Wednesday, April 23, 2014
We'd previously reported an unofficial story that Westlaw Classic would be phased out as of July 1, 2014. A number of law school library blogs are now reporting that Westlaw has confirmed the same with them (here, here, here and here). The PrawfsBlawg is also the reporting the same here.
A group of University of Oregon law faculty members made this proposal:
The faculty recommends that the dean proceed with conversations with the Provost and the President regarding: reallocating funds for proposed faculty merit raises toward student fellowships, with a focus at present on post graduate student fellowships. If this proposal is approved, the faculty will revisit this reallocation of funds after two-three years.
(There was push back by at least one faculty member [here].)
The Provost declined to accept the proposal:
We brought the matter to the Provost and although he is supportive of our goals he cannot bend the University rules to make this creative idea happen. However, we remain committed to finding ways to fund post-graduate opportunities and address other employment issues facing our graduates.
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Two Canadian lawyers who met while pursuing an MBA have opened a business called Legal Axess which offers discounted legal services seven days a week through several Walmart stores in Ontario. Among other services, the firm offers $99.00 wills, $25.00 notarized documents and representation in real estate transactions that allow home buyers and sellers to exchange keys outside of traditional banking hours. The pair say that doing a higher volume of business due to their location inside a department store permits them to undercut traditional small law firms in terms of pricing. From the Toronto Star:
Behind the plastic jugs of liquid Tide stacked near the entrance of a new Walmart in Markham is an innovation in discount retailing: Axess Law.
Founded by Toronto lawyers Lena Koke and Mark Morris, Axess Law provides fast and affordable legal services to time-pressed shoppers.
Simple wills are $99. Notarized documents are $25, plus $19 for each additional document.
The Axess office in the Walmart on Copper Creek Dr. in Markham is a slim 600 square feet, branded in orange (think ING, Joe Fresh) and is open seven days a week until 8 p.m. It opened in January.
An Axess law office opened at the Walmart in the Scarborough Town Centre last June, and another this month at the Walmart at Eglinton Ave. E. and Warden Ave.
Another is scheduled to open at a Cedarbrae Walmart on Lawence Ave. E. in May.
The partners, lawyers who met at the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management while completing their MBAs, are hoping to open locations in Walmarts across Ontario within the next two years and Canada within the next four.
There is no mahogany or marble and no appointment necessary.
“A lot of people are intimidated by lawyers. This is a non-intimidating setting,” said Koke, over the sound of grocery carts slamming together and the beeping of the store exit alarm.
Evenings between 5-8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays are their busiest times, says Morris.
. . . .
“That’s when most lawyers have shut down their operations – that’s when we fly.”
Continue reading here.
From the L.A. Times (excerpts):
The Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on the use of racial affirmative action in its state universities Tuesday, ruling that voters are entitled to decide the issue.
The 6-2 decision clears away constitutional challenges to the state bans on affirmative action, which began in California in 1996.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, speaking for the majority, said the democratic process can decide such issues. “This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved,” he said. “It is about who may resolve it. There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this court’s precedents for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters.”
Tuesday’s ruling is not a surprise, since a majority of the sitting justices have been skeptical of affirmative action. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who had supported affirmative action in the past, concurred in the ruling, saying the issue could be decided by the voters.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered a lengthy dissent which she read in court. She said the court had turned its back on earlier rulings that prohibited the states from withdrawing remedies for racial discrimination. The Constitution does not “give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities,” she said. Her opinion cited the steep decline in the percentage of black and Latino students who were admitted to UCLA and UC Berkeley after the passage of California’s Proposition 209.J
You can read more here.
The Committee has posted extensive materials for its April Meeting in St. Louis, where it will consider a number of proposals. Here are the postings (too much to summarize here):
Monday, April 21, 2014
Of interest to many readers of this blog, yesterday marked the inauguration of the Clinical Law Prof Blog as part of the Professor Paul Caron's Law Professor Blog Network. With a deep list of contributors, blog editor Professor Jeff Baker (Pepperdine) says he hopes the new blog will "amplify and magnify the work of clinical law professors, to share resources and ideas and to collaborate with our colleagues online and in social media who are serving our community. We write to advance the twin causes of good teaching and justice."
Check it out here and subscribe today.
. . . .
The New York bar has led the charge in challenging law schools to graduate "practice ready" lawyers. In 2011, the New York State Bar Association presented a resolution to the ABA urging "that the legal education providers focus on making future lawyers practice ready by enhancing clinical work and supervised activities such as meeting with clients inside and outside the clinical setting and in court, and developing further capstone courses." The resolution drew on a report issued earlier that year by the state bar association's Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession.
Law schools are increasingly trying to meet this challenge. Although some professors consider the objective unattainable, law schools occasionally claim success in producing "practice ready" lawyers. The legitimacy of the claim may depend on what one means by "practice ready." It is unrealistic to expect new graduates to do whatever senior lawyers can do—for example, to litigate a complex commercial case or negotiate a complicated business deal. Few graduates will be able to establish successful law practices in the areas in which they aspire ultimately to work. But if the idea is not to prepare graduates to practice independently, but to ready them for entry-level positions in which they will receive training and supervision, law schools today do far better than 20 or 40 years ago. The 2007 Carnegie Report is among the most significant influences on this latest turn in legal education.
Senior lawyers might not recognize today's law schools, which, at their best, provide abundant opportunities for students to "learn while doing" and to receive substantial feedback on the work they perform.
. . . .
Extensive thought and planning go into law schools' experiential offerings to ensure that they provide more than just on-the-job training. Clinical professors give students much more supervision, feedback and critique than new lawyers receive in actual practice because clinics expressly aim to use legal work as a focal point for learning.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Should Law Professors Have a Continuing Practice Experience (CPE) Requirement? by Emily Zimmerman.
The College Board is revamping its SAT exams, I think for the better. To learn about the changes and to see sample questions, please click here. I continue to think that if students have a modest aptitude, the best predictor of success in college and law school is their grade point averages. Of course, other factors enter the picture, but in my opinion, the g.p.a. is the primary predictor.
Sunday, April 20, 2014
"Changing Markets Create Opportunities: Emphasizing the Competencies Legal Employers Use in Hiring New Lawyers (Including Professional Formation/Professionalism)"
To guide legal educators and law students in responding to challenging markets both for entry-level employment and for applications to law schools, this article analyzes empirical research on the competencies that legal employers, the profession itself, and clients are looking for in a new lawyer. The article advances the proposition that law schools can build on an existing strength of helping each student develop knowledge of doctrinal law, legal analysis, legal research, legal writing and oral advocacy to do better at helping each student develop additional important competencies (and have evidence of those competencies) that legal employers, the profession, and clients and value, particularly the professional formation (professionalism) competencies.
The article also helps each student understand the importance of developing transferable skills (or competencies) that equip the student to respond over a career to changing markets for legal services. An overall theme for both legal educators and law students is to view these changing markets as opportunities to grow in new directions and thus to differentiate from competitors.
There's also a good summary here at the Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation blog.
Over at PrawfsBlawg, Professor Howard Wasserman argues that the following courses are the “canon” courses in law school. (Please click here.)
• First Amendment
• Bus Orgs/Corps
• Federal Courts (at least if you are even thinking about being any type of litigator)
• Administrative Law
Some Commenters would include Criminal Procedure, Employment Law, and Tax. I would include Trial Practice with the advice that even if you plan never to go near a courtroom, you will feel insecure as a lawyer if you don’t know about trials. I also tell students to get a lot of civil procedure. Probably all schools require Legal Profession. At my school, we have devised the curriculum so that students should get a writing experience during each semester of law school.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
This report from Bloomberg notes that many small colleges in the U.S. are under the same financial pressures that law schools face due to declining enrollments, increasing debt loads for students and poor job prospects for graduates. As a result of the financial difficulties wrought by declining enrollments, Moody's Investors Service may downgrade a school's bond ratings which can lead to a sort of "financial death spiral" for the institution. One Harvard Business School prof interviewed for the article says that he expects as many as half of the more than 4,000 universities and colleges in the U.S. may fail in the next 15 years due to these financial problems as well as the growing threat posed by technology's promise to deliver a more cost effective approach to higher education.
At a Dowling College campus on Long Island’s south shore, a fleet of unused shuttle buses sits in an otherwise empty parking lot. A dormitory is shuttered, as are a cafeteria, bookstore and some classrooms in the main academic building.
“There’s a lot of fear here,” said Steven Fournier, a senior who lived in the now-closed dorm for his first three years. “It’s not the same college I arrived at.”
Dowling, which got a failing grade for its financial resources from accreditors last month, epitomizes the growing plight of many small private colleges that depend almost entirely on tuition for revenue. It’s been five years since the recession ended and yet their finances are worsening. Soaring student debt, competition from online programs and poor job prospects for graduates are shrinking their applicant pools.
“What we’re concerned about is the death spiral -- this continuing downward momentum for some institutions,” said Susan Fitzgerald, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service in New York. “We will see more closures than in the past.”
. . . .
Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has predicted that as many as half of the more than 4,000 universities and colleges in the U.S. may fail in the next 15 years. The growing acceptance of online learning means higher education is ripe for technological upheaval, he has said.
“I’m not sure a lot of these institutions have the cushion to experiment with how to stay afloat,” said Michelle Weise, a senior research fellow at theClayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a think tank the Harvard professor helped establish in San Mateo, California.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Friday, April 18, 2014
Professor Stephen Johnson says, yes. His article is “The Changing Discourse of the Supreme Court,” 12University of New Hampshire Law Review 29 (2013). I correlate this decline in readability with the increasing density of law review articles. The top law review officers go on to clerk for SCOTUS and bring their bad habits with them. Here is the abstract (excerpts):
Academics, judges and other commentators complain that, for the past few decades, the Justices on the Supreme Court have been increasingly writing opinions that are unreadable for most Americans. Those critics complain that the opinions are too long and too complex, riddled with incomprehensible multi-part tests. They also attack the style of the opinions and assert that recent opinions are more likely to be written in a technocratic, rather than persuasive, style. There seems to be little consensus among the critics regarding why the Justices are writing opinions that are increasingly unreadable. Some attribute it to the increasing complexity of issues that the Court is considering. Others suggest that the shift could be attributable to the lack of trial court experience among Justices.
None of the studies, however, have examined whether the Court’s opinions have, in general, become less readable over time, as many critics assert. The attached article compares the readability of the opinions issued by the Supreme Court in the 1931, 1932, and 1933 terms to the opinions issued by the Court in the 2009, 2010, and 2011 terms. Since some commentators have suggested that the obfuscation of Supreme Court opinions is related to the increasing complexity of issues that the Court is addressing, it seemed logical to compare the readability of the Court’s opinions from the 1930's, at a time before the “staturification” of law, and the expansion of federal administrative programs during the New Deal, to the modern opinions. In addition to exploring whether the Court’s opinions have become less readable, this article also examines whether factors identified in other studies, such as the opinion type or the subject matter in dispute, correlate to the readability of the Court’s opinions, either in the 1930's or today, and whether that has changed over time. Finally, the article examines which Justices, in the 1930s and today, wrote the most readable and least readable opinions.
The data reviewed confirm that the Court’s opinions today are significantly longer and less readable than the opinions from the 1930s, but it is not necessarily related to the “statutorification” of law or the expansion of federal administrative programs. It may, however, be related to a change in the culture of the Court that began in the 1940s, the proliferation of concurring and dissenting opinions. The data confirmed the findings of earlier studies that opinions addressing criminal law are generally the most readable, although they are significantly less readable today than they were in the 1930s. Opinions addressing administrative law and statutory law issues were the least readable in the 1930s and today. With respect to individual Justices, Justices Kagan and Cardozo wrote the most readable opinions for their respective time periods, while Justices Sotomayor and Stone wrote the least readable opinions.
Here is the link to the article.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Professor Orin Kerr (George Washington) opines in this post at the Volokh Conspiracy (courtesy of the Washington Post) that lean economic times for law schools may mean that for some, legal scholarship will play a diminishing role. Less tuition revenue means less money for summer research stipends as well as less money to recruit top scholars in an effort to influence the USNWR rankings. Professor Kerr also speculates that there may be a slight shift in the focus of scholarship being produced at some schools away from the esoteric and towards practical subjects that have relevance to the bench and bar. As he explains:
. . . . .
I would guess that the new [economic] environment also will have at least some impact on the substance of legal scholarship. My thoughts are tentative, but here’s a prediction: The lean years will create pressures for scholarship to have more relevance to the bench and bar. The impact will be modest on the whole, as most professors are unlikely to change the basic tenor of their research in light of outside influences. The impact will be felt at some schools more than others. Still, I think the lean years will push legal scholarship as a whole to engage more with the kinds of issues that judges and lawyers see.
I think that’s true for reasons similar to those in point No. 1 above [i.e. scholarship could play a diminishing role in the legal academy, at least at some schools, as the money dries up]. During the boom years, the search for new scholarly ideas often encouraged work outside law that seemed foreign to judges and practicing lawyers. Leaner times likely mean more focus on the core mission of training lawyers. And more focus on the core mission likely means more scholarly connection to the legal profession and more scholarship that is more relevant to what judges and lawyers do. Or at least that’s my tentative guess.
Continue reading here.
Lawyer Sues Former Client Over Attacks on the Internet
With all the customer complaint sites on the internet, clients have many ways to destroy a lawyer’s reputation. It is difficult for the lawyer to respond effectively. As a result, suing the client becomes a viable option. Here’s a case in which the lawyer successfully sued a former client for fraud, libel, and false light invasion of privacy. The opening paragraph of the appellate court opinion summarizes the case:
Vivek A. Pampattiwar hired Jan V. Hinson, Esq., and her law firm, Jan V. Hinson, P.C. (collectively, "Hinson") to file a divorce action on his behalf. Hinson ultimately terminated the representation and brought this action against Pampattiwar, alleging, among other things, that Pampattiwar had committed fraud by intentionally misleading Hinson during his initial consultation with her, and had published statements about her and her firm on the Internet that were libelous and placed her in a false light. Pampattiwar filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim for fraud, which the trial court denied. The case proceeded to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Hinson on her claims for fraud, libel per se, and false light invasion of privacy. Pampattiwar filed motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for new trial, which the trial court denied. Pampattiwar now appeals, challenging the trial court's denial of his motions. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm.
You can read the full opinion here.
The Experiential Sabbatical by Martin H. Pritikin.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
This story from the National Law Journal says that New York Law School's new "Institute for In-House Counsel" is the first such program in New York City though I believe it may be the first in the nation since I'm unaware of another law school doing something simlar. From the National Law Journal:
Continue reading here.
On this date, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes administered the oath to William O. Douglas and escorted the new Justice to his seat. Here are Justice Douglas’ comments on the event and on Justice McReynolds (the substance of which other sources confirm):
Justice Douglas wrote, in longhand, this diary account of his first day on the Court:
April 17, 1939. I took the regular oath in the conference room a few minutes before noon, the C.J. administering it. As we filed in from the conference room to the court room, I bringing up the rear as the junior[,] I could not help recalling with a smile Stone’s words of greeting when I was nominated – “Welcome to the chain gang.” Shortly after I took the oath in open court + was escorted to my seat, my son, who was seated with my wife, daughter, sister + brother, caused great merriment on the bench by insisting on leaving the courtroom for the very obvious purpose of going to the toilet. He had violently objected to attending the ceremonies because they would cause him to miss gym at his school. My daughter less violently objected because she would miss French at school. I told Felix that I thought each of them showed excellent judgment and revealed a sense of relevancy and importance of events.
In the presence of McReynolds none of the judges smokes. Roberts gave me a bit of advice. He said that at his first conference he light[ed] a cigar. In a moment McReynolds passed him a note saying “Tobacco smoke is personally objectionable to me.” Van de Vanter [retired Justice Willis Van Devanter], so I am told, used to move over once in awhile to a far corner of the conference room and take a puff or two on a pipe – McReynolds or no McReynolds. Apparently tobacco smoke is not the only thing McReynolds dislikes. He seems to dislike all of his colleagues, judging by his crusty manner. He thoroughly disliked Brandeis. Why even this is told which I am certain is true. During conference whenever Brandeis spoke, McReynolds would get up and leave the room and stand outside the door leaving it barely open so that he could tell when Brandeis had finished. Then he would return. He also disliked [former Associate Justice John H.] Clarke whom I never knew. He was a paramount reason for Clarke’s resignation [in 1922]. What torture he could not apply by complete disregard of Clarke’s presence he made up for by badgering. McReynolds also dislikes thoroughly the Roosevelt administration. As I was talking to him about a mutual friend, [Professor] George Bates of Harvard [Business School], he let loose some cracks about the New Deal, terming its program as nothing but “moonshine.” I said to myself, “What a great state of mind for a judge!!”
A full account will appear shortly on “The Jackson List.”
From Cincinnati.com :
Hidden among the record numbers of students on college campuses is one secret in plain sight: Nearly one in every 10 students is getting mental health counseling on campus.
Counselors say the demand for their services – often offered free or at a nominal price – is at a record high this year and the illnesses they are treating are more serious, often including prescriptions.
"The mental health common cold for this generation of students is anxiety disorder, whereas for previous generations it was depression," said Kip Alishio, director of student counseling at Miami University.
Signs that a student may need help:
Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, poor self-esteem or guilt
• Withdrawal from family, friends or fun activities
• Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
• Anger, rage or craving revenge
• Feeling tired or exhausted all of the time
• Trouble concentrating, remembering or making decisions
• Restless, irritable, agitated or anxious movements or behaviors
• Regular crying
• Neglect of personal care
• Reckless, unsafe or impulsive behavior
• Persistent symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems or chronic pain
• Thoughts about death or suicide
You can read more here.