Friday, August 29, 2014

Summer Associate Interview Tips

It's that time of year - on campus interviews for summer associate positions. As a green law student, I didn't understand the importance of landing a summer associate position and how these positions can set you on the right trajectory for an early successful career.

For those lucky enough to land an interview, the Findlaw blog offers tips for a successful interview:

1. Your Resume - Always bring a few copies of resume to your interview.
2. Ask Questions - Bring a list of questions with you to the interview; during the course of the interview jot questions down as they come to mind.
3. Make Them Feel Special - Just as you would tailor each cover letter to the particular firm you are applying to, be ready to talk about why you want to work at that particular firm.
4. Oldies but Goodies - Be ready to answer interview standby questions like: What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
5. Keep It Positive - Everything you say in the interview should be positive.

As the Findlaw blog notes, [a]ccording to Forbes, most interviews are decided in the first 10 seconds, so first impressions are immensely important."

Good luck during these interviews. And if you didn't land an on-campus interview, these tips still work well for any and all interview scenarios.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Talk To Librarians For Optimal Student Success

The Chronicle of Higher Education's Vitae blog offered advice to faculty about who they should talk to on campus for optimal student success.

The author notes how graduate students are expected to jump into the classroom autonomously once they are hired as faculty. But this autonomy does not mean that faculty should not confer with other professionals on campus to provide a comprehensive educational experience.

The first set of professional listed are the librarians:

"If you haven't spent a good few hours going over your syllabi with a librarian trained in your subject area, you're shortchanging your course and your students (and yourself). Librarians keep up with the technology in your field. They know the campus holdings and can order better texts for you if they know what you're teaching.

Librarians can offer even more help if you give them a heads-up about what your assignments are going to be. They can pull relevant texts from the stacks and hold them on reserve for your course. They can come to your classroom and talk about which sources are available and how to judge their quality. They can suggest assignments and let you know about resources you may not have seen yet. And they can be a great help if you have to miss a class--they can work with your students in the library that day or in your classroom to keep them on track with whatever assignment you've given while you’re away at that conference.

Librarians live to help. And they'll be able to help your class do much better work if you've taken the time to share your syllabus, your assignments, and your ideas with them."

The author goes on to list academic advisors, student affairs staff, registrar, financial aid, and veterans' affairs professionals as others for faculty to confer with. As noted, "get out there and talk to people across your campus, in all kinds of jobs. Who knows? You might make a friend. And you’ll definitely make yourself a more effective faculty member."


Monday, August 25, 2014

The Shrinking First-Sale Doctrine

The digital age is affecting libraries in profound ways. Libraries must negotiate with publishers and distributors to license electronic content and libraries must also find ways to manage that content. Electronic content is also shrinking the pool of material that libraries can lend.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported on the effect that streaming media has on the first-sale doctrine and the ability for libraries to lend. The article provides the following case-in-point:

"In March 2011, the University of Washington’s library tried to get a copy of a new recording of the Los Angeles Philharmonic playing a piece by Gustavo Dudamel, a popular composer, that the library could lend to students. But the recording was available only as a digital download, and Amazon and iTunes forbid renting out digital files.

So the librarians contacted the Philharmonic to see if there was some way they could get a copy of the Dudamel album that they could loan out like a compact disc. The orchestra referred them to a distributor, which referred them to the publisher, Universal Music Publishing Group. At first the corporation said it couldn’t license the Dudamel recording to the university, according to the librarians. Later it offered to license 25 percent of the album for two years in exchange for a licensing fee plus a $250 processing fee."

This is a new issue with online-only, streaming content. "In previous decades, the university librarians might have bought a CD of the Dudamel album for $25 and kept it in circulation it for as long as the disc remained viable. Here they were asked to pay the publisher 10 times that amount (plus a licensing fee that would probably exceed the processing fee) for access to a quarter of the album for two years. 

Old-fashioned media—books, tapes, CDs, etc.—are governed by the first-sale doctrine, a legal provision that allows a buyer to do whatever she wants with a copy. The licensing of digital media, however, gives publishers far more power. Instead of selling an album outright, they can sell permission to access its contents for a fixed amount of time."

Librarians see this is an "existential crisis" as traditional media is phased out. In the coming years, it will be of utmost importance for libraries to negotiate broad lending terms for electronic content or libraries may be faced with locked collections and the limited ability to lend

Friday, August 22, 2014

Teaching Technology To Law Students

In today's world, lawyers must be tech savvy. Lawyers need to know how technology intersects with the law for things like eDiscovery and eHearsay purposes. And lawyers also need to know how technology can make their jobs more efficient and cost effective.

The NYTimes reported on law schools that are taking an innovative approach to teaching technology. "'Legal education has been stronger on tradition than innovation,' said Joan W. Howarth, dean of the Michigan State law school. 'What we’re trying to do is educate lawyers for the future, not the past.'"

"Michigan State professors don’t just teach torts, contracts and the intricacies of constitutional law. They also delve into software and services that sift through thousands of cases to help predict whether a client’s case might be successful or what arguments could be most effective. They introduce their students to programs that search through mountains of depositions and filings, automating tasks like the dreary 'document review' that was once the baptism of fire and boredom for young associates."

Further, "Bill Mooz, a visiting professor at the University of Colorado law school, has started a four-week summer boot camp called Tech Lawyer Accelerator to provide, as he put it, 'all of the things they don’t teach you in law school and they don’t teach in law firms but which you need to be effective in today’s world.' Students are brought up to speed on tech tools designed to make legal services more efficient."

Law librarians are also getting in on the act by teaching technology sessions to law students. One class, in particular, called Cloud Computing, Mobile Tech & Legal Apps teaches "how 'The Cloud' has fundamentally changed our technological environment. Next, [the course] examine how 'The Cloud' led to the rise of mobility, how mobility led to the production of apps, and how apps have impacted the practice of law. [The course] examines mobile apps by first focusing on the approach the following big vendors are taking with their deployments: Westlaw, Lexis, CCH & Wolters Kluwer, fastcase, Bloomberg Law, Bloomberg BNA, and Hein Online. After that, [the course] examines a bevy of independently-produced apps that fit into the following categories: current awareness, organization & presentation, jury selection, docket research, eReading, news aggregation, and more. Lastly, [the course] covers general-interest apps and information sources that provide reviews and updates on late-breaking legal research apps."

It's ultimately important for future lawyers to understand new technology because it may be malpractice not to. The Findlaw Technologist Blog noted that the ABA takes technology seriously, and "[i]n 2012, the ABA modified Comment 8 to Rule 1.1 (that 'a lawyer shall provide competent representation to the client') to require lawyers to 'keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.'"

It's great to see that law schools are innovating in this way.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Courtroom Sociology

When I step into a courtroom, I can't help but scan my surroundings to understand the courtroom demographics. As I scan the room, I think about the subconscious events that are occurring based on extensive reading of various studies on courtroom interactions.

Here are a few examples of recent articles:

An NYTimes article mentioned that judges with a daughter are more likely to rule in favor of women's rights. "'Having one daughter as opposed to one son,' the study found, 'is linked to an even higher 16 percent increase in the proportion of gender-related cases decided in a feminist direction.'"

Another article at HuffPost noted the pressure to plead guilty because of judicial vacancies. "Federal judicial vacancies are causing unsustainable courtroom delays, resulting in evidence going stale, witnesses dying before they can testify and, in some instances, people being pressured to plead guilty just to get out of jail faster, according to study released by the Brennan Center for Justice."

And PscyhologyToday ran an article about 'beautiful' people faring better in court. "According to a Cornell University study by Justin J. Gunnell and Stephen J. Ceci, more attractive defendants in court are less likely to be found guilty than less attractive ones. In addition, if there are money damages, then more attractive people tend to receive higher rewards. The study states: 'Information processing can proceed through two pathways, a rational one and an experiential one. The former is characterized by an emphasis on analysis, fact and logical argument, whereas the latter is characterized by emotional and personal experience.' The authors hypothesized that some jurors were more experiential than others, and that those jurors would reward attractiveness to a higher degree."

Lastly, the NYTimes offered a questionnaire for prospective jurors with questions designed by a jury consultant. The questions ask about a jury pool's employment status, age, income, volunteer activities, and teamwork preferences to name a few. Based on your answers to these questions, the questionnaire determines whether you would be selected for a particular jury in a hypothetical case. Based on my own answers, I received the following response: "You're off the hook. The defense lawyer loves you, and is very excited to have – wait, the plaintiff lawyer just struck you. Please take your belongings and report to the main jury room, so you can wait to go through this all over again on another case."

I can't help but remember these types of articles when scanning a courtroom. Does the judge have a daughter? Are there substantial courtroom delays due to vacancies? Is the defendant traditionally attractive? What is the makeup of the jury pool?

While statistics may not mean much in one particular case, these types of subtexts are interesting and can offer insight into the various courtroom interactions that take place.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Non-Competes Everywhere!

The Findlaw blog noted that "[a]ccording to the NYTimesnoncompete agreements are on the rise even in industries which have been traditionally light on paperwork. Case in point: a Massachusetts man whose job involves spraying pesticide on laws had to sign a two-year noncompete agreement."

From the NYTimes, "[t]he United States has a patchwork of rules on noncompetes. Only California and North Dakota ban them, while states like Texas and Florida place few limits on them. When these cases wind up in court, judges often cut back the time restraints if they’re viewed as unreasonable, such as lasting five years or longer. In most states there has to be a legitimate business interest, and it has to be narrowly tailored and reasonable in scope and duration."

Ethics rules generally preclude noncompetes for attorneys, but some states are allowing them within reason.

Although noncompetes are popping up everywhere, not all businesses actually need one. To determine if your business actually needs a noncompete, Findlaw recommends looking at the following:

  • Protecting Trade Secrets - can you use a nondisclosure agreement instead?
  • Is There a Legitimate Business Interest? -  such as protecting trade secrets or confidential information or protecting long-standing customer or client relationships.
  • Be Reasonable - noncompete agreement should allow ex-employees to continue their careers while still protecting your business.
If you are a potential employee that is asked to sign a noncompete agreement, Lifehacker offers some basic questions you should ask before signing the agreement. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Research Libraries Are Big Business

The Chronicle of Higher Education has released its Almanac of Higher Education 2014.

"The Chronicle's 27th annual collection of data on colleges answers perennial questions like how much faculty make and which colleges are growing the fastest. This year's Almanac also gives you new ways to compare institutions. Which colleges have the most students enrolled in online courses? Which have the highest percentages of nonresident aliens?"

A data set that I find particularly interesting is the spending by university research libraries 2012-13. "Six universities on the Association of Research Libraries' Library Investment Index had more than 500 professional and support staff members in 2012-13, and 19 spent more than $10-million on salaries and wages for their professional staff. Eleven had total library expenditures exceeding $50-million."

Those are impressive numbers for library involvement at a major research university.

Some examples of data are:
Institution        Library Expenditures     Salaries of Staff         Materials              Staff
Harvard U.           $117,316,662           $39,049,607           $42,824,113              815
U. of Michigan      $67,289,114             $14,296,308           $24,708,760              535
Michigan State U. $30,898,942             $6,078,705             $15,851,193              199
Wayne State U.    $19,647,678             $6,418,127             $9,410,721                141

It's great to see that the institutions listed in the Index value their libraries and that the libraries are still so relevant to the output of important research.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Researching Across The Curriculum

InsideHigherEd ran a piece this spring that discussed the need for faculty to teach writing across the curriculum (WAC). "Most agree that Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), in which the task of teaching writing is one assigned to all professors, not just those who teach English or composition, is an important academic concept. If we had a WAC playbook, it would sound something like this: students need to write clear, organized, persuasive prose, not only in the liberal arts, but in the sciences and professional disciplines as well."

The same ideal rings true for researching across the curriculum in law school. Law schools generally require one or two research & writing courses before graduation. Some students will actively seek electives that provide additional training with a research & writing component, but many students shy away from these courses.

Like writing, students need as much practice with research as possible before graduation to really understand the concepts and develop a research strategy. After all, nearly 30% of a new attorney's time is spent doing legal research.

It's important for law faculty to understand how integral legal research is to the success of graduates and faculty should "buy in" to legal research instruction across the curriculum.

For example, many law schools are starting to assess students throughout the term instead of relying on one comprehensive final exam at the end of the term. These assessments, which take place in each law school class, can easily require a legal research component to offer more research practice for the students. The students will continue to hone their legal research skills by contextualizing and evaluating information based on the class's subject area.

Law faculty - see your nearest law librarian for more information!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Legal Scholarship Blog Facilitates Dissemination

If you are about to embark on a legal scholarship endeavor but are having a hard time choosing a topic, you may want to refer to a call for papers to narrow your focus. There are a few great resources for this, and one that I particularly like is The Legal Scholarship Blog.

The Legal Scholarship Blog features law-related Calls for Papers, Conferences, and Workshops as well as general legal scholarship resources.

From the website:
"The Legal Scholarship Blog seeks to facilitate the legal academy’s development and dissemination of scholarship, and so does not feature events such as Continuing Legal Education programs or regional bar association meetings.

Created in 2007, the Legal Scholarship Blog is a free, non-profit service managed by faculty and staff at:"

  • The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
  • University of Pittsburgh School of Law
  • University of Washington School of Law
You can use the site to:
  • Read about new conferences, workshops, and calls for papers as they are posted
  • Look for conferences, workshops, and calls for papers in your field
  • Use the calendar for upcoming events
  • Publicize your conferences, workshops, and symposia
The "Research Deans" tab on the website is a wealth of information on legal scholarship with topics covering:
  • Law Review Submissions
  • Articles: Law Review Studies
  • Articles: Legal Scholarship
  • Articles: Research Deans (promoting scholarship)
  • Miscellaneous (how to write abstracts)
The Legal Scholarship Blog also offers a list of the various law review online companions. This is a great resource for those in the legal academe, as well for law journals seeking submissions. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Library Assistant's Manual - A Retrospective

Sometimes it's a good idea to look back and see where we have been to know how we have gotten to this point and find additional insight into where we are going.

The Paris Review recently ran a post about a Library Assistant's Manual issued on the occasion of the 61st annual meeting of the Michigan State Teachers’ Association, Ann Arbor, October 30–November 1, 1913.

The Manual includes a portion on the qualities necessary to be a library assistant. "Qualities that unfit one for library work in general are physical weakness, deformity, poor memory, a discontented disposition, egotism, a lack of system in one’s method of work, and inability or unwillingness to take responsibilities, a tendency to theorize, criticize, or gossip, inability to mind one’s own business, fussiness, and long-windedness."

As I see it, many of these qualities unfit for library work still ring true. The Manual goes on to list questions to ask an aspiring library assistant:

Has she tact?
Has she enthusiasm?
Has she method and system?
Is she punctual?
Is she neat?
Is she kind?
Is she a good disciplinarian?
Is she sympathetic?
Is she quick?
Is she willing to wear rubber heels?
Is she a good worker?
Is she accurate?
Has she a pleasing personality?
Has she a sense of responsibility?
Is she patient?
Is she courteous?
Has she self control?
Is she cheerful?
Has she a knowledge of books?
Are her vibrations pleasant?
Has she executive ability?
Can she speak French, German, Spanish, Italian, Yiddish?
Has she social qualifications?
Can she keep a petty cash account?
What are her faults?

Notice the sexist language. Librarians are still seen as pink collar so not much has changed to that end since 1913. A lot of these qualities are still good qualities to have in the library-service profession. Although, I'm not sure what they mean by "vibrations." In my view, the necessity of speaking French and German has diminished, while the ability to speak Spanish has increased to facilitate the library use of a larger Spanish-speaking population.

While the field of librarianship has changed dramatically since 1913, the characteristics necessary to work in a library remain largely the same when taken in context.