 15 units might spread over all three years. Because we do not wish to restrict the manner in which schools may offer courses that will meet the objectives we have in mind, the 15 units of pre-admission competency skills coursework may be earned by students at any point while in law school.


You can continue to read the task force's full report here.

A big hat tip and thank you to Professor Robert Kuehn.


June 11, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ethics: Lawyer Must Know Tech

From the monthly newsletter of the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania:

As this ABA Journal article notes, changes to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct make it clear that a lawyer has a duty to learn and take account of advances in technology. A new addition to the comments to Model Rule 1.1, regarding competence, states that a lawyer’s duty of competence requires him or her to keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, “including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” A new provision of Rule Model 1.6 regarding confidentiality states that a lawyer must make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, client information. A new comment to the rule states in part:

Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of the lawyer’s efforts include, but are not limited to, the sensitivity of the information, the likelihood of disclosure if additional safeguards are not employed, the cost of employing additional safeguards, the difficulty of implementing the safeguards, and the extent to which the safeguards adversely affect the lawyer’s ability to represent clients (e.g., by making a device or important piece of software excessively difficult to use).

Changes in the Model Rules only become mandatory when adopted by the Supreme Court of the state, but these changes certainly reflect changes in the nature of legal practice all practicing attorney will have to accommodate.

In other tech news, the ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has issued a formal opinion addressing the use of electronic social media by judges and other judicial officers. The opinion concludes that the use of such media does not inherently conflict with a judge’s responsibilities, but discusses a number of issues and precautions of which a judicial officer should take account.


June 11, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Newsletter for Transactional Lawyers

From Gonzaga Law School:

  • The Transactional Lawyer

The Transactional Lawyer is a bi-monthly, electronic newsletter published by the Commercial Law Center. The newsletter offers advice to lawyers on how to structure and document commercial transactions and alerts transactional attorneys to recent legal developments that may affect their practice.

The newsletter is free and is intended for wide distribution. Readers are welcome to copy and distribute the newsletter, either in print or in its electronic format.

For the present issue and the archive of past issues, please click here.


June 11, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 10, 2013

NLJ's top 350 law firms showed anemic hiring in 2012

Related to the story below, the National Law Journal is reporting that among the nation's top 350 law firms, average hiring grew by only 1.1% in 2012.  From the NLJ press release:

Hiring at the nation's top law firms expanded at an anemic rate of just over 1 percent in 2012, a signal that the legal sector has not yet fully recovered from the blow of the Great Recession.

ALM's The National Law Journal today published the 2013 NLJ 350, a list of the nation's 350 largest law firms, reporting that headcount marginally increased last year among the top law firms in the U.S. The NLJ 350 collectively employed 141,056 lawyers in 2012, up 1.1 percent from 139,551 in 2011.

. . . .

"The 1.1 percent uptick in the number of lawyers working in the nation's largest 350 law firms was slower than the 1.7 percent employment growth from a year ago and is one of the smallest increases
we've seen in nearly two decades," said David L. Brown, editor in chief of The National Law Journal. "Moreover, 140 of the firms in the NLJ 350 -- or 40 percent of them -- actually decreased in size last year. It's clear that the U.S. legal services market has not yet fully recovered from the recession years of 2008-2010."

Continue reading the full article here.


June 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legal sector loses 500 jobs in May according to BLS

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, via the AmLaw Daily, is reporting that the legal sector lost 5oo jobs in May after posting significants gains in March and April.  From the AmLaw Daily:

Factoring in the figures released Friday, the legal sector currently employs roughly 1.13 million people—8,300 more than at the comparable point last year. Before April, total employment in the industry had not hit 1.13 million since 2009.

The overall U.S. economy, meanwhile, added 175,000 jobs in May, though the nation's unemployment rate ticked upward slightly from 7.5 percent to 7.6 percent.


June 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

IQ-Bright Students Who Do Dumb Things

We’ve all dealt with law students who aced the LSATs, but have no common sense or who have self-destructive personalities. Wouldn’t we like to evaluate potential students on their cognitive functioning? There’s hope on the horizon. From Inside School Research (excerpts):

Decades of cognitive, social and economic research show people with high IQs are often just as likely as those with lower intelligence scores—sometimes even more likely—to fall victim to an array of cognitive biases and other bad thinking strategies.

It’s what University of Toronto researcher Keith E. Stanovich calls “dysrationalia” —a play on dyslexia defined as someone’s “inability to use rational thought and decision-making in spite of more than adequate intelligence.”

The problem highlights a cognitive hole in current intelligence tests, including those used in college-entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT. The tests measure a student’s prior knowledge and abstract problem-solving, but, "intelligence tests are radically incomplete as measures of cognitive functioning,” said Stanovich in a special address at this year's annual meeting of the American Psychological Society. “Though IQ tests do measure the ability to focus on a goal in the face of distraction, they don't measure at all whether the person sets rational goals in the first place.”

For example, a student may be very knowledgeable, but not intellectually curious and closed to information that conflicts with his or her previous understanding. A high IQ may reflect a student’s ability to understand how to calculate compound interest, but it wouldn't necessarily ensure that he or she would choose $100 in a month over $20 tomorrow.

This spring, the John Templeton Foundation awarded a three-year, $1 million grant to develop a “rationality test” to Stanovich and colleague Richard F. West, a psychology professor emeritus at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. The assessment is still 18 to 24 months away from field testing, Stanovich said, but the basic framework is in place.



June 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trouble at Phoenix Law School

Trouble at Phoenix Law School

From JD Journal (excerpts):

Two tenured professors were let go from Phoenix Law School for opposing what they describe as the administration’s underhanded tactics to prevent first year students from transferring to other schools. Michael O’Connor and Celia Rumann both allege that they were fired from their positions at the school after opposing planned curriculum and policy changes, and that these changes brought about modifications in their employment provisions which, when not accepted, led to their termination.

 Phoenix School of Law is owned by InfiLaw Corp, which also owns the Charlotte School of Law and Florida Coastal School of Law, and is the only for-profit law school in the Phoenix area. In 2011, Phoenix presented two proposals that were designed to change protocols for students and faculty, known as “Legal Ed 2.0.” O’Connor and Rumann allege that changes included in these programs were designed to make it more difficult for first year students to transfer out of the school via means of changing the curriculum to make courses incompatible with other institutions, grade classes strictly on a pass/fail basis so that other law schools would not know who the top students were, and ban the creation of recommendation letters. On the faculty side, the plan eliminated tenure, as the school’s investors would prefer fewer tenured faculty members.

Here’s another article from the National Law Journal.


June 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Law-Firm Competency Models and Student Professional Success: Building on a Foundation of Professional Formation/Professionalism

I have often written that law schools need to match their teaching with what lawyers do in practice.  Professor Neil W. Hamilton has written an article on the competencies of the most effective and successful lawyers, how law schools can help law students acquire these competencies, and how law students can acquire them themselves. 

Law-Firm Competency Models and Student Professional Success: Building on a Foundation of Professional Formation/Professionalism 

Abstract: Both law students and law schools have an opportunity created by the convergence of (1) significant employment market changes for law graduates, (2) sharp declines in law school applications, (3) increased applicant attention to each school’s employment outcomes, (4) law firm development of competency models to assess associate development, and (5) the high probability of accreditation changes emphasizing each student’s competency to represent clients and participate ethically in the profession. A law student who understands legal employer competency models can differentiate him or herself from other graduates by using the three years of law school to develop (and to create supporting evidence to demonstrate) specific competencies beyond just knowledge of doctrinal law, legal analysis, and some written and oral communication skills. Indiana law professor Bill Henderson notes that “there is a glut in the market for entry level law graduates. Further, virtually all lack the skills needed to differentiate themselves . . . .”

In Part I below, this essay analyzes all available empirical research on the values, virtues, capacities and skills in law firm competency models that define the competencies of the most effective and successful lawyers. Part II examines empirical evidence on the competencies that clients evaluate. Part III evaluates the competencies that make the most difference in fast-track associate and partnership promotions. These data and analyses lead to several bold propositions developed in Part IV:

1. Law students and legal educators should identify and understand the values, virtues, capacities and skills (the competencies) of highly effective and successful lawyers in different types of practice (one major example is law firm competency models analyzed below in Part I);

2. Each student should use all three years of experiences both inside and outside of law school (including the required and elective curriculum, extracurricular activities, and paid or pro bono work experiences) to develop and be able to demonstrate evidence of the competencies that legal employers and clients want in the student’s area of employment interest;

3. Law schools should develop a competency-based curriculum that helps each student develop and be able to demonstrate the competencies that legal employers and clients want; and

4. Both law students and law schools should understand that the values, virtues, capacities and skills of professional formation (professionalism) are the foundation for excellence at all of the competencies of an effective and successful lawyer.

(Scott Fruehwald)

June 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bringing Outside In: Social Justice Collaborations in the Legal Writing Curriculum

Here's a notice  of an innovative and inviting conference:

We are happy to announce that, just before the LWI Conference in Philadelphia in June 2014, a one-day workshop on Social Justice Collaborations in the Legal Writing Curriculum will take place in Philadelphia. You are invited to submit a proposal by August 9, 2013.

 Workshop Description

This free one-day workshop will explore how legal writing faculty can collaborate with clinics, non-profits, and pro bono projects to expand experiential learning opportunities for students by bringing social justice practice experience into legal writing teaching.

Many legal writing faculty expand skills training by creating partnerships with public interest organizations, clinics, pro bono programs, and externships. The workshop will be a forum for discussion of specific collaborations that workshop participants have undertaken or hope to launch. The projects can be full-blown courses, short-term collaborations on discrete projects, incremental collaborations among faculty, or ideas for future partnerships. They can take place within the required legal writing curriculum, in upper-division courses, or in conjunction with pro bono, externship, or clinical programs.

The workshop will provide a platform for sharing ideas and continuing to develop a community around enriching students’ educational experiences through public interest collaborations that offer opportunities for experiential learning. 

Who Should Come

Legal writing professors, clinicians, externship directors, and pro bono project directors.

 When and Where

June 29, 2014 from approximately 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Drexel Law School in Philadelphia (Drexel University Earl Mack School of Law). This conference will occur immediately prior to the start of the 2014 Legal Writing Institute Conference, which will also be held in Philadelphia beginning later that evening. Participants in the workshop will need to pay for their own travel and lodging, but we will provide food during this free workshop.


The organizing committee: Amy Vorenberg (University of New Hampshire); Mary Bowman (Seattle University); Jennifer Rosa (Michigan State); Kirsten Clement and Karen Millard (Florida Coastal); Jennifer Hill (University of Miami); Stephanie Hartung (Suffolk); Susan Wawrose (University of Dayton); Aliza Kaplan (Lewis and Clark); Sara Rankin (Seattle University); and Sarah Ricks (Visiting, Penn, Rutgers-Camden)

For more information, please contact one of the signers.


June 9, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)