Friday, May 22, 2015

N.Y. to Adopt “Easier” Bar Exam

From Outside the Law School Scam blog:

[N.Y.] Chief Judge [Jonathan] Lippman, . . . decided to adopt a much easier bar exam. . . . Lippman's edict to adopt an easier test called the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) comes within weeks of New York's February bar exam results, which showed some of the worst pass rates for first-time test-takers ever.  Only 43% of first-time test-takers passed the February exam, which usually has a lower pass rate than July's exam...but not that much lower.

There are steps that the Judge may or may not have taken,for example, determining if the bar applicants were of weaker quality than prior applicants and examining the test to see if the questions were of the same level of difficulty as prior tests.

You can read the full blog post here.


May 22, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Financial Perks and Salaries of Some University Administrators

We learn that when Yale President Richard Levin left office, he received a lump sum pament of $8.5 million. According to IRS Form 990, he earned $1.15 million in 2013 and $1.38 million in 2012. According to the Yale Daily News: 

The “additional retirement benefit” was disclosed in the University’s latest federal tax return, filed Friday, and came to $4.4 million after taxes. According to the filing, it was calculated by multiplying 75 percent of Levin’s final presidential salary by the 20 years he served, and then subtracting the annuity value of other Yale retirement benefits.

It was structured to provide targeted income replacement in retirement, University Spokesman Tom Conroy said. The benefit reflects the “careful deliberation and judgment” of the Yale Corporation over time, he added. The body began discussing the payout in 2002, with the assistance of outside consultants.

The rationale is often used in the corporate world: “He did such a great job that we wanted to encourage him not to take other offers and to stay; so we offered him more money.” (my words). Thus the corporate mentality invades academe.

 Most professors that I know become academics because they saw value in teaching and in advancing the frontiers of knowledge and understanding. We made a willing financial sacrifice. For myself, I haven’t had a salary increase in years, and stipends for research and travel have disappeared. University executives live in a different world.

If you would like to learn who are the highest paid employees in private nonprofits (including colleges and universities, as well as the AALS), go to Guidestar (here) and fiddle around until you find the 990s. There is no charge.

As for the Yale pay out, you can read more here and here.


May 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alternative legal careers for law school grads

From National Jurist's Employment Insider:

Where to look for alternative legal jobs 


You can do just about anything with a law degree. So where do you start? If the possibilities are endless, how do you narrow them down? 


While finding an alternative legal career path takes some work — self assessment to figure out your interests, resume retooling to make your credentials credible, interview practice to sound knowledgeable — there are some fields in which J.D.’s tend to flock. 

. . . . 

  • Education
  • Finance
  • Technology/Legal Information Providers

Continue reading here.


May 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Which Supreme Court Justice Treated his Clerks the Worst?

The clear answer is Justice James C. McReynolds. See Clare Cushman, Beyond Knox: James C. McReynolds' Other Law Clerks, 1914-1941.

According to all reports, McReynolds was a difficult man. Previous to his appointment to the Court, McReynolds served as the Attorney General. Legend tells us that Wilson was disappointed in his performance and nominated him to the Court to get rid of him. He also was anti-Semitic. When Louis D. Brandeis became the first Jewish member of the Court, McReynolds would not sit next to him for the 1924 formal portrait, as protocol demanded. Thus there is no Court portrait for 1924.

McReynolds, former clerk, John Knox, wrote a memoir of his time with the Justice. It was quite unflattering (here). Clare Cushman’s article confirms that McReynolds treated all his clerks incredibly badly. You can access the article here.


May 21, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Top 10 Schools Based on LSAT Scores

The list of top 10 schools based on median LSAT scores, compared to U.S. News rank.


LSAT   Score

Tipping   the Scales Rank

Harvard University


3   (tie)

Yale University



Columbia University



Stanford University



New York University



University of Chicago



Duke University


8   (tie)

University of Pennsylvania


3   (tie)

University of Virginia



Northwestern University


8   (tie)

University of Michigan-Ann   Arbor



Source: U.S. News Thanks to Tipping the No surprises here.


May 20, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lawyers may be violating ethical duty of client confidentiality when using public wifi to send emails

From The Legal Intelligencer:

Lawyers Cannot Allow Technology to Outpace Ethics


I often take my computer or tablet to a seminar or court. I get the password for the Internet. I obviously take notes, but I also check email during the seminar. Should I be doing this?


Probably not, unless you have the ability to protect the confidentiality of your messages.


The Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, at its annual seminar April 23 and 24, presented attorney Steven Pacilio. Pacilio, who formerly was an assistant district attorney and now has his own practice, is not only a good trial lawyer but an expert on computer forensics. During the course of the seminar, he checked his computer and said he saw 31 people in the audience were looking at their email. He said he could list who they were sending emails to and read what they were saying.


He noted that he and everyone else obtained the password to the Internet from the hotel where the seminar was held. He said he could access the emails with a simple device anyone could purchase. Obviously, he didn't print anything out and he deleted everything, but the message was very clear that modern technology raises serious issues of protecting confidentiality. This example during the seminar should have enormous consequences for all lawyers and should be a wakeup call. Every lawyer knows they have an absolute duty of confidentiality under Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6. A lawyer cannot stick his head in the sand and ignore the obvious when his use of modern technology in the practice of law is not protecting confidentiality, as seen during the seminar.


The Rules of Professional Conduct have been changed to require protection of confidentiality and require a lawyer to have knowledge in the area of technology.


. . . . 

Continue reading here.


May 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Informational Interview: Questions to Ask

To learn more about the practice of law and the realities of the different fields of law, informational interviews with practitioners are of great help. The Girls Guide to Law School suggest these questions for students to ask :

  • How did you end up working in this field?
  • What do you do at your job on an average day?
  • How do you like your work? What do you like about it? What do you dislike about it?
  • How does your day-to-day work differ from what you thought you’d be doing when you chose this field?
  • What skills are required to be good at your job?
  • Would you recommend your field to someone like me who’s considering it? What do you think are the good aspects? The bad aspects?
  • What sort of person do you think excels in this field?
  • If I’m interested in entering this field, what steps should I take?
  • Is  there anything else you think I should know that I haven’t asked about?
  • Is there anyone else you think I should talk to in order to find out more about this field?

You can read more here.



May 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 18, 2015

The National Law Journal's special report on law clinics

Today's edition of the National Law Journal includes a special section reporting on how law clinics are hitting their stride in an era when legal educators are so focused on practical skills training. (Each link is a separate report) 

Law Schools: This is the Moment — for Clinics

Law school clinics are having a moment. They have become an increasingly important part of the law school curriculum during the past five years, as schools faced pressure to provide students with practical, hands-on experience. In this special report, we highlight six law school clinics taking new approaches to student learning, breaking into new areas of the law or that have impressive track records of success.

Continue reading here.


May 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

UMass Law Cuts Enrollment by One-Third

Signs of the Times:

The University of Massachusetts School of Law has a mounting deficit, which hit $3.8 million last fiscal year, a gap expected to widen next year. UMass Dartmouth is picking up the bill for now, that school said.

The law school for now has scrapped plans to increase enrollment and instead decided to cut the size of its incoming class by a third, to 72 students. In addition, the school is not fully accredited by the American Bar Association, a generally accepted stamp of approval in the field.

You can read more here in the Boston Globe.


May 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

10th Circuit Criticizes Brief for Developing "No Pertinent Issues”

The 10th Circuit has denied an appeal in an employment case, because, it found, that NO issue in the brief was adequately developed. The brief was not a pro se effort. The court noted a one-sentence paragraph touching on an issue:

“The nexus in time between [plaintiff-appellant Nixon’s] testimony and media statements before the Civil Services Commission and the continuing [City] prosecution, attempting to support their unconstitutional actions against [Nixon] in their [state-court] action demonstrates [the City’s] retaliation against [Nixon] for exercising his First Amendment rights by speaking in a public forum[.]”

 According to the court: “We have no obligation to address the point because the

sentence fails to satisfy minimal standards for intelligibility that we must require from

lawyers, it is misleadingly placed under a heading for a different issue, and the brief

does not even say that the sentence is intended as a response to a ruling by the district

court or an argument by the City.”

You can read the opinion for yourself here.


May 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Pedagogy of Problem Solving: Applying Cognitive Science to Teaching Legal Problem Solving

The Pedagogy of Problem Solving: Applying Cognitive Science to Teaching Legal Problem Solving by Larry O. Natt Gantt, II.


"In order to analyze how law schools can best teach legal problem solving, this Article draws upon the volumes of research in cognitive and educational psychology on problem solving and upon the hundreds of student evaluations since 2002 of Regent University School of Law's Summer Academic Success Program and Academic Orientation. This Article operates from the assumption that legal education is, at least in significant part, about teaching students how to solve legal problems. From this assumption, this Article first considers the research on how problem solving skills can be taught in a way that enables students to transfer the skills to other contexts. This Article specifically looks at law school and undergraduate studies that support the contextualized teaching of problem solving skills. This Article next considers the extent to which problem solving instruction hinges on students' doctrinal knowledge. In the analysis, it discusses studies that suggest that legal educators must provide students with a firm foundation in doctrinal knowledge, also called "domain knowledge," before those students can most effectively learn problem solving skills. This Article then considers the role "deliberate practice" should play in teaching legal problem solving. This Article examines how legal education can provide students with such practice opportunities and, in turn, increase their self-regulation in the learning process. Finally, this Article recognizes that, unless hours are added to law school curricular requirements, increases in effective problem solving instruction will most likely result in decreases in doctrinal content coverage. This Article therefore concludes by discussing options for curricular change and by suggesting considerations for legal educators as they seek to find the appropriate balance between doctrinal content coverage and problem solving instruction."

May 18, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Was Law School Worth It?

At Attorney at Work, we read the answers of five lawyers who have pursued various careers. Here are excerpts from each.

There is a singular and grossly misinformed idea that once you get a law license, failing to use it strictly to practice law means that the degree has no value or you somehow didn’t live up to the value of the degree. But this is a false and limiting belief. A law degree is as valuable as you make it. I chose to use it multiple ways: to practice law and also as a stepping stone to what I will most likely be doing for the rest of my career  helping other attorneys create and build their own solo and small firm practices through the Solo Practice University platform. At the end of the day, I would not have been able to do any of it without my law degree.

My law degree has been extremely valuable to me. What’s most valuable to me, however, is how that law degree enabled me to get in the door at two top international law firms and secure a clerkship with a Superior Court judge in Washington, D.C. It allowed me to get the practical experience that jump-started my career.

The value of a law degree is often determined in relation to what it can get practicing lawyers. It can be very tangible and measurable: A clerkship. A BigLaw job. A high salary. A career path.

Or more intangible: Stature. Ego. Self-worth. Exclusivity.

When we leave the law behind and stop practicing, the value of a law degree in the non-lawyer world may be no less important. But the value can just be a bit more difficult for us to ascertain.

When I decided to leave my law partnership and change professions, I had to convince someone else to hire me. The persuasive skills I had developed as a litigator helped me make the arguments, for example, that what I had done as a lawyer would be relevant and useful in my next role. I did this twice  first to become the executive director of an angel-investor group and then to become a tenure-track professor, which is my dream job. When I interviewed with the angel-investor group, for example, I explained that my experience working closely with corporate counsel at some of the world’s largest companies had given me the confidence and comfort I needed to work with wealthy and powerful investors. It wasn’t entirely true, but I am a strong believer in faking it until you make it.

What I’ve learned from time, my experience and the experiences of others I’ve observed over the years and interviewed for JDCOT [JD Careers Out There] is that, if you’re going to pursue a nontraditional path with your J.D., then the degree may hurt you more than help you at the beginning of your career. But once you can combine some professional experience with your special skill set from law school and let people know what you bring to the table, doors will open and you will excel. Then, like me and so many others, you can go from frustration and wishing you’d never gone to law school, to being glad you did as you reap the benefits.

You can read their full responses here.


May 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (1)

New York Times: "Welcome to Your First Year as a Lawyer. Your Salary Is $160,000"

The New York Times DealB%k reporting on how the percentage of law firms offering top-of-the-market starting salaries has increased since last year to 39% though it is still well below the pre-recession figure when nearly two-thirds of the top firms offered starting salaries of $160K. 

Welcome to Your First Year as a Lawyer. Your Salary Is $160,000.


Salaries for lawyers starting out at firms have remained flat, with an annual pay of $160,000 continuing to be the top of the market, according to a new survey from the National Association for Law Placement.


Some 39 percent of the largest firms — those with 700 lawyers or more — reported paying that amount in the association’s 2015 law associates’ salary survey. This was up from last year, when only 27 percent of the big firms reported paying their new legal hires at the uppermost level.


But the percentage was still below 2009, when nearly two-thirds of the first-year salaries were at the top point of $160,000.


The reason is not that individual firms are paying less, said James G. Leipold, executive director of National Association for Law Placement, but “as more law firms have grown through acquisition and merger, the largest law firms are not as similar to one another as they used to be.”


Mr. Leipold added that there were many firms with more than 700 lawyers that have many smaller regional offices, many of which don’t pay the benchmark first-year salary of $160,000. As a result, he added, “a larger percentage of large law firm starting salaries fall below that mark.”


There are certainly exceptions, with some first-year associates making more than the $160,000 figure. But, for the most part, the ceiling seems to have been stuck at that amount since 2007, when some law firms began to increase starting salaries — a practice that soon began to wane as the economy turned down.


“The simple story is that $160,000 as a starting salary at large law firms is less prevalent than it was immediately prior to the recession,” Mr. Leipold explained. “At large law firms, starting salaries of $145,000 and $135,000, and even $110,000 are common in some markets, though $160,000 is still the dominant or modal salary in large markets.”

. . . .

Continue reading here.


May 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Teaching Methods of Transformative Teachers

Transformative teachers work to ensure that students from all backgrounds succeed in law school. A recent article offers an empirical study of what students and transformative teachers do well. Sean Darling-Hammond & Kristen Holmquist, Creating Wise Classrooms to Empower Diverse Law Students: Lessons in Pedagogy from Transformative Law Professors, 25 Berkeley La Raza Law Journal 1 (2015).

   Here are ten core themes that transformative teachers identify as keys to successful teaching.

 1. Use E&E. Approach teaching with a sense of Empathy and Enthusiasm. Aim to understand the student experience, and inspire passion.

2. Communicate high expectations while creating safe classroom environments.

3. Provide context for comprehension. Assume intelligence of every student, but never assume prior experience or legal skills.

4. Give the material structure to make it stick. Structure the semester around a narrative arc or web of related themes or techniques and be transparent about how concepts fit together.

5. Get feedback. Use tools like clickers, breakouts, office hours, and mid-semester evaluations to understand and adapt to your students’ progress and needs.

6. Give feedback. Provide assessment opportunities throughout the semester to help students learn and self-correct.

7. Get practical. Provide opportunities for students to learn practical and academic skills by assigning and reviewing briefs and motions and by reviewing practice exams in class and outlines during office hours.

8. Use the Socratic method to teach, not intimidate. Create an environment where compassionate cold calling is the norm.

9. Modernize. Transcend classical cases and embrace discussions about the modern political and social phenomena that attracted many students to law school.

10. Learn from fellow professors as much as possible.

 The article offers considerably more information. You can access it here.




May 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday Fun: "Ich bin ein Berliner"

This weekend I'm blogging from my hotel room in the former East Berlin where for the moment I, too, am a Berliner.



May 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pace Law School cuts faculty salary and eliminates most sabbaticals and research stipends

From the Wall Street Journal Law Blow (via Brian Leiter's Law School Reports Blog):

After Slashing Tuition, Pace Law Slashes Faculty Pay

Last time we checked in with Pace University Law School in New York it was to report about its move to gin up more applicants: a tuition-matching program geared toward out-of-state students that in some cases knocks off more than half the price of a degree.


It wasn’t an easy decision for Pace. Like many schools struggling to fill seats, its problem isn’t simply an admissions one but also fiscal. A lower sticker price mean less operating cash, at least in the short term. And for Pace that meant its tuition sale required a painful trade-off, the details of which have just emerged.


Pace’s dean, David Yassky, has informed its faculty and staff that they’re going to have to take a pay cut. As Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports blog reports, the school is cutting professor salaries by 10% and eliminating most sabbaticals and research stipends. Law school staff are getting a 5% salary cut.


“Like virtually all law schools, we have fewer students enrolled and we’re spending a great deal more on financial aid to keep education affordable,” Mr. Yassky, a former New York City Councilman and city taxi commissioner told Law Blog on Thursday. “To keep that sustainable and to keep our education program strong, we have to reduce spending on faculty.”


. . . .

Continue reading here.


May 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Rhetoric Lesson: “Evolve”

On March 15, the New York Times published an Article entitled, “You and I Change Our Minds. Politicians ‘Evolve.’” Thus, Senator Rand Paul does not exhort his party to reverse its stand on immigration; he calls on it to evolve on immigration. (not my questionable phrasing; blame the Times.) President Obama’s views on same sex marriage have not changed. They have evolved.

Good lesson in the power of well chosen words. You can find the article here.


May 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dissecting and Revising a Complicated Sentence

In Litigation, the magazine of the ABA Litigation Section, George Gopen offered this incomprehensible sentence: 

Similarly, in Weaver, the D.C. Court of Appeals held that the

qualifying word "estimate" used in conjunction with the

stipulations and conditions that the quantities were "to be used

to canvass bids" and "not to be the basis for any payment by the

ultimate consumer of the products" and that payments would be

made "only for actual quantities of work completed,"

transformed the contract into a requirements contract.

He then carefully analyzed its failings and offered his revised version. You can access his analysis and revision here.


May 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"What Makes Lawyers Happy?: A Data-Driven Prescription to Redefine Professional Success"

This is a new study by Professors Lawrence Krieger (Florida State) and Kennon Sheldon (U Missouri-Columbia) and available at 83 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 554 (2015). From the abstract: 

This is the first theory-guided empirical research seeking to identify the correlates and contributors to the well-being and life satisfaction of lawyers. Data from several thousand lawyers in four states provide insights about diverse factors from law school and one's legal career and personal life. Striking patterns appear repeatedly in the data and raise serious questions about the common priorities on law school campuses and among lawyers. External factors, which are often given the most attention and concern among law students and lawyers (factors oriented towards money and status — such as earnings, partnership in a law firm, law school debt, class rank, law review membership, and U.S. News & World Report's law school rankings), showed nil to small associations with lawyer well-being. Conversely, the kinds of internal and psychological factors shown in previous research to erode in law school appear in these data to be the most important contributors to lawyers’ happiness and satisfaction. These factors constitute the first two of five tiers of well-being factors identified in the data, followed by choices regarding family and personal life. The external money and status factors constitute the fourth tier, and demographic differences were least important.

Data on lawyers in different practice types and settings demonstrate the applied importance of the contrasting internal and external factors. Attorneys in large firms and other prestigious positions were not as happy as public service attorneys, despite the far better grades and pay of the former group; and junior partners in law firms were no happier than senior associates, despite the greatly enhanced pay and status of the partners. Overall, the data also demonstrate that lawyers are very much like other people, notwithstanding their specialized cognitive training and the common perception that lawyers are different from others in fundamental ways.

Additional measures raised concerns. Subjects did not broadly agree that the behavior of judges and lawyers is professional, or that the legal process reaches fair outcomes; and subjects reported quite unrealistic earnings expectations for their careers when they entered law school. Implications for improving lawyer performance and professionalism, and recommendations for law teachers and legal employers, are drawn from the data. 


May 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Perils of Empirical Interdisciplinary Scholarship

Lynn Lo Pucki has written an important article pointing out the downside of overemphasizing the methodologies of empirical work at the expense of legal scholarship. “Disciplining Legal Scholarship” 90 Tulane Law Review 1 (2015) (forthcoming).

American law schools are hiring large proportions of J.D.-Ph.D.s in tenure-track faculty positions in an effort to increase the quantity and quality of empirical legal scholarship. That effort is failing. The new recruits bring methods and objectives unsuited to law. They produce lower-than-predicted levels of empiricism because they compete on the basis of methodological sophistication, devote time and resources to disputes over arcane issues in statistics and methodology, prefer to collaborate with other Ph.D.s, and intimidate empiricists whose work does not require high levels of methodological sophistication. In short, Ph.D.s impose the cultures of their disciplines on legal scholarship.

Importing people rather than ideas from other disciplines threatens the role of legal scholarship as a disciplinary meeting ground. The risk is that substituting disciplinary scholars for legal scholars will substitute disciplinary scholarship for the interdisciplinary scholarship currently prevalent in law. One scenario by which that might occur is for Ph.D.-hiring to become ubiquitous, for the disciplines to divide the fields of law among them, and for peer review to eliminate legal scholarship that fails to meet disciplinary requirements.

My vision is one in which empiricism is distinguished from statistics, methodological sophistication is valued only as a means of discovery, and all legal scholars feel free to report empirical findings. Two changes are central to achieving that vision. The first – already implemented in some schools – is to provide empirical legal scholars with assistance from non-tenure-track faculty statisticians. Doing so will relieve the pressure on law faculties to acquire statistical expertise by hiring Ph.D.s in tenure-track positions. The second is to build a culture in the law schools that values empirical discovery and the advancement of knowledge over methodological sophistication.

You can read the article here


May 13, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)