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Showing posts from April, 2013

The Rise of Electronic Information

A new documentary called “Out of Print” by director Vivienne Roumani debuted April 25 at the Tribeca Film Festival. It chronicles the mass rise of ebooks, and what it means to the print book and human development, in general.

One of the positives about the mass digitization of traditional print material is that "[t]he advent of e-books has made reading more efficient and affordable for many and has increased access to and acceptance of self-publishing."

As a librarian, I applaud greater access to information, but it is disconcerting because we are in such rapid transition. We still have libraries full of wonderful resources and knowledge, but many scholars (from teens writing term papers to law professors writing law review articles) use the most convenient information found on Google. While Google is an amazing resource and has changed the way that we view the world, it also has its limitations. There is no one vetting the information on Google, so we find ourselves relying…

Academic Career Self-Sabotage

This article in The Chronicle of Higher Education offers interesting observations from the perspective of an academic who has spent 30 years in the higher education system in different capacities.  
Here are 15 ways that you can be most self-destructive in your academic career (without realizing it):
1. You don't seek out multiple mentors. 2. You don't seek out external evaluations. 3. You are either a perfectionist or perfunctory in putting your work into print. 4. Did you hold on to revisions too long? Or rush them out? 5. You pay too much attention to personal relationships -- or too little. 6. You fail to understand the cultural norms of your institution. 7. You aren't well known outside your institution. 8. You lack resilience in the face of failure. 9. You've been involved in one too many interdepartmental squabbles. 10. You are too selfish or too selfless. 11. You got stuck on your dissertation paradigm. 12. You collaborate too much with colleagues from graduate…

Michigan Law Review's Survey of Books Related to the Law

It's that coveted time of year again -- at least for law librarians -- when the Michigan Law Review releases its annual Survey of Books Related to the Law.

My mentor taught me to use the Survey for collection development.  Because the Michigan Law Review is prestigious, they would help vet out the important books of the past year (and the previous two years).

As far as I'm concerned, I would say that Brian Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools is the most important book of the last year.  I haven't read Tamanaha's book yet, so I can't fully speak to it assertions, but one thing is certain -- this book got people talking about law school reform.

From Paul Horwitz's review What Ails the Law Schools: "Many critiques of law schools focus on either economic or culture-war explanations. It is possible that how we identify the primary problem will shape the course of our reform efforts (if there are any). It certainly, in any event, will say a great deal about our …

The Scrivener's Bibliography of Writing Resources

The Scrivener -- a publication of Scribes - The American Society of Legal Writers -- has a bibliography of writing resources in its Winter 2013 edition.

Books on Plain Writing: 
Eats, Shoots and leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Knowlton Zinsser

Simple & Direct: A Rhetoric for Writers by Jacques Barzun

Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams and Gregory C. Colomb

Writing with Style by John Trimble

Books on Legal Writing: 
A Lawyer Writes: A Practical Guide to Legal Analysis by Christine Coughlin, Joan Malmud, and Sandy Patrick

Legal Writing in Plain English: A Text with Exercises by Bryan A. Garner

Lifting the Fog of Legalese by Joseph Kimble

Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges by Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner

Plain English for Lawyers by Richard C. Wydick

Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts by Antonin …

Law School Reform

The ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education sponsored a conference this week to brainstorm ideas for law school reform.  The National Law Journal covered the event and noted that there was no consensus.

“Some said law schools should be required to spell out the core competencies that students should develop at set points during their legal educations; others, that tuition reduction was the first priority,” the NLJ reported. “Several attendees endorsed higher teaching loads. No single idea dominated.”

Many legal education scholars have thrown around all of these ideas before.  It's time to stop talking and start doing.  We've all heard of the looming 'learning outcomes,' and tuition reduction is an obvious culprit.  Now that law school professors make more than many lawyers in the private sector, maybe it is time to up their teaching loads.

It looks like at least one law school is starting to take action by putting its money where its mouth is.  Florida Coastal…

On Plagiarism

I recently ran a plagiarism check for a law school faculty where the student author had repeatedly lifted information from unattributed resources, as well as misused information with improper attribution. 
In Scholarly Writing, I define plagiarism as lifting information from unattributed resources, but I also consider the misuse of information as plagiarism.  An example of the misuse of information would be if a student author uses a direct quote without quotation marks and puts a see signal at the beginning of the footnote as if it were an inference to the source rather than a direct quote from the source.
My Scholarly Writing class is heavily focused on proper citation.  The students spend countless hours learning about the citation method (Bluebook) and how to properly attribute resources.  I also explain that one of the defining features of a law review article is the extensive use of footnotes, which means that the students should never feel the need to leave an idea unattribute…

F. Lee Bailey Disbarred But Still Credible?

Esteemed attorney F. Lee Bailey has been disbarred in Maine, Florida, & Massachusetts.  All for money or stock issues, it seems.

"Although disbarred, Bailey has continued to write, speak, teach, and participate in efforts to improve the criminal justice and corrections system, support economic development efforts and help returning veterans in Maine and Massachusetts, and be an active member of the communities where he has lived."  Guy's still gotta make some money to then avoid paying taxes, amirite?

Should I feel awkward constantly recommending his co-authored book, Criminal Trial Techniques, as the premiere criminal trial treatise?  Eh, probably not -- after all, he did get O.J. off.  That feat should earn anyone a gold star in criminal trial technique.

ABA Journal -- Will F. Lee Bailey practice law again?

Let's Rank Law Schools

There were two different law school rankings recently released that rank law schools by the number of graduates securing full-time employment requiring a JD.

The first list ranks law schools but excludes those positions that are funded by the law schools.  When the call first came for more transparent employment statistics, a big critique was that law schools would game the system by employing graduates in JD-required jobs for short spurts of time to help the school's employment stats.  The author of this list also notes that school-funded jobs are generally not the types of positions that will launch a career.  
The second list ranks law schools and does not exclude the positions that are funded by law schools. 
This is just another set of rankings in a long list.  The authors of these rankings may think that prospective law students would find these rankings particularly helpful because it is reasonable to think that law school graduates would want to find a job that requires th…

Handcrafted Emergency Contraception Opinion - Executive/Judicial Checks & Balances

Linda Greenhouse thinks that the opinion issued by Judge Edward R. Korman of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn in the emergency contraception case is the opinion to read this term -- above anything issued by SCOTUS.

As noted, the ruling ordered the Obama Administration to lift the age restriction on the morning after pill and make it available to anyone (including those 16 and younger) over the counter.

Even though the ramifications of the opinion are hugely important and a win for reproductive rights, it may be what lies between the lines in this opinion that is of the most significance.  Greenhouse said, "[i]f I were teaching a law school course on administrative law — the law of the juncture between citizens and the federal executive branch — I would assign this opinion as homework for the first class and then spend the rest of the semester unpacking it."

The opinion is important for the judicial checks that it places on the executive branch. "Judge Korman over…

The US Fertility Crisis, Social Security, and Immigration

There are recent articles discussing the so-called 'fertility crisis' in the United States.  We, as a nation, are just not procreatin' like we used to.

My conspiracy theory about this is that if we do not have enough babies today, we cannot afford Social Security tomorrow.  Is it a mere coincidence that there was a 'war on women' during the last election cycle -- in terms of reproductive choice?

But do not fear!  We do have enough immigrants to make up the difference. “Over the next three decades, annual population growth for the working-age population will be less than a third of what it was over the last 60 years,” President Obama’s economic adviser Alan B. Krueger told the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in March. “Given current trends, nearly all of the growth of the nation’s working-age population in the next 40 years will be accounted for by immigrants and their children.”

Maybe conservatives should rethink their immigration stance if they want So…

Students Loans Discharged in Bankruptcy

The 7th Circuit has decided that a healthy, 53 year old destitute paralegal is entitled to a bankruptcy discharge of the remaining $25,000 of her education debt.

One of the reasons that schools are able to charge outrageous tuition and students are able to borrow with abandon is because, generally, student loans are non-dischargeable debt in bankruptcy proceedings -- on par with child support.

This latest opinion may work to upend the current system, although it seems unlikely.  The judges let the paralegal slide on enrolling in the Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment plans, saying that it was contrary to the purpose of bankruptcy law.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Manion wrote," [l]ike other well-educated individuals who are having a hard time finding good jobs, or work of any kind, in a tough economy, Krieger [the paralegal] should be required to enroll in the William D. Ford Income-Based Repayment Plan."

As the author of the ABA Journal article notes,…

Death & Tax Day

Yesterday marked the beginning of National Library Week and today is Tax Day -- reasons to celebrate all around!  Ugh.

There have been numerous articles in anticipation of Tax Day discussing the favorable treatment to married couples with children who own a home.  One of the debaters in the NYTimes Room-for-Debate made a point to say that taxes should not warp our decisions.  I agree with that assessment, but it's hard not to take financial matters into account when making major life decisions. 
The current tax code was well-massaged by the Bush era, and we now live in a country where the wealthiest individuals generally pay less than 20% in taxes -- while the rest of us pay upwards of 25%.  The current tax breaks come in the form of credits and deductions that nudge Americans to make the 'right' decisions, such as getting married to someone of the opposite sex, having children, and buying a home.  
One of the commenters in another article made light of the situation when …

National Library Week

Happy National Library Week!!  This is the week to show your love for all things library.

My ode to libraries:
A few of the reasons that I love libraries are because libraries are at the forefront of free speech.  We protect and defend the right to access information without censorship.  We keep patron records free from intrusion (unless you count the Patriot Act).  We collect and organize the world's knowledge.  We are at the front lines of the community -- often acting as a community center for children (and the homeless).

I love libraries!

In honor of National Library Week, check out some of the world's most beautiful libraries:
World's Most Beautiful Libraries - ABC News

Tougher Bar Exams All Around

Nearly every jurisdiction in the country has hopped on the bandwagon to weed out future attorneys.  Illinois is the most recent state to formally announce a tougher bar exam.

There have been loud calls for reform in the legal economy.  It seems that the state bar associations have decided that if law schools will not limit the number of law students to try and balance supply and demand, then the state bar associations will make the bar exam tougher to limit entrants.

Take Michigan, for example.  When I took the Michigan bar exam in February 2010, there was a nearly 80% passage rate.  As of July 2012, the passage rate had sunk to a dismal 55% for first time takers.  This was all with an easy swipe of a scoring pen -- the State Bar of Michigan decided that it would no longer curve essays.

Now the question is, at what score is a potential attorney competent to practice law?  In other words, what did I not need to know in 2010 that I now need to know in 2012 to practice law?  There are c…

Associate Attorney Unhappiest Job in America

It's amazing that the job of an associate attorney has recently been ranked the unhappiest job in America.  Or is it?  Many of the commenters note that these associate attorneys should feel lucky (aka happy) to just have a job with the state of the legal economy today.

It comes down to expectations, I think.  Associate attorney positions are the coveted jobs -- the ones where you are supposed to make the big bucks.  But in today's market, these attorneys still have to put in the same hours for less money.

Add to it that many attorneys have been raised in a way that makes them feel entitled to a certain standard of living.  They want to make big bucks right out of school and afford the same standard that their parents may have afforded for them.  When it comes to actually doing the work to afford that standard of living, many become disillusioned.  Doing anything strictly for the money never seems to turn out well.

It's also no surprise that lawyers tend to be very pessim…

Zombie Law

Real-life interest intersects with work-life interest.  This New York lawyer is writing a Zombie Law casebook and has tracked the number of times the word 'zombie' has appeared in legal opinions.

"To date he has noted the use of the word zombie in more than 300 federal court opinions."

You might just see a Zombie Law course at a law school near you.  Although, with the recent call for more practical courses, this one might be doomed.  Oh well, there's always undergrad.

ABA Journal Zombie Law

http://zombielaw.wordpress.com/

A Guy Wakes Up in a Van...

The book chronicling this guy's graduate year spent living in a van is inspiring in the way that these books inspire.  It's a great story about needs vs. wants and our consumerist society and how to forge your own path and make unpopular decisions.

Through his experience living in a van, he woke up to the type of person that he wants to be.  "I didn’t need these things. The beer, the food or even the bed. I didn’t even really want them. I was buying stuff simply because I could afford it. If you put a man in a country club, he’ll feel the need for a yacht. But if you drop him in the wilderness, his desires will be only those essential to his survival. I had decided not to take out loans for graduate school in part because I knew that if I allowed myself access to easy money, I’d again fall victim to the consumerist trap. I’d be indiscreet with my money. I’d begin to pay for and rely on things I thought I needed but didn’t. I’d lose perspective. I didn’t want to once agai…

National Conference of Law Reviews

This year, The National Conference of Law Reviews was hosted by my law school.  I was lucky enough to present on the various things that I do with the law review to help make it a better publication.

It is no secret that law librarians are often an under-utilized group, so it was nice to talk about some of the ways that law librarians can assist with law journal publishing.

Now I have the task of writing articles to memorialize my presentation.  The NCLR Committee will publish a NCLR Best Practices Manual that will cover the content of the most recent NCLR.

My articles will include a discussion on revising publication agreements, how to create a mini-library for a law review, how to investigate a sophisticated online edition, and how to use social media to publicize recent articles.

My experience at the NCLR was amazing because it gave me a chance to connect with other law review librarians.  It felt reassuring that many of our law review functions overlapped, and we were able to of…

Millennials

Pew and Gallup polls show that Millennials, generally, (1) support the legalization of marijuana, (2) support same-sex marriage (70%), (3) are least likely to own guns, and (4) are the least religious (more than a quarter specify no religion).

NYTimes: The Young Are the Restless

Undersupply of Lawyers

In a rare twist, a story about the chronic undersupply of lawyers in rural areas.  There is much talk lately about the oversupply of lawyers, with only 55% of the nation's law graduates obtaining full-time legal employment 9 months after graduation.  The problem isn't an oversupply of lawyers, it's the gap in those that are served.

Nearly 85% of law students graduate with $100,000 in debt, and it is nearly impossible to service that type of debt by offering low-cost legal services in rural areas.  This South Dakota stipend might just do the trick.  If the law graduate could couple this with Income Based Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness, he or she might just have a fighting chance.

NYTimes Article


Copyright Considerations

Do a few copyright wins for libraries and open access, in general, mean the death of the American author?

Attorney and best-selling author, Scott Turow, seems to think so. It goes that if the author's work is not protected by copyright, then the author has no incentive to create.

I like Neil Gaimon's take on it better: free access to works means higher sales -- it's like free advertising and much like the music industry and Spotify. Turow argues that this open access movement is more of a problem for non-best-selling authors.  Those are the same types of musicians who benefit from free streaming services like Spotify. More people are exposed to the music, therefore more people buy the music. The same can be said for the publishing industry.

Scott Turow's NYTimes Article

Neil Gaiman's Pro-Piracy Post