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Friday, December 27, 2013

How NOT to use facts in your exam answer.

I know that we say "use the facts in your answer," but maybe we don't do a great job of explaining what we mean. 

When you put one of the exam question's facts in your answer, do so for a reason, and that reason should be to apply those facts to a legal concept.  (Remember IRAC?  The "A" in IRAC is all about using the facts in the exam question to apply to the issue that you've identified and the rule that you're using.)

What not to do?  Don't just restate the facts in your answer.  That's wasted space.  We remember (albeit vaguely) what facts we put in our questions.  Some of us put in only those facts that we think are relevant to triggering the discussion that we want to see in your answers (plus a few facts that help us transition from one issue to another); some of us put in extraneous facts ("red herrings") to see if we can sidetrack you.  So telling us the facts that we put in the question, by itself, won't get you any points.  You have to link those facts to an issue and a rule. 

It's not too late to avoid bad writing habits.

See here.  You'll read plenty of bad writing in judicial opinions, law review articles, and legislation.  This essay by George Orwell might help you avoid perpetuating the bad writing that you're reading.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Bless his heart, but I think he's wrong.

I listened to Lee Pacchia's Bloomberg Law interview of Stephen Sheppard, and I don't doubt Dean Sheppard's sincerity at all, but I disagree with many of the things that he said. 
  • I believe that law schools should report their statistics (jobs, bar passage rates) honestly so that potential law students can make rational decisions on whether to attend a given law school. 
  • I believe that law schools should do everything humanly possible to help their students and their graduates get jobs.  (That means, in part, that law schools should teach some of the skills that lawyers need and, in part, that law schools should invest heavily in their career development offices.)
  • I believe that the criticism of current legal education is good for potential law students.  If the criticism scares away potential law students, that's a good thing, too.  People should enroll in law schools with their eyes wide open.  They should know about the decline in law jobs and the changes in legal practice. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Some really good advice from our friend Walter Effross.

Professor Walter Effross (all-around great guy and smart scholar) has come up with some very useful advice for law students who might have to work a little harder to land jobs (here).

He's also got a great book out on Corporate Governance, and in two appendices in that book are smart suggestions for job hunters as well.

If you want to up your odds of finding a job via your own blog, he's speaking at this conference

And we love his list of recommended reading for law students (here). 

So do we think that Prof. Effross is one-stop shopping for good advice?  Yes.  Yes, we do.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Prof. Derek Muller's study--the asterisk.

Here's the email that I sent to Prof. Derek Muller yesterday, in response to his decision to list Boyd Law as a "top 10 'barista' school":
Hi, Derek--I just saw the result of your "top 10" lists as described in the TaxProf Blog (, and I had a couple of thoughts.  My first thought is that, in general, providing information about placement can be very useful to potential applicants, so I applaud the concept of what you're doing.  My qualm about your methodology, though, leads me to write to you today.  I believe that some of your statistics are materially misleading--certainly as they relate to UNLV (Boyd School of Law), and perhaps as they might relate to other schools as well.  Therefore, I'm writing to you today to ask you to please correct the misstatements with respect to Boyd.

Here's why Boyd’s inclusion on the Top 10 list of “Career Baristas” is materially misleading.  The percentage of graduates in non-professional, full-time, long-term positions listed for each of the schools in this “Top 10” is minuscule compared to the graduates employed in other types of jobs.  At Boyd, in a class of 128 graduates, six graduates (4.7%) were employed in non-professional, full-time, long-term positions as of February 15, 2012.  Based on these six graduates, Boyd is listed as the #3 top school in the nation for “Career Baristas.”  Meanwhile, 85 (66.4%) of Boyd’s class of 2011 was employed in full-time, long-term positions for which bar passage is required, and another 6 (4.7%) were employed in full-time, long-term positions where a JD provided an advantage.  A full 75% of the class, 96 students total, was employed in full-time or part-time long term positions that require bar passage or a JD.  Further, none of these positions are funded by the law school. 
The Top 10 list itself creates confusion because it is based on such a small percentage of the overall class.  It is particularly misleading in the case of Boyd because it is based on six graduates, providing an incomplete and distorted view of the employment prospects for Boyd students.
Given that your study is being circulated on at least the TaxProf Blog listserv, and likely others, I would greatly appreciate it if you could correct this mistaken impression about Boyd.  If you think that you're not going to be able to do that by, say, Monday of next week, please let me know.  I'm happy to chat--713-202-1881.
All the best,
Professor Muller, demonstrating that he listens to legitimate criticism, has added an asterisk to the post on TaxProf Blog: 
*Caution is in order for any ordinal ranking, but in a category like this, where the percentages are low, small numbers may appear large. For instance, the University of Akron has just 9 graduates in this category but ranks first; the University of North Dakota, just 5 graduates but ranks second; the University of Nevada—Las Vegas, just 6 graduates, but ranks third.
Thanks, Prof. Muller.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Bloomberg Law's interview with Larry Mitchell

It's here.  I have zero doubt as to Dean Mitchell's sincerity.  He's obviously speaking from the heart.  But I still disagree with him.  There is every reason to avoid the "we're fine--there's nothing wrong with our current model of legal education" mindset--there is a disconnect between the number of law graduates and the number of available law jobs; law graduates are piling on the non-dischargeable debt to get their degrees, and several universities have been caught fudging some important numbers.

After Larry's op-ed came out, there were a lot of "you go!" emails from some of my colleague law deans on the ABA Deans' Listserv, and as I read them,* I got this sinking feeling that decanal groupthink was blocking us from realizing that legal education has serious problems.

Not all of the attacks on legal education are fair, but many of them are.  Read anything that Deborah Jones Merritt has written about legal education, and you'll get a well-reasoned view of the problems that we're facing.  And she's not the only one with an interesting approach to the issue.  Read Legal Whiteboard.  Read Bernie Burk's posts.  Read Bill Henderson's work. And there are others.  There's plenty of information out there to give all of us a feel for the problems that we're facing.

There's no need to scrap all of legal education, of course, but those who continue to maintain that things are "fine as they are" puzzle me.  It's far more interesting to think about how to adapt legal education to the changing world than it is to try to maintain the status quo

But bravo to Bloomberg Law for continuing this discussion.  My fantasy?  An open forum (in front of law students and hiring partners) where Lee Pacchia asks a lot of us some very pointed questions.

* I'm sure that, after I step down from being interim dean, some of my decanal colleagues will breathe a sigh of relief--I'll be off that listserv.