Thursday, October 31, 2013
This may be the scariest thing to happen this Halloween to law schools and those they employ. The number of prospective law school applicants who took this LSAT in October was 33,673 compared to 37,780 who took the exam the same time last year. According to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, this is lowest number of people to sit for the October LSAT since 1998 and the second-lowest number of people overall to take the exam since the 1980s. The WSJLB is also reporting that the number of LSAT's administered in October is down 45% in total since 2009. The LSAT is administered four times a year.
Click here to see a table showing total LSAT test-takers each year since 1987 and the percentage change from year to year. The full WSJLB column is here. The blog Law School Tuition Bubble has turned that data into a helpful graph that plots the trend in total LSAT's administered since 1997.
The Chronicle now offers Vitae, a service that offers academic some relevant articles and a source for finding out about academic jobs. Here’s the Chronicle’s description:
This new virtual community, called Vitae, will be the premier destination for
information about academic careers. Beyond job postings, it will give everyone
in higher education from graduate students to faculty members and
administrators the chance to network with one another and apply for jobs
through a dossier service.
The foundation of the online community will include advice, news, and information on academic career paths (as well as nonacademic ones), finance, technology, and teaching. It willoffer tools to help you manage your career with detailed information on institutions and salaries. And it will collect content from around the Web to be a single destination for managing your career.
Here’s the link.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Thanks to Grover Cleveland (yes-that's-his-real-name), author of the bestselling Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: The Essential Guide to Thriving as a New Lawyer, for sending me this article from the Careerist blog called "10 Things Every New Lawyer Should Do - Right Now." Go there now to get the full column. Here's a summary.
- Start leaning in now.
- Be sure you are providing value.
- Be confident. Be reasonable.
- Watch out for your own interest, but be a team player.
- Seek honest feedback.
- Prioritize what matters to you.
- Make your life partner a real partner.
- Don't worry about things that don't matter.
- Take stock of your career—often.
- Acknowledge others.
Most college students admit that their use of smartphones, tablets, and laptops can
interfere with learning, but very few consider it a major distraction,
according to anew report from Barney McCoy, an associate professor of
broadcasting at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).
More than 80 percent of students surveyed by McCoy said that their use of digital devices
can interfere with their learning, but fewer than five percent said it was a
big or very big distraction when they or their classmates used them. Only 17
percent of students surveyed said that using digital devices in class was not a
"I don't think students necessarily think it's problematic," McCoy said in a
prepared statement. "They think it's part of their lives."
The full posting at Campus Technology has some interesting findings.
The Life of the Law Has Not Been Logic: It Has Been Story by Kenneth D. Chestek.
Abstract: "It probably comes as no surprise that principles of cognitive psychology are pretty important in persuasive writing. After all, the whole point of persuasive writing is to influence the thinking of the audience (the court). Judges are humans, so understanding how the human brain works is exceedingly useful to brief writers. And since cognitive psychology tells us that stories are central to human thinking, understanding how to present an effective story is essential to persuasive writing.
But that is not to say that the doctrine of legal writing is limited to the course in persuasive writing. Storytelling pervades the law. Not just in the game changer cases like Brown v. Board of Education or Lawrence v. Texas (just two examples of cases where narrative reasoning was essential in order to effect major changes in the law). Storytelling is also embedded in many of what we sometimes think of as the logos rules.
Take the law of negligence, for example. It looks like a logos-based, four-element test that is pretty straightforward and easy to apply (duty, breach of duty, proximate cause, damages). Law students are even encouraged to think of it in these simplistic terms. But in practice, how does one prove what the duty is without telling stories about what other human beings typically do in similar circumstances? Or whether an individual’s conduct measures up to, or falls short of, that standard? These applications of the rule involve judgment calls that can be resolved by the factfinder only through narrative reasoning. Similar examples can be found in every “doctrinal” course.
The law does not live by logos alone. Pathos-based narrative reasoning is essential not only in applying the law to individual cases, but also to how judges craft the actual rules to be applied. Many, and probably most, “doctrinal” professors understand this, at least subconsciously. Every time they engage students in policy discussions about why the court changed a rule, they are actually (but maybe not explicitly) discussing how a client’s story was so powerful that it convinced the court of the need for change. Since the first-year course in legal writing is as much about legal analysis as it is writing, that course is a perfect opportunity to teach this process explicitly."
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Research being reported in Scientific American (subscript. req.) with obvious implications for the law school classroom. You can also go here (also here, here, and here) for surveys reporting that digital native college students prepare hardcopy books over the screen for serious work.
- Studies in the past two decades indicate that people often understand and remember text on paper better than on a screen. Screens may inhibit comprehension by preventing people from intuitively navigating and mentally mapping long texts.
- In general, screens are also more cognitively and physically taxing than paper. Scrolling demands constant conscious effort, and LCD screens on tablets and laptops can strain the eyes and cause headaches by shining light directly on people 's faces.
- Preliminary research suggests that even so-called digital natives are more likely to recall the gist of a story when they read it on paper because enhanced e-books and e-readers themselves are too distracting. Paper's greatest strength may be its simplicity.
Hat tip to rethinc.k.
The early evaluations are generally positive. From CNET:
Apple announced the iPad Air, its fifth-generation iPad, October 22 in San Francisco
at the company's annual unveiling event. Thinner, lighter, and with a more powerful processor, the 9.7-inch iPad Air with Retina Display brings some design and performance enhancements to the best-selling tablet, but not as many additions as we had hoped for, or as rumors suggested.
In fact, we'd say that Apple missed some opportunities to wow us with a tablet
that could have perhaps had a larger screen with higher resolution, a
higher-megapixel camera, or laptoplike accessories. At the very least, this was
Apple's chance to recapture its spirit of innovation and give us something
different, rather than what amounts to a polished iteration of what we already
Monday, October 28, 2013
This article by Jill Backer, Associate Director for Employer Relations at Brooklyn Law School appears in today's New York Law Journal.
The answer could be yes. Cicero and his colleagues had a method of communication. According
to Tom Standage (Writing on the Wall: Social Media — The First 2,000 Years):
At the time there were no printing presses and no paper. Instead, information circulated through the exchange of letters and other documents which were copied, commented on, and shared with others in the form of papyrus rolls. Cicero’s own correspondence, one of the
best-preserved collections of letters from the period, shows that he exchanged
letters constantly with his friends elsewhere, keeping them up to date with the
latest political machinations, passing on items of interest from others, and
providing his own commentary and opinions. Letters were often copied, shared,
and quoted in other letters. Some letters were addressed to several people and
were written to be read aloud, or to be posted in public for general
When Cicero or another politician made a noteworthy speech, he could distribute it by making copies available to his close associates, who would read it and pass it on to others. Many more people might then read the speech than had heard it being delivered. Books circulated
in a similar way, as sets of papyrus rolls passed from person to person. Anyone
who wished to retain a copy of a speech or book would have it transcribed by
scribes before passing it on. Copies also circulated of the acta diurna
(the “daily acts ,” or state gazette), the original of which was posted on a
board in the Forum in Rome each day and contained summaries of political
debates, proposals for new laws, announcements of births and deaths, the dates
of public holidays, and other official information. As he departed for Cilicia,
Cicero asked his friend and protégé Marcus Caelius Rufus to send him copies of
each day’s gazette along with his letters. But this would be just part of
Cicero’s information supply. “Others will write, many will bring me news, much
too will reach me even in the way of rumor,” Cicero wrote.
With information flitting from one correspondent to another, this informal system enabled information to penetrate to the farthest provinces within a few weeks at most. News from Rome took around five weeks to reach Britain in the west and seven weeks to reach Syria
in the east. Merchants, soldiers, and officials in distant parts would
circulate information from the heart of the republic within their own social
circles, sharing extracts from letters, speeches, or the state gazette with
their friends and passing news and rumors from the frontier back to their
contacts in Rome. There was no formal postal service, so letters had to be
carried by messengers or given to friends, traders, or travelers heading in the
right direction. The result was that Cicero, along with other members of the
Roman elite, was kept informed by a web of contacts— the members of his social
circle — all of whom gathered, filtered, and distributed information for each
Brain Pickings comments:
This was the dawn of “social media” as we know it today, even though it wasn’t called that, or called anything at all. (Befittingly, though Standage doesn’t draw the connection, Cicero famously believed that if a word was absent from Greek society, it was because the thing
it needed to describe had become so prevalent that people had stopped noticing
its existence.) The platform on which it unfolded then was one of papyrus
scrolls passed around by hand, but the mechanism of transmitting information
via a human-powered network was analogous to anything we see on Facebook,
Twitter, Tumblr, and platforms we’re yet to imagine.
To find the full posting, you will have to search around on the Brain Pickings website. This piece was posted on October 25, 2013.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Recently, Adam Liptak wrote a piece for the New York Times, which questioned the current system of student-written law reviews. Here are a couple of excerpts for flavor:
"These student editors are mostly bright and work hard, but they are young, part-time amateurs who know little about the law or about editing prose. Yet they are in charge of picking the best articles from among many hundreds of submissions written by professors with authentic expertise in fields the students may never have studied."
"Law reviews are not really meant to be read. They mostly exist as a way for law schools to evaluate law professors for promotion and tenure, based partly on what they have to say and partly on their success in placing articles in prestigious law reviews."
There have been a plethora of critiques of Liptak's article on legal blogs. However, neither Liptak's article nor any of the comments I have read mention whether working on a law journal is valuable for helping law students prepare to practice law.
The exact question is not whether law review experience is valuable. The question is whether law review experience is more valuable for helping law graduates practice law than the other things that law students could be doing in law school. The problem, then, is that law review takes up a significant part of a student's time during the second and third years.
Law review members mainly do two things: write a scholarly article for possible publication in the law review and cite check lead articles. Writing anything is a valuable experience. However, in practice, most lawyers do not write scholarly articles. As I have said previously (here), because of the way our brains store information, organization in long-term memory is in relation to how the material is learned, including the context and function of the way the material is being learned. In other words, "students performed better when their knowledge organization matched the requirements of the task, and they performed worse when it mismatched." (Susan Ambrose, How Learning Works 48 (2010)). This means that writing a scholarly article is a poor way to help law students prepare for the kind of writing they will be doing in practice.
Cite checking is an important skill for lawyers. However, is this mechanical skill so important that law students should be devoting considerable time to it when they don't learn more relevant skills in law school?
Law review editors select articles, edit text, supervise student writing, and run the law reviews. Is selecting scholarly articles an important skill for practitioners? I can think of no way that this process prepares future attorneys. Text editing is a valuable skill, but isn't there a better way to teach law students how to edit the kinds of texts they will see in practice. Supervising others' writings is a valuable skill for attorneys. However, lawyers do not suprevise the writings of other attorneys until they have practiced for several years. Finally, administrative experience is helpful, but does running a law review help prepare graduates for the administrative tasks in a law practice. Moreover, those who have the top positions in law reviews usually don't obtain administrative positions in their law firms for many years.
Most law students want to be on law reviews. However, this is for the prestige, not the experience.
In sum, I believe that the choices in law school curriculum should be dictated by what is best for the students. Law review experience is not valuable for future lawyers because it mostly does not prepare them for the tasks that attorneys will do in practice. Law students are better off taking experiential courses, business courses, or advanced courses in their chosen field.
P.S. And what about the cost? Dave Hoffman had this to say on Concurring Opinions a couple of years ago: "I’m just spitballing here, but assume that roughly 20% of the 100,000 second and third year law students in this country are members of a law journal. (This would be a conservative estimate at Temple and at most schools, given the proliferation of secondary journals.) Further assume that those 20,000 students each spend an average of 10 hours a month for 9 months on journal work. That would mean that students are spending almost 2 million hours a year on producing student run law journal content. If we billed them out as cheap, $150/hour associates, that’d be around $300,000,000 of time thrown at the world-shaking problems of bluebooking and case note production."
Jim has an excellent blog where he frequently publishes practice tips for new and more experienced lawyers alike. A recent column of his in the Oklahoma Bar Journal summarizes what he calls the "Seven Deadly Sins of Opening a Solo Practice." They include:
1. No clients
2. Too much overhead
3. Taking on work you cannot do or support
4. Not paying enough attention to finances and financial reports
5. Failing to focus on technology
6. Failing to focus on limited practice areas
7. Failure to build client-friendly systems (It is all about the clients, after all.)
Check out Jim's full column here.
I spent last weekend at my high school reunion and had the opportunity to talk with Ernie Russ, who taught me Biology and Chemistry. He is now in his 90s. I thanked him for what he taught me about teaching.
For me, here was his biggest lesson. Sometimes, Mr. Russ would attempt to teach us a concept and realize that many of us were failing to understand. He could have simply repeated his words more slowly. Instead, he would say, “Let’s look at this in another way.” Then he would come at the concept with a very different approach and reach more of his students. Even then, I marveled at his ability to shift his teaching approach.
What I learned. When some of my students are not understanding my point, I cannot simply repeat my words more slowly and perhaps hide my frustration. I need to find a different way to present the material. I have to be creative and attuned to the minds of my students.
Thank you, Mr. Russ.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
LexisNexis announced that it will eliminate 205 jobs, including those working for Martindale-Hubbell some of whom have been with the company for many years. This is the second round of lay-offs since July when the company reduced its workforce by as many as 500. Thomson-Reuters, which owns Westlaw, also announced a round of lay-offs in early October. Law Technology News has the details of the Lexis job action:
Continue reading here.
Hat tip to Professor Eric Young.
Some employers are finding ways to keep the disaffected from using social media to spread negative comments. In a current case, the issue also arose in an ugly divorce case.
Basketball star Steve Nash (Los Angeles Lakers) and his ex-wife agreed to a gag order not to disparage one another. When his ex-wife deviated from the agreement on Twitter, the Arizona Court of Appeals held against her.
In the business world, business contracts, severance agreements, and the like sometimes include gag orders on disparging comments. Even in academia, anti-disparagement clauses can appear in contracts. (Check your contract.) But, in a developing area of law, the National Labor Relations Board in placing limits on how far an employer can go.
Good material for Legal Writing problems.
Here’s an informative article from the Phoenix Business Journal.
Friday, October 25, 2013
For several years, business and transactional lawyers have increased the pressure on law schools to produce more practice-ready graduates. This article explores the practical skills reform movement with two goals in mind. First, it seeks to articulate and reconcile some of the fundamental differences in the perspectives of the practicing bar and the legal academy. Second, it highlights the special challenges and opportunities involved in making legal education more effective for students who will practice business and transactional law. In addition to reviewing recent literature from the bar and the academy on the practical skills gap, the article also reports and analyzes the results of the author’s own national survey of law firm professional development departments concerning the specific practical skills that entry-level transactional lawyers need. The author concludes that, if reform is to be comprehensive and fully effective, the bar must take the leading role, and that society will benefit most when the bar and law schools seek out educational partnerships with one another.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
A few days ago, I posted about an open letter from a small-firm practitioner (Carolyn Elefant) to law schools. (here) Among her remarks in the letter was the following: "Yet what I can’t fathom or tolerate is the utter lack of curiosity that many (but not all) new grads bring (or don’t bring) to the table when they hit the job market. . . . how can today’s students not be excited about the cornucopia of riches at their fingertips — from free caselaw, free online legal briefs and memos by top attorneys, substantive analytic blogs galore, and an endless stream of news items on Twitter curated by experts in every field?"
A comment to my post replied, "I'm also having a hard time understanding how law schools are directly responsible for their students' lack of curiosity." This leads me to ask: should law schools develop curiosity in their students?
To begin, I think that the traditional approach to legal education damages students' curiosity. When I was in law school, our library had a diagram with students' brains before law school and after law school. On the before law school brain, there was a big chunk for curiosity, but on the after law school brain there was no curiosity left. I think that the Socratic case/method is largely responsible for this. The traditional approach to law school teaching does not encourage curiosity. The traditional approach looks for a particular type of answer, and it discourages creativity.
My answer to the above question is a loud yes. A large part of being a teacher is developing intellectual curiosity in students, and any teacher that does not do this is a poor teacher. While I don't believe that anyone can teach someone to be curious, teachers can help their students develop curiosity. First, we should tell our students why we got into the law--because it was exciting and intellectually challenging. Students do adopt their teachers as role models. We should also be enthusiastic while teaching so that our students will know that we are excited about what we are teaching. Share discovery with your students. Discovery produces pleasure. Second, we need an approach to legal education that does more than the Socratic method/case book approach does. We need to show our students how law is applied to real problems. Let's face it. Applying the law to real-world situations is much more exciting than just discussing cases. Third, we need to show how law can affect and change society. Showing students how they can affect their world engenders curiosity. Fourth, we should show our students how their learning will help them achieve their life goals. Ambition creates curiosity. Fifth, redefine failure as learning. Students fear failing, but failing is an important part of learning. Finally, we need to talk with our students outside of class. We should ask them about their interests and encourage them to explore the law.
A cautionary tale about relying too heavily on internet marketing to generate client referrals. This story from the Philly Law Blog talks about a solo practitioner who called it quits in part because Google moved him from page 1 to page 4 in the search queue.
Last week I learned that my friend Charlie Thomas was throwing in the towel after 11 years of practice.
. . . .
So why would a good, experienced trial lawyer like Charlie get out of practice? No clients, apparently. Despite what you may have read on Solo Practice University, solo practice is hard. Real hard. Not everyone makes it. There are only so many paying clients, and lawyers to serve them.
But why would someone as good as Charlie not have any clients? He explained:
"Most of that reflection was focused on fixing the marketing problem. All my eggs were in a single basket — and not one that I owned myself. When Google changed their algorithm and sent me off the first page and down to page four, my phone stopped ringing."
This is one of the reason bloggers like Greenfield and Tannebaum advise against a “Google-based” reputation, and instead suggest lawyers focus on developing competence, strong relationships with real people, and a reputation for excellence among your peers.
Continue reading here.