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Monday, August 30, 2010

Quick and dirty way to get our book.

Thanks to Dean Jim Chen of the University of Louisville, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law (with some possible assistance from Gil Grantmore):  for the shortcut to our book on Amazon, click here.

1Ls: just how freaked out are you right now?

If you're feeling as though you're drinking from a fire hose, you're not imagining things.  Your professors are throwing so many concepts at you that you should feel overwhelmed.  (If you don't feel overwhelmed, you either come from a family of lawyers or you are excellent at repression.)

Now's a good time to pull out our book and read (re-read?) Chapters 3 and 4.

And don't forget to breathe.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Are your law professors really the right ones?

One of NBR's buddies, Brent Newton, has published an article that's already received a lot of good press (see here for TaxProf Blog's take on the article; see here for the Law Librarian Blog's take on it).

One of us is busy working on his day job right now, but the other one of us (guess who?) does have her own take on the issue of faculty credentials. 

As Prof. Newton points out, professors--like every other employer--have a tendency to want to duplicate themselves with their new hires.  What more self-affirming act is there than hiring someone who is almost exactly like you?  But just as universities do best when they have a mix of theory and practice, so should law schools.  We shouldn't want all Ph.D.-J.D. faculty members, and we shouldn't want all "find your way to the courthouse" faculty members.  We need both. 

But, as Thomas Sowell has pointed out time and time again, what we really need is folks who know what they don't know.  Some theory-based faculty members can argue cases quite well in real life (e.g., Kathleen Sullivan, one of my heroes).  Others are better at theory than practice.  (I've actually been quite impressed at how many faculty members coming from practice are really good at theory, but I'm not a bit surprised.  Great lawyers use theory in their practice all the time.)

What I think we really need is a law faculty hiring process that focuses on how best to create a mix that will add to legal knowledge (scholarship) and add to legal expertise (teaching).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Welcome back to law school, upper-level students!

The best thing about coming back to school is seeing the brand-new first-years wandering around and reminding yourselves how far you've progressed.  (No!  Even if you're tempted, do NOT hit on the brand-new first-years!  They have enough stress in their lives.)

We wish we could tell you that the job market has bounced back, but we can't.  Our buddy Scott Unger just passed along this link (here) demonstrating how disappointed many law school graduates are in today's job market.

What can you do to improve your odds of getting a (good) job?
  1. Work on your writing skills.  If you don't write well, it's difficult to analyze issues well; sadly, if you can't analyze issues well, you can't write well, either.  If you don't have strong writing skills, figure out how to make them better, either by taking more upper-level writing courses or by working one-on-one with a professor to improve your skills.  (That's what NBR did when she was in law school.  She entered law school committed to using passive voice, and thanks to Bob Weisberg, she exited law school committed to destroying passive voice except when she intended to use it for a specific purpose.
  2. Work on your teamwork skills.  Lawyers tend to work cooperatively in teams, if not with other lawyers (howdy, solo practitioners!), then with their support staff.  If you are a lone wolf, you're doing yourself a disservice.  Brush up on your "people skills."
  3. Network, network, network.  Go to every law school event at which actual lawyers are speaking.  Chat them up.  Give them a (good) reason to remember you.  And for good measure, write them a nice follow-up email (which is fine) or note (which is better).  They're volunteering their time to come to your school, so make them feel appreciated.
Now go out there and have fun resuming your courses!

Welcome to law school, first-years!

Things you might be feeling as you start orientation:
  1. Fear.  Hey, law school is new.  New things are scary.  We get it.  But you have some choices about how to deal with fear.  That "fight or flight" feeling that you have is human nature, and you'll be feeling it a lot over the next few weeks.  You can let it get to you (unproductive), or you can talk yourself into thinking that the feeling in the pit of your stomach isn't fear but excitement.  (Same butterflies, but a much different spin.)  Excitement is productive.  Recalibrate what you're feeling.
  2. The impostor syndrome Lots of smart people go to law school.  When they meet other smart people at orientation, they start thinking that they themselves don't belong:  Admissions must have made a mistake in letting them in.  Nope.  The Admissions Office rarely makes a mistake.   What scares smart people is that, before law school, they did things that were innately easy for them.  (Sort of like Matt Damon's character in Good Will Hunting.  Math came easy for him.)   Then they turn around and devalue what they've been doing because they've decided that anything "easy" for them can't be difficult for anyone.  And law school turns around and wallops them with the demand for a lot of new skills, not all of which are innate to most people.  Guess what?  Law school may be more difficult for some of you, but that doesn't mean that you don't belong in law school.  Your mantra?  "I can do this.  I can do this.  I can do this."  If that mantra doesn't work for you, try "No one can die from embarrassment."  That one worked for us.
  3. Want to give yourself a little more reassurance?  Two of our buddies, Tania Shah and Melissa Gill, have posted a free law school prep course (here).  One of us (NBR) has known both Tania and Melissa for years and has worked alongside Melissa for the folks at Emanuel Bar Review (here).  You might want to check out Tania's and Melissa's tutorials.
  4. Give law school everything you've got.  Well, not to the exclusion of your loved ones, but our point is that you only have one chance to do well in law school, so buckle down and try to absorb all of it.  (But don't forget to work out regularly, too!)
For more tips, of course, there's our book....  Have fun during your first few weeks of law school!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Welcome back to school this month. Now, about plagiarism . . . .

As law school resumes later this month, students think about the high cost of a legal education (as you should), and professors think about the increased rate of plagiarism (as we should).  Plagiarism may be a generational "thing," as today's story in the New York Times suggests (see here), but--like other generational "things" (anyone remember disco?)--the fact that it's "generational" doesn't make it right. 

Using someone else's work and passing it off as your own is theft, pure and simple.  (The fact that one of my heroes, Lucy Kellaway, has admitted to some plagiarism in her Financial Times column this week has caused me great consternation, even though it was her alter ego, Martin Lukes, who committed the plagiarism.)

The best explanation of what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it is still the explanation provided by the writing program at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville's College of Law's Writing Standards in Law School (see here).  Read it.  Learn it.  Use it.