Friday, September 30, 2016

Advice for New Law Students from D.C. Bar Members

Members of the D.C. Bar's Board of Governors talk about what they wish they knew while in law school, and offer advice on how law students can make the most of their time. Several of the Board members are law professors. Here are a few of their pieces of advice:

Susan Bloch (University of Michigan Law School) Georgetown University Law Center

Bloch, who has the perspective of both as a former law student and now as professor at Georgetown Law, says:

"Remember that everyone else starting in a law program is as confused and anxious as you are.

Read every assignment, be prepared for class, and review your notes after class.

Start outlining early, whenever you finish a chapter.

Look at old exams, but not until the middle of semester;earlier will probably scare you!

Keep an open mind about your future and what to do after graduation—there is more to life than big law firms.

Study groups are useful—if used for studying." 

Benjamin F. Wilson (Harvard Law School) Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.

"Do good work, but simply doing good or great work is never enough. Get allies in your corner who will recognize and speak up about your successes.

Develop a second skill. Have something to fall back on for those times when you can't pursue your first passion.

Build a network. You never know when the person sitting next to you may be in a position to be helpful, now or in the future.

Work hard to develop a client base and an independent practice.

Seek to serve your broader community and make time for your family and friends."

You can read more here.


September 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

4 tips for improving your writing from the Harvard Business Review

These tips come from HBR columnist Josh Bernoff, author of Writing Without Bullshit: Boost Your Career by Saying What You Mean. Interestingly, Josh is sharing this advice in response to a survey he conducted earlier this year among people who write as part of their job. The survey concluded that most of us overestimate our writing ability. Simply put - our writing is not as good as we often think. These tips are intended to help:

  • Challenge yourself to be more concise.
  • Identify your bad habits.
  • Pair up with another writer
  • Build disciplined feedback into your writing process.

And if you'd like to know how to implement these suggestions, you need to click here.


September 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Ask Not What You Can Do For Your Students; Ask What Your Students Can Do For Themselves by Louis Schulze

Louis Schulze has an interesting post about creating self-directed learners on the Faculty Lounge: Ask Not What You Can Do For Your Students; Ask What Your Students Can Do For Themselves.  In it, he explains why students at his law school, FIU, did so well on the Florida bar.


"Our pass rate doesn’t come from what we’ve done for our students; it comes from what we’ve taught them to do for themselves."

"In addition, our AEP intentionally employs certain specific methods. But these methods are well outside the orthodoxy in terms of measures usually adopted to improve students’ law school success and impact bar results. We don’t focus on how to change our teaching, how to reteach doctrine, or how to give students more of some supposed cure-all. We have not transformed into a 'bar prep school.' Instead, we began teaching students how to teach themselves."

"But empirical studies demonstrate that the orthodox methods defy everything we know from science about how the brain acquires knowledge and develops analytical skills. Rereading is one of the worst ways to encode memory, yet tradition dictates that students study for exams and the bar by reading outlines endlessly. Following another person’s dictates on learning outsources the regulation of that learning and kills the crucial skill of metacognition, yet students blindly follow syllabi and bar prep courses’ one-size-fits-all programs. Relying solely on lectures prevents students from building their own cognitive schema, yet students spend weeks having their minds wired externally. Failing to leverage spaced repetition and forced recall practice makes learning far less effective and efficient, yet many students don’t start testing themselves, if at all, until just days before finals or the bar exam."

"Our program teaches our students, from day one of law school, how to make more effective learning methods the centerpiece of their studies."

"The increased use of new pedagogies in legal education is progress, but that progress is a necessary but insufficient condition for improvement. The academy also needs to think less about engineering short-term results using orthodox methods and more about producing life-long students of the law by empowering their use of the science of learning. Asking what our students can do for themselves requires us to cede to them the autonomy of learning so that they can control their own development and forge their own success."

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lawyers Comment on Artificial Intelligence in Law Practice

ROSS is a new artificial intelligence software. According to its publicity:

[A]rtificial intelligence is a “system that is able to perform different tasks that you would normally think would require human intelligence.”

While traditional databases yield search results based on the keywords and phrases users input, ROSS does more than identify documents containing specific words. It understands and interprets questions, finds relevant law, and articulates an answer. It even evolves from user feedback.

“The system understands you. It is understanding the intent of your question, and because it understands you, it can continue to get smarter and improve,” [company CEO] Arruda said. “You are no longer working with a static piece of software. It is dynamic. It’s changing, and every time you log into ROSS, it’s smarter than the day before.”

ROSS is commercially available for bankruptcy practices and it will eventually be available for other fields of law.

In the Akron Legal News, lawyers comment on ROSS and artificial intelligence software systems generally:

Justin Alaburda, a partner at Brennan, Manna & Diamond’s Akron office, said that he would consider using artificially intelligent software so long as it performed as well as a human.

“Artificial intelligence is already used for electronic discovery and studies show that in the area of document review, the error rate of human review is higher than reviews performed by a software program that uses predictive coding,” he said. “I admit, however, that when it comes to legal research, my confidence level in the artificially intelligent software would have to be extremely high before I would be comfortable relying heavily on the software.”

James E. “Ted” Roberts, a partner at Roth, Blair, Roberts, Stratsfield & Lodge in Youngstown, said that there are likely limitations on what artificial intelligence can provide for a lawyer. He said it might be difficult to convey the nuance of a case’s facts to a machine and that a lawyer will be needed to apply these facts to law.

“Besides getting the facts of the research, applying those facts then becomes a matter of judgment and opinion and that’s where the lawyer’s education and experience comes in,” Roberts said. “Mechanically, some software can obtain some research, but then it’s going to take the lawyer to interpret it and apply it.”

But Alaburda said that the practice of law will always involve human judgment.

“While technology in the legal profession is continuously improving and evolving, I believe that it is best used in connection with, and not as a substitute for, human judgement,” Alaburda said.

You can read more here.


September 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Please Eliminate Unnecessary Words!

One of the things that legal writing teachers tell their students is please eliminate unnecessary words.

Here is a headline from today's New York Times:

U.S. Just Made It a Lot Less Difficult to Sue Nursing Homes


I hope you can see that the headline could contain four fewer words.  U.S. Just Made It Easier to Sue Nursing Homes

My version says the same thing, but it is easier to read.  Someone needs to teach editing in journalism school.

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

SAT Scores Decline

From the Washington Post:

SAT scores fell modestly this year for the last high school class to take the old version of the college admission test.

The average total score for graduating students who took the old SAT at least once through January was 1484, out of a maximum score of 2400, the College Board reported Tuesday. That was 12 points lower than the national average for the previous class in a comparable period. The total drop included declines of three points on the critical reading section of the test, four points in math and five points in writing.

What does that result portend for future LSAT results? You can read more here.


September 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Microsoft Keyboard Shortcuts

From Microsoft: Please click here for the ultimate list of shortcuts (like control P for print) for Word 10.


September 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Issue of the Second Draft

New Issue of the Second Draft

The latest issue of this publication by the Legal Writing Institute is now out (here).

Here is the table of contents:       (ljs)

President’s Greeting Kim D. Chanbonpin

From the Desk of the Co-Editor-in-Chief Abigail L. Perdue

Legal “Street” Writing Dyane O’Leary

Best Practices in Legal Education: How Live Critiquing and Cooperative Work Lead to Happy Students and Happy

    Professors Anna Hemingway and Amanda Smith

The Serial Podcast: Bringing the Real World into First-Year Legal Writing Jessica Durkis-Stokes and Amy Vorenberg

Making It Stick: Using the Science of Successful Learning in Legal Writing Classrooms Craig Smith

Teaching Undergraduates, Teaching First Years Kristen Murray

Teaching Professionalism and How to “Act Professionally” by Coordinating Legal Writing with Professional Development

    JoAnne Sweeny

Written Advocacy Training Throughout a PracticeOriented Curriculum Matthew C. Cordon and R. Scott Fraley

Lawyering Skills and Clinical Cooperation: Teaching Spanish for Lawyers at John Marshall Kim D. Chanbonpin and Sarah Dávila-Ruhaak

Easy Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness in the Legal Writing Classroom Shailini J. George

Legal Writing Professors Without Borders: Exploring the Benefits of Integrated Teaching of Legal Writing, Doctrine, and More Sherri Lee Keene

From the Desk of the Writing Specialist Chantal Morton

News & Announcements

September 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dean Erwin Chemerinsky: In These Times, Innovation in Legal Education Should be Applauded: The ABA Should Grant Provisional Accreditation to UNT Dallas College of Law

Dean Erwin Chemerinsky: In These Times, Innovation in Legal Education Should be Applauded: The ABA Should Grant Provisional Accreditation to UNT Dallas College of Law.


"The lesson from the past several years of unprecedented struggles for many law schools is that this is a time when innovation in legal education should be encouraged.

Unfortunately, it appears that the American Bar Association is doing just the opposite in its treatment of University of North Texas (UNT) Dallas College of Law. The recommendation of the Accreditation Committee of the ABA to deny provisional accreditation to UNT raises disturbing issues concerning how important innovation is being squelched."

"The ABA should grant UNT provisional accreditation and allow it to show that its programs work and that its students can pass the bar. If UNT's law school succeeds in this regard, it should receive full accreditation. It will have demonstrated that this model for a law school is viable. Of course, it is possible that it won't work and despite all the law school does, it will have a very low bar pass rate. I then would understand the ABA denying accreditation, though there is still an argument that these students should have a chance at a legal career."

"I am very troubled by how UNT's law school is being treated. But I am even more concerned about the larger issues concerning the role of the ABA. I support the ABA accreditation process and believe that it helps protect all involved by ensuring a quality legal education from every law school. However, the ABA acts inappropriately when it stifles innovation and does not give law schools with an alternative vision the chance to show they can succeed."

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Robert Cialdini's new book on persuasion

Dr.Robert Cialdini, one of the leading experts on persuasion and author of the wildly popular book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, has just published his latest book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade which some are calling even better than his most well-known work. From the publisher's description:

The author of the legendary bestseller Influence, social psychologist Robert Cialdini shines a light on effective persuasion and reveals that the secret doesn’t lie in the message itself, but in the key moment before that message is delivered.

What separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders? Using the same combination of rigorous scientific research and accessibility that made his Influence an iconic bestseller, Robert Cialdini explains how to capitalize on the essential window of time before you deliver an important message. This “privileged moment for change” prepares people to be receptive to a message before they experience it. Optimal persuasion is achieved only through optimal pre-suasion. In other words, to change “minds” a pre-suader must also change “states of mind.”

His first solo work in over thirty years, Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion draws on his extensive experience as the most cited social psychologist of our time and explains the techniques a person should implement to become a master persuader. Altering a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, or experiences isn’t necessary, says Cialdini—all that’s required is for a communicator to redirect the audience’s focus of attention before a relevant action.

From studies on advertising imagery to treating opiate addiction, from the annual letters of Berkshire Hathaway to the annals of history, Cialdini draws on an array of studies and narratives to outline the specific techniques you can use on online marketing campaigns and even effective wartime propaganda. He illustrates how the artful diversion of attention leads to successful pre-suasion and gets your targeted audience primed and ready to say, “Yes.”


September 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Government Lawyers Don’t Understand the Internet

So says Garrett M. Graff, the former editor of Politico Magazine, and a leading authority on national security, technology and politics. From the Washington Post:

Whether it’s high-level physics research or the technology of our daily lives, the government’s lawyers are struggling to grasp the increasingly technical cases that come before them. Both federal prosecutors and the attorneys who represent executive agencies in court are bungling lawsuits across the country because they don’t understand what they’re talking about. Too few lawyers have the skill set or the specialized knowledge to make sense of code, networks and the people who use them, and too few law schools are telling them what they need to know. “It would be enormously helpful to have a deeper bench of lawyers with technical backgrounds,” says Susan Hennessey, a Brookings Institution fellow and former National Security Agency lawyer.

You can read more of this excellent article here.

At the risk of treading into current politics, I can understand why high-level officials might be cautious in using government email systems, perhaps on less than optimal equipment, and decide to use nongovermental systems.


September 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Replacing Outdated Identifiers of Race, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Religion, Disability & Challenge, etc.

In a column in the Journal of the Missouri Bar (here), Professor Douglas Abrams writes:

On May 20, 2016, President Barack Obama signed H.R. 4238, which the Senate and the House of Representatives had each passed unanimously. The bipartisan bill amends two acts that, written in the 1970s, are codified in Title 42 of the United States Code. The acts referred to persons by such names as Negro, American Indian, Oriental, Eskimo, and Aleut. H.R. 4238 strikes these names and substitutes ones such as African American, Native American, Asian American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and Alaska Native.

H.R. 4238 is the latest congressional recognition that names matter and times change. In 2012, for example, President Obama signed similar bipartisan legislation that eradicated the name “lunatic” from federal disability law after several decades. The 2012 legislation also passed by wide margins, unanimously in the Senate and 398-1 in the House.

When these words innocently pop up in class discussion, it’s our job to gently provide correction.


September 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Humanities in the Law School Curriculum: Courtship and Consummation

The Humanities in the Law School Curriculum: Courtship and Consummation by Linda H. Edwards.

"Today the humanities occupy a small corner of the law school curriculum. Might they instead become a more vibrant partner in legal education? Might law and humanities scholarship escape the pages of law reviews and teach us something important about how to read and understand the law?

Despite the long theoretical dominance of legal realism in scholarly circles, much of legal education as we know it has remained mired in Langdell's formalist vision of the law — a vision of a narrow, abstract, impersonal system bereft of human meaning and value. But we can do better. We can approach law, and teach our students to approach law, not as a set of rules but as a form of life. If we decide to take up this life-giving journey, it is the humanities that can show us the way."

I couldn't agree more.  Then again, all my pre-law training was in the humanities.

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mistakes that Spell Checking Won’t Find

If you type in a wrong word that has a valid synonym, a spellchecker won’t notice your error. At his blog, Wayne Scheiss gives several real-life examples of spellcheck goofs. Here are a few:

The staff from Surgical Services, Medical Services, and Pharmacy, as well as all the patients and visitors, observed the bazaar behavior.

  • The word should be bizarre.

This action is nothing more than another viscous attack by Plaintiff against its adversaries’ attorneys.

  • Viscous means thick and sticky in consistency. The writer should use vicious (or maybe should attack the merits instead of describing the plaintiff’s motives).

For all intensive purposes, the Defendant did nothing more than recite the Rules of Evidence at length.

  • The proper phrase here is intents and purposes.

For more examples, please click here.


September 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dept. of Education No Longer Recognizes Accrediting Agency for Non Profit Colleges

From Marketplace:

The U.S. Department of Education has stopped recognizing the largest accreditor of for-profit colleges, citing numerous regulatory violations. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools had given its stamp of approval to now-discredited schools such as ITT Tech and Corinthian College, among others.

Students at institutions that had accreditation via will now become ineligible for federal aid unless their schools find another recognized accrediting agency.

You can read more here. Other accrediting agencies should now look to their laurels.


September 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

More Writing Advice from Mark Herrmann

Prolixity And The Conservation Of Ambiguity.

"The concept is this: Adding words does not always add clarity."

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Strengths that Military-Connected Students Bring to the Classroom

At Academic Impressions, Tanya Ang (ACE) and Bruce Kelley (University of South Dakota)discuss these strengths:

  1. They are already the product of an intense educational experience.
  2. They bring diversity training and experience with diverse perspectives.
  3. They have resilience and are trained problem solvers; some have also received leadership training.
  4. They are working toward a mission and are focused on accomplishing their academic goals.
  5. They are service-oriented, volunteering more frequently than any other student demographic.

In addition to explaining these strength, they also thoughtfully discuss the challenges that these students face. You can read more here.


September 25, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

­Questions to Ask at a Client Interview

At Attorney at Work, Linda Hazelton offers a set of statements and questions to use when interviewing a client. She organizes them under four headings: Setting the Stage, Opener, Potential Questions, and Wrap-up.

You can access the question here.


September 24, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Emotional intelligence as legal practice skill

This is an older article by Professor Majorie Silver (Touro) but only recently posted on SSRN here that I figured some of our readers might be interested in. The full title is Emotional Intelligence and Legal Education and was first published at 5 Psych. Pub. Poli. & Law 1173 (Dec 1999).  Here's the abstract:

The traditional knowledge-based law school curriculum is slowly giving way to one that increasingly exposes students to various lawyering skills. Nonetheless, legal educators are generally averse — or at best ill equipped — to support that training with the empathic and psychological skills good lawyering demands. The author discusses how emotional intelligence is essential to good lawyering and argues that it can and should be cultivated in law school. The article draws upon three examples of popular culture to explore both the absence and possibilities of interpersonal intelligence in the practice of law. The author also describes her own law school's current project of re-imagining legal education and explains how the development of emotional skills might be incorporated into that vision.


September 24, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Meditation for Law Students: Mindfulness Practice as Experiential Learning by Teresa Brostoff

Meditation for Law Students: Mindfulness Practice as Experiential Learning by Teresa Brostoff.


In today’s competitive law school environment, research indicates that many students arrive in law school with anxiety or emotional difficulties or develop them due to stress inherent in law school studies. In fact, law school more than other course of graduate study creates stress-induced difficulties in students, and these difficulties often persist in the practice of law. When law schools teach mindfulness, they recognize that law students suffer from stress and its harms, and that mindfulness education may help to bring balance to the lives of law students. Mindfulness or meditation training provides one way for students to become present and accepting of their experiences and may help to alleviate stress-related problems. Students learn to be able to maintain focus and calm, even when their minds are busy, and gain a useful tool that they can use when addressing their school or professional work.

Mindfulness practice combined with simulations involving the interpersonal skills of deep listening, counseling, interviewing, and negotiating satisfies the ABA requirement of experiential learning and offers students a new way to approach lawyering skills. Students learn to reflect, rather than react, while appreciating the intrinsic value of everyone involved in the interaction. Mindfulness training as experiential learning helps students to be ready to approach their professional experiences with focus, presence, acceptance, and compassion. By offering an experiential learning curricula that includes mindfulness education, law schools will further demonstrate that they care about the well-being of their students and are taking steps to help them to develop balance in their personal and professional endeavors.

(Scott Fruehwald)

September 24, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)