Saturday, November 30, 2013
In this article published in the Law Library Journal, Darla Jackson (South Dakota) argues that law librarians can play an important role in helping lawyers attain professional competence with technology as now required under the ABA's Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.1, comment 8. The article, Lawyers Can't Be Luddites Anymore: Do Law Librarians Have a Role in Helping Lawyers Adjust to the New Ethics Rules Involving Technology? has been published at 105 Law Libr. J. 395 (2013) and is also available here on SSRN. From the abstract:
In August 2012, the American Bar Association, recognizing the influence of technology, amended the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. These changes to the standards of professional conduct require attorneys to have some basic technological competence. This work focuses on specific areas in which law librarians may find opportunities to share both newly developed and well-established technological expertise with attorneys.
Maria Popova, creator of Brain Pickings, offers her list. It may not include the books you expect. Here’s her description:
It’s that time of year again, the time for those highly subjective, grossly non-exhaustive, yet inevitable and invariably fun best-of reading lists. To kick off the season, here are my thirteen favorite biographies, memoirs, and history books of 2013.
The list contains extensive annotations, including illustrations and long quotations. Great reading. Here is her list.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Maybe they don’t. From Rick Hess’ blog:
I used to think that experts really understood the world. Now I think that they are people who know a great deal about tiny slivers of life, but that this narrow expertise is often of dubious value when it comes to tackling complex challenges or making the world a better place. More to the point, I now think that experts get so taken with their tiny slivers of expertise that they routinely overestimate both how much they know and their ability to produce broad, beneficial change.
You can read more here. Of course, we are experts. Do we think we know more than we actually do?
Thursday, November 28, 2013
From Education Spotlight:
New research suggests that the complexity involved in practicing and performing music may help students’ cognitive development. Studies released last month at the Society for Neuroscience meeting here find that music training may increase the neural connections in regions of the brain associated with creativity, decisionmaking, and complex memory, and they may improve a student’s ability to process conflicting information from many senses at once. Research also found that starting music education early can be even more helpful.
Interesting. My dentist tells me that dentists have an innate appreciation and understanding of music. Given the complexity of legal analysis and legal practice, I would think that lawyers also share this quality.
You can read more here.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Why are law school enrollments declining? Why are so many young people rejecting legal careers?
Dean Jeremy Paul views a significant part of the problem as being a change in society's view of lawyers. He writes, "The reason to become a lawyer is because you love it. And one reason to love it is the thrill of solving problems, helping people work together, and contributing to a society in which justice is of preeminent value. Yet what do today's college students see in our culture as the accomplishments of the profession? Congress, our highest lawmaking body, has become tangled in partisan trench warfare." (National Law Journal) He adds, "Surely lawyers deserve credit for pushing the country to recognize the justice in same-sex marriage. But too much of what those considering a legal career see today does not communicate the opportunity the profession affords to steer society in good directions."
He concludes, "As long as law deans accept the conventional wisdom that our struggles are solely about money, legal education will never recover the national standing it deserves. Instead, legal educators and professional leaders must tackle directly public perceptions of the value lawyers add to everyday life. Twenty-first-century lawyers will write rules that enable people to work together to grow the economy, allocate resources more fairly, battle environmental threats and preserve notions of privacy in an Internet age. If we communicate clearly a vision of lawyers as the architects of a just society, plenty of aspiring lawyers will sign up for the ride."
To fix the law school enrollment problem, we also need to fix the public's perception of law schools. While the law school scam blogs greatly exaggerate the failings of law schools, there is much truth in what they say. Changing the public's perception of law schools will require more than glossy brochures, it will necessitate fundamental changes in how law schools are run.
First, law schools must become student-oriented. Legal education exists for the students, not for universities, administrators, or professors. While this reorientation may require some sacrifices by administrators and professors, being a law school administrator or professor can remain a rewarding career. In fact, I would argue that being a law professor will be even more rewarding if law schools focus on educating students. Helping someone learn is much more satisfying than publishing an esoteric article.
Second, law schools need to deal more honestly with their students. While the law school transparency movement has made great strides in the last few years, many students and potential students have the perception that the main reason law schools exist is to get their tuition money even if the students have poor prospects for getting jobs. Law schools, administrators, and law professors need to change this antagonistic view of law schools to one of cooperation between law schools and students. Again, this must involve fundamental changes, not superficial alterations in image.
I believe that lawyers, law school administrators, and law professors are better deep down than they have acted over the last few years. We need to re-examine ourselves and remember why we chose the law in the first place. If we do not do this, the legal profession and law schools will continue to suffer.
Happy Thanksgiving! For your enjoyment, here are four videos:
The 2012 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (in under 10 minutes)
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
My friend and colleague in promoting clear writing, Hon. Richard Klein, judge emeritus, has received the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Clarity Award. Well deserved. Last spring he received Sir Francis Bacon Alternative Dispute Resolution Award. You can read more about Judge Klein here.
Monday, November 25, 2013
From the Wall Street Journal Law Blog:
You can be a sharp writer and a nimble researcher who is skilled at analyzing cases.
But for law school graduates entering the workforce, it’s the softer skills, like work ethic, collegiality and a sense of individual responsibility, that really impress legal employers, according to a new study.
University of Dayton School of Law researchers conducted focus with legal employers to find out what they expect from new law school graduates.
Dayton law professor Susan Wawrose said researchers had thought that the attorneys would focus mostly on the need for basic practical skills, like writing, analysis and research. But comments on soft skills — defined as “personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee” — tended to dominate the responses.
“The most surprising outcome of our research was the primary importance employers placed on the ‘intra- and interpersonal (socio-emotional)’—soft skills—needed for workplace success,” writes Ms. Wawrose, who authored a report on the study appearing in the Ohio Northern University Law Review.
The researchers interviewed 19 attorneys in the Dayton area who are “actual or potential employers” of graduates from the law school. Most were employed at law firms of varying size. Several others worked as in-house counsel, as an assistant federal public defender, or for legal aid.
Continue reading here.
Our students need to be aware that the practice of law is a business in which the finances often dominate. They need to watch out for themselves. Sorry to sound so negative, but consider the findings of a recent survey by ALM Legal Intelligence:
* According to firms, the top reason for laying partners off or encouraging them to leave was their "inability to develop and cultivate new clients or originations or to sustain a book of business." The next most commonly cited reason was "no real commitment to the firm."
* Seventy-seven percent of partners who were pushed out reported hearing about their performance problems for the first time when asked to leave.
* Only one in ten partners who were asked to leave subsequently received help from the firm in transitioning to another job.
* Lawyers found their newest position through their personal network 62 percent of the time and through a headhunter 31 percent of the time.
According to ALM: "The overall message is that to attract the talent they need and maintain internal morale and external business opportunities, law firms need a more structured alignment between strategy and HR practices."
The full text of "Up or Out: When Partners Have to Go" is available at http://almlegalintel.com/Surveys/UpOrOut.
John Lande has posted a course portfolio on Negotiation on the Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Website. (here)
Professor Lande writes,
"Law schools need to do an especially good job of teaching negotiation because it is a significant part of the work of virtually all practicing lawyers, regardless of whether they handle civil or criminal matters or whether they do litigation or transactional work. Faculty can help students develop their professional identities through simulated experiences showing how negotiation fits into legal practice."
His goal is "provide students with the most realistic understanding of how lawyers actually negotiate in the real world. So this course gives students extensive simulated experiences to help them understand how negotiation fits into the “big picture” of legal practice. The theory of the course is described in my article, Teaching Students to Negotiate Like a Lawyer."
The course is different from other negotiation courses:
"Unlike most negotiation courses, which generally rely exclusively or primarily on numerous one-stage simulations where students “parachute” into the final stages of negotiations, this course incorporates two six-stage simulations, starting from the initial client interviews and including factual investigation and working with counterpart lawyers. Using multi-stage simulations helps students to get into their roles, deal with complex situations, focus on specific stages in a matter, see connections between various stages, and generally have more realistic experiences. This course also (1) focuses on negotiation in a wide range of situations in addition to the final resolution of disputes and transactions, and (2) includes “ordinary legal negotiation” as well as the two traditional theories of negotiation (often called positional and interest-based negotiation)."
You can find other ETL course portfolios here.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
This from a nationwide survey of 1,682 prospective law students in early July which was sponsored by Brooklyn Law School and conducted by by SimpsonScarborough, a marketing research and strategy firm with a specialty in higher education. Here are the pertinent details from PR Newswire:
A new survey of 1,682 prospective law students nationwide reveals a sizeable gap between their interest in 2-year J.D. programs and their awareness of existing 2-year programs currently being offered by U.S. law schools.
- Of the 334 respondents who reported they were undecided about attending law school, 65% said that a 2-year J.D. program increased their interest.
- In addition, 37% of all 1,682 respondents – those undecided and those planning to attend law school – said that a 2-year program is more appealing than a 3-year program.
- At the same time, just 28% of all respondents were aware of 2-year programs currently being offered by U.S. law schools.
- 68% of respondents said they would be more likely to attend a 2-year program if it were highly selective/elite.
. . . .
When asked to rate the appeal of general attributes of a 2-year program on a 10-point scale, with 10 as "very appealing," respondents ranked the following attributes highest:
Save a year's worth of living expenses: 43% rated as a 9 or a 10
Without full-time salary for only 2 years: 40% rated as a 9 or a 10
Earn a higher salary sooner: 39% rated as a 9 or a 10
Will be working in the law field in 2 years: 37% rated as a 9 or a 10
Hat tip to Above the Law.
A few years ago attorney and blogger Dan Hull posted his 12 Rules of Client Service in an effort to persuade lawyers to focus on the needs of their clients. Here they are:
7. Know the client.
12. Have fun.
Each rule has a link to a fuller explanation.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
A new article by Professor Stephen Johnson (Mercer) called Teaching for Tomorrow: Utilizing Technology to Implement the Reforms of MacCrate, Carnegie, and Best Practices. It can be found at 92 Neb. L. Rev. 46 (2013). From the introduction:
More than a half century ago, famed educator John Dewey predicted that, “[I]f we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow.” While Dewey was not referring to legal education, the legal education community has echoed his call for reform for decades. Critics routinely assert that the “Socratic Method” and Christopher Columbus Langdell's “Case Method” that are still employed by many law professors fail to provide students with a variety of important skills that are necessary to practice law. Further, critics argue that those traditional methods fail to adequately focus students on the important issues of professionalism in the practice of law. Major studies by the American Bar Association (ABA), the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the Clinical Legal Education Association concluded law schools need to reform legal education to provide more focus on training students in professionalism and practical skills. The studies do not call for the elimination of the Case Method or Socratic Method, but they do stress the need for integration of new methods of instruction and assessment, especially after the first year of law school. Curricular change tends to move glacially in academia, and fundamental changes in pedagogy arrive even more slowly, if at all. Nevertheless, many law schools have been reviewing their curricula and discussing and implementing at least some modest reforms in response to the most recent reports.
Due to the nature of the students who are currently enrolled in or planning to attend law school, the economic realities of the modern practice of law, and the legal job market, technology needs to play a central role in the reform of legal education. The reformed law school classroom will likely look significantly different than the traditional 1L Langdellian classroom. Simulations and other instructional methods that focus on developing skills will become more prevalent and technology will significantly enhance them. Technology itself is an important skill that lawyers must master to effectively practice law. Therefore, there will likely be additional focus in law schools on training students in the technology that is central to practice. Educators will likely incorporate more formative assessment into courses, and technology will facilitate that. Furthermore, professors will need new course books and materials to facilitate the new instructional models, and technology will be key to the development of successful and effective materials to replace the traditional materials.
Part II of this article examines the development of the Langdellian method of instruction and the criticisms to the approach that have culminated in the calls for reform by the ABA, Carnegie Foundation, and Clinical Legal Education Association. Part II continues by focusing on the reasons why technology should play a central role in implementing the reforms petitioned by those organizations. The rest of the article provides examples of how technology can facilitate some of those reforms. Part III focuses on reforming assessment, the instructional models, and the instructional materials used in the classroom. Finally, Part IV explores the value of technological capabilities as skills in practice and the manner in which law schools might train students in those skills.
The University of Michigan’s undergraduate Career Center has posted a series of short statements by students who have gone to law school and value the experience. Worth reading, especially in these difficult times.
Thanks to Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports.
Friday, November 22, 2013
The common assumption is that cursive handwriting is disappearing. When our students are not typing on digital devices, they usually print. But there is a backlash against this trend. Several state legislatures are considering bills mandating the teaching of cursive writing.
When we abandon the cursive style, do we lose anything? Possibly:
[Linden] Bateman, a 72-year-old state representative from Idaho, says cursive conveys intelligence and grace, engages creativity and builds brain cells.
"Modern research indicates that more areas of the human brain are engaged when children use cursive handwriting than when they keyboard," said Bateman, who handwrites 125 ornate letters each year. "We're not thinking this through. It's beyond belief to me that states have allowed cursive to slip from the standards."
When we deplore a lack of creativity on the part of our students, can we blame it on the demise of cursive?
You can read more here.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Susskind is best known for his predictions about the demise of BigLaw in books like The End of Lawyers? and Tomorrow's Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future. In a recent interview with the blog Lawyerist, Susskind explains that he predicts the same forces consisting of technological advances, clients who demand more work for less money and the liberalization of "non-lawyer ownership" will also spell the demise of many small firms and solos. Susskind explains the changes he sees coming to "solosmalls," as he calls them, here.
Those of us of a certain age remember vividly November 22, 1963, and the unbelievable days that followed. The shock was overwhelming. My mother, a Republican, cried for days.
From the Texas Monthly, here is an article quoting letters that Texans wrote to Mrs. Kennedy after the assassination. At the end of the article is a link to photos of thirteen of those letters.
At President Kennedy's funeral, Chief Justice Earl Warren asked this question:
In my early days of teaching, I did not dress very formally or fashionably. I was a man of the people. Then, one of my students, a former school teacher, told me that I had to stop wearing the same lime green sweater every day and gave me advice on what to wear. Then I got married, and my wife disposed of a sizeable part of my wardrobe and cleaned up my act.
Now, when I teach, I usually wear a jacket, a tie, and sometimes a turtleneck. I am much more aware that students pay attention to what I wear.
Today, the law school trend is for teachers to dress informally, at least as far as the males go. The women tend to dress well. I’m not sure that the current trend is such a good idea. I doubt that the casual style helps the profs come across as capable professionals. At the same time, we advise our students to dress professionally when they seek professional jobs.
Here is an article from Politico’s online magazine critiquing the clothing styles of several potential presidential candidates. It makes the point that how we dress influences how we are perceived. Interesting article.