Thursday, December 14, 2017
Professor Eugene Volokh has moved his popular blog from the Washington Post to Reason.com. He cites the tightening paywall at the Post and the Post’s censorship of offensive words that the blog sometimes quotes. Now the blog will be paywall-free and censorship-free.
You can access the announcement here.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
And it’s a comedy (!) Yes, CBS is developing a TV series (loosely?) based on the law school years of Dr. Phil’s son at SMU. From Deadline Hollywood:
Written by O’Shannon and Cochran, Class Action is based on Jay McGraw’s real-life experiences at a Texas University. A law student looking for the easy way out gets more than he bargained for when he finds himself in a class where he and an eclectic group of fellow law students are required to argue actual cases in court.
Stay tuned. You can read more here. Do you think the show will lure young people to enroll in law school?
Since August 2016, ABA has issued warnings or imposed probation on ten schools for lax admissions standards that set up students for failure on the bar exam. According to JD Journal (here), Law.com has compiled this list:
- Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia
- Arizona Summit Law School in Phoenix
- Ave Maria School of Law in Naples, Florida
- Charlotte Law School in North Carolina (closed)
- Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan
- Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville
- John Marshall Law School in Atlanta
- Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego
- Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston
- Valparaiso University Law School in Valparaiso, Indiana
Some of the schools on the list such as Arizona Summit, Charlotte, Florida Coastal and John Marshall faced public criticism for being for-profit institutions, while others such as Valparaiso improved their standards and were found to later be in compliance and had their sanctions removed.
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
For several years legal industry commentators like Richard Susskind have been predicting that technology in the form of Artificial Intelligence ("AI") will wind up replacing some lawyers when it comes to many of the routine tasks they now perform thereby further depressing the job market for new graduates. So far, the reality has not been as dire as the predictions. A new report by legal consulting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa says that, at least for the near term, they don't anticipate AI will be replacing lawyers and thus having a negative impact on the job market but instead will be leveraged by them to perform certain tasks with greater efficiency. From page 9 of the firm's newly published Industry Outlook Report for 2018:
One way legal leaders are increasing efficiencies, enhancing their service offerings and optimizing lawyers is with the help of deep learning technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI). In 2017, firms and legal teams looked to these technologies to improve business management and service delivery, and enhance and expand capabilities. Since its emergence, AI has proved critical in legal research. Creating and automating certain legal functions can help teams better understand and classify data, determine trends, manage workflow, conduct due diligence and document review, and implement other prevention tools and processes. This frees up lawyers to handle legal analysis more efficiently and tackle more in-depth, complex matters. While ominous predictions hint at AI ultimately replacing lawyers, this is far from reality. Instead, AI combined with personnel will make way for a supercharged lawyer.
You can read the full report here.
These days, we are doing some hiring, and I am sitting through teaching demonstrations, most of which could use some improvement. I sympathize with the performers. It’s hard to run a mock class with unprepared “students” who are judging your every move.
At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Rob Jenkins offers some warnings and advice to the performers. The big take away:
What faculty members serving on hiring committees want most from a candidate giving a teaching demo is a little variety — not just because it speaks to teaching ability but because we’re bored. (I’m only half kidding.) Yes, by all means, show us you know how to use technology. PowerPoint is fine, if that’s what you’ve got. But show us, too, that you know how to give a (brief) lecture, engage us in discussion, and lead a short activity.
You can read more here.
Joe Hodnicki of the Law Librarian Blog brought to my attention this post from a pair of Professor-law librarians who are cautioning others in their field against allowing the services of law librarians and other information service professionals to be misused by ICE as part of the creation of its extreme vetting surveillance program presumably aimed at Muslims. As the post points out, law librarians are experts in searching the web and other databases for information and hence it would make sense that government officials might seek to leverage these skills in order to build personal information portfolios for targets of the extreme vetting program. Joe's post also reports that several "big data" companies, including IBM, Deloitte, Booze Allen, and LexisNexis, among others, may have expressed interest in working with ICE on its extreme vetting program (the basis for that assertion comes from a blog called The Intercept (see the publication's "about" page here) the accuracy or reliability of which I can't vouch for). I was unaware until I read Joe's post that as of 2006, LexisNexis had created the single largest database of public-records related information which no doubt would be an appealing resource to any entity interested in creating personal information dossiers.
A post script to Joe's column at the Law Librarian Blog notes that the original post 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 on the advice of AALL's General Counsel. The RIPS blog offers no further explanation for that decision.
Hat tip to Joe H.
Monday, December 11, 2017
Add Cardozo to the list of schools that will accept GRE scores in place of LSAT scores. Its rationale:
At Cardozo we are dedicated to recruiting an intellectually curious and diverse student body with a wide variety of academic and professional interests,” said David Martinidez, the dean of admissions. “Accepting the GRE lets us welcome a greater number of highly-qualified candidates with academic backgrounds in the life sciences and engineering, and who may not have the resources to finance or study for multiple entrance exams.
You can read the announcement here.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General has highlighted 6 scams that might ruin our holiday. He also provides a brief video on these scams. The headlines are:
The Bait and Switch
Copycat and Fraudulent Websites
Retailers Who Request Payment through Wire Transfer
You can find more information here at the Patch network.
Sunday, December 10, 2017
There's some very positive attorney job market news coming out of the PaLaw Magazine's 22nd Annual Managing Partner's Survey which found that 100% of respondents expect to grow their law firm head counts in 2018. Fully 23% expect to grow their attorney ranks by more than 10% while the remaining 77% expect growth will be 10% or less in the coming year. That's a far cry from just a few years ago and represents more optimism than manager partners expressed in 2015 when only 77% expected to see growth in the coming year and 2016 when 88% anticipated expanding the number of lawyers they employ.
Perhaps just as significantly, none of the Pennsylvania firm leaders who responded to the annual survey expect to be laying-off lawyers in 2018 whereas 12% of managing partners expected lay-offs in the coming year at this time last year.
You can read the full report at the Legal Intelligencer blog here.
Professor emeritus Otto Stockmeyer encourages us to have our students stand and fill the room with their intelligence. His reasons:
According to studies, standing improves attention, memory and other cognitive skills.
In a typically large first-year classroom, a student is more likely to be heard if standing.
Lawyers are expected to stand when addressing a judge or jury. Law students should become accustomed to the practice long before entering the courtroom for the first time.
You can read the full article here, at the WMU-Cooley Law School blog.
What do you think? Please click on “Comment” and let us know.
From Inside Higher Ed:
Last week the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission published his plan to dismantle Obama-era regulations protecting "net neutrality" -- the idea that all web content should be treated equally by internet service providers.
Under the FCC proposal, due to be voted on Dec. 14 by the majority-Republican commission, ISPs would have the freedom to slow down or even block websites or online services that do not serve their commercial interests. They could also charge their customers a fee to prioritize the delivery of their content through the creation of internet “fast lanes.”
Higher education groups have been united in their condemnation of the net neutrality rollback, which they say could make it more difficult for students and the public to access educational resources, and potentially impose huge costs on institutions.
You can read more here.
Saturday, December 9, 2017
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting some modestly good news for November - the legal sector expanded by 600 jobs. Though BLS initially reported a net loss of 1,100 jobs for the preceding month of October, this new report revises that figure by showing that the legal sector in fact added 1,900 jobs (The BLS often revises its job figures the month following its initial report).
Overall, The American Lawyer is reporting that the legal sector has lost a total of 50,000 jobs since its peak in 2007 before the Great Recession. As you may know, law school applications for 2018 are also up so far this year as are the number of people taking the LSAT.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, a 10 to 20 minute nap offers great benefits.
- Naps can restore alertness, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%.
- Naps can increase alertness in the period directly following the nap and may extend alertness a few hours later in the day.
- Scheduled napping has also been prescribed for those who are affected by narcolepsy.
- Napping has psychological benefits. A nap can be a pleasant luxury, a mini-vacation. It can provide an easy way to get some relaxation and rejuvenation.
On its website, the Foundation offers tips on how to nap effectively (here). I nap daily. I sometimes suspect that sleeping—not being awake—is my natural state.
Friday, December 8, 2017
You and your students might find this set of cases and opinions worthy of discussion. From the Disciplinary Committee of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (here):
- Is it an unconstitutional denial of due process for a criminal defense lawyer to concede the client's guilt without the client's consent? The United States Supreme Court has granted certiorari on a case raising that issue.
- Can a lawyer working for a public interest nonprofit organization provide limited legal services indirectly by advising nonlawyer professionals who work directly with clients? A formal opinion of the New York City Bar's Committee on Professional Ethics approves the concept, but provides a lengthy discussion of precautions and limitations the lawyer should observe.
- Can a lawyer accept payment in Bitcoin? A Nebraska ethics opinion says yes, but advises to convert it into dollars as quickly as possible.
- Is a government lawyer's private email account beyond the reach of discovery in a suit against the state? The Supreme Court of Vermont ruled that the state has a duty to at least inquire into whether government lawyers have discoverable information on private accounts and computers.
- If a prosecutor is fired, is a criminal defendant entitled to access to the personnel file of the prosecutor to look for exculpatory evidence? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit says no, at least on the facts before them.
- Is the fact that a judge is a Facebook friend with a lawyer on a case reason enough to disqualify the judge from a case? A Florida Court of Appeal found that the mere fact of a Facebook friendship is not evidence of a close relationship significant enough to disqualify the trial judge.
- Does the suspension of a lawyer's license give him a basis to seek discharge of $500,000 in student loans for law school? No way, according to a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
- Are Artificial Intelligence programs on the verge of acquiring a form of legal personhood? They may be in Estonia.
Thursday, December 7, 2017
Brooklyn Law School joins the growing number of law schools that will accept Graduate Record Exam scores as a replacement for LSAT scores. From the announcement:
The decision to accept the GRE in addition to the LSAT for application to our Law School is yet another way we are seeking to attract talented students from diverse education and career backgrounds—including in the sciences, engineering, medicine, and technology—who wish to pursue legal education,” said Dean Nick Allard.
As we prepare the next generation of lawyers for a rapidly changing marketplace, the way in which we attract and comprehensively evaluate our prospective law students must change as well. The GRE will give us another objective measure that is widely used in graduate education by which we can assess an applicant’s potential to succeed in both law school and professionally.
You can access the full statement here.
While U.S. Supreme court opinions frequently have a considerable number of dissents and concurring opinions, federal circuit court opinions do not. Why? Judge Emeritus Harry Edwards of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia identifies collegiality and consensus among the circuit judges as the answers:
In reflecting on these matters over the years, I have come to understand that there are a number of factors that may affect appellate decision making, some that should and some that should not. These factors include: the requirements of positive law; precedent; leadership; internal court rules; whether the judges are equally committed to prepare cases carefully and deliberate seriously; how cases are framed and argued by the litigants; judicial appointments; the relative intelligence of the court’s judges; the judges’ personalities and ideological leanings; diversity on the bench; and whether a court has a core group of well-seasoned judges who have worked together for a good period of time. These are elusive considerations that cannot be easily determined and weighed. They matter, however. . . .
Consensus typically fails only when the governing precedent is read in divergent and irreconcilable ways, and judges disagree in how they would exercise any discretion that is given to the court by a lack of clarity in the governing law. Before judges admit to that failure, however, they have ample opportunity to persuade and look for a reasonable resolution on legal grounds.
I strongly believe that the work of the courts is substantially enhanced if the factors that may affect decision making are ‘filtered’ by collegiality. There are cross-fertilising effects between collegiality and certain of these factors. So, for example, collegiality fosters the promulgation of institutional rules, and the presence of these rules promotes collegiality.
In the end, collegiality mitigates judges’ personal predilections and enables us to find common ground and reach better decisions. If politics and ideology significantly affected our decision making, the courts would issue more dissenting and concurring opinions. The fact that a vast majority of our decisions are unanimous speaks volumes about the positive effects of collegiality on collegial decision making in the various courts of appeals.
You can access his article, complete with extensive statistics, here. Harry T. Edwards, Collegial Decision Making in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Last week, I wrote that sexual harassment training won't work because it doesn't include training in cognitive biases, which affect how sexual harassment is perceived. (here) Cognitive biases also affect other aspects of sexual harassment prevention.
Yesterday, Wired published an article, entitled Many Startup Founders Doubt Extent of Sexual Harassment by Erin Griffith. The article states, " a new survey conducted by venture firm First Round Capital suggests that startup founders still have a long way to go when it comes to acknowledging and addressing the problem. The survey polled more than 800 startup founders, 17 percent of whom identified as female. According to the survey, more than half of startup founders have experienced or know someone who has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. A full 78 percent of the women surveyed answered yes to the question." "Yet 19 percent of respondents said the problem of sexual harassment in tech has been overblown by the media; men were four times more likely to say this than women."
Why have many in the tech industry failed to take sexual harassment seriously? Cognitive biases. Three cognitive biases are at work here. First, under ethical (or moral) blindness, the tech bosses have failed to see the sexual harassment problem. Second, under the overconfidence effect, they think that they can avoid sexual harassment problems at their firms, even if other companies have problems. Finally, under the halo effect where people judge an individual based on a dominant characteristic such as looks, the bosses fail to see that their smartest employees might have character flaws.
Cognitive biases explain many of the problems with preventing sexual harassment. The only way to significantly decrease sexual harassment in the workplace is training in cognitive biases.