Saturday, December 31, 2016

A resource for law students interested in writing competition money and scholarships

The Law Student Division of the ABA has put together a resource page for students interesting in trying their hand at writing competitions as well as looking for financial scholarship opportunities. More specifically, writing competitions are listed in subjects including entertainment law, affordable housing and intellectual property, among others. Financial scholarship opportunities exist for students interested in criminal law and those belonging to groups that have been historically underrepresented in the legal profession. It looks like this might be part of a regular column on the part of the Law Student Division so you may want to bookmark the page and check it out periodically for updates.


December 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Happy New Year’s Day!

A brand new year!

This should wake everyone up. Here’s U-2 singing “New Year’s Day.”

And here are 50 new year resolution ideas . They're pretty good.


December 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Does “Hamilton" Encapsulate Your Teaching Goals?

At Education Week, 7th grade teacher Siobhan Gearty  matches her teaching goals with lines from the  super-popular musical “Hamilton.” See if you agree.

  1. The importance of grit:"The $10 founding father without a father / Got a lot farther by working a lot harder / By being a lot smarter / By being a self-starter"
  1. The power of words:"I wrote my way out of hell / I wrote my way to revolution / I was louder than the crack in the bell"
  1. The relevance of history: "If we try to fight in every revolution in the world, we never stop / Where do we draw the line?"

 “Engaged learners are constantly asking questions about the world around them.” Teaching students to ask, “How did we get here?” and “Who wrote this narrative?” puts them on pathways to the truth.

  1. The acknowledgement of human error: "I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects / Not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors"

You can read full explanations here.


December 31, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Happy New Year's Eve!

Here’s Ella Fitzgerald singing “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.

And here’s the 2016 countdown at Times Square.


December 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is the Law Firm Financial Model Unsustainable?

The answer may be yes. From the ABA Journal online:

Law firm partners are reaping “soaring” profits amid flat demand for law firm services, creating “an unsustainable model” for law firms, according to the co-founder of a company that developed virtual workplace technology.

Writing at Forbes, Mark Cohen says an increasing percentage of legal services are being provided outside of law firms, even as partners are earning more. Law firms, he asserts, “have an unsustainable model that remains largely intact even as clients are seeking options.”

Cohen wrote his essay shortly before the release of a report predicting 2017 will likely be another year of modest growth for law firms. The report by Citi Private Bank’s law firm group and Hildebrandt Consulting found that demand for law firm services grew by just 0.3 percent the first three quarters of this year. During that same time frame, expenses grew by 3.4 percent and revenue increased by 3.7 percent, fueled by an increase in billing rates. Bloomberg Big Law Business and the Am Law Daily (sub. req.) covered the report.

Cohen blames the lagging demand for law firm services partly on the traditional law firm model, which is built on business generation and revenue, achieved by lots of billable hours. As result of that model, Cohen says, “law firms have generally been laggards in effectively deploying technology.”

You can read more here.


December 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Best Legal Education Articles of 2016

I have just posted a list of the best legal education articles of 2016 on the Tax Prof Blog.  You can find it here.

(Scott Fruehwald)

December 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

2016 Will Last an Extra Second

Set your clocks! From OZY News:


The Year Will Last One Second Longer Than Usual

Of course it's this year. Come New Year's Eve, 2016 will linger for one extra second to make sure our clocks align with Earth's rotation. Because each day actually takes 86,400.002 seconds, we add an extra "leap" second every so often. It won't interfere with the ball drop in the U.S., as it will occur at 6:59:59 p.m. Eastern. And scientists can't yet tell when the next one will be needed, because Earth's rotation goes through subtle changes based on factors such as tides and melting glaciers.


December 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Examples of lawyers behaving badly in depos has compiled a list of the best (or worst, depending on your viewpoint) examples it could find of lawyers behaving badly during depositions. The list includes a story about one attorney tossing coffee at opposing counsel and another attorney who falsely accused his opponent of trying to use pistachios to poison a legal assistance. Really.

Perhaps you can use some of these anecdotes during class to teach students how not to behave around opposing counsel as well as the importance of maintaining one's cool when your opponent loses his since all of the offenders involved got into hot water with the bar.  See the entire list of "lawyers behaving badly" here.


December 30, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hiring & Firing at Pennsylvania Law Firms

Do these trends hold for other parts of the country? From the Legal Intelligencer (Dec. 12, 2016):

The number of firms that said they laid off lawyers in the past year increased from 3.2 percent in 2015 to 12 percent in 2016. And the same goes for expectations for layoffs in the coming year, with a rise to 12 percent of firms expecting to cut ­additional attorneys in 2017.

The staff ranks were hit even harder at Pennsylvania law firms in the last year, with 22.7 percent of respondents saying they have cut staff recently. That was up from 3.3 percent that said the same in 2015. Plans for additional staff cuts in the coming year are in the works for 8.7 percent of respondents, up from 6.5 percent last year.

When it comes to which types of lawyers law firms are bringing into the fold, associates are waning and contract lawyers are on the rise.

According to the survey results, 60 percent of respondents hired the same or fewer associates this year as they did last year. Only 44 percent said that in 2015, when 25.8 percent hired more first-year associates. This year, only 16 percent of respondents hired more first-years.

The use of contract lawyers, on the other hand, saw a big jump. Of the 48 percent of firms that hired contract lawyers in the last year, 83.3 percent said they hired more than they had in prior years. That was up from 71.4 percent in 2015.


December 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Program on Social Media at AALS

Shameless promotion Department. At the January AALS meeting, Eric Rosser and I are presenting a program on blogging and other social media tools. At the Legal Writing Prof blog, Mark Wojcik was kind enough to post on our session. Here is his post:

The 2017 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools is being held next week in San Francisco. Among the hundreds of presentations will be a program on Building and Sustaining Academic Communities Through Blogging and Other Tools, a panel that will include . . . well, here, have a look!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

8:30 - 10:15 a.m.      AALS Arc of Career Program

Building and Sustaining Academic Communities Through Blogging and Other Tools

This panel focuses on the work that a number of scholars have done to build community in their respective fields. Such community building does not fit neatly into traditional scholarship, teaching, or service categories and therefore often is not explicitly rewarded as part of the tenure process. But for those willing to do the work, creating community can be both personally rewarding and a good fit for those seeking to be engaged scholars.

The participants all have different goals and methods when it comes to community building, but there are commonalities. Establishing a strong blog and web presence have been core parts of the community building work in a number of fields. Participants who have worked on building online communities will discuss everything from how they started and the choices they make as far as blogging coverage to what are the best and most challenging parts of blogging. In other fields, much of the community building work takes the form of conference organizing and participants will discuss their successes and failures when it comes to this form of public service. They will also discuss the amount of effort conferences require as well as ideas to lessen the planning burden.

  • Moderator: Louis J. Sirico, Jr., Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law
  • Benjamin Barros, University of Toledo College of Law
  • Gerry W. Beyer, Texas Tech University School of Law
  • Megan Boyd, Georgia State University College of Law
  • Rashmi Dyal-Chand, Northeastern University School of Law
  • Marc-Tizoc Gonzalez, St. Thomas University School of Law
  • Ezra E.S. Rosser, American University, Washington College of Law
  • Nancy J. Soonpaa, Texas Tech University School of Law
  • Mark E. Wojcik, The John Marshall Law School - Chicago(mew) 
  • (ljs)
  • Continental Ballroom 6, Ballroom Level, Hilton San Francisco Union Square. That room holds 427 people so you should be able to fit in! We hope to see you there and at other AALS sessions.
  • (mew)


December 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Unified Theory of Persuasion?

At the Holland & Hart law firm blog, Ken Broda-Bahm describes persuasion as a five process:

 [I]t is a matter of several steps, each building on the previous steps. And, framed and formalized as it is, the legal courtroom setting is a good setting for that process. In order to be persuaded, a target audience needs to:

  • Understand
  • then Care
  • then Agree
  • then Remember
  • then Use

You can read the full explanation here.

At bottom, I think it all comes down to finding a common ground with your audience and then showing that your position aligns with that common ground.


December 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Five Tips for Starting Your Own Law Firm

At Attorney at Work, Jeff Kerr draws on his own experience in offering these five tips:

  1. Keep it lean. 

 For every dollar spent, you’ll ask: “How does this expenditure increase my ability to generate revenue?” Getting to the next level often requires a willingness to increase operating costs, but you’ll invest wisely because you’ll know you can function without frills.

  1. Specialize.
  2. Be smart about leaving your current job.Most lawyers start their first firm after leaving another law practice. It’s extremely important to wrap up with your past firm and transition clients in a way that won’t create legal or ethical problems.
  1. Prepare for a ramp-up period. While starting your own law firm can be inexpensive, that doesn’t mean you can jump in without financial backup. Building a base of clients and cases takes time.

Make sure you have enough in savings to cover your living expenses while revenues are growing.

  1. Don’t skimp on essential tools.  For instance, you may save money up-front by using a cheap scanner and PDF editor, but these will cost you time that could be spent more efficiently.

For full explanations, please click here.


December 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Assessing learning outcomes in transactional drafting courses

In this article by Professor Jacob Carpenter (Marquette), published in 2012 but only recently posted to SSRN, he discusses the advantages and pitfalls to using forms to teach contract drafting and suggests some alternative approaches. Since some of our readers will not doubt be interested in it, here are the details: Professor Carpenter's article is Unique Problems and Creative Solutions to Assessing Learning Outcomes in Transactional Drafting Courses: Overcoming 'The Form Book Problem' and can be found at 38 U. Dayton L. Rev. _ (2012) (though this particular volume is oddly missing from the Dayton L. Rev. website) and here on SSRN. From the abstract:

In transactional drafting courses, students need to practice evaluating and using forms to aid them when they draft contracts. Only by working with forms can students learn to identify forms’ benefits and dangerous pitfalls. On the other hand, when students use forms, how can professors assess whether students crafted the contract carefully based on their own knowledge and skills, or whether they essentially just copied a form? This article provides nine creative solutions that enable professors to assess whether students have attained the skillsand knowledge needed to draft strong contracts, even when students use forms to guide their drafting.


December 27, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 26, 2016

President Obama: Ambassador for Literature

Consider these words:

“When I think about how I understand my role as citizen,” Obama said, “setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels.

“It has to do with empathy,” he continued. “It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there’s still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that. And the notion that it’s possible to connect with some[one] else even though they’re very different from you.”

For a full article in the San Francisco Chronicle, please click here.


December 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wisdom from Fictional Characters

At Education Week, Starr Sackstein offers us words for reflection and inspiration from characters in ten novels:

  1. Dumbledore, one of my most beloved teachers said in The Chamber of Secretsto Harry, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
  2. Atticus FinchTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: "You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anyone says to you, don't let 'em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a's a good one, even if it does resist learning."
  3. WhatsitA Wrinkle in Timeby Madeleine L'Engle: "Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself."
  4. The FoxThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: "Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye." 
  5. Nick CarrawayThe Great Gatsbyby F. Scott Fitzgerald: "Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope."
  6. Elizabeth BennettPride and Prejudiceby Jane Austen: "I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies, do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can." 
  7. Hazel Grace LancasterThe Fault in Our Starsby John Green: "As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once."
  8. Sirius BlackHarry Potter and The Order of the Phoenixby JK Rowling: "We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are."
  9. AntoliniCatcher in the Ryeby JD Salinger: "The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one
  10. GandalfThe Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: "There is a lot more in Bilbo than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself."

For thoughts on these quotes, please click here.


December 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Wall Street Journal on the bar exam difficulties of California law school grads

From the Wall Street Journal Law Blog:

Graduates of California-Accredited Law Schools Struggle to Pass Bar Exam


The recently released results of California’s July bar exam underscored how many law schools are struggling to graduate students qualified to join the legal profession. The passage rate for test takers from American Bar Association-approved schools dropped to 54% from 60% the year before. 

. . . . 

Continue reading here (subscription required).



December 26, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Sanctuary Campus: A Good Idea?

A number of schools, churches, and cities are declaring themselves sanctuary campuses, churches, and municipalities. But not Harvard:

From news.mic:

On Tuesday, Drew G. Faust, president of Harvard University, announced the school has chosen not to label itself a sanctuary, which would have hypothetically prevented the deportation of undocumented students, according to the Harvard Crimson. She reasoned that, because doing so would offer no legal protections, it could increase government scrutiny of students in need of protection.

"It ... risks drawing special attention to the students in ways that could put their status in greater jeopardy," Faust said. "I believe it would endanger, rather than protect, our students, and that is not something I am willing for this institution to do."

"Sanctuary campus status has no legal significance or even clear definition," she added. "It offers no actual protection to our students. I worry that in fact it offers false and misleading assurance."

From my viewpoint, although there are hypothetical drawbacks, I don’t see any realistic downside to schools adopting this label. On the other hand, it shows support for students who need it.

You can read more here.


December 25, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas & Happy Hanukkah!

Best wishes to our readers who celebrate the holidays!

From Atlas Obscura, here’s the story of how the Christmas tree first made its way into the White House.

Here’s Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Here are the Maccabeats singing about making latkes.


December 24, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Drafting Contract Provisions on Resolving Disputes

A partner in a major law firm tells me that for the next five years, we can expect much litigation and controversy over issues like mediation and arbitration and locations for such proceedings. In a recent article, Professor John M. Newman identifies the issues that these provisions should consider. The article remains neutral on the pros and cons. Here is an introductory passage:

This is a brief guide to drafting dispute-resolution provisions. Such provisions have gained national attention in recent years. Legal scholars had, as early as 2005, been predicting that contractual dispute-resolution provisions would bring about the near-total end of class-action litigation. But it was a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that thrust such provisions into the national spotlight. Beginning with AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion LLC in 2011, and culminating with Italian Colors v. American Express in 2013, the Court lent much greater strength to mandatory-arbitration provisions.

Today, such provisions are likely enforceable even where state law would otherwise render them invalid, due to the preemptive force of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). This is true even where mandatory-arbitration provisions are coupled with waivers of classwide dispute resolution. This also holds true even where the practical effect of such waivers is to prevent plaintiffs from effectively vindicating their legal rights under both state laws and federal laws. . . . [S]uch provisions ought to be wielded with care and precision.

You can access the article here.


December 24, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Castro Was Copy Editor for Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Writing as a companion career. Who would have guessed it? From the Guardian:

Feted as a revolutionary hero and demonised as an enemy of the free world, Fidel Castro also played an unexpected role in global literature. The Cuban president, who died on 25 November, acted as unofficial copy editor for the acclaimed novelist Gabriel García Márquez, providing line-by-line corrections for the writer after the two struck up a close friendship in the late 1970s.

Dr Stéphanie Panichelli-Batalla, lecturer in Latin American studies at Aston University, told the Guardian: “The president was an avid reader. When they met in 1977, they had several conversations about literature and eventually Fidel offered to read his manuscripts, because he had a good eye for detail.”

The Colombian Nobel laureate, who died in 2014, was a supporter of the Cuban revolution, support he never relinquished despite Castro’s record of human rights abuses. Panichelli-Batalla, who co-authored a book about their relationship titled Fidel & Gabo in 2009, said the writer would send completed manuscripts to Havana before submitting them to his publisher.

Castro’s corrections were factual and grammatical rather than ideological, she added.

You can read more here.


December 23, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)