Category Archives: Law School

Research Assistant Wanted

Apologies, blog readers, but this announcement is for UM Law 1L & 2L students only:

I would like to hire a part-time summer research assistant. The hours are negotiable, but likely would be in the 15-20 hours per week range. It would be best if you could start very soon after exams finish. Current UM 1Ls and 2Ls are welcome to apply.

My research assistant will help me with my summer writing projects. The job requires someone who can write clearly, is well-organized, and who is really good at finding things in libraries and on the Internet. There may be some bluebooking involved too. (If you happen to have some web or programming skills (some or all of HTML, MySQL, Perl, Debian), that could be useful, but it is not in any way a requirement.)

The hourly pay of $ 13 is set by the university, and is not as high as you deserve, but the work is sometimes interesting.

If you are interested, please send me an e-mail with the words RESEARCH ASSISTANT (in all caps) followed by your name in the subject line. In the email tell me:

- how many hours you’d ideally like to work per week and what other jobs/courses you have planned for the summer (if any),
- when you are free to start, and whether you have vacation plans (no problem if you are planning to take a week or two off during the summer)
- your phone number and email address.
- whether it is OK for me to share your application with other interested faculty members who might also want a summer research assistant.
- whether, if things work out, you might be interested in continuing on at 10/hrs week during the next academic year.

Please attach the following to your email:

1. A copy of your resume (c.v.),

2. A short writing sample (non-legal is preferred — in any case, please do NOT send your LCOMM memo),

3. A transcript (need not be an official copy).

(You might also mention that you saw the ad here. Can’t hurt.)

Please note that this job is different from the Jotwell summer editor position.

Posted in Law School | Leave a comment

Counter-Cyclical Law School Application Strategies

Every couple of years David Bernstein writes a blog post I agree with:

the best time to buy real estate, or really any investment, is when “everyone” is saying it’s a terrible investment. …

If we’re not as this stage with regard to demand for law school, we are damn close, with applications running about half the level of six years ago. Law school certainly isn’t for everyone, and how worthwhile economically it might be for anyone in particular has to start with that individual’s opportunity cost and where he gets admitted…

But there hasn’t been a better time to apply to law school in a long time, if ever. Worried about going into debt? Go to a law school school somewhat below where your credentials would allow, and they will shower you with aid… Always dreamed of going to a top 10 law school? You may never have less competition than now. Want to keep your current job and go part-time, but got rejected a few years from the only law school in town with a part-time program? This year, they will probably take you.

Whether law school makes sense for you still depends enormously on what you want to do in the long run, and what your alternatives are. Even if this is the ‘new normal’ for applicant numbers — and I’ll bet that numbers will rebound substantially from this trough within five years even if they don’t go back to old peaks — it’s clear that for now law schools as a class are only making partial adjustments to the new state of things, part of which involves competing aggressively by offering scholarship money and/or lower admissions standards. Thus it’s a buyer’s market from the potential student’s point of view.

Posted in Law School | 6 Comments

On Teaching From Badly Written Cases

[Occasionally I resurrect a draft blog post that somehow never made it to publication when I first wrote it. This is one of them.]

C.E. Petit, he of Scrivner's Error, pens (?) a rant about the poor state of legal writing amidst law graduates:

Yet another set of law school deans wrings its collective hands over law schools' failure to teach writing skills sufficient for lawyers to survive in practice. The problem is that it really is the deans' fault…

Among his targets, Mr. Petit would blame the judiciary, for writing so poorly, and the legal academy for inflicting generations of judicial butchery of the English language upon the poor unsuspecting 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls.

While admitting there is a legal writing problem, as a law professor engaged, so it seems, in corrupting the keyboards of the young, I would like to plead justification (necessity).

Mr. Petit proffers a solution to the bad-legal-writing problem:

Perhaps most important of all, the deans need to trash virtually every casebook currently in use. The biggest problem with legal writing is that law students see mostly examples of bad (or worse) legal writing in the bulk of their classwork, particularly in the common law courses. In Contracts, students study Sherwood v. Walker exhaustively, and still can't figure out what the holding is because the judge couldn't bloody write (even by nineteenth century standards in Michigan); in Property, even the casebooks try (ineptly, with one exception) to make head or tail of the actual ruling in Shelley's Case; in Torts, the string of double negatives (which can be helpful rhetorical devices when used sparingly, but not in a string) in the leading cases on product/strict liability causes more confusion than anything in the discussion over comparative/contributory negligence; and in Criminal Law, just try reading M'Naghten's Case. More casebooks need to follow the path that Professor LaFave did in Criminal Procedure: Clear, concise summaries, supplemented by extended quotations where helpful… and that California's Justice Mosk did in establishing the concept of comparative negligence by writing more simply and more clearly than did the advocates of the contributory negligence system.

I think this is mostly wrong. There is real value in teaching from real cases, without potted summaries, even (especially?) the badly written ones. This is the reality of law practice: Judges often write badly. (I have said this for years: see my Legal Writing Tips.) Lawyers need to know how to decipher bad judicial prose. Meaning-extraction (or even and especially meaning-creation) is an important legal skill we work hard to impart to our students. How will they learn whether to appeal a badly written case except by struggling with its ancestors?

In addition, students need to know the big cases. Even if they are badly written, that doesn't detract from the leading cases' importance. A student who knows her way around the original has an advantage over someone who just learned from a summary.

I agree that it is hard to first show students precedents — some eloquent and many ham-handed — tell them the cases matter, sometimes matter a great deal, and then in the next breath ask students not to write as badly as those very judges whose torturous prose we've force-fed them, but those are the cards lawyers are dealt. Those cases are real. They have authority. They must be confronted and dissected, even if that carries risk of their being emulated.

[Original draft, Sept. 2010]

Posted in Law School, Zombie Posts | 6 Comments

My Students Want a Neuter Singular

I’ve been reading draft student papers. One extremely common locution goes like this: “If a person does [something] then their liability will be [whatever].” That “their” is there because students don’t want to say “his” or “her” nor use the clunky “his or her”. English doesn’t currently offer a neuter word; “their” is a plural when the grammar requires a singular, but to my students’ ear that is less of an issue than picking a single gender to refer to both.

Why exactly they don’t pluralize the whole thing (“If people do [whatever] then their liability will be [whatever]“) I don’t know.

This language shift suggests that at some time in the future the non-prescriptivist definition of “their” will shift to include a role a neuter singular possessive. But I don’t believe we are there yet on “their” so I’m marking “their” up whenever I find it misused.

Then again, I may be behind the times: Dictionary.com already offers “their” a secondary singular meaning:

2. (used after an indefinite singular antecedent in place of the definite masculine form his or the definite feminine form her): Someone left their book on the table. Did everyone bring their lunch?

Posted in Law School | 5 Comments

Cornel West’s Bacon number is 2

So sayth Google. I know about this via Google introduces Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon search function in the Inquirer: Just type “Bacon number” followed by an actor’s name and you’ll find out what degree of separation they have from Kevin Bacon.

I still think we need something like this for law professors, only it would be a Lemley number, based on how many co-authors away you are from Mark A. Lemley.

Posted in Kultcha, Law School | 4 Comments

Data Show Legal Corps is Helping Students (Now Please Help the Legal Corps by Voting For It in the Classy Awards)

The UMiami Law Legal Corps is a law-school-funded six-month postgraduate fellowship project that places recent graduates in public service or public sector legal jobs around the country. I like to think of it as something akin to a residency for a medical student. The six months start after the Legal Corps Fellow passes the bar exam, so the Fellow can do some real lawyering.

But any time a law school funds its grads for short-term jobs after law school, it is fair to ask whether the program is really doing any good, or whether the school is just warehousing graduates in the hopes of goosing its US News “employed after graduation” statistic. Given that a number of law schools have been caught doing just that, it’s not surprising that some people tend to view these programs with great suspicion.

But in this case, we have some data suggesting the program is really working.

The acid test for any post-graduation ‘bridge’ employment scheme would, I think, have three parts:

  1. What is the nature of the work the newly minted lawyer is doing — is it real work, producing real training that will be of value to the lawyer and to any future employer? Or it it just makework, or nonlegal jobs like shelving books in the library?
  2. Are the participants in the program getting jobs afterwards, or was this really just warehousing?
  3. Does the law school provide any additional training, or take steps to ensure that someone else does?

I think by all three measures, the UMiami Legal Corps is doing very well. The jobs the students are getting are, by all accounts I’ve heard, prestige jobs with judges, government agencies, and non-profits. With budget cuts all around, these groups seem very happy to have the help, and have serious needs that lead to meaningful work.

But what about the student side? The UM Law school administration was good enough to give me some hard data, and to permit me to publish them here:

For the 2010 class of Legal Corps fellows (which includes December 2009 & May 2010 grads), the numbers are:

  • 66 Fellows total, of which 56 Fellows employed after program ended, ie 85%.
  • Of this number, 8 of the 56 employed Fellows were hired by host organizations = 14.3%
  • 2 of the 66 Fellows entered post-JD studies = 3%
  • 8 Fellows still seeking employment/unresponsive = 12%

(Click on pie charts for larger versions.)

I think that’s pretty good given the nature of the legal market and the likelihood that at least some of these students will have self-selected because they were afraid they didn’t have other options — I say “some” because others may have seen this as a way into the public/non-profit sector; non-profit jobs are often harder to get than jobs with entities that actually make money. And while it’s nice that some of the sponsoring organizations found permanent jobs for their Fellows, I think it’s even nicer that the majority found work elsewhere — it suggests that the experience was something other employers considered valuable.

The numbers for the current crop seem on track to be similar:

  • 76 Fellows total, of which
  • 30 Fellows currently participating in program = 39%
  • 36 Fellows employed = 47%
  • Of this number, 7 of the 36 employed Fellows were hired by their host organizations
  • 2 Fellows seeking post-JD studies = 3%
  • 8 Fellows still seeking/unresponsive thus far = 11%

So not only is this program helping train recent grads in lawyering skils, not only is it helping a substantial fraction of them find jobs, but it is also doing good, by putting them in positions where they can use their new legal skills for the public good.

I’m not the only one who thinks this is a pretty nice combination: the Legal Corps has been selected as a human-rights finalist in the upcoming CLASSY Awards, said to be the largest philanthropic prize ceremony in the country.

Here’s where you come in: The winner of the award will be selected based 50% on online voting. So, please, take a minute, and Vote for the Legal Corps to win in the Southern Region’s “Human Rights” category.

Vote now — balloting closes at midnight on the 26th.

Posted in Law School, U.Miami | Leave a comment

UM Law Employment Numbers Are Much Better Than In Erroneous ABA Report (Updated) (Again)

Last year’s class’s employment numbers for the University of Miami School of Law are not wonderful, but they’re not hideous either. They are much better than reported by the ABA and echoed all over the internet today.

I have no idea if the error was in UM’s reporting or the ABA’s transcription, but I do know that the summary I saw in the National Law Journal’s report this morning, based on ABA data, does not have the correct numbers. [Update: The ABA admits it was their "transcription error" and is correcting it.]

Here are the correct data:

There were 385 graduates in the class of 2011.

Of these, 369 are known to be employed (369/385 = 95.8%). But, of that 369 with jobs, only 280 (75.9% of those with jobs, 72.7% of the entire class) are employed in jobs that required bar passage, 33 (8.9%) were employed in jobs where the JD was an advantage, 11 (3%) were employed in “other professional” positions and 4 (1.1%) were employed in “non-professional” jobs.

This 72-76% of the class with law jobs (or if you prefer the 313 with law-related jobs, 84.8% of job-holders, or 81.2% of all graduates), is well above the national average, even if it’s still lower than we’d like. Nationally,

Slightly more than half of the class of 2011 — 55 percent — found full-time, long-term jobs that require bar passage nine months after they graduated, according to employment figures released on June 18 by the American Bar Association.

The NLJ reports that we hired 23% of our own grads. I knew that couldn’t be right — nearly one out of four? where did we put them? — and sure enough, it’s not true. Somehow something got double-counted in the “law school/university funded position” row of the report. That report shows we hired 88 grads, but the correct number is actually half that: Last year, we hired 44 of our own grads (11.4%) for short or long-term jobs. The lion’s share of them were hired by the Legal Corps where they get placed with non-profits or governments and get work experience. While it’s too soon to know the results for the class of 2011, their predecessors in the class of 2010 did very well out of this experience, with many parlaying it to full-time employment.

I’m told that the error in the ABA form (I’ve attached a copy of the erroneous form) seems to be in the “part-time long term” law school funded box, where the ABA report has 44. The actual number is zero, making the total of that row 44, not 88. Thus, even if one takes out the 44 people from the 313 with law jobs (and I’m not sure one should, since the Legal Corps often does lead to permanent work), that still leaves 269 with law jobs, or 69.9% of the entire class. That is not at all good — but it still beats the national average of 55% by a decent margin.

I doubt this correction will ever catch up with the inaccurate info, but there it is.

Posted in Law School, U.Miami | 4 Comments