Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Paralegal Forges Judges’ Names on 117 Court Orders

From the ABA Journal:

A paralegal at a New York personal injury firm was having trouble keeping up with his work, which involved sales of structured settlements. So he forged the signatures of 76 judges on 117 court orders, between June 2011 and October 2013, prosecutors say.

Charged with 117 counts of forgery and possession of a forged instrument, Thomas Rubino, 42, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in the Manhattan case, reports the New York Law Journal (sub. req.). The New York Post also has a story.

However, the government says Rubino admitted responsibility in earlier conversations with investigators. He said the law firm, Paris & Chaikin, knew nothing about the forgeries.

“Each year, the workload increased and I had difficulty keeping up,” Rubino allegedly said. “I made the forged orders when I felt overwhelmed with work. I was motivated out of fear that the work wouldn’t get done.”

You can read more here.

I guess the lesson is closely supervise those who work for you and don’t overburden them with work.


September 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bloomberg Law asks legal employers: "Are the worst days behind us?"

In this short video Bloomberg Law asks some law firm leaders and general counsel whether the legal profession has put its worst days behind it. The consensus among those interviewed is that there's still plenty of opportunity for growth if law firms are creative and willing to adapt. But if not, you may be screwed.   


September 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

MacArthur Genius Grants for 2016

From The Atlantic, here are mini bios of the 24 new grant recipients. I don’t see any lawyers or law professors among them.


September 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top Ten Lists on the Supreme Court

Who are the most literary Justices? Which Justices sported the best moustaches? You can find out. The Green Bag has collected an assortment of “top ten lists” concerning the Supreme Court. Academics at play. You can access the lists here.


September 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Intelligent people's brains wired differently to those with fewer intellectual abilities, says study

Intelligent people's brains wired differently to those with fewer intellectual abilities, says study by Steve Connor.  "The scientists were part of the $30m (£20m) Human Connectome Project funded by the US National Institutes of Health to study the neural pathways of the brain. "


"The brains of high-achieving individuals are wired up differently to those of people with fewer intellectual or social abilities according to one of the first studies to find a physical link between what goes in the brain and a person’s overall lifestyle.  An analysis of the 'connectivity' between different parts of the brain in hundreds of healthy people found a correlation between how well wired-up some individuals were to their cognitive abilities and general success in life, scientists said.  The researchers found that 'positive' abilities, such as good vocabulary, memory, life satisfaction, income and years of education, were linked significantly with a greater connectivity between regions of the brain associated with higher cognition. This was in contrast to the significantly lower brain connectivity of people who scored high in 'negative' traits such a drug abuse, anger, rule-breaking and poor sleep quality, the scientists said."

"Each fMRI analysis looked at the connectivity – the amount of nerve signalling – that takes place between about 200 different regions of the brain. The one that stood out was the connectivity between the parts of the brain involved in so-called higher-level cognition, such as language and learning. . ."

"The ability to measure the amount of nerve signalling between different parts of the brain, especially those involved in high cognition such as learning and memory, could help scientists to better understand the nature of general intelligence, which is currently measured by tests that examine a range of intellectual skills."

"It may also be possible to use the research to work out how to train people to improve their brain connectivity and therefore push than up the scale so that they achieve more than they otherwise would, he added."

While this study only hints at improving one's intelligence, other studies (frequently discussed on this blog, e.g., here, here) have shown that intelligence can be improved with hard work and deliberate practice.  What this study gives us is a better picture of how the brain works.  Now, we need to use it to develop ways to better educate our students.

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Law school survival guide from the National Law Journal

The National Law Journal has published a special report for law students on how to survive (and thrive) in law school and beyond. Below are links to each of the advice columns that comprise the special report some of which you may want to share with your students.

How to Clinch That 'A' and Not Lose Your Mind
Avoiding procrastination, staying organized, and balancing courses are keys to success.


Before Going to Law School, Live Your Life
Gaining experience prior to pursuing a Juris Doctor degree made a KPMG executive a better student.


'Soft Skills' Are What Make Good Lawyers Great
The vast majority of job candidates know the law. Those who shine know themselves even better.


Stressing Out in Law School Is a Matter of Choice
You can decide whether to merely survive the experience or thrive by refusing to "compare and despair."


September 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

No, the MBE was not "harder" than usual

No, the MBE was not "harder" than usual by Derek Muller.


"Despite some hesitation or tentative conclusions offered, I'll restate something I began with: "Let's instead focus on whether the July 2015 bar exam was 'harder' than usual. The answer is, in all likelihood, no--at least, almost assuredly, not in the way most are suggesting, i.e., that the MBE was harder in such a way that it resulted in lower bar passage rates.

We can see that the MBE uses Item Response Theory to account for variances in the test difficulty, and the NCBE scales scores to ensure that harder or easier questions do not affect the outcome of the test. We can also see that merely adding a new subject, by itself, would not decrease scores. Instead, something would have to affect test-takers ability to an extent that it would make them perform worse on similar questions. And we have some good reasons to think (but, admittedly, not definitively, at least not yet) that Civil Procedure was not that cause; and some good reasons (from declining law school admissions standards on LSAT scores and UGPAs, and MPRE scores) to think that the decline is more related to the test-takers ability. More evidence and study is surely needed to sharpen the issues, but this post should clear up several points about MBE practice (in, admittedly, deeply, perhaps overly, simple terms).

Law schools ignore this to their peril. Blaming the exam without an understanding of how it actually operates masks the major structural issues confronting schools in their admissions and graduation policies. And it is almost assuredly going to get worse over each of the next three July administrations of the bar exam."

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Does Legal Scholarship Influence Judges?

In a current article in the Yale Law Journal, Hon. Diane Wood, Chief Judge of the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, finds that legal scholarship has only an indirect influence. Here is the abstract:

This Feature examines the role of legal scholarship in judicial decision making. It first provides a historical snapshot of U.S. legal scholarship, noting that the advent of legal realism and other academic schools of thought may have contributed to a gap between legal scholarship and judicial practice. The Feature then conducts an empirical survey of recent citations to legal scholarship on the Seventh Circuit and concludes that most citations were on points of legal doctrine rather than broad legal theory. While legal scholarship could well serve purposes other than influencing judges—such as introducing new ideas, helping to shift norms, and subtly affecting the development of the law—the Feature draws attention to the disconnect between the bulk of legal scholarship and the judicial decision-making process.

 You can access her article here, Legal Scholarship for Judges

Unfortunately, Judge Wood’s conclusions are not atypical. A raft of scholarship on law reviews supports them. One wonders how much time and money law schools and professors should spend on scholarship when they could exert a greater influence by spending those resources on improving pedagogy and contributing to public service.


September 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What Law Schools Should Teach Future Transactional Lawyers: Perspectives from Practice

What Law Schools Should Teach Future Transactional Lawyers: Perspectives from Practice by Michael Woronoff.


Since at least the 1980’s, law schools have been chided for doing a poor job at teaching skills. This criticism has been accompanied by pressure to increase their emphasis on skills training. The pressure increased with the publication of the McCrate Report in 1992, and then again with the publication of the Carnegie Report in 2007. But is the underlying premise correct? This article is an edited version of my remarks given at the 2009 mid-year meeting of the AALS Conference on Business Associates. In those remarks, I respond to the questions 'Are law schools teaching students adequate transactional skills?' and 'From the standpoint of preparing students for a transactional practice, what would you like to see law schools change?' To answer these questions, I first describe different categories of knowledge a successful lawyer should have, and examine what people mean when they refer to skills. I then discuss which of these categories of knowledge law schools can and should teach, and which should be left to law firms (based on the comparative advantages of each). Finally, after noting that the heavy focus of law school critics on skills training mask some more significant issues, I share my thoughts on how law schools can change to better prepare students for a transactional practice.

September 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New York Times: "Is the Bar Too Low to Get Into Law School?"

My blogging colleague Scott Fruehwald mentioned a few days ago Professor Jerry Organ's essay published as part of the New York Times "Room for Debate" column on the credentials of incoming law students in light of the hefty drop in enrollments. It's a topic of great interest to many of our readers so I'm providing links to all the essays that were part of the column.

The American Bar Association Should Create a More Meaningful Bar Exam by Professor Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State).

Law Schools Need to Better Prepare Their Students by Professor Linda Sheryl Greene (Wisconsin).

Incoming Law Students Have Weaker Exam Credentials by Professor Jerry Organ (St. Thomas).

 The Bar Exam Is Not the Best Test of a Good Lawyer by Dean Nicholas Allard (Brooklyn).

A Shrinking Pool, But Committed Lawyers by Diane M. Downs (Chief Recruiting Officer at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP).


September 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lowest Law Student Debt Loads: BYU & Hawaii

From the Pacific Business News:

Last year’s graduates (Hawaii) left the school in 2014 with an average of $56,000 in debt.

J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University ranked the lowest for student debt, with a student graduate average of $54,000.

The national average debt for an American law school graduate is $112,000.

This report marks the third time Richardson has ranked among the nation’s law schools with the least amount of student debt.

You can read more here.


September 27, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Results of Misconduct & Disability Proceedings on Judges Will Be Published on Court Websites

To provide greater transparency, the Judicial Conference of the United States has imposed new rules:

  • A requirement that chief judge and circuit judicial council final orders disposing of a misconduct or disability complaint be published on a court’s public website. (Rule 24) Previously the JC&D Rules only required that final orders be made public at the office of the circuit clerk or on the court's public website;
  • Two new grounds for “cognizable misconduct” including “retaliating against complainants, witnesses, or others for their participation in the complaint process (Rule 3(h)); or “refusing without good cause shown, to cooperate in the investigation of a complaint under these rules.” (Rule 3(h)); and
  • An expansion of the meaning of “disability” so it may include “impairment of cognitive abilities that renders the judge unable to function effectively.” (Rule 3(h)).

You can read more here.



September 26, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Advice: Getting Legal Jobs in Government and Public Organizations

According to Law Crossing, soliciting jobs in these arenas requires a different strategy than seeking jobs in the private arena. The suggested strategy is “badgering”:

"Badgering" — the constant inquiry of status and announcement of desire for employment — is a technique more suited to government and public organizations than to private organizations, due to a relatively objective pattern of hiring in government agencies and public organizations and to a peculiarly subjective, partisan hiring pattern in legislative offices. In addition, hiring goals and projections often change more rapidly in public than in private organizations.

Still, I wouldn’t discount a modest amount of badgering when seeking jobs in the public sphere.

You can learn more here.


September 26, 2015 | Permalink

Friday, September 25, 2015

Forthcoming book will challenge myths about digital natives and learning

I've got an article posted on SSRN (please go read it - you'll be glad you did!) that compiles lots of research showing that many of the commonly held assumptions about digital natives, technology and how they learn best are more cliche than fact (which shouldn't be surprising given that the brain is designed to leap to conclusions, make assumptions and see patterns whether the data supports them or not).  Now Oxford Press has announced it will be publishing a book in December featuring contributions from several Australian scholars who also argue that many of the claims about digital native learning styles are more myth than fact and thus recommend a more pragmatic and nuanced approach to the use of classroom technology consistent with how students really learn. Below is the publisher's abstract followed by a link to Google Scholar which features several chapters from the book including Chapter 2 entitled Digital Natives and Other Myths. Enjoy!

Teaching and Digital Technologies: Big Issues and Critical Questions helps both pre-service and in-service teachers to critically question and evaluate the reasons for using digital technology in the classroom. Unlike other resources that show how to use specific technologies – and quickly become outdated, this text empowers the reader to understand why they should, or should not, use digital technologies, when it is appropriate (or not), and the implications arising from these decisions. The text directly engages with policy, the Australian Curriculum, pedagogy, learning and wider issues of equity, access, generational stereotypes and professional learning. The contributors to the book are notable figures from across a broad range of Australian universities, giving the text a unique relevance to Australian education while retaining its universal appeal. Teaching and Digital Technologies is an essential contemporary resource for early childhood, primary and secondary pre-service and in-service teachers in both local and international education environments.


September 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Andy Taslitz and Teaching with Star Trek

Here is a short article by colleagues of the  late Andy Taslitz explaining how he and the authors taught a noncredit course to law students—a course keyed to Star Trek:Andrew E. Taslitz, Okianer Christian Dark, Artiba R. Ellis,The Star Trek Enrichment Series: An Exploration in Teaching and Learning.

  Here is the abstract:

This short essay is a part of the Howard Law Journal’s symposium in honor of the contributions of the late Professor Andrew E. Taslitz, discusses the authors’ experiences teaching the Star Trek Enrichment Series (“the Series”) at the Howard University School of Law. The Series was a six-session, one semester, non-credit course designed to creatively use Star Trek as a teaching tool in the legal academy, with particular attention to the needs of first-year students.

This essay discusses our aims for the Series. It then situates the Series (and this essay) within the literature on the use of Star Trek as a tool for post-secondary teaching. Finally it reflects on the specific contributions of our dear colleague Andrew Taslitz to the Series.

We designed the Series to reinforce students’ understanding of doctrine, to improve students’ understanding of jurisprudence, and to draw larger connections between the law, culture, and society. We posit that this innovation, spurred by Professor Taslitz and combining all our talents, is an important and substantial contribution to the practice and the literature on teaching and learning.

Andy got his start in law school teaching at Villanova where he taught legal writing. He was a special person, happy gregarious, kind, and smart.


September 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

And then there was one: Fastcase acquires Loislaw

And the former will sunset on November 30. Robert Ambrogi's LawSite has the story:

Shake-Up In Legal Research: Fastcase Acquires Loislaw From Wolters-Kluwer

The legal research company Fastcase has acquired one of its prime competitors among middle-market legal research providers, Loislaw. Fastcase has purchased Loislaw from Wolters Kluwer, which had acquired it in 2000 for $95 million.


LoisLaw subscribers began receiving notices over the weekend informing them of the news. The letter stated that WK will sunset the Loislaw product effective Nov. 30, and that “we are collaborating with Fastcase so they can offer comparable subscription plans on the Fastcase platform, including Loislaw treatise libraries, at the same or lower prices as your current Loislaw subscription.”


. . . . 


For subscribers to Loislaw, a key feature has been access to Wolters Kluwer’s library of some 125 treatises in areas of law such as bankruptcy, business, employment, insurance, intellectual property, real estate and others. When they migrate to Fastcase, they will retain that access.

. . . . 

Continue reading Ambrogi's LawSites blog here.


September 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Conquering Interviewing Fears

At the National Jurist, Hillary Mantis offers ways for students to deal with nervousness and avoid mistakes—the day before the interview, the day of the interview, and after the interview. You can access the article here.


September 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Should We Lower the Bar Passing Rate so that We Have Enough Lawyers?

The ABA Journal has asked this question.  (here)  Deborah Weiss writes, "The average score for July 2015 test takers in the multistate, multiple choice exam was at its lowest point in 25 years. Pass rates for the July exam were also down.   One law professor—Jerry Organ of the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis—says fewer law graduates may be passing the bar exam in coming years, creating a shortage of licensed law grads to fill available positions."

She continues, "In his Room for Debate essay, Organ says lower bar passage rates are largely the result of a drop in the multistate scores. He identifies several possible reasons for the lower multistate scores: a software glitch during the July 2014 test, a new civil procedure section on the July 2015 test, and a difference in the entering pool of law students."

“As classes with weaker and weaker credentials graduate in 2016, 2017 and 2018—and likely experience lower bar passage rates—we may see continued declines in the number of graduates who get jobs as lawyers,” Organ writes. “It won’t be because those jobs aren’t available, but because not enough graduates are passing the bar to be eligible for those positions.”

I strongly disagree with those who want to lower the bar passage rate.  Society depends on competent attorneys, not just anyone who can pass a dumb-downed test.  It doesn't help anyone to have an incompetent attorney just like it doesn't help anyone to have an incompetent doctor.

As I have said many times, I do think the bar exam should be changed to better reflect what lawyers do in practice.  However, the standard for passing should remain high.

Professor Organ is correct that if the trend continues we will not have enough attorneys to serve society's needs.  However, the only solution, as I wrote earlier this week,  is to better educate law students.

(Scott Fruehwald)


September 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Demand for print remains strong while interest in e-books wanes

The New York Times reports that despite initial predictions traditional books are a dying medium, demand has remained strong, even increased, while sales of e-books have slipped. I've got an article on SSRN that compiles a lot of research supporting the superiority of print as a medium when it comes to reading challenging material as well as data from numerous student surveys debunking the myth that so-called "digital natives" prefer screens to print (indeed reading habits among teens and college students are far more nuanced than the facile stereotypes would have you believe). You can check out my article here while below is an excerpt from the NYT story:

The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead

Five years ago, the book world was seized by collective panic over the uncertain future of print.


As readers migrated to new digital devices, e-book sales soared, up 1,260 percent between 2008 and 2010, alarming booksellers that watched consumers use their stores to find titles they would later buy online. Print sales dwindled, bookstores struggled to stay open, and publishers and authors feared that cheaper e-books would cannibalize their business.


Then in 2011, the industry’s fears were realized when Borders declared bankruptcy.


. . . .


Now, there are signs that some e-book adopters are returning to print, or becoming hybrid readers, who juggle devices and paper. E-book sales fell by 10 percent in the first five months of this year, according to the Association of American Publishers, which collects data from nearly 1,200 publishers. Digital books accounted last year for around 20 percent of the market, roughly the same as they did a few years ago.


E-books’ declining popularity may signal that publishing, while not immune to technological upheaval, will weather the tidal wave of digital technology better than other forms of media, like music and television.


. . . .


“The fact that the digital side of the business has leveled off has worked to our advantage,” said Oren Teicher, chief executive of the American Booksellers Association. “It’s resulted in a far healthier independent bookstore market today than we have had in a long time.”


Publishers, seeking to capitalize on the shift, are pouring money into their print infrastructures and distribution. Hachette added 218,000 square feet to its Indiana warehouse late last year, and Simon & Schuster is expanding its New Jersey distribution facility by 200,000 square feet.


Penguin Random House has invested nearly $100 million in expanding and updating its warehouses and speeding up distribution of its books. It added 365,000 square feet last year to its warehouse in Crawfordsville, Ind., more than doubling the size of the warehouse.


“People talked about the demise of physical books as if it was only a matter of time, but even 50 to 100 years from now, print will be a big chunk of our business,” said Markus Dohle, the chief executive of Penguin Random House, which has nearly 250 imprints globally. Print books account for more than 70 percent of the company’s sales in the United States.


. . . . 

Continue reading the NYT story here.


September 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sayings of Yogi Berra

We mark the passing of Yogi. I was raised in a Yankee family and am old enough to have seen him at Yankee Stadium. As wordsmiths, we might do well to ponder eight of Yogi’s epigrams.

8. “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.”

7. “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

6. “Whatever you do in life, 90 percent of it is half mental.”

5. “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

4. Explaining why he no longer frequented a particular restaurant, he said, “Nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded.”

3. “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

2. When asked by his wife where he’d like to be buried, he reportedly replied, “I don’t know. Surprise me.”

And the No. 1 Yogi-ism from The Great No. 8: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

From the Patch National Staff (here). Please feel free to add more.

September 23, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)