Monday, June 30, 2014
Gavin Villareal, a litigation partner with Baker Botts, provides some tips to summer associates via this column in the Texas Lawyer magazine on how to get the most out of your summer clerkship. You can check out the full article here but in the meantime here's a list of Mr. Villareal's main pointers:
- Make the most of mentors.
- Obsess over written work.
- Demand substantive feedback.
- Attend social events.
- Talk to the staff.
Continue reading here.
Recently, I spoke with a very successful entrepreneur who has launched a number of biotech start-up companies. Not all have succeeded. Her observation: When some people fail, they give up and therefore never have successes. Others, however, try to learn from a failure and jump back in the game with new projects. They eventually succeed.
I suspect that we and many of our students have had failures or will have them, Do we give up and play it safe, just doing our jobs in a pedestrian way, or do we shake off failure and find the energy to get moving again?
TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW seeks to expand its academic program and its strong commitment to scholarship by hiring two exceptional faculty candidates for tenure-track or tenured positions, with rank dependent on qualifications and experience. While the law school welcomes applications in all subject areas, it particularly invites applications in: (1) patent law (including related intellectual property subjects); and (2) legal analysis, research, and writing. Candidates must have a J.D. degree or its equivalent. Preference will be given to those with demonstrated outstanding scholarly achievement and strong classroom teaching skills.
This is an especially attractive time to join Texas A&M University School of Law. Since Texas A&M University acquired the law school from Texas Wesleyan University in August of 2013, applications for admission have increased by over 30 percent and development has grown exponentially, including multiple seven-figure endowed chairs. The law school is poised to build on its tradition of excellence in scholarship, teaching, and public service through the extensive resources and opportunities that result from being part of a world-class public university.
Texas A&M University School of Law is located in vibrant downtown Fort Worth. The Fort Worth/Dallas area, with a total population in excess of six million people, offers a low cost of living and a strong economy.
As an Equal Opportunity Employer, Texas A&M University welcomes applications from a broad spectrum of qualified individuals who will enhance the rich diversity of the law school’s academic community. Applicants should email a résumé and cover letter indicating research and teaching interests to Professor Timothy Mulvaney, Chair of the Faculty Appointments Committee, at email@example.com. Alternatively, résumés can be mailed to Professor Mulvaney at Texas A&M University School of Law, 1515 Commerce Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102-6509.
Sunday, June 29, 2014
Since the Carnegie Report appeared seven years ago, legal publishers have issued a number of texts on experiential education. These texts fall into three categories: 1) casebooks that include experiential exercises, 2) experiential supplements that can go with any casebook, and 3) freestanding books.
Both Carolina Academic Publishing and West Academic Press have issued casebooks that include experiential exercises. CAP has published the Context and Practice Series, edited by Michael Hunter Schwartz. The books in this series incorporate experiential exercises into a casebook. Most chapters are focused around a single problem, and most chapters include professionalism/professional identity exercises. The editorial comments to the Civil Procedure book in the series declares,
"Books in the series will feature elements that recent studies of legal pedagogy (Best Practices in Legal Education and the Carnegie Foundation’s Educating Lawyers) recommend as essential to improving law school teaching. First, the books will emphasize heavily the practical application of the legal doctrines addressed in each book. Students will be placed in the roles of practitioners handling simulated cases. They will apply the legal doctrines that they learn in the book in exercises that require them to perform tasks that lawyers actually perform. As the studies mentioned above underscore, teaching in this manner will serve more than one purpose. It will not only better prepare students for practice. It will show students the significance of the material they are learning by demonstrating the reality that they will be using these doctrines. Second, the C & P Series will also accomplish another primary goal of the Best Practices and Educating Lawyers studies. That goal is to engage students in professional identity formation so that, when they begin practicing, they will have a better idea of the kind of lawyers they want to be." The titles in this series range from first-year courses to specialized courses.
West Academic Publishing also has a series that combines a casebook with experiential exercises, the Experiencing Series. The editors describe the series:
"These primary coursebooks cover the doctrine traditionally covered in the classroom while simultaneously offering experiential exercises that will illustrate the concepts of the subject being taught. The books feature the key cases and cover the doctrine in much the same fashion as other standard casebooks. But while building skills of case analysis is critical, it needn’t occupy all of the first year. The books in this series will help support a course that balances traditional case analysis with statutory and rule analysis and experiential education—learning by doing in the presence of an expert teacher."
Three volumes are currently available in the series, Business Organizations, Civil Procedure, and Family Law.
Another excellent text that combines cases with skills is Contracts, an Electronic Text: Cases, Text, and Problems by Charles Calleros & Stephen Gerst, which is an open source casebook. Because it is an ebook, it only costs the students $20.
The second type of experiential text is supplements to existing casebooks. West Academic Publishing has issued such a series, the Developing Professional Skills Series. The editors write,
"Developing Professional Skills books are designed as supplemental texts that can be used to incorporate skills training in legal drafting, client interviewing and counseling, negotiation, advocacy and policy-making into traditional doctrinal courses. The skills exercises in each book are based on fundamental rules and doctrines learned by reading the professor's primary textbook, which makes it possible to incorporate the skills exercises without sacrificing the scope of coverage or assigning additional reading. The exercises may be completed either inside or outside of class in one hour or less. Each exercise requires the student to complete a work product template that may be used for assessment purposes."
Current titles include Constitutional Law, Business Associations, and Civil Procedure with more books appearing shortly.
West Academic Publishing also has the Bridge to Practice Series:
"Titles in the Bridge to Practice Series help students hit the ground running when they graduate. These inexpensive casefile-based supplemental texts contain sets of simulations covering a wide array of issues, giving students the opportunity to learn essential lawyering skills. These simulations put students in roles of counselor, oral advocate, and legal writer. Edited by Mike Vitiello (author of the Criminal Procedure and Civil Procedure titles), these books bring legal doctrine to life."
Among the books in the series are antitrust and civil procedure with more to come soon.
As you can see, West has two series of supplemental texts. The main difference between the two series is that the Bridge to Practice Series follows a single case throughout the book using the case file method, while each chapter in the Developing Professional Skills Series treats a different type of skill with changing facts.
LexisNexis has published a supplemental series, the Skills & Values Series. The books have both a print and on-line component: "The Skills & Values Series is comprised of subject-specific practice-oriented books (the print component) supported by LexisNexis Web Courses (the online component). The Web Courses are powered by Blackboard, . . . a familiar environment to many law professors, and easy to learn for those not familiar. The S&V Series is designed to provide a tool for teaching practice skills so that graduates of our law schools are competent to serve their clients skillfully and in an ethical manner."
The editor continues, "Each print book in the S&V Series contains at least 14 hands-on exercises which together provide a simulated learning environment so that students can actively engage in their learning, and can learn by doing - by practicing the legal concepts they are learning in the course. . . . The online part of each S&V book consists of electronic and interactive materials that are integrally related to the print component and that engage the student. It delivers case file material in a rich media Web Course environment, provides links to relevant statutes, cases and other online resources, and provides a discussion forum (in the form of a wiki) for collaboration among professors who adopt the book in their course."
The series includes a wide-variety of titles.
There are also a number of freestanding books, mainly introduction to law books, that incorporate the latest learning on legal education. Michael Hunter Schwartz has written Expert Learning for Law Students: Second Edition (CAP 2008) with a Workbook, which teaches students how to become better learners based on the latest educational research. In Think Like a Lawyer: Legal Reasoning for Law Students and Business Professionals (ABA Pub. 2013), I wrote an introduction to law book, which is intended to introduce students to legal reasoning and problem solving. Finally, David Thomson has penned a wonderful book on discovery, Skills & Values: Discovery Practice (Lexis/Nexis 2010).
With all these texts now available and more coming, there is no excuse not to include an experiential element in every doctrinal class.
In this article from the ABA's Law Practice Today online magazine, author Marni Becker-Avin notes that the importance of good "soft skills" cannot be overstated when it comes to the key legal skills new lawyers must develop. Though law schools have done a reasonably adequate job teaching students "hard skills" like legal research, drafting, oral advocacy, negotiation, etc., Ms. Becker-Avin finds it "astounding" that, for the most part, schools don't even address what she considers a "paramount" skill; the ability to communicate effectively with clients. As she says, only those associates who learn how to build client relationships through effective communication will advance in their careers. In short, she says it boils down to understanding that the client is always right even when they aren't.
. . . .
Communication is the top complaint among most state bars. Saying “I became a lawyer to draft contracts, motions, help corporations, and/or go to trial and litigate, but not to hold my client’s hand,” is no longer an acceptable attitude. If 100 percent client retention is the law firm’s goal, and it should be, then the attorneys better learn how to communicate better, and that means in a timely and professional manner. Assuming that firms appreciate when clients pay their bills, and assuming they also appreciate that clients keep the lights on in the building, then they better strive to understand and accept that their clients are entitled to status updates and a return phone call within 24 hours.
A firm that respects client service will stay open. A firm that makes client service a priority will remain successful. How do we accomplish this? It should be innate, and yet, as mentioned, communication is still the number one complaint. Given that so many people have access to and contact with clients in a law firm on a daily basis, we must stop taking “soft skills” for granted, and start placing a higher value on teaching and attaining those skills.
Perhaps lawyers should not have to be taught, but they do have to be taught, that the customer is always right…even when they are not.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
And you can read some previous posts from this blog about the importance of developing "soft skills" (employers value "soft skills") here, (tips for improving interpersonal skills) here, (tips for developing the "soft skills" that lawyers lack) here and ("soft skills" matter when it comes to finding and keeping a job) here.
Saturday, June 28, 2014
Fastcase, as you may know, is one several online legal research alternatives to Westlaw and Lexis that have sprung up in the last several years (click here and here for free video tutorials on Fastcase). Several jurisdictions offer Fastcase as a free service to bar members. 3 Geeks and a Law Blog tells us that Texas has just been added to that list. Since members of the Texas bar already get free access to Casemaker, yet another Wexis alternative, it now becomes the first bar association to offer members both services for free. As they say, everything's bigger in Texas. You can check out the press release from the State Bar of Texas here.
To find out, Professors Lawrence Krieger and Kennon Sheldon performed an extensive study of lawyers. Here are the top factors for making lawyers happy.
Autonomy need satisfaction
Relatedness need satisfaction
Competence need satisfaction
Internal work motivation
Friday, June 27, 2014
According to this post on Slate, things are looking rosy for the class of 2018. By the time that class graduates, according to Slate, the number of new grads will better align with the number of jobs available. An excerpt:
. . . .
Here is the key number to keep in mind: 36,000. That is roughly the number of new J.D.s we should expect to graduate in 2016. Getting to that figure is pretty straightforward: In the fall of 2013, 39,700 students enrolled in law school. Given that about 10 percent of each law school class generally drops out, we should expect no more than 36,000 to reach commencement. (I’m actually rounding up the number a bit to be conservative.)
In comparison, 46,776 law students graduated in 2013. So we’re talking about a potential 23 percent plunge.
With less competition it should be far easier for graduates to find decent work. Again, let’s assume the legal job market doesn’t grow at all in the next two years—that it simply stays flat. What might that look like?
. . . .
The Clinton Presidential Library has released a new set of documents. They include a series of memos from the early ’90s advising the President whom to nominate to the Supreme Court—Stephen Breyer or Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg prevailed, but Justice Breyer joined the Court a few years later. You can access the memos here.
Thanks to Nota Bene, the librarians’ blog at the O’Quinn Law Library at the University of Houston (here).
Front Matter for: Legal Writing in the Disciplines: A Guide to Legal Writing Mastery by Teri A. McMurtry-Chubb.
Legal Writing in the Disciplines re-conceptualizes law in its disciplinary context. The text is designed to effectively communicate legal analysis and writing skills to pre-law and new law students using the language of their undergraduate and graduate majors. Legal writing is disciplinary writing, not just another form of technical writing. Law school is a disciplinary community. Integration into any disciplinary community occurs through the processes of reading and writing.
The first chapter of the text details all aspects of the processes used to create practical legal writing (case briefs, notes, outlines and MindMaps, legal memos, legal briefs, exam outlines and exam answers). The five remaining chapters are divided into five broad disciplinary categories: Science, Social Science, Arts, Humanities and Business. Each chapter contains discipline-specific instruction on creating the different types of legal writing. The chapter sections lead the reader through the resolution of a legal problem through legal writing and provide answers for self-check with discipline-specific explanations on an interactive CD-ROM. The CD-ROM allows students to load PDFs (the materials, exercises, model answers, and case files to which the text refers) onto an iPad or other tablet for flexibility and ease of use in practicing legal writing skills. Additionally, the materials, exercises, and model answers are annotated in color with discipline-specific explanations to guide students as they assimilate new legal writing skills.
A teacher's manual accompanies the text and features semester and quarter course planning options, learning outcomes and performance criteria for each week, lecture notes for each week, in-class exercises and supporting materials, and assessment rubrics for all assignments and skills. The rubrics are keyed to the weekly learning outcomes and performance criteria. An interactive CD-ROM with case files for a legal memo, legal brief, and other instructional materials is included.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
This is a new "legal skills" article by Professor Cynthia G. Bowman (Cornell) called Learning By Doing: Adding A Clinical Component To A Traditional Family Law Course and available at 29 Wis. J.L. Gender & Soc'y 129 (2014). In it, Professor Bowman describes the "hydrid" course she developed at Cornell from course proposal to implementation and the invaluable student feedback that followed. From the abstract:
This paper describes a clinical component recently added to the course in Family Law at Cornell Law School. Students who are either co-registered for or have previously taken Family Law receive an extra two credits for clinical work under the instructor's supervision. Each student undertakes to represent at least one client, who is referred from Neighborhood Legal Services, from the initial client interview through drafting, filing and service of the many documents required to obtain a final judgment for dissolution of marriage in New York State. In order to complete this work in one semester, the students do relatively simple divorces that will result in a default judgment. In addition to obtaining a divorce judgment on behalf of a client, students are required to staff a desk in the local family court for three hours a week in rotation, to assist persons filling out petitions for support, modification of support, or for violation of a support order.
A Story to Keep Lawyers Humble
At “The Philadelphia Lawyer,” attorney Steve LaCheen recalls a case in which he got his clients out of deep trouble. In the course of the lengthy representation he worked closely with them and developed something resembling a social relationship. Here’s how the story ends:
The charges were
withdrawn, and the matter
ended, with the understanding
that we would be getting
together for a celebratory night
out in the near future.
“We owe you our lives,”
he said; and she nodded in
I waited two weeks before
making the follow-up call.
“Who is it?”
A momentary silence.
“Steve, you remember, your
attorney,” I said jokingly.
“Oh, sure. Sorry. Hold on
a sec,” he said, and then he
covered the speaker with his
hand; but I still heard him say,
“Hon, it’s that lawyer. Will you
see what he wants?”
I didn’t wait for her answer.
You can read the full story here.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
These programs allow students to fast-track their undergraduate and law school degrees in 6 six years rather than 7. Several schools have adopted such programs (here and here) presumably in an effort to bolster falling admission numbers. Now USC Gould School of Law has joined the list by announcing a program under which undergrads can apply to law school in their junior year and matriculate the following year earning both degrees in 6 years. Under this program, it also means applicants do not have to take the LSAT. The USC News website has more details:
In a move to create additional opportunities for the best and brightest USC undergraduates on campus, the USC Gould School of Law will begin admitting a select group of USC seniors in the fall.
The program, known as 3+3, will allow select students to complete their undergraduate and law school studies in a total of six years. The USC students would apply for law school as juniors, and, if accepted, enroll at USC Gould the following year. After one year of law school, students will earn their bachelor’s degree and after another two years, their law degree. They will not be required to take the Law School Admission Test for admittance.
“The 3+3 program will enable the best USC undergraduates to stay at USC for law school and take advantage of being in Los Angeles, the country’s second-largest legal market,” said Chloe Reid, associate dean for admissions and financial aid at USC Gould. “It is a highly selective program for those students who can tackle the rigors of academic life at one of the country’s leading law schools. Students who are set on the legal profession will find these aspects very appealing.”
The program, which is open to all majors, requires a minimum GPA of 3.8, strong faculty recommendations, a personal statement, an interview, multiple writing samples and the completion of required major coursework by junior year.
As part of the program, students must complete their major requirements by junior year. This program augments the traditional route from undergrad to law school.
. . . .
“Law schools know that they need to be creative and forward thinking when it comes to legal education,” [Dean Robert K. Rasmussen] said. “We are extremely excited to offer this program to Trojans who want to continue their academic careers here.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Here, an Ohio trial judge, miffed at the public defender, removed the defender from all 70 of cases before the judge. Because the defender could not deal with these cases, he was fired. The defender sued the judge. he Sixth Circuit was not pleased with the judge’s conduct, but held that he enjoyed judicial immunity. Here are the opening paragraphs of the Sixth Circuit’s opinion (Bright v. Gallia County).
In this case, there is no debate that Judge David Dean Evans failed to meet the minimum expectations for members of the judiciary: He overreacted to attorney Robert Bright's criticisms and inappropriately removed Bright from nearly seventy felony cases. The judge's high-handed actions caused Bright great hardship, but litigation seeking to hold Judge Evans personally liable is not the solution. Generally, we rely upon the judges further up the judicial hierarchy to review and correct the rulings of lower courts. Only in a few circumstances do we allow lawsuits against individual judges to proceed, and for good reason. The specter of facing a lawsuit naturally encourages overly timid judging and presents a direct threat to judicial independence. While Judge Evans's conduct was worthy of censure, it does not fit within one of the exceptions to absolute judicial immunity; thus, we must REVERSE the district court's denial of immunity.
Unfortunately for Bright, our case law also requires us to side against him in his lawsuit against the Gallia County Board of Commissioners ("the Board"), the Gallia County Public Defender Commission ("the Commission"), and the Gallia County Criminal Defense Corporation ("the Corporation"). Under Mezibov v. Allen, 411 F.3d 712 (6th Cir. 2005), the First Amendment offers no protection to an attorney for his speech in court. Id. at 716. Without such protection, Bright cannot state a valid claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and we must AFFIRM the district court's dismissal.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has this post about some of the new, niche courses law schools will be offering in the fall. Among them are:
- Video Game Law at Pepperdine University School of Law.
- Law of Robots at Georgetown University Law Center.
- Law and Neuroscience at Harvard.
- Spectacle and Surveillance at Columbia (per the course description this class "takes on the ripped-from-the-headlines issue of surveillance but with a postmodern spin.")
Continue reading here.
And you thought that a story like this was limited to TV fiction. From the Tampa Bay Times
The simmering legal scandal centers on a bitter defamation trial between warring radio shock jocks Todd Schnitt and Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
In January 2013 after a day in court, attorney C. Philip Campbell, who represented Schnitt, sat in an upscale steakhouse bar downtown. A young paralegal from the Adams & Diaco firm [representing Clem] took the stool next to him, lied about where she worked, flirted and drank with him, according to witnesses. Campbell was later arrested for DUI while driving her in her car.
Then came the revelation of multiple cellphone calls and texts that flew that night between the paralegal in the bar, her bosses and a Tampa police DUI sergeant outside Malio's Prime Steakhouse.
You can read more here.
Monday, June 23, 2014
A couple of weeks ago, my co-blogger, Jim Levy, posted a wonderful and comprehensive list of books on teaching and general education. (here) Below is a list of books and other materials on law school teaching.
Gerald F. Hess et.al., Techniques for Teaching Law 2 (2011)
Michael Hunter Schwartz et.al., Teaching Law by Design (2009)
Michael Hunter Schwartz et.al., What the Best Law Teachers Do (2013)
David Thomson, Law School 2.0: Legal Education for a Digital Age (2010)
Carol Andrews, Four Simple Lessons about the Needs of First-Year Law Students, 18/2 The Law Teacher 4 (2012)
Hillary Burgess, The Challenges of ‘Innovative’ Teaching, 17/2 The Law Teacher 1 (2011)
Hillary Burgess, Deepening the Discourse Using The Legal Mind’s Eye: Lessons from Neuroscience and Psychology that Optimize Law School Learning, 29 Quinnipiac . Rev. 1 (2011)
Leah M. Christensen, Legal Reading and Success in Law School: An Empirical Study, 30 Seattle U. L. Rev.603 (2007)
Jessica Erickson, Experiential Education in the Lecture Hall, 6 Northeastern U. L.J. 87 (2013)
Kristin B. Gerdy, Teacher, Coach, Cheerleader, and Judge: Promoting Learning through Learner-Centered Assessment, 94 L. Lib. J. 59 (2002)
Jane Kent Gionfriddo, Thinking Like A Lawyer: The Heuristics of Case Synthesis, 40 Tex. Tech L. Rev. 1 (2007)
Gerald F. Hess, Value of Variety: An Organizing Principle to Enhance Teaching and Learning, 3 Elon L. Rev. 65 (2011)
Stefan H. Krieger & Serge Martinez, Performance Isn’t Everything: The Importance of Conceptual Competence in Outcome Assessment of Experiential Learning, 19 Clinical L. Rev. 251 (2012)
Anthony Niedwiecki, Teaching for Lifelong Learning: Improving the Metacognitive Skills of Law Students through More Effective Formative Assessment Techniques, 40 Cap/ U. L. Rev. 149 (2011)
Michael Hunter Schwartz, Teaching Law Students to Be Self-Regulated Learners, 2003 Mich St. DCL L. Rev. 447
Sophie M. Sparrow, Describing the Ball–Improve Teaching by Using Rubrics–Explicit Grading Criteria, 2004 Mich St. L. Rev. 1
Robin S. Wellford-Slocum, The Law School Faculty Conference: Towards a Transformative Learning Experience, 45 S. Tex. L. Rev. 255 (2004)
The above is only a beginning. You can find a longer list here.
The June issue of the Orange County Lawyer Magazine, a publication of the Orange County California Bar Association, has several brief articles on practical skills training in law school including the following:
- Pedagogy of the Practical Kind by Tom Campbell, Dean of the Fowler School of Law, Donald P. Kennedy Chair in Law, and Professor of Economics, Chapman University.
- Legal Education: Integrating Practical Skills into the Curriculum by Professor Eunice Park, Assistant Director of Legal Writing and Research at Western State College of Law and Assistant Professor of Lawyering Skills.
- Getting Involved in Legal Education by Professor Lori A. Roberts, Director of Legal Writing atWestern State College of Law.
- 1Ls and Zeros—Law Schools Join the Digital Age by Professor Martin Pritikin, Acting Dean of Whittier Law School.
- Transforming Legal Education One Pro Bono Project at a Time: A Practical Model for Law Schools
You can read the full issue here.
The University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal annually award the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. And you get to vote for your choice.
The prize, authorized by Ms. Lee, is given annually to a book-length work of fiction, published in the preceding year, that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change. Past winners include The Confession by John Grisham, The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly, and Havana Requiem by Paul Goldstein. . The winner will receive a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Harper Lee. Here are the three finalists:
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout (Random House)
Brothers Jim and Bob Burgess are both lawyers who live in New York, and that’s where the resemblance ends. Jim is a high-powered, corporate success story. His brother Bob is a softhearted Legal Aid attorney who drinks too much. But when they return to the small town in Maine where their nephew is accused of a hate crime, the long-buried tensions that have shaped their attitudes toward each other are challenged and changed in ways they could not have expected.
Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson (St. Martin’s Griffin)
When a survivor of the Holocaust becomes convinced that a respected civic leader is a former Nazi SS officer, he hires lawyer Catherine Lockhart to bring the man to justice. What emerges is a much more complicated story of abandonment, identity, betrayal and a Polish family’s struggle to survive.
Sycamore Row by John Grisham (Doubleday)
Jake Brigance, the young defense lawyer in Grisham’s A Time To Kill, returns to the town that witnessed his first brush with fame. One of his wealthy white clients, Seth Hubbard, has committed suicide by hanging himself from an old sycamore tree, leaving the bulk of his fortune to his African-American housekeeper. Brigance is instructed to defend Hubbard’s will from any challenges by his greedy children. In doing so, Brigance uncovers new depths to Ford County’s history of racial violence.
You can vote here on the ABA Journal Website