Tuesday, March 8, 2016
According to the monthly jobs report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That makes the second straight month of 4 digit losses for the legal sector while the overall job market has posted gains for three consecutive months. The BLS originally reported job losses occurring in the legal sector during January at 1,400 but has since revised that number down to 1100.
As reported by the Disciplinary Committee of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania:
The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility has proposed an amendment to Rule 8.4 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Misconduct, which would add a new subsection (g), declaring that:
It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to … in conduct related to the practice of law, harass or knowingly discriminate against persons on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status.
In a comment, the proposal notes that “conduct related to the practice of law” includes the operation and management of a law firm or law practice. The comment excludes conduct unrelated to the practice of law or protected by the First Amendment from coverage of the rule. The comment makes clear that the provision does not prohibit lawyers from referring to any particular status or group when such references are material and relevant to factual or legal issues or arguments in a representation.
The ABA has debated and rejected antidiscrimination proposals on several prior occasions, most recently in 1997. Since then, 24 jurisdictions have added some sort of antidiscrimination provisions to their state rules
The proposal was the subject of an open hearing at the ABA Midyear Meetings in San Diego, California, on February 7, 2016. In addition, interested parties may submit written comments through March 11, 2016. Comments should be submitted via email addressed to:
Information on comments is posted here.
Monday, March 7, 2016
The Harvard Business Review reports on a new study finding that the personality fit between students and professor, in this case the degree to which the level of narcissism in students matches that of their professor, has a positive correlation with course grades. You can read the full study here. The following is an excerpt from the HBR.
We’ve all heard it: Millennials are more narcissistic, entitled, and self-indulgent than generations past. Whether that makes you nod your head or roll your eyes — the evidence, after all, remainscontroversial and polarizing — the idea that narcissism has increased among college students over the last 25 years is worrisome from an organizational perspective. Millennials are the next generation of leaders. And while we know narcissism can be useful at times, research has linked narcissists’ sense of entitlement and belief that the rules don’t always apply to them to a range of counterproductive work behaviors, such as embezzlement, workplace incivility, bullying, and white-collar crime.
So in 2011, Jim Westerman, a professor at Appalachian State University’s Walker College of Business, conducted a study of 16 professors and 536 undergraduate students in business and psychology. He wanted to see whether Millennial students were more narcissistic than their predecessors (they were) and, more specifically, whether business students displayed higher levels of narcissism than psychology students (they did). The logical next question, according to Westerman, was to understand the potential role of college faculty in these findings.
Westerman and his colleagues recently published their results in The International Journal of Management Education. Their latest study, of 267 undergraduate business students and nine professors at a U.S. university, found that “narcissism fit,” or how well a student’s level of narcissism matched his or her professor’s, was significantly related to the student’s final grade in the class. Students who were as narcissistic as their professors got higher grades than students who were either more or less narcissistic than their professors — and this effect seemed to be partially driven by students’ perceptions of class difficulty and professor status.
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Continue reading here.
Sunday, March 6, 2016
Five years after several of these so-called law school scam cases were filed against various law schools across the country for allegedly cooking the books when it came to reporting employment outcomes for recent grads, the first and only case to survive a motion to dismiss heads to trial against Thomas Jefferson School of Law on Monday in a San Diego courtroom. The New York Times has more details:
Nearly a decade has passed since an aspiring young lawyer in California, Anna Alaburda, graduated in the top tier of her class, passed the state bar exam and set out to use the law degree she had spent about $150,000 to acquire.
But on Monday, in a San Diego courtroom, she will tell a story that has become all too familiar among law students in the United States: Since graduating from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2008, she has yet to find a full-time salaried job as a lawyer.
From there, though, her story has taken an unusual twist: Ms. Alaburda, 37, is the first former law student whose case against a law school, charging that it inflated the employment data for its graduates as a way to lure students to enroll, will go to trial.
Other disgruntled students have tried to do the same. In the last several years, 15 lawsuits have sought to hold various law schools accountable for publicly listing information critics say was used to pump up alumni job numbers by counting part-time waitress and other similar, full-time jobs as employment. Only one suit besides Ms. Alaburda’s remains active.
None of the other cases reached trial because judges in Illinois, Michigan and New York, where several cases were filed, generally concluded that law students had opted for legal education at their own peril, and were sophisticated enough to have known that employment as a lawyer was not guaranteed.
But a California judge let Ms. Alaburda’s suit proceed, brushing aside efforts by the law school to derail her claims.
“It has taken five years,” said her lawyer, Brian A. Procel of Los Angeles. “But this will be the first time a law school will be on trial to defend its public employment figures.”
Ms. Alaburda’s day in court will take on added meaning: These will be her first public words after years of silence while she pursued a remedy for a legal education gone wrong.
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Continue reading here.
Pepperdine School of Law has started an institute for professional identity development, aimed especially at first-year law students: Parris Institute for Professional Formation
"The Parris Institute for Professional Formation is dedicated to the professional development of first-year law students, and provides continual mentoring throughout our students' law school careers. The institute launched in August 2014, and focuses not only on professional development, but also health, personal goals, and ethics.
Through our Awards and Student Life Challenge programs, students are incentivized to perform at the highest level, grow as students, and graduate 'practice-ready.'"
"Developing the Next Generation of Ethical Leaders
The Parris Institute is an exciting new initiative at Pepperdine and is quickly becoming a model for the nation in training professional leadership. The legal profession has always demanded the highest standards of character, integrity, courage, and leadership. However, the demands of fluctuating economies, complex global justice issues, and the increasing trend of corruption has sought to erode the social trust in lawyers in recent decades.
Pepperdine refuses to let the legal profession decline and is committed to rebuilding the core internal character competencies that have marked the great contributions of lawyers throughout human history. The Parris Institute provides the inspiration and substance for students to invest as much in who they are as leaders as they do in what they know as legal scholars. Pepperdine is grateful to Rex and Carrol Parris for establishing this vital institute and we are extremely proud of the profound impact the Parris Institute is having on our students."
From the Harvard Crimson:
A committee tasked with re-considering Harvard Law School’s seal in light of its ties to slavery recommended Friday that the Harvard Corporation revoke the emblem’s status as the school’s official symbol.
The seal bears the crest of the former slave-owning Royall family, whose donation helped establish Harvard’s first law professorship in the late 18th century. The committee sent a report to the Corporation—the University’s highest governing body— summarizing the history of the seal and arguments for and against its removal.
Their recommendation was not unanimous; two of the 12 members of the committee argued in a dissenting opinion sent along with the report that the seal should be preserved as an “honest” and conspicuous reminder of the Law School’s connection to “those enslaved at the Royall Plantation.”
You can read more here.
In a recent article, Harrison Barnes argues that the most important quality that an attorney can have is confidence. And confidence is a very difficult quality to maintain throughout a legal career:
When attorneys are young they are generally quite confident and feel like they have a lot of hidden power. Some even stay this way until they become junior partners and, incredibly, some hold onto this confidence and power their entire careers. This confidence allows them to do things like:
- Believe they should get the most important work
- Believe they are always going to succeed
- Believe they can get clients
- Believe they can win cases and get the better end of dealsYou can read the article here. Warning: it is very grim. Still, our students need to know the facts of life. I tell my students that the best job is one where you can be your own boss, or nearly your own boss.
- Nothing is more important to your long-term success as an attorney than remaining confident at all times. The moment you lose your confidence is the moment you lose the game. You must find a way to preserve your confidence no matter what crushing blows the legal system throws at you. Do this and you will succeed where so many others fail.
You can read the article here. Warning: it is very grim. Still, our students need to know the facts of life. I tell my students that the best job is one where you can be your own boss, or nearly your own boss.
Assignments with Intrinsic Lessons on Professionalism (Or, Teaching Students to Act like Adults Without Sounding like a Parent) by Beth Hirschfelder Wilensky. (Journal of Legal Education)
"This article describes an effective method to help students learn about and internalize professional behavior: embedding professionalism topics in substantive assignments. While legal research and writing courses in particular provide many opportunities to use substantive assignments to also teach professionalism, the approach I describe would work in any class—doctrinal or experiential—that incorporates simulated exercises as part of the substantive work. And since all members of a law faculty share the responsibility of inculcating professionalism norms in students, it makes sense to incorporate professionalism topics in both doctrinal and experiential courses.
The first section of this article provides an overview of this teaching method and describes the inspiration for it. The second section reviews current methods of teaching professionalism topics and explains why those methods, while helpful in exposing students to professionalism norms, may be insufficient on their own to get students to internalize those norms. The third section describes in detail the approach I advocate, and discusses its benefits. The fourth section provides specific assignment ideas for faculty interested in adopting this approach, and the fifth section discusses two caveats."
Key point: "I have two primary goals in teaching professionalism to my students: First, I want them to learn what professional and unprofessional behavior looks like. Second, I want them to internalize the norms of professionalism; I want them to want to behave in a professional way." (emphasis added) Editor: Internalization is the key to a fully developed professional identity. All law schools should be teaching professional identity.
The proposed change to the ABA's accreditation standards, to be considered next week at an open session of the Council for the Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, would require 75% of a law school's graduates to pass the bar within two years of graduation for the school to remain accredited. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has more on the story.
Law schools may soon have to do a better job at proving they actually prepare students for the practice of law.
At a meeting next week in Phoenix, the American Bar Association’s accrediting arm will consider changing a bar passage rate rule schools must follow to stay accredited.
The change would require 75% of a law school’s graduates who sit for a bar exam to pass the test within two years.
The ABA already essentially aims for the 75% mark, but the current rules offer a convoluted web of possible loopholes. They also give schools five years to meet the mark, and emphasize first-time test taker results in addition to the overall success rate.
The tweak, proposed by a committee that evaluates changes to law school accrediting standards, would eliminate more than 700 words of explanation from the rule, leaving a single sentence.
As the committee explains in its recommendation to the governing council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, “an ultimate pass rate is the more appropriate measure of whether a school is operating a sound program of legal education, and it is not subject to the idiosyncrasies that can be found with a reliance on the pass rate of first-time takers.”
The current bar passage rate requirements haven’t given too many law schools trouble, and it’s not clear yet how much resistance there might be to the new proposed rule.
Since 2000, Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco and Whittier Law School in Southern California were both put on probation for low bar passage rates, but later had the probation lifted. Two other California schools, Western State University College of Law and the University of La Verne College of Law, lost accreditation, in part because of bar passage issues. Western State is once again fully accredited while La Verne has provisional accreditation.
As Law Blog readers know, bar exam passage rates have been falling nationwide, with some states reporting lower than 75% passage rates for first-time test takers.
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Continue reading here.
Saturday, March 5, 2016
Friday, March 4, 2016
LSAC reports law school applicants are up 0.05% and applications are up 0.2% from last year at this time
Those are the figures the LSAC is reporting as of February 26, 2016 compared to last year at this time. The LSAC says that by this time last year, it had about 69% of the preliminary final count for both applicants and applications. Based on an earlier report in December, the number of applicants has basically remained stable over the past few months while the number of applications has increased slightly (it was down by 4.1% compared to last year's figure according to the LSAC's December report). Below are charts published by the LSAC which track applicants and applications for the past three years.
In 1974, Attorney Antonin Scalia engaged in his only argument before the U.S. Supreme Court. There, he argued as an amicus on behalf of the United States. At issue was whether Cuba enjoyed the protection of sovereign immunity in this particular case. Scalia argued that it did not.
You can find the oral argument (on reargument) at Oyez.org. (here). Here are attorney Scalia’s opening words. By the way, the Justices asked him only two questions—a far cry from today.
The principal purpose of the governments appearing as amicus in the present case is to preserve the vitality of a legal doctrine which is not itself technically at issue in the case but which the opinion of the court below, if accepted by this court would effectively destroy.
I refer of course to the restrictive Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity, under which, it is not all of the activities of a foreign sovereign as to which that sovereign will not be held accountable in our courts but rather only those activities which are of governmental as opposed to a private nature.
Thursday, March 3, 2016
What are the consequences? In a recent study of the phenomenon (here), the authors take an optimistic
We believe that the shift toward Ph.D.s entails a complex set of benefits and costs for law schools, and that there is the potential for building connections between practical experience and academic research, rather than simply choosing between them. Scholarship benefits from a deep understanding of how the practice of law works, while well-trained lawyers understand not only formal legal rules, but also how such laws function within and shape the social world.
Tapping into other disciplines’ knowledge of how law functions by hiring those trained in other fields may help law students, as one scholar describes it, learn to “think in deeply contextual and sophisticated ways about how they might — or might not — use the law to help a client solve her problem.”
Moreover, the more diverse the disciplinary mix within law schools, the more likely that law students will be able to draw on a varied set of tools, perspectives, and knowledge to understand and shape law and policy, and to communicate with professionals across many diverse fields. Under the right circumstances, tremendous synergies can emerge from connecting law to other disciplines.
The downside? More faculty members with limited or no practice experience.
Professor Patrick Connors (Albany) writes in this editorial that the use of the uniform bar exam in New York beginning this summer may result in lawyers being less prepared to practice due to the lack of emphasis on state-specific law. From The New York Law Journal:
Almost everyone reading this column vividly remembers taking the New York State Bar Examination, and the intensive study leading up to it. Some portion of your preparation—whether specially crafted outlines and index cards, studying on a beautiful 4th of July, or your favorite place to review notes—will likely spring to mind. Then, there was the actual taking of the exam over a two-day period. Did you have trouble getting to the test site on time? Was there a person sitting next to you who had an irritating habit or did not return after lunch? Did you leave enough time for those essay questions that tested so heavily on New York law?
The last administration of the New York Bar Exam, as most of us know it, was earlier this week. During the first day of the exam, commonly referred to as the "New York day," applicants encountered five essay questions (each involving multiple subjects) and 50 multiple choice questions testing knowledge of New York law. This portion of the exam will account for 50 percent of one's grade, with the other 50 percent coming from the multistate portion of the exam.
The Uniform Bar Exam
Unfortunately, this will be the last administration of the bar exam that will meaningfully examine applicants on New York procedural and substantive law before they can be admitted to practice in our state. Dramatic changes are in store for the July 2016 administration of the bar exam, when New York will begin administering the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE).
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Where does that leave the testing of New York substantive and procedural law, knowledge of which is so essential to competent representation of clients in our state? First, applicants to the bar must sit for the online New York Law Course (NYLC), containing 15 hours of videotaped lectures with embedded questions that must be answered correctly to complete viewing the lectures. The NYLC will attempt to cover a remarkable breadth of "New York-specific law" in a relatively short period of time, including Administrative Law, Business Relationships, Civil Practice and Procedure, Conflict of Laws, Contracts, Criminal Law and Procedure, Evidence, Matrimonial and Family Law, Professional Responsibility, Real Property, Torts and Tort Damages, and Trusts, Wills and Estates. That leaves approximately 1.25 hours of coverage for each of these major subjects, and may very well constitute the applicant's only review of New York law prior to admission.
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Continue reading here.
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Ten Tips for New Trial Lawyers
From veteran trial attorney Oscar Michelen at Courtroom Strategy:
- Remember the Five Ps of Trial:
- Go to the location of the accident, crime, etc
- Go to the courtroom where the case will be tried:
- Be mindful of your appearance:
- Be in control of the courtroom:
- Write out your direct and cross-examinations:
- Preserve the record by learning, controlling and explaining your objections:
- 3.Develop a theme for your case:
- Write your summation first
- Never pass an open bathroom
For full explanations, please click here. (Sorry that the numbering is off.)
The National Association of Law Placement ("NALP") recently released its annual report called Perspectives on 2015 Law Student Recruiting which projects law student hiring trends for the coming year. According to the report, the picture is definitely improving based on the most recent summer associate recruiting season that turned out to be the strongest one since the Great Recession of 2008-09. From the NALP's press release summarizing the report:
The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) today released its annual Perspectives on 2015 Law Student Recruiting report, painting an encouraging view of law firm recruiting trends this cycle and pointing to signs of recovery in recruiting following the 2008-2009 recession and its aftermath. The data, which were initially presented by NALP Executive Director James Leipold during the NALP 2016 Legal Recruiting Summit at New York University School of Law on January 28, 2016, reveal this recent recruiting cycle to be the most robust summer associate recruiting and new associate hiring cycle since the recession.
In the last six years following the economic recession, law firms have slowly continued to increase their entry-level recruiting activity. While the size of the graduating class has gotten smaller, the average size of law firm programs has nearly recovered to pre-recession levels. Smaller graduating classes may be one factor driving law firm competition in on-campus recruiting, and new pre-OCI trends are emerging. With vigorous competition for top candidates, law firms reported an increase in the number of summer associate offers made this year, compared to last year. They also reported a staggering 95.3% offer rate from summer programs for entry-level associate positions - the highest NALP has recorded in over two decades. These findings, among other data described in the report, offer evidence that legal recruiting and hiring activity over the last two years has intensified, offering a bright outlook for 2016.
95.3% of 2015 summer associates, students who will graduate in 2016, received an entry-level associate position offer, up from 93.4% last year, and in stark contrast to 2009 when only 69% of summer associates received offers.
The number of offers for summer program spots has increased measurably as the competition for top law school graduates heats up, and for members of the Class of 2017, nearly all of the recruiting markers ticked upwards for the third year in a row.
59% of law firms reported making more offers for summer 2016 associate positions than they had for summer 2015 positions.
For the fourth year in a row, a higher percentage of callback interviews resulted in offers compared to the previous year, and the percent of callback interviews resulting in offers for summer positions rose from 52.1% to 53.8%, the highest figure recorded since 2007.
The overall acceptance rate dipped slightly from 33.8% last year to 32.7% this cycle as law firms had to make more offers to yield the same number of acceptances.
26% of law firms reported making at least one pre-OCI offer.
More than half of law schools in all regions reported an increase in the number of law firms visiting campus during spring OCI.
"After a period of considerable and prolonged slowdown in law student recruiting volumes, for the last two years we have seen strong markers of recovery," said Leipold. "There is a scramble for top talent that we have not seen since before the recession. The increase in spring on-campus recruiting and the seemingly new trend toward some pre-OCI offers for perceived top talent and diverse candidates are indicative of this increased competition. This hiring may be driven in part by the fact that some law firms have been spooked by not having enough mid-level associates to do the work coming in, in large measure because law firms hired so few entry-level associates in the immediate aftermath of the recession. Nonetheless, demand for legal services remains mostly flat and some analysts suggest lawyer headcount at some law firms is still too high. Even so, as law school graduating class size continues to come down for the foreseeable future and some law firms excel in a difficult market, it is likely that in the short term law firm recruiting activity for summer programs will remain brisk. Absent another macro-economic disruption of some sort, it is likely that we will see increased intensity in the recruiting arena throughout 2016."
The full Perspectives on 2015 Law Student Recruiting report, including numerous data tables, details recruitment activity on campus and at job fairs in 2015; provides information on summer program characteristics and start dates for the most recent incoming associate class; and also provides information on the outcomes of 2015 summer programs and of fall 2015 recruiting for both second-year summer associates and entry-level associates not previously employed by that employer.
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Tuesday, March 1, 2016
From the Christian Science Monitor:
The University of California at Berkeley is investigating a cyberattack on a university computer system that holds financial data for 80,000 people, from students and alumni to faculty and vendors.
The San Francisco Bay area university said on Friday that there is no evidence any information has been stolen, but that it has notified potential victims of the data breach, which include about half of the school’s current students, two-thirds of its active employees, and over 10,000 vendors who work with the school. . . .
(Here is the most interesting piece of information)
“Most of the third-party companies that provide software to educational institutions, frankly, don't focus on security," Michael Borohovski, founder and CTO of Tinfoil Security, told NBC News. "If they don't have to spend money on security and can still win a contract, that is what they’re going to do.
You can read more here.
At the ABA Mid Year Meeting, Robert Dubose offered this advice:
- Create visible structure. Screen readers need visible structure to navigate a page, including such tools as frequent headings Frequent headings (bold-face lead-in to items like “Terminate Agreement……) and tables of contents.
- Write summaries. Get the important information up front, which is critical for today’s readers. “There is nothing I hate worse that reading through a brief and not finding out what I need to know until near the bottom,’’ says [Judge Margaret] McKeown. “Give it to me right up front.”
- Break out information with lists, bullets, tables. For example, instead of one paragraph talking about the four elements of negligence, break those elements into a list 1, 2, 3, 4. But not everyone likes lists. “When I see a bunch of bullets, I see a lazy law clerk,’’ Judge McKeown warns.
- Use white space, which can be created with shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, headings, lists and bullets.
- Use visuals such as a flow chart or illustrative photograph.
- Stay simple in document design. Follow expected conventions; no strange fonts or fancy formats; and use ordinary capitalization, avoid ALL CAPS and First Word Caps.
- Know what technology your court is using to read.
You can read much more here.