Sunday, November 30, 2014
Whether you're thinking about transitioning out of law practice altogether or you're a new grad considering a "JD-advantage" job, you might find this post helpful from the blog "leave the law behind." The post, called "How to think about your legal skills to position them for a non legal job," is by Casey Berman, a former lawyer who left the law himself more than 10 years ago and now helps unhappy lawyers transition into other careers. The list of tips he offers for repurposing your legal skills for the non-legal job market are not especially earth-shattering (i.e. lawyers have good communication skills, they know how to handle clients, they are good project managers, etc.) but some who are unsure about how to characterize their legal skillset for resumes targeting non-legal employers might find it a good brainstorming tool. Check it out - it might shake loose some ideas for better ways to target JD-Advantage employers.
Saturday, November 29, 2014
The Lawyerist Blog has a good post on deposition tips for new lawyers. It's authored by Evan Schaeffer who has written a book called Deposition Checklists and Strategies. In his Lawyerist post, Evan outlines 6 techniques he says are intended to help new lawyers get over the jitters of taking their first few depos. You'll have to head over to the Lawyerist to check out the tips in full but here's the outline:
- Show up early.
- Make small talk.
- Keep your temper in check.
- Don't be a slave to your outline.
- Be an active listener
- Critique yourself.
Over at “Best Practices for Legal Education (Nov. 14), Margaret Moore Jackson argues that the importance of the MBE may be compelling law schools to focus on multiple choice test taking skills rather than on quality legal education:
Lawyers don’t need multiple choice test-taking skills to be effective in their work, but law graduates must master this form of test-taking to gain a professional license. So law schools, and their curriculum committees, must consider the extent to which they will shoulder the responsibility for preparing students for the bar exam – including improving their ability to succeed on multiple choice tests. Even before this marked decline in scores, many schools had already changed their bar preparation efforts from subtle to overt.
But at a time when law schools are focusing on teaching integrated doctrine, skills, and values, an already ambitious undertaking, is it backtracking to reconsider the multiple choice test – like LSAT prep all over again – instead of progressively developing knowledge and true professional competence? Or is it appropriate to simultaneously develop the skills students need to pass the (often criticized) bar exam?
You can read the rest here. I don’t think a misuse of educational resources is a problem at my school. I can’t speak for other shops.
Friday, November 28, 2014
According to this video (below) from the New York Times, it hasn't taken long for pranksters to start misusing home hobbyist drones (you can buy some pretty sophisticated ones via Amazon) to buzz pedestrians, scare little kids in the park and (with their HiDef video cameras) go where prying eyes are not allowed. Now the FAA has gotten involved and is currently considering rules to regulate drone use. One law professor has already weighed in on the legal complexities associated with "drone law" (e.g., apportioning liability between the drone owner, the manufacturer, the software maker and the hacker - assuming your drone gets commandeered by a nefarious prankster before crashing into the plaintiff). Based on this short NYT video which shows drones, among other things, causing a riot, ruining a wedding, harassing wildlife and illegally flying over a nuclear power plant, this looks to be a hot new legal niche. Remember, you heard it here first.
At a recent bar committee meeting with practicing lawyers, I once again recognized a significant gap between professors and practitioners.
Talk to a practitioner who cares about writing clearly and effectively. What or whom does the practitioner mention as an authority for good advice? Strunk & White and possibly one of a handful of professionals who make the Continuing Legal Education Circuit.
No offense to these authorities, but there is a rich literature out there that could benefit the practicing bar. We should think about ways to erase the line (to coin a phrase) that separates the practitioner and the professor.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Travel & Leisure offers us a list of the 20 best college towns in the USA, according to the magazine’s readers.
At the top of the list is Syracuse. (I wonder if any of the evaluators made a visit during the winter snow season.) Lafayette, LA places second (University of Louisiana at Lafayette, South Louisiana Community College, Louisiana Technical College).
Here is the complete list.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Law deans ask National Conference of Bar Examiners to conduct "thorough investigation" of drop in exam scores
According to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, 80 deans representing mostly middle-ranked and public law schools have signed a letter to the NCBE asking for a "thorough investigation of the administration and scoring of the July 2014 bar exam" in light of the double-digit drop in bar pass rates experienced by several schools. The NCBE has said the drop in exams scores is due to a weaker graduating class rather than any problem with the exam or the scoring. A few weeks ago, we told you about similar kerfuffle between the NCBE and the Dean of Brooklyn Law School. You can check out the full details on this latest multi-school dust-up via the Wall Street Journal Law Blog here.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
The rankings are based on the methodology used by the Blakely Advocacy Institute at U. Houston School of Law which rates each law school based on its combined score for all ABA approved moot court competitions. The BAI then invites the top 16 schools in the nation to the Andrew Kurth Moot Court Competition in January to decide "the best of the best." Using the BAI's criteria, National Jurist Magzine ranked law school moot court programs as follows:
- Florida Coastal
- South Texas College of Law
- Texas Tech
- U. Georgia
- Seton Hall
- U. Miami
See the schools ranked 11- 20 here.
The University of Baltimore Law School and Hofstra Law School are offering law courses in sunny Curacao:
Consider a program in an exotic destination like Curaçao, which is jointly offered by the University of Baltimore School of Law and Hofstra University, Maurice A. Deane School of Law.
“In addition to spending Christmas on a Caribbean beach, the highlights of the program were the multiple field trips to various national and local government offices to experience firsthand comparative and international law,” said Clark Smith, a third-year law student at the University of Baltimore. “We visited the local prosecutor’s office to discuss Curaçao’s legal system based on Dutch law and to the U.S. Consulate to learn about cooperation on drug interdiction between the U.S. and Curaçao.”
Catherine Moore, Coordinator for International Programs at the University of Baltimore, said students often bring their families to accompany them on the three-week trip to Curaçao, which overlaps with the holiday season.
You can read more here. As law schools seek new ways to attract students and make money, I am sure we will see more winter break courses.
Recently, Avvo, a website that rates professionals, created a profile and rated me. (Of course, anyone who picks a lawyer based on a website like this deserves what he or she gets.) Because I don't practice law, I asked Avvo to remove my profile. Here is its response.(The inability to spell my name correctly does not give confidence is the quality of the operation) Any suggestions?
Wired recently published an article on active learning. (here) Some excerpts:
"Think back to when you learned how to ride a bike. You probably didn’t master this skill by listening to a series of riveting lectures on bike riding. Instead, you tried it out for yourself, made mistakes, fell down a few times, picked yourself back up, and tried again. When mastering an activity, there’s no substitute for the interaction and feedback that comes from practice."
"A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences addressed this question by conducting the largest and most comprehensive review of the effect of active learning on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. Their answer is a resounding yes. According to Scott Freeman, one of the authors of the new study, 'The impact of these data should be like the Surgeon General’s report on “Smoking and Health” in 1964–they should put to rest any debate about whether active learning is more effective than lecturing.'”
"1. Students in a traditional lecture course are 1.5 times more likely to fail, compared to students in courses with active learning." "The authors point out that, were this a medical study, an effect size this large and statistically significant would warrant stopping the study and administering the treatment to everyone in the study."
"2. Students in active learning classes outperform those in traditional lectures on identical exams" "On average, students taught with active learning outperformed those taught by lectures by 6 percentage points on their exam. That’s the difference between bumping a B- to a B or a B to a B+."
Conclusion: "“[Under active learning,] students learn more, which means we’re doing our job better. They get higher grades and fail less, meaning that they are more likely to stay in STEM majors, which should help solve a major national problem. Finally, there is a strong ethical component. There is a growing body of evidence showing that active learning differentially benefits students of color and/or students from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or women in male-dominated fields. It’s not a stretch to claim that lecturing actively discriminates against underrepresented students.”
At this point I usually add some comments. However, this article says it all.
(Scott Fruehwald) (emphasis in original)
Monday, November 24, 2014
Professor Daniel Willingham, a cognitive psychologist at UVA and author of Why Students Don't Like School (hint - it's because learning is hard), has written before about the lack of empirical data supporting the theory of learning styles (including in the aforementioned book). Here is another short article he wrote for the TES blog which bills itself as the world's largest online community for teachers. The article is called Classroom Practice – Listen Closely, Learning Styles are a Lost Cause can be found here. Learning styles are controversial and provoke strong feelings among many teachers insofar as some are convinced of their existence no matter what people like Professor Willingham claim while others remain skeptical in light of the studies that have failed to prove that, for example, students who identify as visual learners score better on tests when the teacher uses visual techniques than if the same material is taught using a different modality like aural, kinesthetic, etc. This most recent article likely won't change many minds but is still worth a glance if you're interested in the topic. Here's an excerpt:
. . . .
In many schools – indeed, in some teacher training institutions – learning styles are treated as proven fact. And although some teachers have accepted that this faith is misguided, others fight the truth and vigorously defend the theory. A common argument is that their teaching has always been informed by learning styles and their experience bears out the theory’s utility. The science, they say, must be wrong. I can assure you, it is not.
Most studies on the theory tend to test it as follows:
- Step 1 – determine the “learning style” of, say, 100 people.
- Step 2 – offer an experience that is consistent with the style of half the group and inconsistent with the style of the other half. For example, if you have 50 people with a “visual style”, show 25 of them a silent film that depicts a story and make the other 25 listen to an audio version of the story. Then do the same for the 50 people with an auditory style: half experience the story in their preferred style (by listening) and half in their non-preferred style (by watching).
- Step 3 – measure people’s comprehension of the story or their memory of it some time later.
If learning styles existed, the people who had experienced the story in their preferred style would get more out of it. Unfortunately, all the studies show that this core prediction simply does not hold; not for children with typical development and not for children who have learning difficulties.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
According to Harrison Barnes at LawCrossing, here are 12 sins you should NOT commit on a resume:
1. Emphasizing responsibilities but not accomplishments -- or, conversely, getting bogged down in minutiae.
2. Telling (instead of showing) the reader how wonderful you are.
3. Allowing chronology to determine structure.
4. Using a "one size fits all" approach.
5. Wasting critical space under your name with a prominent display of your address and phone number.
6. Making margins so wide that the text is forced into narrow columns.
7. Including your photograph.
8. Using small print.
9. Using a scripted font.
10. Using bold typeface for standard categories.
11. Having your legal resume professionally printed.
12. Failing to take into account how the means of transmittal will alter the appearance.
You can find full explanations here.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
The publication of a new paper by Richard Sander, Mismatch and the Empirical Scholars Brief, has reopened the controversy concerning affirmative action in law schools and his "mismatch hypothesis." (here) The mismatch hypothesis "postulate[s] that very large preferences--racial or of any other kind--may undermine student learning, because professors tend to teach to the middle of their class, and students far below the middle will have trouble keeping up and advancing as concepts build day by day."
There has been a great deal of criticism of Sander's hypothesis. However, I would like to approach it from a different angle: regardless of whether Sander is correct, can law schools overcome the seeming disadvantages that students admitted through affirmative action display by adopting new teaching techniques? I believe that the answer to this question is yes.
There has a great deal of criticism of law schools' approach to legal education, particularly the Socratic method, the case book approach, and the paucity of practical experiences. While many disagree, I find these criticisms devastating. Law schools are using a nineteenth-century approach to solve a twenty-first-century problem. Even the philosophical basis of the Langdellian method has been thoroughly refuted. (here)
A recent study has demonstrated that smaller classes, personal attention, active learning, and frequent formative assessment can eliminate the gender gap in g.p.a. for law school graduates. While I know of no similar study in the law concerning minorities, studies in other fields show that new approaches to teaching, particularly the use of active learning and developing a growth mindset, help at risk students perform better. (e.g., Daniel T. Willingham, Why Students Don't Like School Ch. 8 (2009), here, here, here, here, here) For example, a "recent study, focusing on different sections of an introductory biology class at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found that active learning is particularly beneficial to African-American students and first-generation college students. All students' test scores combined rose more than three points in classes structured around active learning, but African-American and first-generation students in active-learning classes saw scores rise more than six points." (here)
If law schools are going to admit students through affirmative action programs, they have the responsibility to make sure that those students succeed. They should not be thrown into the pool to sink or swim. As the old saying goes "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." Affirmative action programs without more effective approaches to teaching are liking giving a man a fish. Law schools need to teach men and women to fish so that they can succeed as lawyers.
It is called, appropriately enough, The Practice, and is intended to bring together under one roof academic research and practical advice for legal practitioners including everyone from newly minted lawyers to BigLaw partners. The magazine will offer thoughtful analysis and perspectives on the legal profession for a global audience based on Center on the Legal Profession’s groundbreaking empirical research. More specifically, the magazine will address the following subject matter and topics:
- Research: What does academic research reveals about the best ways to practice law today? Get original research from the Center on the Legal Profession, plus reports from the journals tailored to your practice.
- Commentary: What are leading legal academics and professionals saying about the changing legal profession? In each issue, receive insights from the top legal practitioners and thinkers in the world.
- Perspective: What major trends will be affecting your firm over the next year, five years, or 10 years? How are legal services evolving as a profession—and as a business?
- Analysis: How do U.S. and worldwide trends in the legal industry affect you, whether you’re a newly minted associate or a partner looking to ensure a legacy? What can you expect from changing global regulation in coming years?
- Practice: How can law practices and professionals navigate change and elevate their practice? Each issue offers benefits like tips from top practitioners and “The Takeaway”—the bottom line on what the broad trends analyzed in each issue mean for your practice and clients.
This looks like it's going to be an especially helpful publication for those teaching legal skills to keep up with the times and latest practice trends. The inaugural issue is available for free here. Thereafter individual subscriptions to the bimonthly magazine will be $195 per year (institutional subscriptions will also be available).
Hat tip to Robert Ambrogi's always excellent and informative LawSites blog.
From msn news:
Oxford Dictionaries picked "vape" - the act of smoking an e-cigarette - as their new word of the year on Tuesday, with the affectionate "bae" and the more pragmatic "contactless" as runners-up.
"Vaping has gone mainstream," with usage doubling in 2014 compared to 2013, editorial director Judy Pearsall said.
"The language usage of the word vape and related terms in 2014 has shown a marked increase" due to celebrities "vaping" and "growing public debate on the public dangers and the need for regulation", she said.
The word, which was first used in the 1980s, can be employed as a verb to mean inhaling and exhaling the vapour produced by electronic cigarettes but also as a noun to refer to the devices themselves.
You can read more here. Oh, am I out of touch. I have never heard of “vape” or “bae” until now.
From the Columbus Dispatch:
Five more universities around Ohio are receiving bomb-sniffing dogs as officials expand a state program that makes more of those canines available for safety needs on and off campuses.
The University of Toledo, Kent State University, Ohio University and Central State University are each getting a dog trained to detect explosives. Rex, the German Shepherd going to Cleveland State University, will receive extra training to be part of general patrol operations, according to Ohio Homeland Security.
You can read more here And at my school, we can’t get permission to bring in well-trained dogs to comfort the students during exam time.
Barbara Glesner Fines has written an excellent article on using learning outcomes in professional responsibility class.