Saturday, December 23, 2017

Michigan State launches a "legal services innovation" index to measure innovative curricula

The purpose of this project which is part of Michigan State's LegalRnD program is to track and measure which law schools are undertaking an effort to develop a curriculum that focuses on developing student competencies in legal technologies and other law practice innovations.  PreLaw Magazine explains further:

Employers want new lawyers to find innovative ways to add value for their clients. But aside from anecdotes and intuition, law schools do not have a reliable way of measuring — or even describing — what employers are looking for. 


That is why Daniel Linna, director of LegalRnD – The Center for Legal Services Innovation, and his team at Michigan State University College of Law launched the Legal Services Innovation Index, a new initiative that tracks and measures innovation in legal education.


“Clients are asking lawyers to innovate, to use data to get better outcomes and to use technology to deliver legal services,” Linna said. “How can we prepare students to give clients that value?”


Looking at 10 technology and legal-service delivery disciplines, the law school innovation index identifies schools that have undertaken significant efforts to teach competencies in legal technology and innovation. Data analytics, process improvement and technology basics are just several of the disciplines Linna’s team is tracking. The index also looks at related law topics, such as artificial intelligence, block chain technology, cyber security, eDicovery and entrepreneurship and the law.

 . . . . 

Continue reading here.


December 23, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 22, 2017

Tuition Discounting in Private Law Schools

In the law school world, student applicants are well aware of the  practice of tuition discounting: providing institutional aid to select students to offset the price of attending the institution. A recent survey of the practice by private law schools discloses considerable discounting. Here are the most significant findings:

  • The overall average institutional tuition discount rate—essentially, the percentage of tuition and fee revenue schools used to fund their institutional grant aid programs—for participating law schools for all students enrolled in JD programs rose from 35 percent in Fall 2015 to 39 percent in Fall 2016.
  • The participating law schools were divided into two groups: high and low tuition. The tuition discount at high tuition law schools increased from 33 percent in Fall 2015 to 38 percent in Fall 2016; over the same time, low tuition law schools experienced an increase from 37 percent to 39 percent.
  • Among first-year law school students (1Ls), the overall average tuition discount rate declined from 46 percent in Fall 2015 to 41 percent in Fall 2016. However, this varies by tuition group. Law schools in the high 4 tuition group had a 1L discount rate that rose slightly from 41 percent in Fall 2015 to 42 percent in 2016. Low tuition law schools experienced a sharp 1L tuition discount rate decline over this period, from 51 percent to 39 percent.

Is this any way to run a law school? You can read more findings here. Business Officers (NACUBO), National Assoc. of College &, Tuition Discounting Study of Private Law Schools (November 15, 2017). AccessLex Institute Research Paper No. 17-10.


December 22, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

How does the new tax bill affect the costs associated with visiting professorships?

I teach and live in Florida but spent last year as a visiting professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs (which, by the way, was a phenomenal experience in no small part due to the outstanding cadets of USAFA). One of the reasons I, and others, are able to pursue such opportunities from a purely financial standpoint is because the tax code grants some pretty favorable deductions for the costs associated with a temporary job away from home that lasts less than 12 months. Under the present tax code, a visiting prof can deduct some of the costs associated with maintaining a second home (like rent) during the visitorship (as long as the vistorship is a qualifying distance from the professor's primary home per the tax code), a per diem meal expense, daily travel expenses between your temporary home and the new job, moving expenses to and back, etc. Speaking for myself, I likely would not have been able to pursue such an opportunity without these deductions given the cost of maintaining my primary home in Florida while I was away. 

I confess I'm not knowledgeable about the tax code but from what I've read it looks like most of the deductions that affect visiting professorships will be eliminated when you file your 2018 tax return (in 2019). For instance, you'll no longer be able to deduct moving expenses. A news bulletin I received from an accounting firm that summarizes the changes under the new tax code states that the meal per diem as well as all out of pocket, unreimbursed employment expenses associated with those who travel for work like pilots, flight attendants, etc. are essentially being eliminated. To wit, the new tax bill repeals all miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% of adjusted gross income, including the write-off for tax preparation fees and unreimbursed employee business expenses. 

Perhaps someone more knowledgeable about the new tax bill can chime in and confirm whether visiting profs will be able to deduct the costs associated with their visitorships going forward. If those deductions are indeed being eliminated, it will no doubt affect one's ability to pursue these kinds of opportunities which, to be blunt, sucks.  



December 21, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge Kozinski as Advocate: Breaking the Rules

In a recent class action concerning an automotive recall, retired Judge Alex Kozinski, a member of the plaintiff class, filed objections to the proposed settlement. Professor Beth Wilensky has analyzed his objections to determine whether he followed the advice on persuasion that he has  given to practitioners. Her conclusion: he didn't. Here are some of the “rules” he broke:

  1. Attacks on Counsel (In the past, he gave mixed advice on this tactic; most commentators advice against it.)
  2. Snark. Hyperbole. Anger.
  3. Intensifiers. Intensifiers are those little words and phrases—“clearly” “it is obvious” “there can be no doubt”—that advocates use as a crutch. 14)
  4. Overly Long Briefs.
  5. Block Quotes

You can read the full article here and here. Wilensky, Beth H. "Judge Kozinski Objects." Legal Comm. & Rhetoric 14 (2017): 81-97.


December 21, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

New startup is building robots that read documents 10x faster than humans

Ripcord is a new start-up that's building robots which can remove staples, scan massive amounts of  hardcopy documents and, it sounds like, turn the result into a searchable digital database. Will these robots replace legal secretaries and other law firm support personnel such as paralegals, at least with respect to photocopying, indexing and organizing documents?  And once everything is scanned and uploaded to a digital database, you would only need to mate that database to an AI program that can search for and identify, for example, privileged  or work-product documents.  And, viola! You don't need to hire associates to do that anymore. From the Business Insider:

This former Apple prodigy just got $25 million from Google Ventures to build giant paper-reading robots


In 1996, at the age of 16, Alex Fielding went to work for Apple, where he worked on the first iMac under the just-returned cofounder Steve Jobs. From there, he started a company with Steve Wozniak, Apple's other cofounder.


Nowadays, Fielding is the CEO of Ripcord, a startup running a growing factory floor populated by custom robots designed to scan, store, and index tremendous piles of paper for later retrieval, ten times faster than a human could do it.


. . . .


What Ripcord sells is a way for companies, especially publicly-traded companies and universities, to manage the massive amount of information that passes through their physical and digital doors. He says paper has been "exiled" in the shift to digital, but he wants to bring it back to the fold.


The vision, says Fielding, is to take all of a company's knowledge, digital and otherwise, and put it all in one easy-to-access place.


"There's so much stuff that's not searchable by technology," says Fielding.


A key part of Ripcord's solution comes from the aforementioned robots. Companies send Ripcord boxes upon boxes of paper records, and the robots remove staples and scan them in. From there, the information is retrievable from Ripcord Canopy, the company's PC, mobile, and web app for sifting your data.


. . . .

Continue reading here.


December 20, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Punctuation Exercises

Judge Gerald Lebovits has published a column on punctuation, which includes many exercises and explanations in 89 New York State Bar Association Journal 64 (Nov.-Dec. 2007.) You can access it here.


December 20, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Court Sanctions for Evading Maximum Page Limits

Crafty lawyers have used all sorts of ways to evade a court requirement limiting the number of pages in a document:

Orders and reported opinions catalogue various strategies, including these: presenting the main text in a font smaller than the court’s required font; presenting the main text with spacing less than required double spacing; using excessive footnotes, often single-spaced or in small fonts; or narrowing required margins on the sides, the top, or the bottom of pages.

In a short article in the Journal of the Missouri Bar, Douglas Abrams relates how courts have dealt with the sneaky lawyers (here). Sanctions for Evading Maximum Page Limits on Court Filings 73 Journal of the Missouri Bar 316 (Nov – Dec 2017).


December 20, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017 compiles a list of the 20 cheapest law schools in the USNWR Top 100

Got that?  These are not necessarily the best "bargains" (for that you'd need to take into account return on investment based on tuition versus the projected average starting salary upon graduation) but instead the cheapest tuitions among the U.S. News & World Report's Top 100 ranked law schools. As the list shows, $38K a year is considered "cheap" in this world since the University of Florida made the Top 20 list despite charging the same amount for a single year's tuition as it would cost you to drive away debt free in a new Alfa Romeo.  No offense law schools, I'd take the Alfa, pay cash for a "tiny house" and then travel Europe with the money I'd otherwise spend over the next three years. 

Here's the full list for your perusing pleasure:



December 19, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Academic Conference Panels: Do they have to be Boring?

I suspect that most of us have sat through panel discussions hoping that the next speaker will be better than the current one and not be an additional waste of time. At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Randy Laist offers some great suggestions for enlivening these panels. Here are the headlines:

Ban presenters from reading papers aloud. 

Flip the presentation. A panel might still be organized around 10-to-12-page written essays, but they could be made available in advance. The important innovation — the flip — is to replace the typical read-through with a discussion of the presenters’ arguments.

Distribute handouts. 

Rethink the moderator’s job. Moderators could set the stage by offering their own insights into the shared themes, connections, and concerns that make the proceedings a panel instead of a cluster of random presentations.

A good moderator should feel comfortable editorializing on the presenters’ work, invite them to address one another about common threads that connect their scholarship, and conclude the session with remarks that provide a sense of overview and closure.

Introduce the audience.  If the audience is small, ask people to introduce themselves; that can lay the groundwork for the conversations to come. If the size of the audience makes introductions impractical, the moderator could ask for a show of hands in response to key questions.

Incorporate writing.  In a conference panel, a moderator might also pose a question before the session starts and encourage attendees to compose a response over the course of the presentations. In other variations on this idea, the moderator might ask people to paraphrase each of the presentations briefly, write down a few keywords, or come up with a question for each panelist. Those written observations can become the basis for a robust discussion.

Use your smartphone. Record the panel as a podcast or a YouTube video, or stream it using Facebook Live. The moderator could open real-time discussion questions. Presenters could make their work available on Google Docs for collective editing or annotation by the audience. Hit your attendees with a pop quiz using Quizlet or an interactive exercise from BookWidgets.

You can read the full posting here.


December 19, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New AALS Section on Leadership

I have just received news from David Gibbs about a new AALS section on leadership.  David writes, "In November, the Executive Council of the AALS authorized the creation of a Leadership section of the AALS.  I was privileged to help Professor Deborah Rhode of Stanford, Leah Teague, Associate Dean of Baylor and Professor John Blaze who was the Dean of Tennessee establish the new AALS Section on Leadership.  Deborah is the president; Leah the president-elect; John and I will serve on the executive council; and Professor Terri Pollman of the William S. Boyd School of Law-UNLV and I will be co-editors of the newsletter."

"Leadership development is $46 billion-dollar industry that is widely use in business, non-profit and other organizations and is taught in business and other schools. Law schools are just beginning to realize that leadership development can help students and lawyers find their own voices, be effective and learn skills that are valued by employers and needed in legal practice and in other fields where lawyers play significant roles."

The section will have activities at AALS:

At the 2018 AALS Annual Meeting there will an Arc of Career Program on Leadership Development on Saturday January 6 from 8:30-12:00 Pacific Ballroom Salon 21, North Tower/Ground Level, Marriott moderated by David Delaney, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and Nancy H. Rogers, Ohio State University, Michael E. Moritz School of Law. 

The new leadership section plans to hold an informal meeting between 2-3 on Saturday January 6, which will be gather at the reception desk at the Marriott Marquis to discuss plans for programs, a newsletter, list serve, webpages and other activities. 

All are welcome to participate in the section or just learn more.  For more information, contact Deborah Rhode at or Leah Teague or David Gibbs at our interim email address

Good luck to this new section.

(Scott Fruehwald)

December 19, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 18, 2017

John Marshall May Merger with U Illinois—Chicago

For some time, the two institutions have been discussing a merger. If the merger succeeds, John Marshall would become the first public law school in Chicago.  From the statement of the John Marshall Law School:

The natural alignment of UIC’s public mission and JMLS’s commitment to provide access and opportunity, and to fill Chicago’s justice gap, present a number of opportunities, including potential interdisciplinary programs for students and research opportunities for faculty at both institutions that bridge the disciplines of law with many of the disciplinary strengths of UIC, including the health sciences, urban planning, public administration, the arts, and business.

You can read more here at the National Jurist.


December 18, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Following up on previous post about the LexisNexis-ICE controversy

Following up on a story Joe Hodnicki reported at the Law Librarian Blog about LexisNexis, along with several other big data companies, allegedly being interested in working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") by supplying database search services in connection with the agency's planned "extreme vetting" immigration program presently under development. A blog post about this issue published at the RIPS (Research, Instruction, and Patron Services) Law Librarian Blog (which is maintained by the American Association of Law Libraries) was taken down apparently on the advice of AALL's General Counsel.  Joe has some further commentary about possibly reasons the blog post was taken down along with expressing some concerns about end user privacy insofar as information imparted by immigration attorney doing searches on LexisNexis might compromise their client's privacy should the company in fact start working on ICE's  extreme vetting program. You can read Joe's full commentary here.


December 17, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Punctuation: Should We Follow the Formal Rules?

In my writing, I do follow the formal rules. But others are more flexible, In the article from Lithub, Stephen Spector makes the case for a relaxed philosophy of punctuation. Here are his concluding paragraphs:

The language expert Robert Allen says that punctuation is to writing what stitching is to clothing: just as stitches hold a garment together and help give it shape, punctuation helps hold our words together and gives form to our writing. It’s a good analogy, since style is important in both clothing and writing. You want your punctuation and mechanics to enhance what you’re saying, not to distract from it. In fact, as Allen says, the key test of good punctuation is whether your readers are aware of it or not. The less they notice it, the more successful you’ve been. But isn’t it difficult to stitch words together? And how many of us are master tailors anyway?

Here’s the truth: the basic rules for punctuation and mechanics aren’t hard. It’s partly a matter of your personal style. In 1939, one prominent grammar book said that punctuation is “governed two-thirds by rule and one-third by personal taste.” I’m not sure that we can quantify it that precisely, but our punctuation practices give you a lot of latitude to make personal choices. And some of the greatest writers have regarded their choices as an essential aspect of their art.

You can read more here.


December 17, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

1L Is the New Bar Prep by Sabrina DeFabritiis

1L Is the New Bar Prep by Sabrina DeFabritiis.


"Law school graduates, in growing numbers, are failing the bar exam. This reality is all the more staggering when we consider that these graduates have been preparing for the bar exam since their first year of law school. First-year legaI-writing courses teach students specific fundamental skills that are the foundation for success on the bar exam. This Article provides the perspective that the goal of passing the bar exam and teaching law students to think and write like lawyers is a symbiotic relationship. It directly analyzes the correlation between the fundamental skills associated with thinking like a lawyer and successful bar-essay writing.

The question then becomes, if law schools are teaching these skills, why do students continue to struggle with the bar exam? To answer that question, this Article analyzes the challenges law students face when they are required to apply the skills learned in in earlier context to a later assignment. Without proper instruction and sustained practice, it is unrealistic to expect law students to retain the skills necessary to solve one legal problem and then later apply those same skills to solve a different problem. This Article emphasizes how law schools have a duty to bridge the gap and foster the transfer of learning from the first year of law school to bar preparation. To guide law schools in better preparing their students for passing the bar exam, this Article concludes with a comprehensive approach detailing how law faculties can facilitate the transfer of fundamental skills from the beginning to the end of law school." (emphasis added)

(Scott Fruehwald)

December 17, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

25 Ways to Write Like Chief Justice Roberts

Putting side political considerations, most legal writing commentators speak highly of the Chief Justice’s writing style. At Legal Writing Pro, Ross Guberman draws 25 lessons in good writing style from one of the Chief’s opinions. You can access the illustrated lessons here.


December 16, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Teaching transactional legal skills across the curriculum

There's a new article by Professor Carol Goforth (Arkansas) called Transactional Skills Training Across The Curriculum that's just been published in the Journal of Legal Education at 66 J. Legal Educ. 904 (2017).  After reading the except below from the introduction, please go forth and check out the full article here

Legal education adapts slowly. In no area is this gradual change more apparent than in professional-skills instruction. While increasing academic resources have been devoted to practical skills, and particularly communication-based skills such as legal writing, the changes to date have not fully addressed the needs of modern lawyers. With the exception of legal writing, most skills instruction at the majority of law schools takes place in the upper-level curriculum. And while legal writing may be commonly taught in the first year, most first-year writing instruction is either predictive or persuasive in nature, rather than focusing on transactional drafting. This means that at most law schools, transactional skills are introduced after the required first year has immersed law students in the world of litigation. Even in the upper-level curriculum, transactional practice is underemphasized. For example, upper-level writing courses tend to focus on persuasive writing either in the form of briefs or scholarly articles, rather than on transactional drafting.


Although this article addresses transactional skills more broadly, legal writing provides an appropriate lens through which to view the differences between a dispute-resolution focus and one based on deals or other transactions. When a lawyer assists in a transaction, the kind of writing required is fundamentally different from the predictive or persuasive writing associated with litigation and other dispute-resolution contexts. Transactional drafting is prescriptive; it sets out how persons affected by the writing are to behave in the future rather than evaluating the consequences of prior acts. It neither involves a narrative about how the law is likely to apply to particular facts nor makes arguments about how the law should apply. It does not focus on explaining the law at all. Instead, this kind of writing uses the law to construct a legally enforceable template by which the involved parties will govern themselves prospectively, based on possibilities and contingencies that have not yet happened. It requires input from both sides of the deal and something other than adversarial persuasion, and it must be clear not only to the current parties, but also to those who might be called to understand the terms of the arrangement in the future.


December 16, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Year End Bonuses at Big Law

From JDJournal:

Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP [has] announced its year-end associate bonuses, and the numbers were in line with those given the past two years. Within hours, other law firms matched the Big Law firm, which famously set the recent scale for associate pay.

According to Law.comMilbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy LLP and Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP followed Cravath’s lead and offered year-end bonuses to its associates that matched Cravath’s structure of $15,000 to $100,000. The amount will be paid in December, and the bonus structures are based on the associates’ entering class.

Cravath Bonus Structure 

Class of 2017 — $15,000 (pro-rated)
Class of 2016 — $15,000
Class of 2015 — $25,000
Class of 2014 — $50,000
Class of 2013 — $65,000
Class of 2012 — $80,000
Class of 2011 — $90,000
Class of 2010 — $100,000
Class of 2009 — $100,000


December 15, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Citi Private Law Firm Group predicts only modest growth in 2018

In contrast to a recent regional report that reflects great optimism from law firms about the coming new year (at least with respect to hiring), Citi's annual Private Law Firm Group report for 2018, which reflects a more national perspective, is not quite so sanguine when it comes to what the new year might hold. The Citi report, which is generally targeted at larger law firms, predicts, among other things, the following:

  • Modest revenue growth in 2018 with an increase in profits-per-partner only in the single digits;
  • Continuing pressure within the legal sector generally for law firms to consolidate;
  • Continued economic pressure from alternative legal service providers (the Citi report notes that these providers are growing rapidly and are picking off "low value" legal work ordinarily done by lawyers);
  • Artificial Intelligence will continue to encroach upon work that otherwise would have been done by lawyers; 
  • Modest growth with respect to the demand for legal services; and
  • Continuing downward pressure on billing rates for legal services.

Yikes. You can read the full Citi Private Law Group report for 2018, prepared in conjunction with Hildebrandt Consulting, here.


December 14, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Teaching Conference for Adjuncts & New Profs

Law Teaching for Adjunct Faculty and New Professors is a one-day conference for new and experienced adjunct faculty, new full-time professors, and others who are interested in developing and supporting those colleagues. The conference will take place on Saturday, April 28, 2018, at Texas A&M University School of Law, Fort Worth, Texas, and is co-sponsored by the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning and Texas A&M University School of Law.

Sessions will address topics such as

  • Course design and learning outcomes creation
  • Assessment methods
  • Active learning approaches
  • Team-based learning
  • Technology and teaching

By  the end of the conference, participants will have concrete ideas to bring back to their students, colleagues, and institutions.  And each participant will receive a copy of Teaching Law by Design for Adjuncts or Teaching Law by Design.

Registration information coming soon!


December 14, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legal Communication & Rhetoric: The 2017 Volume is Out

In case you’ve missed it, the 2017 volume of Legal Communication and Rhetoric is out. Here are the articles. You should be able to access each by click on the title. I have a book review of “Your Rugged Constitution,” a classic.  (ljs)

December 14, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)