Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Law Students and Attachment Disorder

In a lengthy posting on Law Crossing, Harrison Barnes offers a valuable discussion of attachment disorder and relates it to an attorney’s success on the job:

What is so significant about this is that your career and the success you have had may be the product of unconscious ways that you have developed for dealing with work.  Your ability to deal with supervisors, coworkers, and others may all come from the sense of “grounding” that you received from your main caregiver when you were younger.  More contemporaneously—and something I have not seen examined in the academic literature–your current success at work may come from the “grounding” you have received from mentors, supervisors, and others.  Just as early attachment disorders can affect our success and failure at work, so too can attachments we develop with mentors, supervisors, and others during our early career.

You can read more here.

I suspect that this problem applies to law students. Students need mentors—us. Some students are very good at finding mentors. Some are not. And if the school assigns them mentors, it may make an inappropriate match. It’s up to us to find the students who need us and form attachments with them.


March 31, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Point-counterpoint on proposed word limit for federal appellate briefs

As you may know, there's a proposed rule change to limit federal appellate briefs to 12,500 words (from 14,000).  The National Law Journal has a point-counterpoint style post on the proposed rule change featuring opinions from several legal luminaries like 7th Circuit Judge Easterbrook and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr. Check it out here.


March 31, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Scott Fruehwald Method of Slow Reading

When I was in college, many people were into speed reading, such as the Evelyn Wood Method of Speed Reading.  The idea behind these approaches was to skip over unnecessary words like articles, prepositions, adjectives, and adverbs that slowed down reading.  The advocates of these approaches claimed that not only would one read faster, but the reader's comprehension would increase.

Recent discoveries in how the brain learns demonstrates that we need to slow down our reading, not speed it up, to attain greater comprehension.  Here are some of the techniques one can use to remember and understand a text better:

1) A reader should think about the text before reading it.  What is my purpose in reading this text?  What is its context?  What is my reading strategy?

2) Before you read the text in depth, skim it to get a sense of what it is about.

3) Don't multi-task while reading.  Multi-tasking takes your attention away from the text.

4) You should read and understand every word and how words, sentences, and paragraphs fit together.  You should be prepared to shift between larger and smaller concepts to check the consistency of the big picture you are creating.

5) Be an active reader.  As you read, reflect on the text and challenge the text.  Interpret the text, make inferences, read between the lines.

6) Monitor your progress.  If you don’t understand something, read a passage again or go back to an earlier passage for context.  Consider how well you are thinking about the material (internal feedback).

7) When reading a case, evaluate the case as you are reading it.  Think about the structure of the case.  Is the judge discussing the facts, the reasoning, or the outcome?  What type of legal reasoning is the judge using?  Talk back to the text.  Question the case’s reasoning and outcome and think about alternative reasoning and outcomes.  Draw inferences from the text.  Write down your questions and comments.

8) After you have finished reading reflect on what you have read.  Critically reflect on what you’ve read and consider the implications of the text.  Did you fully understand the text?  (If not, read it again.)  Did it take longer to read the text than it should have?  If so, why?  Did you have enough context before you read the text?  How did your reading strategy work?  What did you get from the reading, and how does this relate to your prior knowledge?  (You can even write this down.)  How did you feel after you read the text?  Did you feel better because you learned something?  Concerning implications of the reading, can you improve your reading process, such as improving your reading strategy?  If you read a case, how did the case change your concept of the area of the law?  How can the case apply to different sets of facts (hypothesizing)?

For more details on "slow reading," see E. Scott Fruehwald, Think Like a Lawyer: Legal Reasoning for Law Students and Business Professionals, Ch. 2 (2013).

(Scott Fruehwald)

March 31, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Widener to Split into Two Law Schools

The ABA has approved the split. From the Philadelphia Business Journal:

The law school has long had campuses in Harrisburg, Pa. and Wilmington, Del. They will now operate independently of each other and be led by separate deans, but remain part of the university.

Rod Smolla will serve as dean of Widener University Delaware Law School, the name for the school in Wilmington. And Christian A. Johnson will be dean of Widener University Commonwealth Law School, the name for the school in Harrisburg.

The name and status changes will take effect July 1, when both deans begin their tenures. New websites for the schools debuted today at harrisburglaw.widener.edu and delawarelaw.widener.edu.

You can read more here. I wish my neighboring schools and my faculty friends well and hope they can surmount the financial challenges that I think they will encounter.


March 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Students Transferring In and Out of Law School

Law schools now report to the ABA statistics on significant student transfers in and out of their institutions.

 For this past year, the schools losing the most students to transfers (in no particular order) are Concordia, Charleston, Ave Maria, Atlanta’s John Marshall, American, Touro, Catholic, Mercer, Arizona Summit, and Whittier. The schools gaining the most transfer students (in no particular order) are Idaho, Arizona State, Emory, Berkeley, George Washington, Washington University, Georgetown, Minnesota, and U.S.C.

By far, Georgetown and George Washington garner the most transfer students. Their generous acceptance of transfers most likely accounts for the losses suffered by American and Catholic.

To read about transfers and the underlying issues, please click here (The National Jurist).


March 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Legal Education Conference at Arizona Summit

"Creating Excellence in Learning and Teaching for Today's Law Students" October 2-3, 2015, Phoenix, AZ. ABSTRACTS DUE: July 15, 2015.

More information: Conference Chair, Dr. Marren Sanders, at ASLSConference@azsummitlaw.edu

(Scott Fruehwald)

March 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Announcing the 2015 Legal Writing Institute Writers Workshop


 We are pleased to announce the twelfth Legal Writing Institute Writers Workshop to take place on July 24-July 26, 2015. The workshop will give up to twelve Legal Writing faculty the opportunity to spend time working on their academic writing projects and improving their scholarly skills.

 The Workshop will take place at the Port Ludlow Resort in Port Ludlow, Washington http://www.portludlowresort.com/inn . It will take place immediately after the Legal Writing Institute Storytelling Conference. The Workshop concludes on Sunday morning, July 26. The LWI conference begins that afternoon.

 Who is Eligible to Attend?

 All members of the Legal Writing Institute are eligible. You must have a scholarly writing project well underway and beyond the initial stages of performing the initial research and drafting a tentative outline. You must at least have some sort of partial draft. To be clear, we expect you to arrive with a substantial work product. In most cases, a scholarly writing project should result in a law review article.

 Although all LWI members are encouraged to apply, we are limited to 12 participants. We give priority to full time Legal Writing faculty for whom scholarly writing is a prerequisite for retention, promotion, or tenure. We give priority to applicants who have not attended past Workshops.

  What Will We Do at the Workshop?

 Participants make presentations on their projects to small groups of three and receive feedback. Each session runs about ninety minutes. They also take part in several guided discussion groups, each on a different topic. Participants will also have time to work on their drafts.

  Will There Be Facilitators?

 Yes, experienced scholarly writers: Deborah Gordon (Drexel), Steve Johansen (Lewis & Clark), and Chris Rideout (Seattle).

  Where Will the Workshop Be?

 The workshop will take place at the Port Ludlow Resort, the site of the first Writers Workshop, a fabulous location. http://www.portludlowresort.com/inn

  Who Pays?

 This year, participants will pay a $300 registration. LWI will cover all meals, beginning with lunch on July 24 and ending with breakfast on July 26 (day time snacks included), and ground transportation between Seattle and Port Ludlow. 

 If I Have Questions, Whom Should I Ask?

  Please contact Lou Sirico at (610) 519 7071 Sirico@law.villanova.edu.

  How Do I Apply?

 Please fill out the following application and submit it by email by noon, Monday, April 13. Sirico@law.villanova.edu We will select participants as quickly as we can and on a rolling basis.


 Please return this application by email to Lou Sirico:Sirico@law.villanova.edu



 Law School Affiliation:


 Mailing Address:


 Email Address:


 Telephone Number:


 Are You a Full Time Faculty Member?


 For How Many Years Have You Been Teaching Legal Writing?


 Is Scholarship a Requirement for Your Retention, Promotion, or Tenure? Please Explain Your Individual Situation.


 Please describe your writing project and, in as much detail as possible. Please describe  how far along you are in completing your project. For example, do you have a detailed outline, a first draft, substantial parts of a first draft? Please estimate how far along you will be by mid July 2015.


Is there anything else you want to tell us?


Louis J. Sirico, Jr.

Professor of Law

Director of Legal Writing

Villanova University School of Law

299 North Spring Mill Road

Villanova, PA 19085




fax: 610.519.6837




March 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top 150 Midsized Firms

Vault has compiled a list of the top 150 firms with fewer than 150 attorneys “but no less expertise, than the global megafirms that often dominate rankings and headlines.” Here is the list.


March 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tips for Successful Student Projects

These tips come from “Work in Progress" and are designed for K-12 teachers. They are helpful for us as well.

  1. After you write an assignment, always do it before you ask the kids to do it or at least a modified version. This way you can really see where they might stumble or meet challenges and you'll have a sample to show them before you start.
  2. Make sure objectives are clear, in a way they can understand. Consider having this labeled on the sheet prominently at the top of the page.
  3. Provide guidelines but not proscriptive steps that don't allow for student interpretation or creativity
  4. Distribute the assignment sheet with success criteria prior to when you go over it - then make sure to go over the assignment in class with the students leaving time for student questions. It helps to have students annotate the assignment to ask questions. Also ask them to write down in their own words what they are being asked to do and share that out to a partner and some to the class.
  5. If possible have students go over the standards addressed (or skills) to make sure they know why they are doing this assignment. That should be clear. How does it apply to their learning and why does it matter? What will it help them do?
  6. If students have done the assignment in the past provide student exemplars, but make sure adjustments have been made so they can't copy what they see.
  7. Always ask students to reflect at the end of an assignment about their process and learning. This is especially important if they worked in a group. This allows you to differentiate what individual students contributed and what they know and can do now. Never grade a product the same for all students; there are no assurances that every child learned or can demonstrate what the product shows. The reflection helps. Perhaps try an oral presentation to go with it as well.
  8. Provide time in class where possible to do work on the assignment independently or with the group. This way you can meet with students while they work and provide feedback as needed along the way.
  9. Always have some element or elements of the project that allows for student choice. Whether it is in how they do the assignment, the kind of product or the content. Be flexible. Allow for negotiations. . . . .
  10. Make sure all projects offer differentiation opportunities for the strengths of every child. Every student should have the opportunity to experience success . . . .



March 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

"Cracking the Nut – Building a Clinical Pedagogy of Externship"

This is a new article by Professor Elizabeth Ford (Seattle) and is pending publication in the Clinical Law Review (Fall 2015) but can be downloaded in the meantime from SSRN here.  

From the abstract:

Externships offer a tantalizing experiential option for law schools. Students are hungry for the real-world experience, the networking potential, and the chance to take the skills they have learned in the classroom to the next level. Administrators love externships because of their high enrollment, low cost nature: externships leverage small amounts of resources from hundreds of outside organizations. Faculty appreciate these programs because they provide students with context and skills, inspire them in the doctrinal classroom, and require little diversion of resources from the more traditional faculty ranks.


However, the danger of grasping too tightly to externships as the experiential solution is the temptation to avoid thinking carefully about connecting the external experience to the doctrinal and skills training that law schools are charged to deliver. It is possible to leverage students’ real world excitement into deeper reflection and enhanced skills, but it requires us to confront the black hole of most externship programs: the seminar.


While it is tempting, we are not free to abandon the externship seminar altogether; indeed I will argue that we have heightened obligations under the American Bar Association’s Standards to be more attentive to rigor and assessment in the externship context. Yet, well-established models from either doctrinal or clinical courses are poor fits for externship seminars, in which enrolled students are working at many different sites and constrained by confidentiality. So, we need a unique pedagogy of externship; that is what this article proposes.


The Legal Skills Learning Taxonomy – based on Bloom’s taxonomy in the psychomotor domain – describes the competencies that mark a student’s legal skills development. Students engaged in different substantive work can use this tool to assess their initial proficiency, set meaningful and aggressive goals, reflect on their performance feedback, target their learning in the seminar and develop a depiction of their own progress by the end of the semester.


March 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act: An Opening for Discrimination?

On Thursday, Indiana's governor, Mike Pence, signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Almost immediately, opponents attacked the bill as a way to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

According to the Indianapolis Star, "Senate Bill 101 prohibits state or local governments from substantially burdening a person's ability to exercise their religion — unless the government can show that it has a compelling interest and that the action is the least-restrictive means of achieving it. It takes effect July 1.

Although the bill does not mention sexual orientation, opponents fear it could allow business owners to deny services to gays and lesbians for religious reasons."

"This bill is not about discrimination," Pence said, "and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it."

While nineteen other states have passed similar bills, this one is particular troubling because of the groups that lobbied for the passage of the bill. "Three of the lobbyists who pushed hardest for last year's gay marriage ban — Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana, Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute and Eric Miller of Advance America — were among the 70 to 80 guests invited to the private bill signing."

The American Family Association of Indiana is a group whose mission is lobbying against same-sex marriage.  (here)  Their website declares that "The American Family Association of Indiana is the state’s premiere decency organization."  They have opposed requiring a florist to provide flowers for a gay wedding.  They link to a website, The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), "a professional, scientific organization that offers therapeutic assistance to those who struggle with unwanted homosexuality."

According to the Advance America website: "SB 101 will help protect individuals, Christian businesses and churches from those supporting homosexual marriages and those supporting government recognition and approval of gender identity (male cross-dressers).

Here are just 3 examples:

  • Christian bakers, florists and photographers should not be punished for refusing to participate in a homosexual marriage!
  • Christian business should not be punished for refusing to allow a man to use the women’s restroom!
  • church should not be punished because they refuse to let the church be used for a homosexual wedding!" (emphasis in original)

You can find the Indiana Family Institute here.

At this point, we do not know how the Indiana courts will interpret this act.  However, the nation needs to monitor how groups in Indiana use this bill.  Of course, a state statute cannot override the 14th amendment, but it can take many years for a case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court  and much damage can be done in the meantime.

(Scott Fruehwald)

You can find the full text of the statute here.

March 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Barbara Tuchman on Writing

In a recent article in the Missouri Bar Association’s publication, “Precedent,” Professor Douglas Abrams discusses five rules on writing that noted historian Barbara Tuchman offered. Here are Tuchman’s rules:

1. “The most important thing about research is to know when to stop. . . . One must stop before one has finished; otherwise, one will never stop and never finish. . . . I . . . feel compelled to follow every lead and learn everything about a subject, but fortunately I have even more overwhelming compulsion to see my work in print.”

2. “The writer . . . must do the preliminary work for the reader, as­semble the information, make sense of it, select the essential, discard the irrelevant . . . . What it requires is sim­ply the courage and self-confidence to make choices and, above all, to leave things out.”  

 3. Words are seductive and dangerous material, to be used with caution. . . . “[C]areless use of words can leave a false impression one had not intended

 4. “[S]hort words are always preferable to long ones; the fewer syl­lables the better, and monosyllables, beautiful and pure . . ., are the best of all.”

  5. “[I]t is a pleasure to achieve, if one can, a clear running prose . . . . This does not just happen. It requires skill, hard work. . . . It is laborious, slow, often painful, sometimes agony. It means rearrangement, revision, add­ing, cutting, rewriting.”

 The full article is worth reading (here) as is Professor Abrams’ earlier article on Tuchman and writing (here).


March 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 27, 2015

150 Often Misspelled Words

Here they are, from Your Dictionary. Here are a few examples:

  • parallel - You have to have at least two things in order for them to be parallel, and if you’re confused as to whether the double [l] comes in the middle or at the end of the word, just remember that inside the word “parallel” is the word “all,” and all lines or planes that have the same distance between them continuously are parallel.
  • parliament - This word comes from the Old French word meaning ‘speaking.’ You can remember that it has an [i] in it because in the parliament, everyone says, “I have something to say.”
  • particular - It starts out just like “particle,” and then after the [c], the [u] just says its name, and the -lar is spelled exactly as it sounds.
  • peninsula - Spelled exactly as it sounds. No tricks, no extra letters.
  • Pharaoh - This guy, on the other hand, has all kinds of tricks up his sleeve. Ph- for the /f/ sound, a superfluous [a] stuck in there, and a silent [h] on the end. Maybe Moses should have said, “Hey Pharaoh, let all those extra letters go.”
  • physical - What did you think the [p] in P.E. was for? (Hint: It stands for Physical Education.) Not that dodgeball is all that educational.


March 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Friday Fun" - Vote for your favorite diorama in the ABA Journal's annual "peeps in law" contest

It's that time of year again. Easter's just around the corner - which also happens the deadline for voting in this year's "peeps in law" contest.  Check out the rules here and go here to see the slideshow of all the dioramas competing for your votes (which you can cast here).


"The Boston Peep Party"


March 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

From Judge Painter: 30 Ways to Improve Readability

Here are the 30 ways, from emeritus Judge Mark Painter of the Ohio Court of Appeals. For each rule, he gives advice. The rules are a compact collection of methods to make legal writing understandable. If you would like 40 rules, you might consult his book, The Legal Writer: 40 Rules for the Art of Legal Writing.


March 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Quote of the Week

It is virtually impossible to become proficient at a mental task without extended practice.
                            Daniel T. Willingham

(Scott Fruehwald)

March 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Closing the 'Gap': Novice Criminal Attorneys' Perceptions on Law School Learning Experiences"

This is an article from a few years ago that was recently posted to SSRN by Professors Bryan Taylor (Concordia and Idaho) and Mary Gardiner (Idaho).  It's also available at  13 T.M. Cooley J. Prac. & Clinical L. 397 (2011). From the abstract:

This qualitative investigation examined law school learning experiences from the perspective of novice criminal law attorneys to provide information to bridge the so-called “gap” between law school and legal practice. The researchers administered a pre-interview questionnaire, engaged in face-to-face interviews, and observed participants, which provided triangulating data. A cross-case analysis was conducted with data collected from five attorneys from three law schools. The study found several major themes concerning how novice attorneys practicing criminal law viewed their law school learning experiences. Findings indicated the importance of: (a) connecting theory with practice, (b) enhancing critical communication skills for today’s global society, and (c) engaging in experiential learning. Based on these findings from student conceptions of learning, this article concludes with recommendations regarding ways to incorporate andragogical principles in law school and recommendations for further studies.


March 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

20 Ways to Keep $$ Safe While Traveling

With summer approaching, many of our readers are planning to travel. From the Trust Advisor blog, here are twenty useful tips on protecting yourself financially (here).


March 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

California is considering Limited Licensed Legal Technicians

Following the lead of Washington state, the State Bar of California has just posted for public comment a proposal to do that same thing in that state.  Both Robert Ambrogi's LawSites blog and the ABA Journal blog have the report.  Here's and excerpt from the latter:


Will California be the next state to allow legal technicians? Bar group calls for pilot program

Washington is currently the only state with a program allowing limited license legal technicians to help civil litigants prepare legal documents and provide advice on legal procedures. But bar groups in two other states are taking steps that could lead to legal technician programs in their own jurisdictions.


A task force of the Oregon State Bar issued a report last month recommending that the bar’s board of governors consider the concept of legal technicians to help increase access to justice, according to Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites. Now a California bar task force has published for comment a draft report that calls for a legal technician pilot program in one subject matter area, LawSites says.


The report by the State Bar of California’s Civil Justice Strategies Task Force says the state bar should first study design of the pilot program, addressing how oversight and licensing would be handled.

. . . . 

You can continue reading the ABA Journal blog here.


March 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Do Employers Expect of Law Students and Law Graduates?

In a survey, the researchers asked employers what documents they expected law students and law graduates to be able to write. The results:

A majority of employers expected recent graduates to be able to write the following document types with minimal supervision: office memos (93%), motions (78%), client letters(77%), pleadings (69%), discovery documents like interrogatories (69%), orders (65%), trial briefs (65%), demand letters (59%), and appellate briefs (56%).

By contrast, a majority of employers expected law students to be able to write only one document type with minimal supervision after their 1L year: the office memo (91%). After two years of law school, students were expected to master only three legal document types: office memos (90%), client letters (58%), and motions (57%).

They also asked what skills these two groups should possess. The article contains the chart. 

The gaps between expectations for law students and law grads is sometimes striking. These findings come from  Alexa Chew & Katie Rose Guest Pryal, Bridging the Gap between Law School and Law Practice (here).


March 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)