Sunday, October 21, 2018

With His App, He Helps Average Citizens to Sue Government & Big Businesses

Joshua Browder created the “Do Not Pay App” to help average people sue government & big corporations for damages. From OZY, here are the opening paragraphs:

If you’ve logged into Facebook recently, you may have noticed an unusual message at the top of your screen. The social-media giant issued an apology to users for the massive September data breach in which the phone numbers, email addresses and “liked” pages of 30 million people were exposed. A Colorado law firm recently filed a class-action lawsuit against Facebook to help victims sue for damages, but for most people affected, the logistics, paperwork and legal fees of joining a suit like this are too much. Enter Joshua Browder and the DoNotPay app.

Browder invented DoNotPay to help victims in cases exactly like this. After the 2017 Equifax data breach, people who used the app were awarded $7,000 on average, with some winning as much as $11,000. “I’m just making the law free,” says the 21-year-old Stanford student. “There’s no reason why you should pay a lawyer thousands of dollars to file a simple document.”

That app eventually became DoNotPay, which has helped fight $16 million in parking tickets in the U.K. and U.S. In addition to tickets and settlements, the app can help you get refunds for late packages, bank fees and ridesharing mishaps (if your Uber driver takes a wrong turn, you could be entitled to some cash) and can help lower the cost of your prescription drugs, just by assisting with paperwork that many lawyers charge an arm and a leg for.

For the full article, please click here. Would creating  similar app be a good project for law students? But be careful about "unauthorized practice of law complaints.


October 21, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law school trouble this week

Separate stories this week report trouble for two law schools. Several news outlets reported that the Tennessee Higher Education Commission voted 8 to 5 to reject the proposal to move Valparaiso University Law School (after the university's board of directors voted, in effect, to wind down the law school's operations beginning this year) from northwest Indiana to Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. As the Indianapolis Business Journal reports, a statement from MTSU president suggested that the reason for the "no" vote was the Tennessee Higher Ed Board's concern about competition from the state's two existing public law schools. At present it's unclear whether Valparaiso has a back-up plan. 

Possibly spelling trouble for San Diego's Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Inside Higher Ed (via Above the Law) is reporting that the school will not enroll students for the coming spring semester as it traditionally does. A school spokesman said administrators "decided to forego the revenue that a spring entering class would provide because a proportionally smaller spring entering class might not provide the vibrant, collaborative atmosphere for our new students that is an essential part of the first-year law student experience."


October 21, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Executioners File Amicus for Death Row Inmate

Death row inmate Russell Bucklew’s case is before the Supreme Court, and he has some surprising supporters. From Bloomberg:

  •  But one brief in particular is a bit more atypical: it’s from a group of former corrections officials.
  • They say botched executions like the one Bucklew faces also negatively affect the government officials assigned to carry out and supervise the ultimate punishment. His veins are compromised due to serious and rare health issues, which could lead to bloody and exploding tumors if the state kills him by lethal injection, the way it wants, instead of lethal gas, the way he wants.
  • Something for the justices to think about when they hear argument in Bucklew’s case Nov. 6.

More here.

From the amicus brief:

Amici Curiae are former corrections officials, many of whom have firsthand experience administering the death penalty. Amici submit this brief supporting petitioner to emphasize the heavy burden that executions place on the people who must carry them out—a burden that becomes intolerable when, as here, there is a grave risk that a botched execution will result in excessive pain and suffering. They urge the Court to consider not only the immorality of executing a man using cruel and unusual means, but also the harm to public servants who participate in such an act.


October 20, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Storytelling Conference Will Meet in Boulder

Here is the introduction to the Conference’s announcement:

On behalf of the committee organizing the 7th Applied Legal Storytelling Conference, we invite you to submit a proposal for this summer’s upcoming conference in Boulder, CO.  A PDF of this announcement appears on the conference website,

Call for Proposals

Seventh Biennial Conference on Applied Legal Storytelling

Boulder, Colorado, July 9–11 2019

Hosted by the University of Colorado School of Law,

University of Denver Sturm College of Law, and University of Wyoming School of Law,

and coordinated by the Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Scholarship Group

This is the call for proposals for the seventh biennial conference on Applied Legal Storytelling. We are offering two deadlines for submitting proposals: January 21, 2019 (priority deadline) and March 11, 2019 (extended deadline).  

About the Conference 

The Applied Legal Storytelling Conference brings together academics, judges, and practitioners. The conference has previously convened in 2007 (London), 2009 (Portland), 2011 (Denver), 2013 (London), Seattle (2015), and Washington D.C. (2017). We are very excited to bring it back to the Mountain West (Boulder) in July 2019.


October 19, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Enrollment at Alabama law schools declines by 6%

Despite improving employment opportunities for local law grads, the Birmingham Business Journal is reporting that enrollment in the state's four law schools is down about 6% from last year. This seems to buck the trend at other schools where enrollments have increased, in some cases substantially, from the previous year. From the BBJ:

Enrollment slips at Alabama law schools


Birmingham law firms continue to add attorneys to their local offices, but that hasn’t corresponded with higher enrollment at nearby law schools.


Enrollment at schools on our newest law schools List fell by nearly 6 percent since last year, according to figures obtained from school representatives. That continues a gradual enrollment decline for local schools that we’ve reported since at least 2015.

. . . . 


Here’s a look at the total number of students enrolled at law schools on our List. The full List, including median GPAs, median LSAT scores and tuition figures, is available for subscribers here.


4) Faulkner University's Thomas Goode Jones School of Law: 206

3) Birmingham School of Law: 350

2) Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law at the University of Alabama: 381

1) Cumberland School of Law: 426

. . . . 

You can read the complete article on the state of law school enrollment in Alabama at the BBJ here.


October 18, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Canada Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

The new federal law will offer a broad regulatory framework, but Canada's 13 provinces and territories will set some of their own rules. Some specs...

  • The legal age for marijuana use will be 19 in most provinces.
  • Recreational users can possess 30 grams of marijuana. Medical users can carry 150 grams.

Some terminology: Canada's not only decriminalizing weed, but also taxing, regulating, and monitoring the industry's growth, distribution, and sale. That means Canadian pot firms can use traditional banks, trade stocks, and even sponsor medical studies.

But patience is key. In Ontario, weed will only be available online at a government-run website...for now. And cannabis-infused edibles likely won't be allowed until next year throughout the country.

So the biggest impact may be felt in the business world. CIBC analysts said the Canadian weed industry will reach $6.5 billion in retail sales by 2020.

One final stat: The Canadian Securities Exchange (a less regulated, more obscure exchange) completed C$1.4 billion in equity raises in the first half of this year. Almost C$1 billion of that came from cannabis companies alone.

More here.



October 18, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

With Climate Change, Beer Prices Could Double

From Morning Brew (here).

. In a recent study in the journal Nature Plants, an international group of researchers concluded that extreme weather events could cause barley yields to fall 3% to 17% (depending on the severity) through 2099. And you know what that means?

Beer prices could double on average.


October 18, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Disruptive Neuroscience of Judicial Choice by Anna Spain Bradley

The Disruptive Neuroscience of Judicial Choice by Anna Spain Bradley.

"Scholars of judicial behavior overwhelmingly substantiate the historical presumption that most judges act impartially and independent most of the time. The reality of human behavior, however, says otherwise. Drawing upon untapped evidence from neuroscience, this Article provides a comprehensive evaluation of how bias, emotion, and empathy — all central to human decision-making — are inevitable in judicial choice. The Article offers three novel neuroscientific insights that explain why this inevitability is so. First, because human cognition associated with decision-making involves multiple, and often intersecting, neural regions and circuits, logic and reason are not separate from bias and emotion in the brain. Second, bias, emotion, empathy and other aspects of our cognition can be implicit, thereby shaping our behavior in ways that we are unaware. This challenges the longstanding assumption that a judge can simply put feelings aside when making judicial decisions. Third, there is no basis in neuroscience to support the idea that judges are exempt from these aspects of human cognition. These findings disrupt widespread faith in the unassailable rationality and impartiality of judges, and demonstrate how such views are increasingly at odds with evidence about how our brains work. By offering an original descriptive account of judicial behavior that is rooted in neuroscience, this Article provides a novel exposition of why bias, emotion and empathy have the capacity to influence the choices judges make. Doing so asks us to view judges as the humans they are."

(Scott Fruehwald)

October 18, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Duquesne U. School of Law hosting April 2019 conference on Artificial Intelligence, Legal Ed. and Law Practice: Call for proposals and papers.

Here are the details for submitting conference proposals and papers courtesy of Duquesne Professor Jan Levine:


Thinking About Law, Law Practice, and Legal Education


A conference for lawyers, technologists, policy makers, and legal educators 

April 26 & 27, 2019


Hosted by Duquesne University School of Law, Pittsburgh, PA


Developments in artificial intelligence are changing virtually all aspects our world, ranging from autonomous vehicles to robotic surgery, and from smart phones to smart speakers.  Lawyers, legal educators, and policy makers are already experiencing the effects of computers that aid and, in some cases, replace the often-tedious work done by lawyers and other members of society.  Law school graduates will need to understand how intelligent systems can enhance and streamline the work that they do, and how their careers may be changed in the future.  Furthermore, artificial intelligence technology will likely call for greater government oversight, result in new laws, and trigger litigation.  This two-day conference seeks presentations that will demonstrate how the development of artificial intelligence is affecting society, the law, the legal profession, and legal education.  We invite proposals from educators, practitioners, policy makers, and computer scientists  interested in speaking about these issues.  The Duquesne Law Review plans to dedicate space in its Winter 2019 symposium issue to publishing papers from this conference. 


Possible topics about technology include:

  • The use (and limits) of artificial intelligence in replicating legal reasoning.
  • The use of artificial intelligence to better inform legal rules.
  • Regulating modern machines, such as autonomous vehicles.
  • Privacy aspects of the uses and misuses of artificial intelligence.


Possible topics about law practice include:

  • Artificial Intelligence and e-Discovery.
  • The role of artificial intelligence in lawyers’ choices of courts and predicting the speed and results of judicial decision-making.
  • The growing role of AI in legal research and the effects on professional responsibility.


Possible topics about legal education include:

  • Integrating computer science training into the legal curriculum.
  • Producing tech-savvy law graduates.
  • Changes in legal research instruction triggered by artificial intelligence.
  • Using technology to assist disabled students with analysis and writing.


We welcome proposals for 30-minute and 50-minute presentations on these topics, by individuals or panels.   Proposals for presentations should be sent as an e-mail file attachment in MS Word to Professor Wes Oliver at [email protected] and Professor Jan Levine at [email protected] by December 3, 2018.  They will confirm receipt of all submissions.  Proposals for presentations should be 1000 to 2000 words long, and should denote the topic to be addressed, the amount of time sought for the presentation, any special technological needs for the session, the presenter’s background and institutional affiliation, and contact information.  Proposals should note whether the presenter intends to submit an article to the Duquesne Law Review, based on the presentation.  Proposals by co-presenters are welcome.  Proposals will be reviewed by Professors Oliver and Levine, and by the editorial staff of the Duquesne Law Review.  We anticipate devoting one day to presentations on the law, policy development, and law practice; and one day to presentations on legal education.  Attendees may register for one of the two days or for both days.


Decisions on proposals will be announced by January 7, 2019.  Full drafts of articles based on conference presentations will be due by July 1, 2019; within a month of that date the Duquesne Law Review will determine which of those articles it wishes to publish in the Winter 2019 symposium issue.  Final versions of articles will be due by August 19, 2019. 


Attendance at the two-day conference, on Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27, will be free for presenters and $50 per day for non-presenters with an academic affiliation; other attendees will be charged $250 for each day’s attendance. Continuing legal education credit of approximately six hours will be offered, depending upon the review and approval of credits by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education Board. Duquesne will provide free on-site parking to conference attendees.


Pittsburgh is an easy drive or short flight from many cities.  To accommodate persons wishing to stay over in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday evenings, Duquesne will arrange for a block of discounted rooms at a downtown hotel adjacent to campus, within walking distance of the law school and downtown Pittsburgh.  We will also provide attendees with information about the Pittsburgh area’s attractions, including our architectural treasures, museums, shopping, and sporting events.



October 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

52 Year Old Prof Was Denied Tenure. Jury Awarded Her $1.3 Million

From Bloomberg:

A jury was convinced that American University denied tenure to a professor because of her age, awarding her $1.3 million in damages.

Age discrimination in higher education is “increasingly a problem,” Lynne Bernabei of Bernabei & Kabat PLLC in Washington told Bloomberg Law Oct. 16. She represented Dr. Loubna Hanna at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Given the tight academic job market and economic concerns on campuses, it looks like universities prefer to grant tenure to younger professors who will give their entire careers to a single institution, Bernabei said.

In the AU case, an economist gave a range of dollar amounts to the jury showing the economic damage Hanna experienced from being denied tenure, Bernabei told Bloomberg Law.

The jury found that age was a substantial factor in the decision to deny Hanna’s application for tenure and promotion, according to the verdict form. It awarded Hanna $1,151,000 in compensatory damages and $175,000 in damages for emotional distress, for a total of $1,326,000.

You can read more here.


October 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A helpful checklist for good writing

This comes from Lynn Gaertner-Johnston's excellent Business Writing blog. Ms. Gaertner-Johnston presents these tips in the form of a self-administered quiz you can take to determine how clear, concise and audience-centered your writing is. But I could also see legal writing profs (or other legal skills profs) taking these test questions and turning them into a self-assessment checklist for law students (with proper attribution, of course!).

You'll have to visit the Business Writing blog to see how to score yourself if you decide to take this as test and what that score means in terms of how clear and effective your writing is. But here are the general criteria that Ms. Gaertner-Johnston has developed to assess good business writing (which applies equally to print as well as electronic communications). 

  • Will the reader know what the communication is about from the subject line or title?  
  • Does the writing get to the point quickly?
  • Does the piece of writing focus on just one purpose? 
  • Does the message ask the reader for action clearly with words such as "Please respond by October 20"?
  • Did you include your full name and contact information (or someone else's name and information if appropriate)? 
  • Does the message include short- and medium-length, uncomplicated sentences?
  • Does each sentence have only one idea?
  • Does the piece include positive language, even if the message is neutral or negative? 
  • Is the message formatted in short chunks of text?
  • Is the message free of abbreviations, acronyms, and terms its readers may not recognize?  

You can take Ms. Gaertner-Johnston's "good writing" test here, see how you do, and then check out her tips for improving your score.  


October 16, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 15, 2018

Why Subject-Verb-Object?

We may forget that many languages use a different word order. Wikipedia tells us:

There are six theoretically possible basic word orders for the transitive sentence. The overwhelming majority of the world's languages are either subject–verb–object (SVO) or subject–object–verb (SOV), with a much smaller but still significant portion using verb–subject–object (VSO) word order. The remaining three arrangements are exceptionally rare, with verb–object–subject(VOS) being slightly more common than object–subject–verb (OSV), and object–verb–subject (OVS) being significantly more rare than the two preceding orders

A paper by Murray Gell-Mann and Merritt Ruhlen, building on work in comparative linguistics, asserts that the distribution[clarification needed] of word order types in the world's languages was originally SOV. The paper compares a survey of 2135 languages with a "presumed phylogenetic tree" of languages, concluding that changes in word order tend to follow particular pathways, and the transmission of word order is to a great extent vertical (i.e. following the phylogenetic tree of ancestry) as opposed to horizontal (areal, i.e. by diffusion). According to this analysis, the most recent ancestor of[all?] currently known languages was spoken recently enough to trace the whole evolutionary path of word order in most cases.

Still, we may wonder why subject-verb-object is the standard in our culture.


October 15, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The 2017-18 Blakely Advocacy Institute's ranking of top 20 law school moot court programs

Each year the Blakely Advocacy Institute at the University of Houston School of Law compiles a list of the nation's top moot court programs based upon each school's moot court competition results that year. The top 16 schools on the list are then invited to compete in the Hunton Andrews Kurth Moot Court National Championship sponsored by the BAI. Here is the list of 2017-18 moot court rankings as compiled by the BAI and reported in the current issue of preLaw Magazine

2017-18 Moot Court Rankings

1. South Texas College of Law Houston
2. Chicago-Kent College of Law
3. Baylor University School of Law
4. University of Oklahoma College of Law
5. University of California-Hastings
6. NYU School of Law
7. Texas Tech University School of Law
8. Loyola University Chicago School of Law
9. University of Georgia School of Law
10. William & Mary Law School
11. University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
12. Ohio State University
12. St. Mary’s University School of Law
14. Florida Coastal School of Law
14. Georgetown University Law Center
14. Washington University School of Law
17. Michigan State University College of Law
17. University of Texas School of Law
19. The George Washington University Law School
20. Liberty University School of Law


October 15, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

How Hard is Law School? Law School v. Undergrad

The University of Buffalo Law School blog distills the differences into five questions—and offers realistic answers plus advice. Here are the questions:

  1. How hard are law school classes?
  2. How hard is it to study?
  3. How hard is it to get good grades?
  4. How hard is it to participate & perform well in class?
  5. How hard is it to BE a law student?

More here


October 14, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Young Millennial Lawyers, Same Old Alcoholism

From the American Bar Association Journal on line (excerpts):

2017 Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation study found 36.4 percent of lawyers surveyed had scores consistent with problem drinking. But this statistic could surely be expected to change as health-conscious millennials, a cohort known for bucking the long-standing trends of previous generations, come to dominate the field of law.

So far, the evidence suggests otherwise.

Millennials’ drinking habits, in comparison with other generations, are reflected in legal profession alcoholism stats, which show that junior associates at law firms are the heaviest drinkers. Also, at least when it comes to beer, millennials prefer stronger drinks. When baby boomers hit the town, according to information published by Beeradvocate, they were content to drink Miller High Life, 4.6 percent alcohol by volume, while Gen-Xersliked to party with Coors Lights, 4.2 percent ABV. But the millennial generation prefers craft beer, which tends to have about twice as much alcohol content as old school lagers and pilsners like Bud and Miller, with IPAs and similar beers typically featuring 7 percent or more ABV. 

More here.


October 13, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 12, 2018

Is there a relationship between law student participation in experiential externships and bar passage scores?

I didn't realize until reading the abstract for Professor Scott Johns' (Denver) new article (below) that the National Conference of Bar Examiners has apparently been promoting the idea that pursuing experiential learning opportunities in law school harms bar exam performance. I don't know whether the NCBE has an empirical basis for that claim or instead whether it's based on speculation.  However, it does seem a tad ironic for the NCBE to suggest practical legal education harms law students' ability to practice law insofar as it hurts their chances of passing the bar exam when pretty much everyone agrees that the bar exam itself is a very poor measure of one's qualifications or ability to actually practice law.  

Anyhow, Professor Johns' article discusses the results of a three year study that found students who participated in experiential externships by some measure outperformed on the bar exam those students who didn't pursue those opportunities while a more in-depth statistical analysis ultimately concluded that participating in externships had no effect, either positive or negative, on bar performance. (Though I think we can all agree that participating in experiential externships helps prepare students to practice law much more so than learning how to game a multiple choice exam). As an aside, I'm very proud to say that Professor Johns is a former student of mine as well as USAF pilot. Go Falcons!

Below is the abstract of his article, called A Statistical Exploration: Analyzing the Relationship (if any) Between Externship Participation and Bar Exam Scores. 42 Okla. City U. L. Rev. 281 (2017-2018), and available on SSRN here

Relatively recently, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) claims that experiential legal education might negatively harm bar passage performance. Nevertheless, experiential learning opportunities, and, in particular, externships, are some of the most meaningful educational opportunities available to law school students. That raises an important empirical question, given the increasing emphasis of legal educators in providing more experiential learning opportunities for law students and the widespread participation of students, especially in externship programs, as one type of experiential learning opportunity. Do externship experiences have demonstrable value in positively influencing bar exam outcomes, or, as the NCBE seems to suggest, do externships negatively impact bar exam outcomes? This article walks step-by-step through the process of evaluating whether externship participation at our law school has any statistical relationship to bar exam scores, particularly for academically-struggling law school students. Initially, using longitudinal bar passage data over a three-year period, this study observes that students participating in externships positively outperform non-participants in bar passage rates, particularly for those students that struggled academically in law school. However, based on further statistical evaluation using regression analysis, this article finds that externship participation (to include number of externships taken) has no observable statistical relationship to bar exam scores, either positive or negative, leading to the conclusion that the NCBE’s claim, at least based on our bar takers with respect to externship participation, seems to be without merit.


October 12, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

An Indictment of Yale Law School Culture

At Brian Leiter’s blog (here, Oct. 1, 2018), Leiter offers an excerpt from a longer piece by an anonymous Yale Law School grad. Without more information, it is impossible to document its accuracy, but it sounds very plausible.  Here is an excerpt:

Distinction at Yale is not tied all that closely to grades: The law school abolished traditional grades in the late 1960s, adopting a system whereby there are essentially only two grades: Honors and Pass. Career advancement is tied particularly to networking—making a few well-connected faculty members see themselves in you, so that down the line they’ll call their friends on the bench. Clerkships were an obsession: a good one, we gathered, had the power to make a career.

The resulting patronage system fostered a sort of self-interested blindness on the part of faculty and students alike. Most federal judges, in my experience, are reasonable and desirable bosses for the handful of clerks they employ each year. Some, however, are not. And all preside, even more than the standard boss, over a dictatorship. Federal anti-discrimination laws do not apply to federal judges. Meanwhile, given their stature and connections, federal judges hold tremendous power over the reputations and career prospects of their clerks.


October 12, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legal sector adds 1,400 jobs in September

According to the lastest monthly job report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  That reverses a two month trend in job losses from July and August. However, despite the positive news from the BLS about the growth in legal sector jobs last month, the total number of people employed in legal sector jobs (a category that includes legal secretaries, paralegals and licensed legal practitioners among others), is down compared to June. For more details on the most recent BLS report, see here.


October 12, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Google+ is Discontinued

From OZY:

The search giant announced Monday it was discontinuing its social media offering in the wake of a controversial decision to stay mum about a security flaw that may have exposed the private data of as many as 500,000 users.

Google discovered the issue in March, but reportedly didn’t disclose it to protect its reputation and head off regulatory attention, such as that plaguing rival Facebook. While Google executives may not have been obligated to report the vulnerability, it surprised cybersecurity experts, considering recent regulatory efforts to safeguard user data.


October 11, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Tips from a "lawyer coach" on overcoming procrastination

From the Canadian online legal magazine

October 10, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)