Friday, May 30, 2014

Changes To ALWD's 5th Edition

The Association of Legal Writing Directors recently released its 5th edition of the ALWD Guide to Legal Citation.

The new features include:
  • Elimination of stylistic differences between the ALWD Manual and the Bluebook, to help combat the perception that students who learn citation with ALWD do not know how to “Bluebook.”
  • Reduction of length by 55 pages.
  • Streamlining of the number of rules, from 49 to 40.
  • New, more modern page design improves ease of use.
  • Comprehensive website with hundreds of exercises for student practice and mastery of the rules of legal citation. Allows professors to spend more class time focused on other aspects of legal writing.
It sounds like ALWD got a great makeover. Anything that makes legal citation a little easier to bear is a good thing. 

It'll be interesting to compare the new ALWD Manual to the Bluebook to see exactly what the editors mean when they say they eliminated stylistic differences between the two. I wonder if the ALWD citations will look like Bluebook citations, except that the citations will be in the text instead of in a footnote.

image: http://www.alwd.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/ALWD-citation-guide-front-cover-copy.jpg

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Unauthorized Practice Of Law For LegalZoom?

I've blogged about the perils of using ready-made legal forms, and it seems that some states think that purveyors of ready-made legal forms like LegalZoom may be partaking in the unauthorized practice of law.

The ABA Journal recently reported that "LegalZoom announced in a press release that the South Carolina Supreme Court had approved the company’s business practices, which have been challenged in a number of state courts as unauthorized practice of law."

However, "just over the border in North Carolina, a judge breathed extended life into a case claiming the company engages in the unauthorized practice of law. Judge James L. Gale, a Special Superior Court Judge for Complex Business Cases, issued an order and opinion March 24 concerning various motions in a suit involving claims and counterclaims between LegalZoom and the North Carolina State Bar, which argues that the company engages in unauthorized practice of law and also failed to meet filing requirements in seeking approval to run a prepaid legal services plan in the state."

During the litigation, "Gale looked at a variety of screenshots of LegalZoom’s website provided by both parties, and at North Carolina statutes concerning the unauthorized practice of law. LegalZoom’s digitized self-help document preparation has been compared to TurboTax for consumers doing their own tax returns, with a series of questions taking users step-by-step along logic trees. What becomes the next branch depends on the answer given at the last one."

"Gale noted, for example, the statutory right to self-representation (including with purchased documents) but asks 'does its premise require only that the unlicensed individual make choices in drafting a legal document, and that the choice or risk of an incorrect choice about which portions of a form to include must belong exclusively to the individual? Is there then a legally significant difference between how on engaging in self-representation uses a form book versus LegalZoom’s interactive branching software?'"

It seems that the judge had more questions than answers. Currently, "LegalZoom offers online, self-help legal documents in all 50 states and has faced a number of legal challenges along the way. Besides North Carolina, the company still faces challenges in Arkansas and Alabama."

It'll be interesting to see if LegalZoom will be deemed a viable alternative to seeking professional help - much like TurboTax - or if states will consider the logic tree as the unauthorized practice of law and ban its use.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Supreme Court Continues To Edit Opinions After Release

The NYTimes recently reported that SCOTUS continues to edit its opinions after they are issued.

"The Supreme Court has been quietly revising its decisions years after they were issued, altering the law of the land without public notice. The revisions include 'truly substantive changes in factual statements and legal reasoning,' said Richard J. Lazarus, a law professor at Harvard and the author of a new study examining the phenomenon."

So what's the problem? The Justices make mistakes, and the editing process gives them a chance to make it right. The problem is that "[m]ost changes are neither prompt nor publicized, and the court’s secretive editing process has led judges and law professors astray, causing them to rely on passages that were later scrubbed from the official record. The widening public access to online versions of the court’s decisions, some of which do not reflect the final wording, has made the longstanding problem more pronounced. The larger point, said Jeffrey L. Fisher, a law professor at Stanford, is that Supreme Court decisions are parsed by judges and scholars with exceptional care. 'In Supreme Court opinions, every word matters,' he said. 'When they’re changing the wording of opinions, they’re basically rewriting the law.'"

The Court does warn that revisions may occur, "[b]ut aside from announcing the abstract proposition that revisions are possible, the court almost never notes when a change has been made, much less specifies what it was. And many changes do not seem merely typographical or formal."

The final and authoritative versions of decisions are published in the United States Reports, which may be published some five years after they were announced. These final decisions always fully supplant the original ones. However, "[o]therwise reliable Internet resources and even the court’s own website at times still post older versions." As an example, "[i]n revisions to two 2009 opinions, on school searches and race-conscious hiring, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg added phrases to clarify and broaden the points she had made. The changes appear in Lexis, but the court’s website still features the original versions."

Currently, "[t]he only way the public can identify most changes is by painstaking comparison of early versions of decisions to ones published years later." This is not an efficient process, and, as stated earlier, it leads judges and legal scholars astray.

The Court could do things differently, and instead of quietly slipping changes into opinions, the Court could submit changes only as "errata" to the original decision. The Court could also issue an order formally revising an opinion, which it already does on occasion."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Library Juice Academy For Professional Development

Library Juice Academy offers a range of online professional development workshops for librarians and other library staff, focusing on practical topics to build new skills.

Workshops are taught asynchronously, so you can participate as your own schedule allows.

They cover a lot of instruction areas including:

  • Metadata
  • Usability Testing
  • Book Indexing
  • Project Management
  • Digital Image Collections
  • Digital Scholarship
  • Embedded Librarianship
  • Programming
  • Library Management
  • Patent Searching


Most of the courses run about $175 and go for about 3 weeks. If you are looking to gain new skills, Library Juice Academy is a great start.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

LSAC To Change LSAT Policy For Disabled

The ABA Journal reported that LSAC will pay a $7.73M settlement over "Law School Admission Test policies concerning the disabled." LSAC's previous policy was to flag test scores of those who were given extra time, and along with the monetary settlement, LSAC has agreed to stop flagging the test scores.

"LSAC did not admit liability in the settlement announced Tuesday in the federal Americans with Disabilities Act case. The money will be used to compensate some 6,000 test-takers nationwide who had asked for accommodations under the ADA over the past five years"

"A DOJ press release provides additional details about the consent decree. It must still be approved by a federal judge in San Francisco before it is final."

"LSAC said in a written statement that it decided to settle 'not because we believe that we were wrong in our position, but because we do not think that continued litigation is in the best interests of our member schools or prospective law school students.' It also said the DOJ has been aware, since at least 1986, of the LSAC practice of flagging test results to alert law schools when the applicant was given extra time, and it criticized the DOJ for litigating rather than pursuing change through 'a traditional notice-and-comment rule-making.'"

This is a good thing because "[m]any of the finest members of the legal profession, past and present, have had disabilities," says ABA President James R. Silkenat.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A History Of Black's Law Dictionary

As Black's Law Dictionary enters its 10th edition, the Legal Solutions Blog posted an interesting evolution of Black's.

"Over a century, Black’s Law Dictionary has been the leading standard for lawyers and anyone else needing to understand the intricacies of the legal word. Founded by Henry Campbell Black, the publication is the go-to source for definitions in both legal briefs and court opinions. The book has proven its lasting value and has been cited as a secondary legal authority in many cases heard by the United States Supreme Court."

How has Black's evolved?
"The freshman edition was published in 1891 with sophomore version coming out in 1910. Until the sixth edition, the book also provided case citations for each term used. Some attorneys found these citations to be the books most useful feature and used it as a starting point in building cases.

The citations were dropped in the seventh edition which came out in 1999. The arrival of the internet made legal research easy and the citations were no longer seen as valuable.

The eighth edition introduced cross-referencing to legal encyclopedias and the ninth edition, published in 2009, kept this feature."

The 10th edition is set to arrive shortly, and it "is said to be the most authoritative, comprehensive legal dictionary every published.  Containing over 50,000 terms, the edition includes 7,500 new terms not seen before. Along with the new terms are over 16,000 updated definitions and an expanded bibliography containing twice as many sources."

Some of the new entries include: Affluenza defense, Legaldegook, Mommy track

As an FYI, the 2nd edition of Black's is available to search for free on the web here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Richard Redding On Legal Ed. Reform

Law Deans posted about a forthcoming article in the Catholic University Law Review by Richard E. Redding that takes a serious look at law school reform.

The abstract has been posted to SSRN. You can also download a draft of the article.

From the abstract:
"We hear much about the crisis in legal education: high tuition costs, steep declines in law school enrollment, and graduates unprepared for practice who cannot find jobs. Proposals to address the crisis appear to enjoy wide support and may be poised to dramatically change the landscape of legal education. Such reforms will harm law students and the legal profession, placing the legal academy “under erasure,” by: (1) reorienting it from an academically-grounded education towards vocational training, (2) requiring just two years of study for the J.D. degree, (3) allowing graduates of non-ABA accredited law schools to sit for the bar examination, thereby rendering accreditation a toothless mechanism for ensuring academic quality, and (4) gutting faculty scholarship."

Redding tackles the problem by saying that "[w]e need a three-year program that is more robust, one that teaches the core first-year subjects as well as applications of other disciplines (e.g., accounting, economics, psychology) to everyday law practice, exposes students to a reasonable range of specialty areas, and integrates skills training (e.g., client counseling, advocacy, drafting) throughout the curriculum. To accomplish these goals, we should adapt the medical school model to legal education. This would entail a curriculum that provides a comprehensive foundation in basic legal subjects and legally relevant other disciplines, culminating in a series of clinical rotations where the basic doctrinal and interdisciplinary knowledge is applied in practice. I also explain why we should not gut support for faculty scholarship in the hopes that doing so will cut costs and encourage professors to focus on teaching. Contrary to popular claims, engaged scholars are better teachers, and legal scholarship can contribute meaningfully and substantially (though often in ways not readily apparent) to law practice and legal reform efforts. Finally, I suggest that we address the employment problem and improve educational quality by having fewer but better law schools, producing fewer attorneys."

While I may not agree with all of Redding's claims, it is good to see a comprehensive article discussing legal education reform. We need more of these so that the best ideas can be adopted.

Monday, May 19, 2014

February 2014 Michigan Bar Exam Results

On May 13, the Michigan Board of Law Examiners released the names of the most recent Michigan bar exam passers.

The passage rate was 69% for first time takers with 265 people passing on their first try. The total passage rate for all applicants (including retakers) was 64% with 434 total passers.

The breakdown for Michigan law schools for all takers is as follows: 

Thomas M. Cooley:  58 percent passed, 42 percent failed. (226 passed)

Michigan State University: 70 percent passed, 30 percent failed. (26 passed)

University of Detroit Mercy: 64 percent passed, 36 percent failed. (49 passed)

University of Michigan: 85 percent passed, 15 percent failed. (22 passed)

Wayne State University: 76 percent passed, 24 percent failed. (34 passed)

University of Toledo: 75 percent passed, 25 percent failed. (6 passed)

Others: 71 percent passed, 29 percent failed. (71 passed)

Of course, these are pre-appeal, but things have improved. July 2013's exam had a total passage rate of 60%

Congrats to all of those who passed! From the State Bar of Michigan's Blog, here's what you do now that you have passed. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Right To Erase Personal Info On Internet

The NYTimes reported on a recent case from the European Court of Justice that found that "Europeans have a limited 'right to be forgotten' by search engines like Google. According to the ruling, an individual can compel Google to remove certain reputation-harming search results that are generated by Googling the individual’s name. The court is trying to address an important problem — namely, the Internet’s ability to preserve indefinitely all its information about you, no matter how unfortunate or misleading."

The author, Jonathan Zittrain, criticizes the ruling as both too broad and too narrow. "It is too broad in that it allows individuals to impede access to facts about themselves found in public documents. This is a form of censorship, one that would most likely be unconstitutional if attempted in the United States. Moreover, the test for removal that search engines are expected to use is so vague — search results are to be excluded if they are “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant” — that search engines are likely to err on the safe side and accede to most requests."

"But the decision is oddly narrow in that it doesn’t require that unwanted information be removed from the web. So nothing is being 'forgotten,' despite the court’s stated attempt to protect such a right."

The ECJ was trying to protect the rights of the individual, but it fell short because of what is probably its lack of technological knowledge. And this problem is only bound to get worse as technology becomes more intricate to judges who are unfamiliar with technological processes.

As Zittrain put it, "[h]ow an individual’s reputation is protected online is too important and subtle a policy matter to be legislated by a high court, which is institutionally mismatched to the evolving intricacies of the online world."

The broader implications of this case are interesting because the search engine companies may have to continue to tailor results to individual country preferences. "Whatever the merits of the court’s decision, Europe cannot expect to export its new approach to countries like the United States. Google, Bing and Yahoo should devote their considerable resources to mitigating this problem. If they don’t, search engine results may become increasingly dependent on where your keyboard is, rather than what you’re looking for. And the search engines may find themselves in a cat-and-mouse game of censorship and evasion, leading only to a fragmentation, not an improvement, of the web."

Zittrain makes a good point, and researchers should take note. Uncensored information is the only hope for true transparency in many areas, and information should be available no matter where you live -- although we know that is not the case with places like China.

I do, however, agree with the recent California law that was enacted that allows children to compel websites to delete their personal information. "California has passed a law (SB 568) that will enable under-18s to make websites delete their personal information. The law, which will take effect in 2015, only covers content, including photos, generated by the individual."

The law is limited in that "[c]ompanies will not have to remove content posted, or reposted, by others. Nor will they have to remove the information from their servers."

I've said many times that I am happy that social media did not make its grand entrance until I was in college. High school antics should be left in childhood, and those antics should not be preserved for the entire world to see for eternity.

Image: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/75/Internet1.jpg
Permission: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Internet1.jpg

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Moody's Warns Law School Downturn Is Not Cyclical

Most legal educators will agree that we are at a crossroads in legal education. This was all but confirmed when Moody's recently warned that if standalone law schools do not reevaluate business models and strategies, they are at the greatest risk to close.

The ABA Journal reported on the Moody’s analysis where Moody's said that lower job-placement rates and salaries will keep demand depressed for lower-tier law schools, particularly stand-alone schools, which are “highly tuition dependent.”

Some of the highlights from the report:

“As students evaluate the return on investment for a high-priced professional degree, law schools without premier brands or the resources of a comprehensive university will face greater credit stress and risk of closure, requiring leadership teams to re-evaluate business models and strategies.”

The decline in demand for a legal education is part of a “fundamental shift in the legal field, rather than the typical cyclical rise and fall in demand."

"New tuition pricing could lead to a short-term boost in enrollment, but it probably won’t lead to a long-term increase in demand because the pricing strategies do not provide a fundamental change in the cost students are paying for legal education." The report also cautions that there could be a downside to tuition cuts because "many students still associate price with quality."

It's important for law school leadership to understand that this is not a cyclical downturn. Even though we've seen these lower numbers of law students before, there is now a reputable third party saying that the large numbers of law students will not return.

The downturn in the legal market and the perceived return on investment of a legal education has changed the landscape dramatically. This at a time when there are more law schools than ever.

Law schools have to make fundamental changes to the way they offer legal education and do it sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

RIPS Blog - Law Librarians Assisting Law Journals

Please see my recent Research Instruction & Patron Services (RIPS) Blog post about law librarians working with law journals.

FREE Bachelor's Level Computer Science Curriculum

There is a benefit of being a life-long learner, and with all of the free courses out there, it is a great time to learn.

As I've mentioned before, there are a lot of resources available to obtain alternative credentials. Although you may not get an official degree from taking these courses, you will still learn the material and be able to apply it.

aGupieWare has recently put together a free bachelor's level computer science curriculum based on free available courses.

The curriculum offers introductory courses, core courses, and electives with links to the respective free courses from MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley to name a few.

If you have the dedication and discipline to follow the curriculum, many of the commenters believe that it accurately reflects the knowledge you would obtain in a "real" computer science program.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Helpful Tips For Summer Associates

Summer associate season is upon us, and the Findlaw Blog ran an archive of their past posts offering helpful tips for summer associates. The tips include the basics on lawyer fashion, how-to's, and how to be the best summer associate ever.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Napping Stations At The Library

The Chronicle of Higher Education posted a story about the napping stations installed at the University of Michigan's Library to help students "face exams."

"Concerned with students’ bad sleeping habits during final-examination season—and their tendency to fall asleep on top of library tables—the university’s Shapiro Undergraduate Library has installed “napping stations.” The pilot program is meant to allow students who live far from the campus to take naps—limited to 30 minutes each—between study marathons."

To make sure that the napping stations would be utilized, the university did its homework. "The university’s Central Student Government proposed the stations. Surveys were conducted to measure interest in the idea, and officials talked up the benefits of napping for students’ academic performance and alertness, said the library’s senior supervisor, Stephen Griffes."

As to the logistics, "the napping stations were located in a busy area to attract students and to be near staff supervision. The library, which is open 24/7, provides students with lockers to hold their valuables while they’re asleep, disinfecting wipes to clean the vinyl cots, and disposable pillow cases."

Now this is something I can get behind! It would be great if staff could utilize this, too. I never knew how exhausting librarianship could be! I look to the UofM libraries as a great example of a library really trying to meet student needs -- with napping stations and the use of therapy dogs to relieve stress. It's great to see a large undergraduate library really care for its students.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Upcoming Coursera Metadata Course

I have talked about the value of librarians using alternative credentials to gain skills that they may not have learned in library school.

Coursera is about to launch a MOOC geared toward metadata for those librarians who may want to learn more technical skills.

The MOOC is called Metadata: Organizing and Discovering Information, and it will start on July 14, 2014 and run for 8 weeks.

From the course homepage:
"Metadata is an unsung hero of the modern world, the plumbing that makes the information age possible. This course describes how Metadata is used as an information tool for the Web, for databases, and for the software and computing applications around us.

This course will be 8 weeks long, each week dealing with a new topic. Each topic will consist of brief video lectures and demos, about 2 hours of total video per week. There will be occasional interviews with experts on various aspects of Metadata. Most videos will contain brief quizzes, to help students evaluate their own understanding. A graded test will be due each week, and a final exam will be included at the end of the course. Peer-graded assessments may be incorporated in the assignments."

Jeffrey Pomerantz from The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill will instruct the course, and it is estimated that the course will take roughly 4-6 hours of work per week, which is doable!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Lexis Advance Interface To Change Summer 2014

Among law librarians, there has been almost constant negative feedback of the Lexis Advance interface since its inception. 

It looks like Lexis listened, and it is unveiling a new Lexis Advance interface this summer. 

Lexis has released a few informational videos on the new Lexis Advance interface. Law Librarians noted that Lexis held a 28 minute webinar about the new interface. You can go here for playback of the video. 

Lexis has also released a short informational video on YouTube available here

On first impression, the new Lexis Advance interface looks cleaner and more user-friendly. The only downside for me is that it sounds like they will be releasing it right around the time that I teach our Research & Writing students how to use the databases. It won't leave much time to review the content before heading into the classroom.

I suppose that is the plight of holding classes year round. We don't get the summer months off to revamp our curriculum. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Revealing Survey Of Attitudes Regarding State Bar Associations

It appears that the perceived benefit of being a member of a state bar association has changed overtime.

The ABA Journal reported on a recent survey of attorney feedback regarding state and local bars. "The ABA Division for Bar Services has surveyed the membership of state and local bars since 2005 to get member feedback for the associations. The division also surveys the bars about membership growth and retention, dues and activities. The findings are discussed in an ABA press release and in this report."

The survey found that "[s]tate and local bar members aren't focused on tangible association benefits such as product discounts and social occasions. More important, the respondents said, were networking opportunities and association efforts to boost the image of the legal profession. Meanwhile, work-life balance has become less of a concern since the economic downturn, the surveys have found."

One of the major findings was that respondents "say [that] fostering a positive image for the legal profession is one of the top three bar functions."

Fostering a positive legal image is an ongoing concern for both the legal profession and law schools, and state and local bars are in a good position to promote the profession through pro bono activity or other.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Charleston School of Law Not Quite Part of InfiLaw

It's been confirmed that Charleston School of Law might be bought by InfiLaw if the powers that be approve the sale.

However, Law Deans reported that "[t]he South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE) has decided it needs more time to review  information and public comments it has received in reference to the proposed sale of the Charleston School of Law to Naples, Florida based Infilaw."

It looks like the public has quite a bit to say about the sale as "[m]embers of a CHE licensing panel said they received more than 100 pages documents over the past three days and asked for additional time."

The legal community will have to wait and see as "[t]he panel will hold a special meeting on May 19 and present their recommendation to the full commission at its June 5 meeting. In addition to CHE approval for the sale, Infilaw needs approval by the ABA. An ABA site team visited the school earlier this semester."

This might actually be a good move for Charleston because it is already a for-profit institution, and the merger with the other InifLaw schools might mean that Charleston has more resources at its disposal.