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Showing posts from July, 2013

New York County Prisons Close Print Law Libraries

In the 1990's there was a SCOTUS case dealing specifically with the right of prisoners to have access to a law library.

In Lewis v. Casey, 516 U.S. 804, Respondents were 22 inmates of various prisons operated by Arizona Department of Corrections. In January 1990, they filed a class action "on behalf of all adult prisoners who are or will be incarcerated by the State of Arizona Department of Corrections," alleging that petitioners were "depriving [respondents] of their rights of access to the courts and counsel protected by the First, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments." Following a 3 month bench trial, the District Court ruled in favor of respondents, finding that "[p]risoners have a constitutional right of access to the courts that is adequate, effective and meaningful," 834 F. Supp. 1553, 1566 (Ariz. 1992), and that "[ADOC's] system fails to comply with constitutional standards," 834 F. Supp., at 1569. The court identified a variety of s…

Charleston School Of Law Sold To InfiLaw?

InsideHigherEd ran the following post on yesterday's blog:

"Alumni and students of the Charleston School of Law are angry over rumors that the for-profit law school will be sold to the InfiLaw System, which operates three other for-profit law schools, The Post and Courierreported. The Charleston School of Law has not confirmed that a sale is imminent, but did announce last week that it had signed a "management services agreement" with InfiLaw that the law school said would improve the quality of programs at Charleston. But Kathleen Chewning, president of the Charleston School of Law Alumni Association, said that her members and students were concerned because they believe their law school is perceived as having more quality than those owned by InfiLaw. InfiLaw declined to comment, and its webpage says only that an "important announcement" is coming soon."

According to The Post and Courier, "InfiLaw currently owns three other law schools: Charlott…

'Creative' DUI Attorney Business Cards

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Business cards are an essential part of networking for any attorney. And some attorneys are finding ways to make their business cards more memorable.

Take the following examples from two DUI attorneys:

This solo practitioner does DUI cases. On the side, he works as a server in a local watering hole. Instead of passing out traditional business cards, he passes out two-sided drink coasters.
 Bottle opener metal business card for a DUI attorney.

I understand the need to make an impression, but these DUI attorney business cards feel a bit like a conflict of interest. The attorneys are promoting alcohol consumption while offering their DUI legal services. It's especially troublesome for the solo practitioner who doubles as a bartender handing out business card drink coasters. This attorney could be directly responsible for over-serving a patron and then trying to benefit from it.

It would be interesting to see how much business has improved since they initiated the use of these business…

Join Scribes Today!

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of Scribes - The American Society of Legal Writers. I've blogged about their helpful resources here and here.

As a member of Scribes, I get weekly tips sent directly to my email. I have been reminded of important writing concepts through these tips, and I have learned new things, too. The tips cover topics from writing, grammar, and research. If you become a member of Scribes, you will also receive these tips.

One of my favorite tips, and one that I lecture about in Scholarly Writing, is that pronouns should agree in number and gender. I provided the tip below so that you can get a taste of what you will receive if you join.


DATE:  June 25, 2013
Grammar Tip No. 2:   Pronouns. A pronoun is a word that refers to a noun and can stand in its place. A pronoun lets you refer to the same person, place, thing, or idea without using the same noun every time.
WITHOUT PRONOUNS: Sam wondered if Sam should research the cases for Sam's brief.
WITH PRONOU…

What Does A (Law) Librarian Do?

Librarians sometimes find themselves in a crisis of identity. As a profession, we have been criticized for failing to promote what we do effectively. And it's important to promote what we do so that others see the value in our work.

Even as an early undergraduate student, I had no idea that librarians are required to hold a master's degree. For what? To check books in and out. Which was my public perception of librarians. Then I had a librarian instruct one of my political science classes on how to use library resources to research, and let's just say, I had an epiphany. I also have this occur each term as I instruct law students to perform legal research. I constantly get comments like, "how did you get so good at research?" Or "you make research look so easy." It feels good to get these comments because it means that I am adding value to their education, and the students may see librarians in a new light for the very first time in their graduate progr…

Practice Law With A Full-Time Job

I ran across this blog post on FindLaw the other day that discusses tips for practicing law part-time while working a full-time day job.

It caught my eye because it's exactly what I do. By day, I am a law librarian. It's my passion and the reason I went to law school and library school. But, I am a licensed attorney, too. I find that that practicing law helps me keep my skills up and aids in my ability to help law students, attorneys, and pro se patrons with legal research and the various resources that I find helpful for particular causes of action.

The Findlaw blog's tips for part-time law practice with a day job are as follows:
1. Schedule Flexibility
2. Competency
3. Openness With Clients
4. Picking the Right Clients
5. Motivation

As for my own experience, I try not to let my jobs interfere with each other at all. This is out of respect for my employer. This is one of the reasons that I mainly do estate planning because I do not have to attend court during the normal h…

And In Other Legal Ed. Reform - Schools Consider June LSAT & IBR Swap

If you took the LSAT in June 2013, you may be able to use your score for admission into law school this fall. "Eager to beef up admissions, at least 25 law schools have announced they will consider scores from the June LSAT for fall admissions."

Generally, the June LSAT is taken by prospective law students hoping to get a jump on admissions for the following year. The February test is usually the last test used for fall admissions.

"Among the schools considering June scores are the University of Alabama School of Law, ranked No. 21 by U.S. News & World Report, and the University of North Carolina School of Law, ranked No. 31."

And if your June LSAT is strong enough to get you into the fall admission process, there may also be a new way to finance your legal education.

American University tax law professor Benjamin Leff is suggesting another way to finance a law school education—through an 'income-based rate swap.'

"The idea: Students would still bo…

Writing With A Co-Author

I am about to undertake a writing project with not just one co-author but several, so I was especially interested in Bryan A. Garner's recent article '7 steps for producing top-notch text with a co-author' in the ABA Journal.

Here are Garner's 7 steps:
1. Canvass the existing literature.
2. Write out your main propositions.
3. Arrange your propositions into categories, and put those categories into a sensible order.
4. Ideally, co-authors should write the same parts of the manuscript simultaneously.
5. Have one team member meld the two versions into one.
6. Spend plenty of time revising the draft, amplifying here and diminishing there.
7. Reconsider everything.

For my team's paper, we will have a bit of a historical section on how technology has transformed collection development, so we will definitely have to canvass existing literature. Lucky for us, there has been quite a bit written on this topic.

Our paper, however, is more of a narrative of our experience, so…

Law Professor & Labor Economist Write 'The Economic Value of a Law Degree'

A recently released paper titled “The Economic Value of a Law Degree,” found that a law degree on average had $1 million in value.

This may surprise some of you who have kept up to date on the barrage against law schools within the last few years.

The paper looks at what a law school graduate can expect to earn from a law degree. The authors, Michael Simkovic, a law professor, and Frank McIntyre, a labor economist, find that the mean annual earnings premium of a law degree is approximately $53,300 a year, and that the average pretax value of a law degree over a lifetime was $1 million. In other words, the average law school graduate can expect to earn about one million dollars more than if they had not gone to law school.

Some commenters noted that this might be more of an outlier because a few attorneys make a lot of money, where most of us, in relation, do not. But the authors also found that median additional lifetime earnings for those with a law degree were $610,000. That means h…

Bar Study In Paradise

Aww, what a quaint NYTimes article about studying for the bar exam in an exotic locale.

"For generations of law school graduates, summer has often been an illusory concept, one replaced by long days spent in airless study halls or makeshift classrooms practicing mind-numbing rote memorization in preparation for the high-stakes bar exam in late July, a time when most of their friends are enjoying backyard barbecues or lazy afternoons at the beach.

But a lost summer no longer has to mean a nonsummer, as many bar students are starting to discover. Many Type A lawyer hopefuls are finding ways to make the best of a stressful situation by holing up at beach houses, having bar review courses live-streamed to vacation spots like Paris or Thailand, or even, in one extreme example, absorbing lessons by headphones from a table at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas."

This 'trend' of going anywhere in the world to study has been made possible by the Internet. "In the las…

Studies Show That Judges Prefer Plain English

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There's been a movement toward plain English for years, but some attorneys have not been persuaded to drop legalese -- probably out of tradition. But "the best and most persuasive arguments are those presented in plain English, with well-organized headings and sections, and presented in as few words as possible."


For those attorneys who still think that legalese somehow sets them apart from the rest of society, there are empirical studies that show that judges prefer plain English. The first study dates back to 1986. It was done by Professor Robert W. Benson and Dr. Joan B. Kessler, Esq. The study’s findings are nicely summarized in the final paragraph:

"It appears that lawyers run substantial risks when writing documents in traditional legalese, even when the intended audience for those documents consists entirely of judges and their aides. Lawyers who write in legalese are likely to have their work judged as unpersuasive and substantively weak. Perhaps even more w…

On Rejection In Scholarly Publishing

Let's say that you performed a preemption check, wrote a wonderful scholarly article, and went through the various strategies to get it published. And let's say you've received numerous rejections. You're asking yourself, what's the deal. Did you write a bad article? Maybe. But it's more likely due to many factors that are outside of your control.

In 2008, there was a comprehensive study published regarding the article selection process for law reviews and journals. This process looked at factors in selection, including:

The article fills gaps in the literatureThe article provides enough background explanation so that one not familiar with the particular field can understand the relevant issuesThe topic has been discussed in the news in the past yearArticles on similar topics have not been published in the journal recentlyThe topic is considered to be controversialThe draft version of the article has been frequently downloaded from SSRNThe article is less than 2…

Join The Army To Pay Off Law School Debt

It's good to keep your options open, right? And joining the Army may just be a good option for some of the recent law graduates who haven't been able to find a job. Especially when 85% of law school graduates graduate with $100,000 in student loan debt. 

Take one, Thomas McGregor, for example. McGregor graduated in 2008 from the University of St. Thomas law school in Minnesota with $108,000 in student loans.

McGregor passed the Minnesota state bar and was sworn in as an attorney in late October 2008. He was convinced he'd get a good job right away, circulating his resume and taking an unpaid internship at a legal aid clinic. But McGregor did not land a good job, and later that year, he went back to work for his family's roofing distribution business, where he had worked every summer for 13 years. He was licensed to practice law, but he was driving a forklift and managing roofing material orders for $15 an hour, no benefits.

After several months of job hunting, and with…

Law School Merit Scholarship "Bait & Switch"

The problem: Students are promised merit scholarships to 'bait' them to attend a particular law school. The students are told that they will continue to receive their merit scholarships if they maintain a B or better. Since law school grading is on a curve, it is not mathematically feasible for all of the students who came in with merit scholarships to maintain a B or better. Many students end up losing the merit scholarships ('switch') that persuaded them to attend that particular law school in the first place. 

After a New York Times article brought this information to light, the ABA decided to look into scholarship retention rates. Yay! proactive legal education reform.
University of St. Thomas law professor Jerry Organ analyzed website statistics for 140 ABA-accredited schools that offered conditional scholarships for entering students in 2011. He published his findings in this paper. "The average retention rate for scholarships across these 140 schools was 69 pe…

The Secrets Of Happiness In The Legal Field

Recent findings from a long-term survey of attorneys' careers finds that "[m]oney and prestige aren’t key to career satisfaction. Instead, work satisfaction is more closely related to the law grads’ perceptions of the social value of their work and the quality of their relations with co-workers and superiors, according to the study author, University of Michigan law professor David Chambers."

From the abstract of the paper, the authors note that "on the whole, women practitioners are somewhat more satisfied than men – since it appears that, in general, women place a higher priority than men finding employment in settings where the work (as they view it) has comparatively high social value and where they are likely to have especially good relations with coworkers."

It also appears that the longer attorneys practice, the more satisfied they are with their careers. "With just a few exceptions, the longer lawyers had been out of law school, the more satisfied …

Law Faculty Argues It's Shortsighted To Decrease Faculty

Yesterday, there was an article in the NYTimes written by a tenured law prof about the need for academic freedom and how cutting faculty in the face of budget woes is not the answer.

In part, "[t]here are better ways to shrink a law school budget. The size of the tenure-track faculty can shrink by retirement and attrition, not involuntary termination. Post-tenure review (by faculty, not administrators) can ensure that faculty members remain productive. Libraries can be moved online. Clinics can be closed, and adjunct faculty can be better utilized to team-teach practical courses alongside research faculty."

I decided to respond to this article and stand up for libraries and clinics because these components, along with the faculty, make up the core of a legal education.

Here is my response:
"Law librarian here. Of the 2 million unique volumes contained in America’s law libraries, only about 15 percent are available in digital form. That figure includes access via propri…

Law Schools' Reaction To Drop In Enrollment

It looks like market forces are starting to drive a serious drop in enrollment for law schools. From the Law School Admission Counsel's (LSAC) website:

"As of 06/28/13, there are 380,429 Fall 2013 applications submitted by 57,772 applicants. Applicants are down 12.9% and applications are down 18.3% from 2012. Last year at this time, we had 98% of the preliminary final applicant count."

So what does this mean for law schools? There have been numerous instances of law schools cutting staff/faculty or compensation within the last few weeks.

Seton Hall Law School has cut faculty compensation by 10% and has given notice to all untenured faculty of possible termination with the 2014-2015 academic year.  The school says expenses will determine whether that is necessary.

Vermont School of Law is eliminating 21.4% of its full-time tenure track faculty positions.  He bases these figures on four tenure/tenure track faculty have gone from full to part-time.  Two more left the school w…

Recent Fair Use Decisions In Favor of Libraries and Higher Ed.

The Google Books scanning project continues in litigation after the Second Circuit ruled "that the class certification of authors in the Google Book scanning case was improper." It appears that the Second Circuit believes that the Google Books project should be decided on fair use grounds. "[W]e believe that the resolution of Google’s fair use defense in the first instance will necessarily inform and perhaps moot our analysis of many class certification issues, including those regarding the commonality of plaintiffs’ injuries, the typicality of their claims, and the predominance of common questions of law or fact."

The Second Circuit was likely swayed by the recent decisions in the HathiTrust, Georgia State, and UCLA cases. Each of these cases found for fair use in the library and higher education settings. The HathiTrust opinion "along with the Georgia State electronic reserves opinion and the UCLA streaming video opinion seem to show a favorable legal patter…

United States Snail Mail Monitoring Program

This seems odd, especially due to the financial woes of the United States Postal Service, but the "U.S. Postal Service photocopies the envelopes of all mail sent in this country, the New York Times reports."

What isn't known is how long the government saves the images of the 160 billion or so pieces of mail sent annually, or exactly how they are stored and used. But scanning 160 billion images and the time and additional manpower needed to store and retrieve those documents has to be prohibitively expensive -- not to mention an invasion of privacy.

"The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program had been secret, but was revealed by the FBI last month in discussing an investigation of ricin-tainted letters reportedly sent to President Barack Obama and New York City's mayor, among others."

“In the past, mail covers were used when you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime,” Mark D. Rasch told the newspaper. He previously served as director of the federal…

Online Tracking & Attorney/Client Privilege

It's been confirmed that we are being tracked. The metadata from our cell phone conversations and our Internet searches is being watched by the NSA for terrorist activity. We are surely still trying to figure out the legal implications of this, and in the legal world, the attorney/client privilege comes to mind.

From the abstract of  a 2011 Virgin Journal of Law & Technology article:
Attorney-client privilege, work-product protection, and the attorney’s ethical requirement to protect confidentiality of client information are at risk  from commercial surveillance of online activity. Behavioral advertising, data aggregation and sale, and government access to commercially assembled profiles have been denounced as threats to privacy and confidentiality interests, but the harm to attorney and client confidentiality is of particular concern. As the legal research and broader information industries shift from print materials to services on the internet, attorneys cannot simply avoid …

Should Professors Assign Their Own Textbooks?

When I was a student, I remember feeling that something wasn't quite right about my professors assigning an expensive textbook that they had written. At the time, I didn't know where the money went or how the price was calculated, but I suspected that the professors were making additional money over and above the salaried compensation that my high tuition was helping to pay for.

The practice of professors assigning their own textbook started during my first year of undergrad and continued throughout my graduate degrees. It became so commonplace that whatever reservations I had about the practice seemed to be outweighed by the fact that it was widely accepted.

But I recently ran across a post on InsideHigherEd about the ethics of professors adopting their own textbooks for their classes.

"Does having a financial interest in the book mean it cannot be adopted? No. But it does mean that, for one’s own institution, when a professor assigns (or a committee selects) a book in w…

Law Reviews Born Digital Pt. 3: Archiving Best Practices On a Shoestring Budget

I would like to start out by saying that Benjamin J. Keele is the man! He is a Research and Instructional Services Librarian at Indiana University's Robert H. McKinney's School of Law, and he takes an active interest in legal periodicals as the liaison to IU's three law journals. He is also an accomplished scholar, and I have learned so much from his scholarship.

I sent Ben an email to get his advice about what my law journals should consider when contemplating a move to go all digital. His response covered all of my concerns -- budget constraints, hardware/software implications, law review turnover, and sending to third parties (LOC, Wexis, Hein). 
Ben gave me permission to post his email response to this blog to further the discussion of an online-only law journal.
The good news about law journals is that their content is pretty basic: it is almost all text. The formatting and pagination are also fairly easy to maintain. The biggest risk for law journal preservation, in …