Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Law Firm Partners: Underperforming & Slow to Change?

According to the recent Altman Weil survey, managers Big Law firms are not happy with the state of affairs. From Bloomberg Law Big Law Business:

In response to survey questions posed by legal management consulting firm Altman Weil, 88 percent of respondents said they have chronically underperforming lawyers, 61 percent said overcapacity is diluting their profitability, and 65 percent said their partners resist most efforts to change how to they do business. This comes at a time when most (72 percent) law firm leaders said the pace of change in the legal industry will only continue to increase in the coming years.

The gist of the survey results is that lawyers still aren’t aware that times are changing and they have to change as well.

You can read about the detailed survey results here.


May 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

MBE Scores: Lowest Ever

From the National Jurist:

National results from the exam revealed that the average MBE score was 134 points, falling one point from the previous year. The results were released online by the Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners and later confirmed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. 

The MBE consists of 200 multiple choice questions covering law school subjects such as constitutional law, contracts, criminal law, evidence, civil procedure and torts. . . . .

The answer may be that scores are dropping because law schools have lowered admission standards in previous years to increase first-year enrollment.

Another possible factor:

One final factor that could have played into the poor MBE performance is a recent change made to the format of the exam. Typically, 190 questions are factored into the test taker’s score, and 10 questions are experimental. This year, however, the MBE format was changed. Scores in February only factored in 175 questions with the remaining 25 questions being experimental.

This does not mean that the February exam was any harder than previous examinations. Erica Moeser, president and CEO of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, told Above the Law that the changes were of “no consequence.”

 You can read more here.



May 30, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Struggling Student’s Problem May be a Misdiagnosed Vision Problem

My former student Denise Drace-Brownell was in her 50s before she received a proper diagnosis of her not-so-rare vision problem. Despite severe difficulty in reading, she had led a successful professional life. Still, she wonders what she could have accomplished if the condition had been identified much earlier.

Her condition is called binocular vision disfunction (BVD). Denise found help with prism glasses. Now, she has developed a new kind of eyeglass called OPTICA that improves vision even more and may resolve the BVD condition. She is about ready to launch her invention.

You can read Denise’s first-person story here at the Reader’s Digest.

When dealing with struggling students, you might ask few questions and, if appropriate, suggest getting a BVD assessment as part of a comprehensive eye exam.


May 30, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Book: Overcoming Cognitive Biases

I have just completed a new book entitled Overcoming Cognitive Biases: Thinking More Clearly and Avoiding Manipulation by Others.  You can find it on Amazon and other internet book sellers.


Brain biases clog up our thinking and allow us to be manipulated by others. The human thinking process is imperfect. The brain evolved. Parts of our brains today are remnants of the brains our early ancestors had, brains which had developed to survive under very different conditions from today. These remnants produce cognitive biases–ways of thinking that are different from reality. Individuals need to overcome their cognitive biases in order to think more clearly and avoid being manipulated by others.

I have written this book for anyone who wants to understand cognitive biases and begin to overcome them. First, I give you the big picture. I discuss the basics of cognitive biases and the dangers of biased thinking. Then, I ask you to look at your inner self through a series of questions and exercises. Next, I deal with specific cognitive biases, such as optimism biases, negativity biases, biases concerning others, and behavioral economic biases, and I help you deal with these biases through a series of exercises. Then, I ask you to apply what you have learned in more complicated exercises. Finally, the Epilogue shows you how Uber is using brain biases to control their drivers and how smartphone and social media are employing these biases to get you to stay on-line longer.

(Scott Fruehwald)

May 30, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Bill Gates: Message to College Grads

In this letter, Bill Gates gives advice on career choices and on being a responsible citizen of the world.

Worth reading. You can access it here at Mic.


May 29, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memorial Day: Elliott Richardson Remembers

Legal legend and political leader Elliott Richardson participated in the D-Day invasion. From the D.C. Bar Archives, here is a brief interview that he gave about that ordeal. Here is an excerpt:

Those were the most intense experiences of my life. I suppose the most powerful attitude it burned into me was a disposition to take one thing at a time and push aside fear. I thought I was going to be killed. The casualties were so heavy, it was just a given. I learned to take each day, each mission, as it came. That’s an attitude I’ve carried into my professional life. I take each case, each job, as it comes. I think the war must have had quite a bit to do with that.

The other thing I came away with was a sense of our common humanity as individuals. During those many months of combat, I felt a very strong sense of the equal dignity and value of all my fellow soldiers. That too has stayed with me.



May 28, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Every Major Statement Trump and Betsy DeVos Have Made on Higher Education

Every Major Statement Trump and Betsy DeVos Have Made on Higher Education

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, through March 3, 2017. Here.


May 28, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Student Loans Just Got More Expensive

From Trust Advisor:

The U.S. government is raising prices for new student debt, adding hundreds of dollars to the cost of the typical federal college loan.

Beginning in July, interest rates on new government loans are set to rise by 0.69% point, according to Wednesday figures from the Department of the Treasury.

For undergraduates, that could amount to nearly a 20 percent increase in interest charges.

New undergraduate loans from the Department of Education are due to carry an interest rate of 4.45%, up from 3.76% for the academic year ending in June.

Rates on some graduate loans are set to rise from 5.31% to 6%, while rates on loans to parents and guardians are due to experience a jump from 6.31% to 7%.

For example, the cost of a $10,000 loan would increase by about $400, according to an online calculator maintained by

That may not seem like a lot of money, but the mes on top of a mountain of student

You can read more here.


May 27, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Tiffany Trump is Going to Georgetown Law

From JDJournal:

President Donald Trump’s youngest daughter, Tiffany, is headed to Georgetown Law. Tiffany, 23, was accepted to the school’s class of 2020 after she graduated from the University of Pennsylvania where she majored in sociology and urban studies. She begins classes this fall at Georgetown Law, one of the top programs in the country.

After posting on Instagram last year a photo of LSAT prep books and the phrase, “I got this,” it became apparent that she was looking towards law school. The Daily Mail first reported her plans on which law school to attend. It is reported that a law degree will help her find a place within the Trump organization.

You can read more here.


May 26, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

4th Circuit Rejects Trump Travel Ban

From Time:

Donald Trump's administration is pledging a Supreme Court showdown over his travel ban after a federal appeals court ruled that the ban "drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination."

 Citing the president's duty to protect the country from terrorism, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday that the Justice Department will ask the high court to review the case, although he offered no timetable.

 You can access the article here. You can access the 205 page opinion here.

 The Ninth Circuit also has the travel ban on its docket; a federal judge in Hawaii invalidated the ban.


May 26, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

How to Stop Checking Your Email, Messengers, and Social Media

At Attorney at Work, Alexey Pisarevsky addresses the problem of too many emails and social media contacts eating up too much of the work day. Here is an outline of his suggestions on how to deal with the problem:

Completely turn off notifications for all services on both your phone and computer. 

 Artificially limit the number of times you open distracting services. 

 Understand that nothing will happen if you don’t respond right now. 

  Get used to the fact that Inbox Zero is impossible in today’s world.

 Organize your work so that no one distracts you. 


 You can read the full explanations here.


May 25, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Micro Essay Who Will Teach Them to Wear Shoes?

From the Spring 2017 issue of Perspectives:

I spent time last summer interviewing attorneys around my State to find out how our students were doing in professional legal settings. Most were pleased with the quality of the work our students produced, but many wanted to talk with me about a lack of professionalism that they’ve seen creeping into their law firms, courthouses, and other legal offices.

One attorney asked if I could teach our students to wear “real shoes” instead of flip-flops to the office. Who will teach them to wear shoes? Those of us who wear shoes, I suppose. After all, won’t our students be filling ours someday?

Jan M. Baker, Assistant Director of Legal Writing, University of South Carolina School of Law, Columbia, S.C.


May 24, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Worst Professional Development Programs

Recently, Education Week asked K-12 teachers to report on their worst “PDs.” Some of the examples may apply to our academic world, and even to how some profs teach. Here is the video, about two minutes. Fun.


May 23, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Harvard Law Teaches Its First-Year Students Problem Solving

Joseph William Singer and Todd D Rakoff, Problem Solving for First-Year Law Students.

"Law students need to learn how to solve client problems and not just how to interpret and apply the law to the client's situation. This article describes the Problem Solving Workshop, a course required for all first-year students at Harvard Law School. It is designed to help students focus on determining the client's goals, the facts necessary to help the client and to apply the law, the various laws that create both constraints and opportunities, and the options available to solve the problem. We describe both the structure of the problems used in the course and the problem solving methodology, as well as tips on how any professor can create such problems for her or his own course. The problems used at Harvard Law School are available for use by law professors at any school at very low cost, and new problems are being written and posted from time to time. The problems can be found by going to The Case Studies website at Harvard Law School under the Subject of Problem Solving."

(Scott Fruehwald)


May 23, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Great (Mostly Free) Sites for Effective Research

At the Michigan Bar Journal (March 2017), Professor Nancy Vettorello surveys many online websites helpful to lawyers:

While none of the many free sites offer the sophisticated search abilities of fee-based research services, a few minutes spent exploring free sites can help researchers significantly narrow their searches once they turn to a fee-based system.

Remember to always take advantage of the advance search option when available on a free site. Free sites are offering increasingly sophisticated search options, such as Boolean and proximity searches, which were previously exclusive to paid services.

To see her list of sites, with her annotations, please click here.


May 22, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Top Law Schools for Producing Hollywood Lawyers

As I noted in an earlier posting, the Hollywood Reporter has released a list of the top 100 Hollywood entertainment lawyers (here). JDJournal has identified the law schools where the lawyers received their degrees. Here are the top twelve schools with the most alumns on the top 100 list: 

  1. Georgetown Law School(tie)
  2. Cornell Law School(tie)
  3. Brooklyn Law School(tie)
  4. University of Michigan Law School
  5. George Washington Law
  6. Southwestern Law School(tie)
  7. Columbia Law School(tie)
  8. Stanford Law School
  9. UC Berkeley School of Law
  10. USC Gould School of Law
  11. Harvard Law School
  12. UCLA School of Law

You can read more here.


May 21, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Is Academia a Good Fit for You?

Daniel McCormack is a postdoctoral fellow in international politics who is leaving academia for the private sector. At Vitae, he identifies aspects of the academic life that academic aspirants may not have thought about. Though he writes from the viewpoint of a Ph.D., his views are worth the consideration of legal educators.

You have to like long-term projects. With few exceptions, the most time an undergraduate has spent on a research or writing project is a few months. In academe, everything is a long-term project.

You also have to be good at managing your time over very long stretches.

You don’t need to feel like you’re succeeding. 

You don’t care where you live. 

You don’t mind moving frequently.

You can read his full discussion here.


May 20, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Are Millennials Interested in Making Partner?

The results of a recent survey may surprise you. Making partner is high on the millennial list. From the Indiana Lawyer:

According to a study recently released by Major Lindsey & Africa and Above the Law, roughly 44 percent of millennial law firm attorneys surveyed said they hope to someday make partner, either at the firm they’re currently with or at another firm. That result came as a surprise to Major Lindsey & Africa partners who, like many older attorneys, bought into the assumption that the law’s youngest employees were exploring options off the traditional partner track.

Ru Bhatt, managing director of Major Lindsey & Africa’s Associate Practice Group, said the perception in recent years has been that millennials pursuing a career in the law prefer to become in-house counsel, a position that is often desirable because of its more flexible hours.

But according to the survey, just 18.75 percent of respondents indicated they saw themselves working as in-house counsel 10 years down the road, compared to the 43.64 percent who want to make partner. . . .

While members of the baby boom generation were more inclined to take a job at a firm out of law school and stay with the firm for the span of their career, the results of the survey show roughly one-quarter of millennial associates intend to work at their current firm for two years or less. That number rises to one-third when discussing junior associates.

You can read more here.


May 19, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Moot Court Rankings 2016-17

These national rankings are based on success in the various mot court competitions. South Texas is #1. My school is ranked #28. You can access the rankings here.


May 18, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Deborah Jones Merritt on the Value of Clinics

Professor Douglas A. Kahn recently posted an article on SSRN, The Downside of Requiring Additional Experiential Courses in Law School, in which he declares that "the imposition of additional, required experiential courses will have a negative effect on the adequacy of a student's preparation to practice law because it contributes to a reduction in the student's exposure to a range of doctrinal courses (especially core courses) and to the skills that those courses develop."  He is particularly critical of the proliferation of clinical courses.  For reactions to this article, see the comments to this article on the TaxProf Blog.

In response to Kahn's article, Professor Jones Merritt has posted a defense of clinics on the Law School Cafe: What Do Students Do in Clinics?

 She asserts, "It’s an old debate, one that has bristled for more than 50 years. The discussion doesn’t surprise me, but Professor Kahn’s ignorance of clinical education does. His bold assertions about clinics reveal little familiarity with the actual operation of those courses. Let’s examine some of Kahn’s claims."

In response to Kahn's claim that “[S]kills in legal reasoning, analysis, and statutory construction are best learned in doctrinal courses," she asserts, "Decades of research on cognitive science show that students learn critical thinking skills (like “legal reasoning, analysis, and statutory construction”) through explicit instruction, hands-on practice, written exercises, and individualized feedback. Doctrinal courses offer surprisingly little of that work."

She continues. "Well-staffed legal writing courses offer much better instruction in legal reasoning, analysis, and statutory construction than doctrinal courses."

She asks, "And now let’s talk about clinics. Does Professor Kahn really believe that clinic students represent clients without engaging in legal reasoning, analysis, or statutory construction?"  For example, "I am even more certain that clinics give students a chance to advance their statutory construction skills (along with other types of legal reasoning and analysis) to a new level. Students in my clinics must interpret a variety of statutes drawn from very different fields, integrate those statutes in a single case, explain the statutes’ meaning to clients, and develop persuasive arguments for opposing counsel and the court."

Kahn: Seminar sessions in a clinic “likely are more focused on the delivery of legal services than on the analysis of legal issues and policies.”  Merritt replies, "How in the world does one deliver legal services without analyzing legal issues and policies?"  In addition, "the clinics I know radiate novel legal issues and provocative policies."

Kahn: “Another reason [to prefer simulation courses] is that the instructor in a simulation course can control the issues that will arise rather than . . . depend on what issues a client brings.”  She responds, "Most clinics choose their clients and cases, which allows considerable control over the issues that students face. But it’s exactly the uncontrollable elements that students need by their third year of law school. They won’t be able to control their facts or issues once they graduate, unless they focus on appellate work."

In sum, "One can, as Professor Kahn suggests, debate the appropriate balance among doctrinal, experiential, and (I would add) interdisciplinary, perspective, and seminar courses in law school. But to have an intelligent debate, we need to know the content of those course types. Professor Kahn’s article reflects many of the stereotypes that educators hold about clinical and other experiential courses. Let’s learn the facts before we begin to negotiate: that’s a key lesson we teach in clinics."

There is much more detail to Merritt's article so I suggest you read the whole thing.  But, her main point is clear: Don't criticize something you don't understand.  We see this so much in everyday life; we don't need it in supposedly scholarly debates.

The other big thing to get out of her article is that students learn more when they apply doctrine to real-life situations.  Having a lot of knowledge is not enough; a lawyer needs to know how to use that knowledge.  Knowing doctrine is the basis of traditional legal education.  Today's law schools are moving toward teaching students to use that knowledge.  This progress is still slow, but we have to fight for it.  We owe it to the students.  Professor Merritt is at the forefront of that fight.

(Scott Fruehwald)

May 17, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)