Friday, September 28, 2007

Survey of Lawyers' satisfaction & more

The title to this post will link to a lengthy article in the ABA Journal about a large survey of lawyers, covering newer, middle and senior lengths of practice in many settings. Interesting survey. It ties in somewhat to earlier posts this week about law schools not being clear with students about the poor job market and two pay levels.

Only 42 percent of lawyers who’d been in practice 10 years or more stated that they would recommend a legal career to a young person. Comparatively, 57 percent of those in practice less than three years said they would make the recommendation.

According to Henderson [William D. Henderson, a professor at Indiana University School of Law], whose research focuses on education policy and the economics of the legal profession, some of the dissatisfaction may come from law schools not fully informing students about the profession’s demands.

The numbers back this assertion: Out of those surveyed, 54 percent agreed with the statement that law schools do a poor job of training young lawyers for the practice.
Of course, there is a lot more than just this snippet, so read the whole survey. One of the nice pieces is that small firm lawyers tend to be happier and feel that their contributions are valued more than those lawyers in big firms (where they pay is higher). Another intriguing point is the general concern of lawyers that judges have been too politicized:
Two of every three lawyers surveyed said they are concerned that the court system they serve is becoming too political. The same number said they are concerned about the independence of the judiciary.

Lawyers from large firms and midsize firms expressed less concern about judicial politicization than others. But both groups expressed a slightly higher degree of alarm when asked about the issue of judicial independence.

Yet the highest degree of concern was registered among public sector lawyers, including local prosecutors, public defenders and lawyers for agencies at all levels of government. These are the lawyers who most often deal with hot-button social and political issues as a matter of everyday concern. And nearly three in four say they are concerned on both counts: That the law has become too political and that judges have lost a degree of independence.

God answers law suit, asserts lack of jurisdiction

Click on the title to this post for a short piece from the ABA Journal about a Nebraska state senator who filed a suit against God in Douglas County, to make a point about anybody being able to file a frivolous suit. Surprise! Two answers have been filed by the defendant. Link for a more detailed story from the Associated Press, giving this nice snippet from one of the answers:

Defendant denies that this or any court has jurisdiction ... over Him any more than the court has jurisdiction over the wind or rain, sunlight or darkness
... then, there's the problem of service. I wonder if they've thought of burning the pleadings on an altar?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

YouTube Launches Channels for Non-Profits

Via Democracy Resource Center:

URL: YouTube has launched a program that enables non-profit organizations [note, this is for those with 501(c)(3) tax status] to setup their own channels free of charge. The channels enable non-profits to upload public service announcements, footage of their work, and calls to action. Additionally, the channels allow non-profits to use Google Checkout to collect donations without being charged any fees. YouTube also plans to launch a central location where users will be able to browse all of the non-profit channels. For the moment, you can browse some of the channels that have been created so far on the YouTube NonProfit Program page. A number of high-profit charities have already signed on to participate, including The Clinton Global Initiative, the American Cancer Society, and the March of Dimes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Measuring happiness by genders

Click on the title to this post to read an article in today's New York Times Business section, "He's Happier, She's Less So." The article reports on two different recent studies which both show that compared to 30 years ago, men are feeling happier and women are feeling less happy -- a reversal from the position in the 1970's. The article online includes handy links to the full text of both studies.

One speculation is that women have more lined up on their to-do list now than in the '70's. As more women are responsible for both caring for children and their aging parents as well, and carrying a full-time job, they have less time to do fun things. And men seem to be taking more time off now, and thus enjoying themselves more. Another theory, dubbed, the "hottie theory," is that high school girls still feel the same pressure girls felt in previous times from the mid-20th century on, to be sexually attractive -- a "hottie," and to seem effortless about it. But now, teenage girls also feel an equal pressure to do well in school, sports and extra-curricular activities. I do see my daughter and friends feeling a great deal of pressure about school performance, sports and extra-curricular activitis -- much more than my son felt. I don't know how long they can sustain the sort of killing pace I see -- I hope the pressure eases in college or after, but it looks like it's self-imposed, from some sort of societal cloud of expectations. I certainly never told either child that I expected such a pace!

Of course, these are surveys of the general population. I actually feel much happier right now than I did in the 1970's. But that's just me -- I suspect that many women my age might feel happier in their 50's than they did in their 20's. I seem to have read a good many studies (and here and here)that showed that to be true.

Do you feel happier now than you used to? Are you old enough to compare now with the 1970's? Do you think gender makes a difference?

The chart above is from the second "study" link, to a small business org website. It shows older women's happiness levels compared to younger women's levels from a self-reporting survey.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Magna Carta

Those of you with really healthy acquisitions budgets might want to take a look at this article which discusses the upcoming auction of a copy of Magna Carta that dates from 1297. The document is currently opened by The Perot Foundation, which plans to use the proceeds of the auction for charitable purposes. According to Sotheby's, the auction house that is handling the auction, there are "fewer than 20 copies of the Magna Carta and...only two held outside of Britain." The Australian government owns the other copy, which also dates from 1297. Sotheby's has valued the Perot copy at $30,000,000. I hope this manuscript ends up in a library and not in the hands of a private collector.

Bar Passage and course choices - little correlation

The title to this post will take the reader to a post in the Opinion blog of the NY Times. The author refers to a study done by the Assistant Dean at St. Louis University law School, "Does Law School Curriculum Affect Bar Examination Passaghe" in teh upcoming issue of Journal of Legal Education. The dean, Douglas Rush, finds no correlation between bar passage and course selection for any but the third quartile of the class, looking at five graduating classes at SLU. In the third quartile, he found a weak correlation. The research was replicated with students at Hofstra as well.

The students in the top quarter had very high likelihood of passing, and students in teh bottom quarter had very low likelihood of passing. The students in the middle had middling chances of passing and very little changed according to what classes each selected in law school The question is whether this means faculty need to tweak how they teach or if it means that law school grading is just an excellent indicator of bar passage. The comments following the interesting blog entry are kind of interesting, too.

David Carliner, early civil rights activist, dies

I had not heard of David Carliner until an emeritus professor passed along to me the obit in today's Boston Globe that eulogizes him. He was an amazing man, and is certainly worth remembering. Link in title to this post.

One Laptop Per Child Program Seeking Consumer Help

Yesterday's Boston Globe featured an article about MIT's Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child initiative. Evidently, he has not been able to get enough actual orders from governments to make mass production (and the low cost of $188/laptop) feasible. So, he is turning to consumers who might want to give something a little different this holiday season.

For a limited two-week span in November, people will be able to buy two laptops for $399, one for the buyer and one for a child in a developing country. ... Peru, Mexico, Uruguay, and Ethiopia are among the countries that will receive the first wave of laptops. But the Give 1 Get 1 program, which will run from Nov. 12 to Nov. 26, could help spread the project. Customers who place an order during for two laptops, online or by phone, will see one arrive -on a first-come, first-served basis - in time for Christmas. The second one will go to a child in a developing country. Half the price will be tax-deductible.

Starting today, people who simply want to donate a laptop to a child in a developing country for $200 can do so online at ...

The laptop is a more basic computing tool than the power-hungry high-end laptops that people are used to seeing in stores, because it is aimed at rural villages where the only power source may be its hand crank. The XO has been drop tested from 6 feet, dunked in water, and baked in an oven in its Cambridge offices for weeks to ensure that it can withstand the kind of extreme conditions facing some of the children who use it.

But it is also stylish, with a pebbled surface that will keep it from slipping off a classroom desk and a simple, child-friendly interface based on icons.

Originally, Negroponte said he did not want to sell the computer in the United States because he wanted to target the world's poorest children, who live in areas where governments may spend only $200 on educating a child in a single year.

Now, he says, Americans could help push the project forward and shape the future of the project by helping it get into the real world.
The image is from the Globe article, showing Nigerian school children exploring two laptops. It does not show the cute "rabbit ears" that are WiFi antennae, or the crank on the side to power the laptop when no outlet is available. The design is ingenious, providing a color monitor with much less power use than typical, by using a hi-def monochrome display with color provided by a filter system. The Wifi range is wider than typical laptops, and the machine is designed to be very rugged and resist temperature extremes.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Shedding Light on L'Affaire Chemerinsky?

In today's Inside Higher Education, Jon Wiener, a professor of history at the University of California at Irvine , discusses the recent controversy over the hiring, firing, and rehiring of Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, who will become the founding dean of Irvine's new law school. Professor Wiener discusses a number of different theories that might account for Chancellor Michael Drake's decision to rescind the offer to Professor Chemerinsky. None of these theories aaddresses what is, to me, the biggest mystery of all--why would a scholar of Professor Chemerinsky's stature agree to head up a start-up law school at a university whose chancellor would cave in to pressure, regardless of the source of the pressure?

Open up your job options by managing your student debt

You can manage your debt.

You can get help from approved credit counseling agencies by region, look at the U.S. DOJ list of approved credit counselors. The DOJ regional search does not work as well as I wish., but if you already have a business name, you can verify it here. You can also check out this national organization, National Federation of Credit Counselors. Members of such organizations typically have to meet ethical standards.

Be wary of credit counseling agencies that demand an upfront payment or nonnegotiable donations. Managing debt is easier said than done, but there are some real tips you can use to keep your debt load as low as possible:

1. Try to avoid credit card debt entirely. Don’t use credit cards to pay off your other debts, because most credit cards have a very high interest rate. If you just pay the minimum on your card each month, the interest is rolling up, higher and higher. And you can no longer bankrupt your credit card debt. If you can pay off the entire charge on the card each month, credit cards are fine, but don’t let that debt pile up, and certainly don’t let late fees add to your debt! See MSN on credit card debt, Consumer Defence, Motley Fool (usually an investment site, they have good advice about debt), and Women’s Finance (not just for women! Includes more than credit card debt)

2. Make a monthly budget – know how much you need for fixed expenses like rent or mortgage, utilities, transportation, tuition, books, and groceries. Once you see how much is needed for these non-negotiable, fixed expenses, you can see if you have money left for entertainment, travel or eating out.

3. Stick to your budget. It’s totally out of fashion now, but consider how much lower your debt level will be if you skip the vacations, eat out less or never, and avoid impulse purchases. Pack a lunch, eat at home, don’t buy Starbucks or Dunkin’ coffee. Take walks or bicycle, play games at home or with friends, live cheap! (See MSN article and again, Women's Finance, which has lots of great advice for both genders.

4. Save on tuition costs: If you are able to get a job at your law school or university, many schools offer tuition remission. This is a wonderful deal, where you can take a certain number of classes free. It might take while longer to graduate, but you will have much lower debt. Be sure you balance your schedule so that you have enough time to prepare for class, and have time off to prepare for exams. Having a job won’t be much help if you drop to the bottom of the class or flunk out! But if you can manage, especially after 1-L, it’s a great way to reduce your costs. Ask before taking the job if it offers tuition remission, and whether there is any waiting period. Some schools require you to work full time for a certain period before the tuition remission is available.

5. Take a part time job: Again, be sure you give first priority to your classes. But if you can manage to earn some money while in law school, you won’t be taking on such a load of debt. If it’s a job that will look good on a resume or allow you to network for future job potential, all the better.

But if you have lower student debts, you will be able to be much more flexible in looking for work. Plus, more of what you earn will stay in your own pocket!

Negotiating a Tough Job Market

Law Students and law student wannabes – know the job market

A colleague of mine distributed an article from the Wall Street Journal law blog, titled The Dark Side of Legal Job Market (not available for linking, sorry!). There were two points addressed:

1. Be realistic: The job market and pay ranges for most legal jobs is considerably lower than people think. Only the very best students in a class, and mostly those from top-ranked law schools, get a chance at the big firm jobs that pay the best starting salaries. For lawyers outside the big firms and in-house counsel jobs that pay the best, salaries have failed to keep up with the general increase percentages since about 1995, and in some cases, the take-home pay is level or dropping, when adjusted for inflation. Thus, there are two distinct legal job markets. The top 25% and the rest. The rest includes part-time contract work without benefits at $20-30/hour reading contracts. So people’s expectations of what lawyers do and make is mostly very out of line with reality.

2. Base decisions on good information: Law schools reporting of graduates’ employment rates and salaries is based on a very small percentage of the class that reports. It tends to be self-selecting, as those with plum jobs are the most likely to report back. So the numbers you see reported on law school websites and brochures tend to be misleading for the majority of students who will graduate. At this point, the article notes one law school, University of Richmond, calling for truth in marketing and posting realistic information about the percentage of students included in their employment and salary reporting.

That being said, another colleague chimed in with some words of wisdom. First, students do have some control over where they rank in their class.. You can enhance your marketability after law school in several ways.

1. Improve your chances by working hard NOW: While law school is usually graded on a curve, pitting student against student, it does pay off to prepare, to attend class and to outline your notes yourself. You should spend at least two hours preparing for each hour of class. You should also be starting your outlines NOW – the earlier the better, though you’ll also want to boil your outline down at the end of the semester, to see the big picture. First year grades are especially important. While you are expected to be confused at the beginning of 1-L, don’t make excuses. Your 1-L grades a strong predictors of both your bar passage likelihood and your final position in the class.

2. Polish your resume: Try to put an honor board on your resume. While most places on law review staffs are awarded based on grade ranking, many journals also offer an open write-on option. Even if you are not in the top of your class, you can try to join either a journal or possibly a moot court organization.

3. Think different: Consider your background. Some combinations with law degrees take you out of the ordinary job market. Backgrounds in hard sciences and health/medical fields make you much more marketable. There is a very hot market for intellectual property and health lawyers. Likewise, if you have a library degree and are adding a JD, that’s a hot job market these days, too. Especially strong outlook for JD/MLS types if you have some real library employment on the resume, not just internships or volunteering.

4. Think different, too: Consider taking yourself out of the typical law job pool entirely. Try thinking about jobs with banks, corporations, businesses that could benefit from your legal training.

5. Use your contacts: Use your contacts to look for a job. Many people get their jobs by knowing somebody in a firm, having family, church/temple/mosque connections, or serving a niche population. If you are part of an ethnic or other identity group that has any kind of population density, you can set up a law firm (perhaps after a year or two in a small firm to get your feet wet) that caters to that population. You will have a ready-made clientele who will spread your reputation (make sure it’s a good one!) by word of mouth.

6. Expand your contacts: Another aspect of this is networking as a law student. A few law schools have Continuing Legal Education offices, that put on programs for the bench and bar. Students may be allowed to attend free. This is an excellent opportunity to meet practitioners, find out about specialty areas, and learn the hot topics for when you interview. If your school does not have a CLE arm, consider joining the local bar association or the ABA as a student. Again, take advantage of the CLE classes you’ll be able to attend, as well as bar meetings to meet folks and learn about practicing law in a completely different way than your law school.

7. Think different, III: Look at public interest and government jobs, local, state and federal. With the new bill just passed for loan forgiveness, this is suddenly much more attractive. You can pay off student loans at a liveable rate and wipe out loans after 10 years, regardless of how much is left on the books. What a deal! (Link here to read about this new law)

8. Get help: Use your school’s career services office. Many offices will have workshops throughout the year to help you hone your resume and interviewing skills. They may also be able to consult with you one on one to make a viable job hunting strategy. Your tuition dollars are paying for the service, so use it. But take responsibility for your own job search. They cannot apply or get the job for you! You can also use web resources now to help broaden your job search; see BCG Attorney Search,HG Worldwide Legal Directories; Attorney Research Group offers regional job info. And there are dozens more sites that claim to offer links to legal jobs. Do not ever send money to a site that claims it will get you a job in exchange. Ask your school’s career services office for more tips. Even if you graduated a while ago, most schools’ career services offices are available for alumni as well.

9. Think different IV: Consider relocating out of your current area. So many students want to stay in the city where they attended school, that it really overfills the job market there. Consider moving. Rural practices can be very lucrative; my classmate who settled in a small town far from our school was the guy who was going on ABA winter cruises by the time we were a few years out of law schoo. But remember, in a town with one lawyer, the attorney will starve -- you need to lawyers in a town for both to thrive.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Witty opinion plays on Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs & Ham

Click on the title to this post to read a story in today’s Boston Globe by Matt Viser, about the New Hampshire Federal District Court Judge James R. Muirhead. In a suit by a prisoner complaining about the kosher diet provided him by the prison kitchen, Judge Muirhead received a motion for an injunction from the inmate, with an enclosed hard boiled egg. The complainant wants the kitchen to stop giving him boiled eggs for breakfast, requesting doughnuts and danish instead. The judge responded to the egg stunt with an order based on the Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham:

No fan I am
Of the egg at hand.
Just like no ham
On the kosher plan.

This egg will rot
I kid you not.
And stink it can
This egg at hand.

There will be no eggs at court
To prove a clog in your aort.
There will be no eggs accepted.
Objections all will be rejected.

From this day forth
This court will ban
hard-boiled eggs of any brand.
And if you should not understand
The meaning of the ban at hand
Then you should contact either Dan,
the Deputy Clerk, or my clerk Jan.

I do not like eggs in the file.
I do not like them in any style.
I will not take them fried or boiled.
I will not take them poached or broiled.
I will not take them soft or scrambled
Despite an argument well-rambled.

No fan I am
Of the egg at hand.
Destroy that egg!
Today! today!
Today I say! without delay!

SO ORDERED (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)
The article goes on to reference a few other witty, recent judicial decisions.

Farewell to a friend

Over the past week, my dog Beau hit a crisis in his long-term kidney disease, was hospitalized and died. It was both the outcome of a chronic, managed disease, but also a stunningly fast reversal. He was hospitalized twice before for kidney disease crises. We had managed him along for four or five years with special diet, and careful watching. Then, at the end of summer, he developed terrible itching in some kind of inhalant allergy. He was so miserable! The poor little dog couldn't sleep and could hardly take a walk for pausing to scratch. As we had done often in the past, we started him on a prednisone combination drug to control the itching. But this time, the prednisone triggered pancreatitis. this inflammation of the pancreas caused him to be very queasy. He stopped eating and barely drank water starting last weekend. That, in turn, pushed him out of balance with his kidneys.

We took Beau to the vet on Monday, to the hospital on Tuesday and got word of his death around midnight Wednesday night. His kidneys just shut down. After sustaining damage over the years, there was no residual capacity to fall back on this time. I like to think he did not suffer much, with the IV fluids and pain meds. I saw him Wednesday night and he looked really exhausted and out of it.

Beau was such a good dog. He had a conscience that was bigger and stricter than anybody I have ever met. When he was a puppy, we caught him on a chair in the kitchen, taking a piece of bread off the table. Once he understood that was bad, he never tried to steal food ever again. He might be sitting near the table, gazing at us with longing, but if we said, "Beau, are you begging?" he would look so ashamed and would move away. If I were as honorable as Beau, I would be a much better person.

This was my youngest, furriest child, a part of our family. He was my friend, my personal trainer. And I miss him very much.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gorgeous Libraries

One of my colleagues tipped me off to the Curious Expeditions blog, which is devoted to "travelling and exhuming the extraordinary past." The postings run the gamut from a story about the Infant of Prague (he occupied a place of honor in my childhood home, and I was fascinated with him and loved to dress him in his many outfits; this story was a revelation to this lapsed Catholic) to the observance of St. Stephen's Day in Hungary. The blog is eclectic and fascinating, and the illustrations that accompany the postings are stunning. Every librarian will enjoy this posting on exquisite libraries around the world. The photos are lush, the libraries themselves simply beautiful as places. To my delight, I realized I had visited a number of them, and they are even more beautiful in person because one can appreciate the scale and proportions. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Second Life Labor Strike

I guess it was only a matter of time after Second Life began to generate real life money and host real businesses.... Evidently IBM and an Italian workers have a labor dispute, and it's spilling over into Second Life. Here is a snip from the Philadelphia Inquirer business blog about it. Link through the title to this post to see the entire posting at Philly Inc.

Their union, Rappresentenza[sic] Sindacale Unitaria, in conjunction with Union Network International, is sponsoring the first-ever, they say, online strike, asking avatar workers around the world to go picket IBM's Second Life online presense. Read more about it here

Follow the link for Rappresentanza Sindacale Unitaria to see their website which includes notes (in Italian, but hey! scroll down and see it in English) on their strike, which was due to start on Sept. 12. They offered tutorials in using Second Life to get more people to get online and show solidarity with their striking avatars. The Union Network offers a way to sign up for the strike and lots of links to media coverage. The AFL-CIO website also has ways to support the Italian union. According to the (admittedly biased) AFL-CIO website the basis of the strike is this:
During talks to renew IBM’s contract with its Italian workers, the employees who have to feed families and pay house notes asked for a small raise. IBM responded by canceling their “productive results benefit”—a productivity bonus—in effect cutting every worker’s pay by 1,000 euros or about $1,377 a year.

The British paper, The Register offers a brief story about possible griefing at the IBM location on Second Life.

Fascinating cache of Auschwitz photos

The title to this post links you to an article in today's New York Times, about a photo album put together by one of the SS officers who ran the concentration camp at Auschwitz during WWII. The images are actually of the leisure time of the camp staff, not the horrors endured by the camp inmates. The album was offered to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has put the images up on the Web. Visit the site to see their display, "Auschwitz Through the Lens of the SS: Photos of Nazi leadership at the camp." The Holocaust Memorial Museum has other images, and the juxtposition is amazing.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Skeptics of Second Life

The title to this post will connect readers to an article dated May 15, 2007 in Library Journal, by Mark Y. Herring, "Get a (Real) Life." The deliberately controversial article is mentioned in the Chronicle of Higher Education side bar that accompanies a lengthy article detailing the adventures of six academics on Second Life. Mr. Herring, dean of library services at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. He asked some younger, tech-savvy staffers to explore Second Life and report on their opinion of the utility of the virtual world to Winthrop's library services. They really came back empty-handed. Dean Herring explored on his own as well, and discusses meeting librarians in Second Life through his article. Check it out.

The Chronicle article, "Professor Avatar," can be read here, for those who have a subscription and e-password. None of the people featured in the article are librarians, though. It's interesting (in a Peeping Tom kind of way) to look at the pictures of the actual faculty and their avatars. I have to say my avatar looks considerably snazzier than I do, but she does have gray hair. I lack the technical savvy to add specs to my avatar at this point. You can see my avatar wasting away by searching for Boptunia Woodget. I don't visit much, so I'm serious about that "wasting away." You are forwarned.

Chemerinsky rehired at UC Irvine

Click on the title for what *(we hope) is the last act in this comedy (or is it a tragedy?). This was first noted in OOTJ here, when the newly hired Dean Chemerinsky was told he had to step down because he was too liberal.

Book Thieves targeted at colleges & universities

Click on the title to this post to read an article from USA Today, Sept. 17, 2007, about various colleges and universities' efforts to thwart book theives.

Do you know how much your library spends to replace lost and stolen items each year? We designated a code in our library automated system to track such replacements and I was shocked at the size of the bill. We have full security with Checkpoint. We have only one entrance/exit open to the public. So it's not lack of security effort. But I have suspected some years that the students who work the night shifts on Reserve are helping themselves and their friends to reserve books. It's not every year, thank heavens. And let me hasten to add that most of our student workers are terrific: reliable, trustworthy, and great workers. But...

How else to explain when we lose thousands of dollars worth of reserve books from an area that is locked at night, and otherwise staffed all the time we are open with at least 3 or more people?

On the other hand, every library I have worked in has theft problems. It goes with the territory, sad to say. We have had items stolen out of staffers' desks. We have even had a locked cash box torn out of the wall it was installed in. There wasn't that much money in it, but it tells you somebody felt quite secure making a good bit of noise and mess. And somebody knew where it was and what was inside.

That one sounds like an inside job -- possibly the University police have somebody on staff with a drug problem? I can't get them to take that possibility seriously. How paranoid should I be? I don't want to alienate the good guys, but geez! The broken lock box doesn't sound like a casual thief or an outsider, does it?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Google Counsel addresses UN, Calls for International Privacy Standards

The title to this post takes you to a Washington Post article. Criticizing the current law as a patchwork of inconsistent and complex laws Peter Fleischer, Google's privacy counsel, urged the UN or some other international organization to create consistent standards. The irony is that the EU is currently investigating Google's privacy practices

Tor Anonymizer Admin arrestee - New German Laws

Click on the link to this post to read an article at C/Net about a blog posting by one of the admins of the Tor anonymizer servers. The German police were investigating a bomb threat. The admin attempted to explain what the Tor system does, but it took a lawyer and some time to straighten things out.

This is a link to a related story at Ars Tecnica. A new German law is very harsh. It is aimed at hackers but has lots of unintended consequences.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Law Firm Ad Campaigns take a new turn!

Click on the title to this link to read an article from the NY Times about new ad campaigns that are innovative and avoid pushing hard on the image of lawyers.

Shout out to Diane Murley & ASU

The folks at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, have started a library blog and podcast, and Diane Murley (one-time guest blogger here at OOTJ!), is helping. She says,

You can visit the Ross-Blakley Law Library Blog at or subscribe to our feed at In addition to library news and announcements, we will post research tips, reviews of legal information sources, library podcasts, online tutorials, animal photos of the week, and more. See our About page for more information.

You can find previous podcast episodes and subscribe to our podcast, the Ross-Blakley Law Library Channel, on iTunes or our feed at Future episodes of the podcast will introduce you to the people who work in the law library, share research tips and tools, and cover library services and events.
And to think, Diane got her start right here! Gives me shivers.

Share a laugh or two: Library Humor

A simple test.

Search “lawyer jokes” on Google = about 2,470,000 results.

Search “librarian jokes” on Google = about 1,210,000 (and the top results actually say “library jokes). Are librarians inherently less funny than lawyers? Or are people just less anxious about librarians? Some results:

You’re right. No human being would stack books like this.
(From Ghostbusters, quoted at which has classier decorations, but more misspellings than any of the other library humor sites I visited. I wonder what that says?) , which includes this invaluable advice:
Different libraries have different rules. If you are not sure what the rules are, just be yourself. Someone will immediately come and explain all the rules to you.
And these classic jokes:

Q: What happens when you cross a librarian and a lawyer?
A: You get all the information you want, but you can't understand it.

Lighbulb jokes:

Q: How many academic librarians does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Just five. One changes the light bulb while the other four form a committee and write a letter of protest to the Dean, because after all, changing light bulbs IS NOT professional work!

Q: How many catalogers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Just one, but they have to wait to see how LC does it first.

Q: How many reference librarians does it take to change a light-bulb?
A: (with a perky smile) "Well, I don't know right off-hand, but I know where we can look it up!"

Q: How many library system managers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: All of them as the manual was lost in the last move (or flood).

Q: How many library managers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: At least one committee and a light bulb strategy focus meeting and plan.

(From )

Here is some dark library humor:

Do you know where the books on Suicide are located?
A: They should be right over here, but once checked out... they never come back.

Q: What is the difference between a Librarian and a large pizza?
A: A large pizza can feed a family of four.

(From )

And of course, there are YouTube videos now. See
March of the Librarians (inspired by March of the Penguins, this video describes the ALA convention as if it were a nature documentary; see March of the Librarians
and, featured here once before, the Book as a new technology, needing tech support:
Introducing the Book

And the wonderful library exercise video posted by Marie last January here.

Ms. Mentor on Fashion for Academics

An oxymoron? Absolutely hilarious column from the online Chronicle of Higher Education, Ms. Mentor is the pen name for Emily Toth in the English department of Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, somebody with a tart, dry sense of humor. Also good advice in a sly package. Hooray! Here's a snippet:

[T]here are ways to dress in academe, just as there are ways to comport oneself, and every choice does send a message.(snip) People are always observing one another, making judgments, and groaning or chortling.

Certainly there is a public image of fashion for academics. For men it is the tweed jacket with elbow patches -- a style that Ms. Mentor has not seen for several generations, but the memory lingers. For women it is the frumpy Marian the Librarian look -- thoroughly unlike Julia Roberts's professorial character in Mona Lisa Smile and even less like the Amazonian Shannon Tweed, the women's-studies professor in one of Ms. Mentor's all-time favorite movies, the thoroughly underrated Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. (Ms. Mentor has never met another living soul who's seen it.)

Odd ducks are often treasured as "crazy, but I love her" types, and they may be gossiped about with affection -- but they're much less apt to get the scarce goodies.

From a conventional point of view -- and academics are conventional people -- a student with a standout appearance will not seem to represent her university well. Earie's not apt to be trotted out to meet dignified visiting scholars, donors, or pooh-bahs in her field. She'll miss those invaluable moments for networking, for meeting and sniffing about with the big cheeses.

Also missing out: students who display too much notable cleavage, or who wear short, overly tight, or very casual-at-the-beach clothes. If your undergraduates are not looking at your face, or if randy graduate students or visiting poets are trying to brush against you, you are communicating a message that is not, well, intellectual. (snip)

But we are not all artsy geniuses whose charisma is so extraordinary that the world will little note nor long remember that we look funny. Most of us are A-minuses.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Suggestions for Second Life Protections

The article mentioned just below by Michael J. Bugeja, in the Chronicle, goes on to suggest a number of steps to reduce potential liability until the laws dealing with virtual worlds settles:

1. Begin discussing procedures and issues with university counsel, HR, accountants, ombudsmen and risk managers, including offering them the article as a starting point.

2. Debate in your faculty senate, faculty meetings or other fora the issues, inviting experts on cyberlaw, harassment, ethics, technology and new media.

3. Research -- look at warnings and disclaimers in the syllabi of profs who already deal with the issues raised, such as computer science, social science, forensics, medical and arts profs. (these folks deal with risks to computers and to psyches - from exposure to awfulness and sex).

4. Develop Best Practices - use orientations, develop campus policies. Models may already exist in programs exposing students to unfamiliar environments such as study abroad programs, archeology, social work, internships and volunteer programs.

5. Assess - weigh the potential costs against the possible benefits. Keep files documenting all institutional policies and efforts in case of accreditation or legal disputes.

Second Life Pitfalls -- whoa, nelly!

It isn't posted online yet, but the Sept. 14, 2007 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Careers section, contains an article, "Second Thoughts About Second Life: Will you be held accountable for requiring students to enter a virtual world filled wtih online harassers?," by Michael J. Bugeja. Click on the title for this post the read the article online.

The author notes the following possible issues that could lead to institutional liability when educators require students to attend meetings, classes, events or do projects on Second Life (or other virtual worlds):

1. Harassment or griefing. He notes an incident in which Ohio University's Second Life campus was attacked by an avatar shooting at folks, shortly after the real world Virginia Tech shootings. While avatars cannot be killed or injured, the people behind the avatars can be traumatized. (see this OTJ post on Cyberbullying).

2. Virtual Worlds' service terms may be in conflict with an institution's grievance or disciplinary processes. So your students' avatars may not be dealt with according to your institution's due process standards.

3. Administrators (like bursars, risk managers, general counsel) may not realize that professors, departments, schools have agreed to and/or required students to agree to a third party's terms of service.

4. There may be difficulties getting reimbursements or POs signed for expenditures like buying land to build online campuses and buildings, or other items. Such purchases also open the institution to potential liability, and require disagreements between parties to be resolved under the "rules" or "laws" of the virtual world -- or perhaps under the lack thereof. And while the world is virtual, there is real money exchanged for the virtual goods -- Linden dollars exchange at 270 Lindens for 1 US dollar.

5. The law is very unsettled about jurisdiction, choice of law or enforcement procedures where the real world intersects with virtual worlds. Nobody knows the answers at this point.

You can see an article on Second Life rape and another on "age play," at "Age Play" is the term for child avatars having sexual relations with adult avatars. The ages of the actual people behind the avatars need not correspond to the avatars' apparent ages (or species or gender or race, size or any other appearance factor). The intersections of real with virtual are only just developing, and institutions that require students to go into virtual worlds may be liable for exposing them to trauma or fraud, and have no way to control the environment or settle the dispute.

Linden Labs, the creator of Second Life gives itself the "right but not the obligations" to resolve disputes among avatars. They also exepmt themselves, shareholders, etc. from claims, demands and damages of every kind, as a condition of access to Second Life. Linden does not try to exercise control over content and its most recent effort, in regard to the "age play" issue, resulted in rebellion from the Second Life residents (see the article above).

I am as excited and intrigued as anybody with Second Life and other virtual worlds. But establishing an official institutional pressence and especially requiring (or even inviting) students to participate may be more than any of us bargained for. Intriguing and sobering article. Just ask yourself, would your university or institution defend you in court if a suit resulted from activities online? See the author's letter asking Linden Labs about these issues at Linden's website for questions.

Citizenship Toolkit for Public Libraries

The Task Force on New Americans, a federal interagency effort to help immigrants learn English has developed The Civics and Citizenship Toolkit. This free toolkit is designed to serve as a self-study resource for immigrants but can also be useful for librarians and adult educators in a classroom or community literacy setting. Included in the kit are guides in English and Spanish, Welcome to the United States, that contain a wide range of practical information as well as basic civics information introducing newcomers to the U.S. system of government. Also included are Civics Flash cards for individual study or instructional use and Learn about the United States: Quick Civics lessons. In addition, the kit includes a Citizen's Almanac and Pocket size Declaration of Independence, copy of the U.S. Constitution and a DVD covering an introduction to U.S. History and Civics.

Interested? Please go to and register for a FREE copy of the Civics and Citizenship Toolkit.

Eligibility Requirements:

Registration limited to PUBLIC LIBRARIES ONLY.

Please DO NOT REGISTER IF YOUR LIBRARY IS PART OF THE FEDERAL DEPOSITORY LIBRARY PROGRAM (FDLP)*. Registration is subject to review to ensure eligibility.
(Thanks to Boston Library Consortium)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Relief for Student Debt!

Many thanks to Senator Ted Kennedy and the entire Congress for passing the College Reduction and Access Act (HR 2669)! See the text as passed at Sen. Kennedy's website. It's a nicePDF version so it looks as the slip bill will appear. Evidently President Bush has said he will sign it.

The new law contains great provisions capping the payments on student loans, and offering forgiveness for graduates who work on public interest jobs (including any government and 501(c)(3) organization). Two provisions, Sections 203 and 401 are especially important to law graduates with high debt and low income levels. Parts of the law are effective in October, 2007, some in July, 2008, but some can effect recent graduates.

Senator Kennedy was the primary architect of Section 203, which creates an "income-based repayment" (or IBR) option for repaying student loans. This goes into effect on July 1, 2009. It allows student borrowers to limit their repayments to 15% of their discretionary income (defined ad adjusted gross income minus 150% of poverty level for the borrower's family size). This section appears to apply to ALL government loans -- Stafford and GradPLUS loans. ParentPLUS loans are not covered by this section.

Section 401 allows more rapid forgiveness of loans for borrowers who work full time for at least 10 years in public service jobs. This can combine with the IBR, so that limited repayments will still allow the balance to be forgiven after 10 years.
There is still a huge burden on students, but this is a very important piece of legislative relief!

here's why tenure!

click the title to this post to see an entry on Brian Leiter's Law School Reports. Erwin Chemerinsky was hired as dean at the new law school, U. Cal, Irvine.

Yesterday, the Chancellor of the University of Cailfornia at Irvine flew to Durham and fired Chemerinsky, saying that he had not been aware of how Chemerinsky's political views would make him a target for criticism from conservatives.
and he hadn't even started deaning yet.

Also, here is a first-person account from September 5's Chronicle of Higher Education about what tenure means. Briefly, the author (these people quite often write under pseudonyms, the paranoia of tenure) comments,
I look forward to the day when I can turn down a committee appointment that will take up way too much of my time and does not interest me in the least; when I can speak freely in meetings without fear that I'll be looking for a new job next year; and when I can go for a period of time without feeling the pressure to write something new, and I can actually dig into a long-term project and savor the research process.
This junior academic sees the tenure process with pretty clear eyes. It requires real commitment in order to make the tenure goal; it's not a simple process.
My friend "Mark" just went through his third-year review. It didn't go well, but he thinks that he can turn things around with a few superficial changes. Mark believes that if he just keeps his door open a bit more and shows up to one or two more campus activities, the administration will believe he is plugged in to campus life, which is terribly important at our college.

Mark does not understand that he has to make deep changes in the way he feels about students here. He seems to see them now as an inconvenience, preventing him from spending time on his writing, and it shows. That's not good in a teaching institution like ours.

I have another friend, "Doug," who was recently denied tenure. Doug, too, was unwilling to make deep changes in his job performance in order to reap the long-term benefits of tenure. He was told that he needed to increase his involvement with students. Instead, he did the bare minimum. He was unwilling to make the investment required for the few years until he came up for tenure, which, had he earned it, would have resulted in another 20 or more years of full-time employment.

Why Tenure?

I don't work in academia, so the debate on tenure is something I don't understand. I am just putting up my thoughts for comments. I am missing out on something.

I thought tenure was supposed to protect academics from retribution for unpopular scholarship -- not a guaranteed life time job. Since academics only get tenure after they have created a body of work, to me something does not connect. It would seem that tenure would be more necessary early in a career when a person was not established. If such protection existed, would new scholars challenge the old lions more instead of citing them?

Personally, the thought of staying in one job sounds horrible. I want increased labor mobility. Give me the chance to move around rather than staying in one place.

When I worked in the newspaper, people who didn't move around were called "planks." That meant that they had been in the place so long that they had become part of the floor. It was a serious insult and usually led to a fist fight in the parking lot, or at least, a lot of cursing. (The language I have heard.)

I just finished The Race Beat about reporters and the Civil Rights Movement. In those days, reporters who moved around were respected as being able to land on their feet. A man who had five jobs in three years in the wire services was considered a fast thinker, not trouble.

Boy, do I wish I lived in expanding economy where labor was in short supply. With all the layoffs and uncertain employment facing many librarians, I don't think tenure is an broad based issue. If I am wrong, let me know.

Why the Disdain for Academics?

Jim’s Sept. 10th posts repeats the practicing attorney/ judge/academic divide.

In New York State, Chief Judge Kaye announced the creation of the Judicial Institute to encourage discussion amongst these groups. Its seminars have been very successful.

I also believe that UB’s Law School has supported similar programs and even has opened its moot court to the local judiciary for hearings

The divide exists for many reasons. Here are some reasons why:

Deadlines and overwork. People who work under deadline pressure resent people who don’t. I have seen similar disdain amongst emergency room nurses and newspaper printers. Working under deadline doesn’t allow for reflection; you do the job, go through the motions and move on. The criminal judge who rules on 145 motions a day works under a time pressure few can understand.

Inner city decay. Courthouses (except for adoptions) are not happy places. It’s where as one attorney put it, “I am expected to straighten up someone else’s mess up.” Judges and attorneys often suffer from ptsd. Academia is seen as the place where people have time to read in an environment where middle class norms of respect and etiquette are respected.

Librarians can help overcome this divide by providing materials and bridging scholarship to practicing attorneys. When Jim returns from his sabbatical, we should discuss joint projects between his librarians and OCA’s. I know that NYC Housing Court has a program with Columbia’s School of Social Work to help elderly tenants. Surely, we bloggers can do similar work in the meat world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Critical Reading Skills Key to Success in Law School

Leah Christensen has written an article entitled "Legal Reading and Success in Law School: An Empirical Study." Her conclusion is that critical reading skills are among the best predictors of success in law school. The paper may be downloaded through SSRN -

Tip of the hat to Herb Ramy.

Lexis/Nexis, Gene Koo & Berkman Center

Lexis-Nexis has mailed to law school library directors (and maybe more people) a white paper by Gene Koo, "New Skills, new Learning: Legal Education & the Promise of Technology." Koo is a research fellow at Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. The paper was distributed to some law folks in May and June of 2007, and there were some early talks about it as well. If you want more info, see Gene's talks about the research at:

1. MediaBerkman - click on the title to this blog entry, for a talk at Berkman Center May 23, 2007.

2. Podnova, Gene Koo at the Berkman Center in March, 2007.

3. Mefedia, Gene Koo at the end of March. Appears to be the same talk, but the run time is slightly longer than that at Podnova.

4. SSRN abstract and links to download full article from Koo -- it appears to be the same text as the Lexis-distributed white paper.

5. Joho the Blog archives from end of May, 2007. Not a video, but notes on the talk -- nice list of terms and definitions here.

6. SLaw, blog entry by Simon Chester with an executive summary from what was just mailed from Lexis/Nexis, dated April 4, 2007. Interesting comments and links to blog entries chatting about the future of legal education.

More Trouble at Ave Maria: Part 2

I have blogged before about the ongoing problems at Ave Maria School of Law. There is a new development today. The Wall Street Journal Online Law Blog reports that the American Bar Association has informed Ave Maria that it is considering whether the school is out of compliance with ABA accreditation standard 405(a); this standard requires law schools "to establish and maintain conditions adequate to attract and retain a competent faculty." I wonder whether Ave Maria may also be out of compliance with standard 405(b), which speaks to academic freedom and tenure. However, the ABA apparently did not refer to any other possible violations in its report to Ave Maria. The school has until December 15 to demonstrate that it is in compliance. If the ABA were to place Ave Maria on probation, it would definitely make it more difficult for the school to relocate to Florida.

Google Earth helping search for Steve Fossett

Click on the title for this blog entry to read an article in the British paper, The Guardian, about how Google Earth has updated their Nevada images in order to help the search for Steve Fossett, lost more than a week ago in his small aircraft. Partering with Amazon's Mechanical Turk, which pays people to search from home computers, the Google Earth images are turning up hundreds of plane crashes. So far, they have not located Fossett. Here is another story from the BBC, with good pictures and some more details. The Nevada Search and Rescue has already been using satellite images to scour the rugged area.

If you are interested in joining the search (or just looking around), visit this Googl Earth Blog post about the search.

Read here for an brief note about an earlier, similar effort to find Jim Gray, lost in a yacht, through Amazon's Mechanical Turk system.

Time Banks!

The title to this post will connect you to an article in today's Boston Globe about Time Banks. Created 20 years ago by a law professor at UDC, Edgar Cahn, time banks serve multiple functions. They are a way for people in a community to network, to get and give help to one another, and to build community. Now, there are more than 100 time banks across the U.S., and more opening every day. But they are much more important than just barter.

Unlike the monetary economy, which values a doctor’s time more than a day-care worker’s, in time banks the lawyer’s hour equals the same time dollar as the laborer’s. Unlike a barter economy of traded favors — the auto mechanic tunes up the car of the plumber who then fixes the mechanic’s leaky sink — time bank members pay it forward. Unlike a traditional bank, time banks regularly schedule social events and, in more diverse communities, build bridges across racial and ethnic divides.

‘‘In a lot of neighborhoods, people don’t know their neighbors. They just moved into town. They work all the time. This is a way to build social supports,’’ says Katherine Ellin, a founder of the Cambridge group. ‘‘Because informal networks require that you be socially competent, sometimes people who are a little bit odd get excluded. This is a way to include everybody.’’

The Lynn Time Bank is an outgrowth of a support group for parents of children with mental retardation and other developmental delays, and Ellin’s is an outgrowth of one for parents of children with mental illness.

‘‘Rather than saying we have people who are mentally retarded that we would like to include in the community, we’re saying they’re already members of the community,’’ says Marcel Charpentier, president of the Lynn board and a supervisor for the state’s Department of Mental Retardation. ‘‘Our focus was to start a time bank that was generic and neighbor-to-neighbor. Then you can create entrĂ©e for people with disabilities.’’
That's genius!

ACS To Link Academic Research and the Practicing Bar

Via Orly Lobel at PrawfsBlawg:

ACS [American Constitution Society] is pleased to announce the launch of ACS ResearchLink: Connecting Law Students and Lawyers Committed to Justice.

ACS ResearchLink creates a valuable online resource for the legal community by collecting legal research topics submitted by practitioners for law students to explore in faculty-supervised writing projects for academic credit. Practitioners will receive a copy of the resulting student papers, which ACS will post in a searchable online library. Follow these links to search or browse currently available research topics.

To submit a topic for student research, pleas use the ACS ResearchLink topic submission form. Sample topics, which illustrate how research questions may be presented, are available here.

Additional information about ACS ResearchLink is available online, including answers to frequently asked questions. Please contact ResearchLink(at) or ACS Associate Director Shahid Buttar at SButtar(at) with any additional questions.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Civil Rights Commission and Affirmative Action

Diverse Online reports today that the United States Civil Rights Commission has issued a report, Affirmative Action in American Law Schools, which is available in PDF from the Commission's website. According to David Pluviose, the author of the Diverse Online article, the "U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in condemning affirmative action in law school admissions and calling on Congress to mandate law schools to publicly disclose their use of racial preferences" in the new report.

Pluviose's article is disturbing because it describes the testimony that was elicited by the Commission. A number of proponents of affirmative action testified, but their testimony was "trumped" by the research and testimony of UCLA Professor Richard Sander, who wrote a widely discussed article that appeared at 57 Stanford Law Review 367 (2004). In this article, Professor Sander argued that affirmative action hurts minority students by gaining them entrance to schools for which they are not academically prepared; when they do not do well, their chances for employment are compromised. The majority of the Commission members, all of whom are Republicans, accepted this conclusion and recommended that Congress "pass legislation requiring federally funded law schools to publicly disclose their use of racial preferences." The two Democrats on the commission dissented from the report's findings, and accused the majority of disregarding "testimony and research that contradicted Sander's findings." As one of my colleagues, Professor Gary Munneke, pointed out in an email to our faculty, the "report comes on the heels of the Department of Education's decision to hold up the ABA's application for recertification as the accrediting agency for law schools, largely because of the ABA Standards recent strengthening of Standard 212, regarding diversity. The ramifications of the Bush administration's push to overrule Grutter administratively and turn back the clock on educational opportunity are both serious and dangerous."

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog -- but they can find out

The wonderful cartoon of two dogs, one sitting at a computer telling his friend, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." That's been a piece of wisdom for many years. It's the reason bloggers feel comfortable saying outrageous things they might not say in their every day persona. It's also the reason pedophiles can cruise on social networks for kids.

But we also know, if we think about it, that people with time, money and know-how can figure out most any Internet persona. Nothing is private in cyberspace. Take the 1-L student from Boalt Hall who, two days after Virgina Tech, posted anonymously to discussion board this post:

Just decided not to do a murder-suicide copycat at Hastings Law. I went to bed all seet for "Bloody Wednesday, but when I woke -- to sun, to flowers in bloom -- I just couldn't bring myself to suit up. Maybe tomorrow; I hear rain's in the forecast.
The FBI was called in. The dean at Hastings closed the school. And when the FBI IDd the student who posted the threat, the dean at Boalt recommended expulsion. The student faced probably criminal charges. This took place last April, during finals -- can you think of a way to add more stress to law students at finals time? AARRGH. SF Chronicle. See also Memoirs of Boalt , a blog for students at that law school, announcing the dean's decision to expel the student, who wrote under the moniker "Trustafarian."

Then, there are all the students who post hip-seeming images of themselves getting wasted, partying and getting nekked. Then, they find out potential employers (and some school officials, too!) are searching social networking sites to do background checks applicants. Ooops.

article in NY Daily News, the always yellow paper that headlined the article, "Holy torts! Law student in erotic video," about a Brooklyn Law student who participated in a little-notice Playboy shoot, "Rock Star and the Lawyer." But then a snippet featuring the student showed up all over the Internet. CBS News from June, 2006 about employers researching on Facebook. This article from last March about British employers using Facebook and other social networking sites to research job applicants and another. article in June about the same issue, both in Personnel Today.

Then, there is the sad case where somebody spoofs posts from another, and trashes the second person's reputation. For instance, this Wikipedia article on the scandals involving Autoadmit includes a paragraph on the Impersonator of S.R. Sidarth.

Oh, yeah! I forgot to tell you...

I went back today to see the earliest post I ever made to OOTJ. It appears to have been Friday, August 5, 2005. I blogged about the buzz generated by a couple articles in AALL Spectrum, by Jim Milles and Joan Shear. I had heard at the annual meeting of AALL that Joan and Jim's articles had been noted by a blog in France. The articles were discussing print versus digital, and Jim's article gave its name to this blog, Out of the Jungle.

In that post, I mentioned some research I was engaged in with Susan Vaughn and a couple law students (one of whom is now working in our library and studying for his library degree: welcome and thanks to Scott Akehurst-Moore). I don't think I ever came back and told folks any more about that project, which has yet to be published in print. You can see an in-depth draft article at Suffolk on NELLCO Legal Scholarship Archive.

In brief, we read through briefs and decisions of all cases of first impression from 2 decades in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. We looked in the 1950's - 60's, and again from 1993 - 2004, the most recent date to get briefs. We wanted to see if lawyers were doing legal analysis differently after computers came to be ubiquitous in law practice. We looked at whether the writers of briefs and decisions used "reasoning by analogy" when they were faced with cases with no precedent. When lawyers and judges have a case with no precedent (no earlier cases dealing with the same issue), they usually have to either use a policy argument, or find an analogous situation and urge the application of the same solution.

For instance, if you cannot find any earlier cases of a person throwing a firecracker on a crowded bus. It's not a straightforward issue. The people injured weren't hurt so much by the firecracker but by the reaction of the frightened passengers who trampled them. You might resort to asking the court to think about policy. Or you could look to see if you find earlier decisions involving similar situations that raise similar issues. Maybe you find a case where somebody yelled "fire" in a crowded theater and people panicked and trampled others. You use this case, and draw analogies to the firecracker on the bus, arguing that the judge should adopt the reasoning of the court in the theater case.

So, did the way lawyers reasoned when faced with cases of first impression change after computers came into law offices? Yes. The numbers are not stark, but I think they DO show a difference:

1995 - 2004, 31 cases of 65 = 47.69% using analogy
1956 - 1965, 9 cases of 16 = 56.25% using analogy

Please read the paper to get the full picture. I hope a revised version will be accepted for publication in Law Library Journal, but haven't heard yet.

Prison Libraries Purging Religious Books

Click on the title above to read an article in today's NY Times about the Justice Department Bureau of Prisons directing prison chaplains to purge libraries of all religion materials except titles found on an "approved list" that was developed, supposedly, by a committee of theologians at seminaries. Nobody know who, though, and the list is quite slanted and limited. Furthermore, once non-approved materials are removed, DOJ is not providing any money to buy new things from the approved lists.

There is a class action suit in Federal District Court, originally filed pro se by some prisoners. The New York firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison took on the case pro bono. They refiled it on Aug. 21 in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York. The court's website (use the link here) has a nice way of posting decisions of interest. Might be worth checking in from time to time. Can you say First Amendment?

Department of "Well, Duh!"

The Carnegie Legal Reporting Program blog notes that there might actually be some worthwhile legal scholarship out there after all--and suggests that the mainstream media might benefit by doing real research rather than their typical stenography of think-tank pundits:

Fashionable thinking dictates that journalists and practicing lawyers ignore or mock the usefulness of legal scholarship. What could those academics possibly tell us that's newsworthy or practical? Linda Greenhouse and her readers benefit from her refusal to buy into that anti-intellectual snobbery. Her Supreme Court Memo today cites numerous papers and books, and quotes their authors, on an important set of legal and political questions: Can and should we limit Supreme Court justices' tenure? The questions are hardly novel to those who study the Constitution and the federal judiciary. The debate, it turns out, has been raging for some time -- fueled in part by Chief Justice William Rehnquist's refusal to leave the Court despite his ultimately fatal illness. By simply reading what's out there already, and talking to those who read what's out there, Greenhouse produced a well-sourced, relevant and timely story. And she teaches a lesson about where news and sources might be lurking.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Link through the title of this post to an article in today’s Boston Globe about consumer-mounted gripe sites on the Web. lists and links to a collection of gripe sites that could be used as a review of service and sales providers. The site notes complaint sites that have been shut down or involved in litigation. They also praise the importance of First Amendment free speech rights. Offers advice on setting up a gripe site.

The article also covers the frustrations of those pilloried at these sites with courts that consistently uphold the First Amendment rights of consumers to post their opinions and experiences. At least one court has said if the contractor can provide credible evidence that the complaint site is defaming him, the judge will consider shutting the site down. So far, it hasn’t happened. But be aware if you use these sites that few people who are happy about the results are going to be motivated to post happy websites praising a provider. Librarians know how many more times you hear the complaints than the praises!

TBI: Traumatic Brain Injuries in Iraq Vets

Click on the title to this post to read an in-depth article from Sunday’s Boston Globe about the problems families of brain-injured soldiers are facing with the VA. There was an earlier article about this mentioned in OOTJ here. The Globe also includes links to its own earlier stories on the topic.

Animal Law

Click on the title to this post to read a wonderful essay from today’s Boston Globe Ideas section, written by Drake Bennett. a site that collects litigation and legislation info from the International Institute for Animal Law, an arm of the National Anti-vivisection Society in Chicago. Looks like a very helpful site.

Friday, September 07, 2007

ABA on LawLink

The title to this post will take you to an article in the ABA Journal online about LawLink, a new social networking site for attorneys. The background offers musings about how lawyers might use the site professionally, by comparing with existing networking sites for doctors. Visit and see the site for yourself. It's very new, so there's not a lot happening yet. It offers classified ads, self-promotion brochures you can create for youreself (of course! It's for lawyers), networking and a discussion forum. Very slick presentation. We'll see what happens.

ABA briefly notes Leiter rankings, compares w/ US News

Click on the title to read a brief report in the ABA Journal online about Brian Leiter's new rankings. More interesting than the article are the comments following.

National Security Letters Unconstitutiona -- At last!

Click on the title to this post to read a good, in-depth article by Charlie Savage in today’s Boston Globe. U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero finds the PATRIOT ACT unconstitutional. The National Security Letter provisions, in particular, with their gag order and lack of judicial oversight, violate the First Amendment and the
separation of powers.

Click here
for the ACLU announcement

which has this tidy history of the case:

The case, Doe v. Gonzales, was originally filed in April 2004 on behalf of an anonymous Internet access company that had received anNSL. Although the FBI has since dropped its NSL demand, the John Doe has remained under a gag order. In September 2004, Judge Marrero initially struck down the Patriot Act NSL provision as unconstitutional, writing that "democracy abhors undue secrecy." The landmark ruling held that permanent gag orders imposed under theNSL law violated free speech rights protected by the First Amendment.

The government appealed Judge Marrero's first ruling, but Congress amended the NSL provision before the court issued a decision. In May 2006 the appeals court asked the district court to consider the constitutionality of the amended law. In a concurring opinion, Judge RichardCardamone strongly criticized the government for continuing to argue that a permanent ban on speech would be permissible under the First Amendment. (Snip)

While reports previously indicated a hundred-fold increase to 30,000 NSLs issued annually, an extraordinary March 2007 report from the Justice Department's own Inspector General puts the actual number at over 143,000NSLs issued between 2003 and 2005. The same investigation also found serious FBI abuses of the NSL power and numerous potential violations of the law.

In a related case, the ACLU represented four librarians who are on the board of Library Connection, a library consortium in Connecticut. The consortium was served with anNSL and challenged both the letter and the accompanying gag. After many months of litigation in which a district court found the gag on Library Connection was unconstitutional, the government withdrew its demand for information and abandoned the gag order.
Click here for the text of the latest decision and another link to get the rest of the materials, courtesy of the ACLU.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Child Care as an employee benefit

Here are some notes and links I am putting together to try to sell my university on providing or helping to subsidize child care for employees (and maybe even students! talk about a recruitment and retention tool!).

Child Care as an Employment Benefit

I. Benefits to Employer
A. Less absenteeism: Employees who have problems with daycare arrangement often have difficuties with attendance. If a child is sick and cannot attend their regular day care, one of the parents must stay home. Now day care providers often offer an option for sick child care for mildly sick children, in addition to regular day care on-site or near-site. A statewide household survey in Minnesota found that 20 percent of parents reported child care problems that interfered with getting or keeping a job within the prior year and 37 percent reported having lost time or income due to a child care problem other than a sick child (Minnesota Department of Human Services. Child Care Use in Minnesota: 2004 Statewide Household Child Care Survey. 2005.)

B. Better employee focus: When employees are not worried about the care their child is receiving, and can visit over a work-day, they have better focus on their work.

C. Employee loyalty and lower employee turnover: Studies have also shown a remarkable reduction in employee turnover at employers who offer on-site or near-site day care, or even care subsidies as a benefit. In a study of employees with children in company-sponsored child care programs, 93% of respondents said that the work-site child care was an important factor in considering a job change. 19% of respondents had actually turned down another job, rather than lose their work-site child care, and 25% of those who turned down other job opportunities were managers. (Benefits of Work-Site Child Care, Simmons College Graduate School of Management, 1997).

D. Employees often cannot afford good, reliable daycare: The younger a child, the more expensive, because it takes many more care-giver hours for a baby than for a toddler or a school age child. In Boston, where daycare providers are licensed, the price to care for a baby is exhorbitant. It costs between $350-$450 a WEEK for licensed daycare (or $17,500 for a 50 week year) for newborns to 18 months. What percent of an employees' gross income is fair to expect for them to spend for child care? Are they making a choice between doctor care and day care? Or are they placing their children into unlicensed daycare? That's not fair!

E. Some Universities and other employers do offer a variety of child care benefits. Most now offer a savings account through which an employee can designate pre-tax dollars to pay for child care, as well as medical care and medicine, parking and transit costs. But some also offer subsidies on a sliding fee arrangement, based on family income. A few have gone further and offer on-site or near-site day care with some level of subsidy. This would be the most expensive arrangement, but what a powerful recruitment and retention tool.

In summary, employers benefit from providing on- or near-site child care facilities, or at least financial assistance on a sliding scale based on family income:
* Recruitment and Retention
* Turnover
* Absenteeism/Employee Productivity
* Employee Job Satisfaction and Performance

Link to CNN Money - child care benefits at 100 Best Employers

Link Bright Horizons Child Care -- a turnkey operation providing child care as a benefit to corporations and organizations.

Link Children’s Creative Learning Centers, which offers near-site child care in California.

Link, report by Center for Law and Social Policy report on child care assistance, focusing on employment of low income parents, in April, 2006.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Microsoft's Open Document not voted standard

Link to an article in today's Boston Globe about the vote in Frankfurt, Germany of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). This was a preliminary vote, but Microsoft had hoped the ISO would approve their Office Open XML document format as an international standard. This would have helped them sell their product to government and quasi-government organizations.

Origin of computer viruses

Click on the title to this post to read an AP article in the Boston Globe today about the guy who invented the computer virus, in 9th grade.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Aspen introduces e-case-book/course pack/management system

In an article in Legal Times, dated 9/4/07, "Skilled E-Scholars Click Their Way Up," Prof. Diana R. Donahoe (Legal Research & Writing at Georgetown Law Center) writes, largely advertising her new interactive electronic casebook, "Teaching Law," link, from Aspen. But she has interesting things to say about the changes we have all noted in student behavior and concentration styles. She notes that students in the digital age think and learn in different ways than previous generations. Prof. Donahoe compares the older "linear" forms of thinking and learning with the multi-level, "three dimensional" learning styles of students who flip between screens and programs constantly. She asserts that such students are bored by lecture and socratic method teaching. Prof. Donahoe goes ot to say that the newer generation of students also expects frequent feedback and interactive programming. They thrive, she says, on what seems distracting and chaotic to old coots like me.

Of course, a great deal of her article is taken up with the ways in which her new e-book meets the different demands of modern law students. But she has interesting things to say, though not completely unprecedented. Some parts of what Prof. Dohahoe is saying mesh with what I observe and have read about student learning. Students do learn and retain better with frequent quizzes and feedback. On the other hand, one stunning piece of the Thomson-West presentation on the future of print at AALL was that students feel they retain better when they read in print. It was a widespread response from the students they interviewed.

I also have doubts about how deeply engaged students really are when they are "multi-tasking." My colleague who shared the article with us, Prof. Beckerman-Rodau, is a notable technology user himself, but also doubts the "depth of learning" students can achieve while multi-tasking. This is often the upshot of conversations my faculty have about laptops in the classroom. Even the most techno-philes feel that they want the students to engage with them, not hide behind laptop lids. On the other hand, Prof. Donohoe is teaching research and writing, and comments on her teaching methods. She "facilitates" the students discussions in collaborative small groups, uses multi-media, and multiple screens through which she flips on a display screen.

A good deal of what Prof. Donohoe is using in class can be added with the classroom technology we have in our classrooms now. We actually use video clips, powerpoints, online screenshots and live explorations of web resources now in advance legal research class here -- I'll bet many of you do, too. We also use (as we have for decades), overhead projectors or their newer incarnations, document cameras, to project print materials. As I said in my recent post about my class, the students are learning from each other. The class session is spent discussing their adventures exploring various resources, and comparing their experiences, discussing why they prefer or detest certain tools.

I agree that students learn better, especially in skills classes, from actually doing and practicing with feedback. I am not sure these changes will benefit equally students in substantive law classes. Electronic casebooks were tried out a decade ago, with many of the same interesting features. The e-casebooks then allowed notes in the margins and highlighting of the text. And still, they were not successful. It was the STUDENTS who voted with their dollars for print versions of the casebooks. It will be interesting to see if a new generation of law students will be more enthusiastic about e-books.

I was dismayed a bit at what amounts to a lengthy advertisement for a product. But I do find it interesting both to hear what other legal educators see in new generations of "digital students." It is worth considering whether her comments apply equally to all types of law classes, and whether studies of adult learners bear out all of Prof. Donahoe's claims.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Teaching Research Skills

I had a conversation the other day with one of the faculty of our academic support program. She said that many of the students she saw in academic difficulty were taking my advanced legal research class, and were loving it. That’s always good to hear. She went on to say that the class, being focused on skill and practice gave students who had not been doing well in substantative law classes a chance to do well, feel competent. And that one class like that could feed into growing confidence in other classes. This was not something I had ever considered. It was a different way to look at what I do.

My class, like most research, writing or advocacy classes, lets students DO things and does not require the same set of skills as a final exam in a substantive course. I give the students worksheets, which sometime are rather time-consuming to complete. They are supposed to finish the worksheets before class and bring them in. We check them as complete and give them back to the students. Then, the class session is mostly taken up with the students reporting what they found, and the adventures they had in the finding.

My inspiration for the worksheets were the “bibliography” classes I had in library school, which required us to “learn” various types of resources. The difference is that I am teaching law students, not library students who expect to be required to learn how to use many sets to the point of being able to teach others about them. So, I lure the law students into exploring and testing resources with open-ended questions that send them to a choice of sources. My sheets are not set up so that there is any one single answer, and I don’t care so much what the students find. The questions are designed, instead, to encourage the students to explore and test the various resources – print or electronic. They discuss HOW they found things – did they use an index or table of contents? Did they use a menu or a search box? And how did it work? Were they satisfied or if not, what complaints? Why did one person get it to work and another did not? It’s the process, not the product we focus on. Could they find the answer in another resource and how did it compare?

I had followed the education arguments about different “intelligences,” and designing class so that it appealed to people who learn in different ways. What I had not considered was that success in one class affects success in other classes. I felt so pleased to hear the course was assisting students in such an unexpected way. I have students from the various journals, but was not aware that the course was drawing a different group. I am sure the same purpose can be served by clinic courses and oral advocacy classes, various practicum courses like client counseling or alternative dispute resolution. I do fear that some profs in the substantive law courses tend to see these alternate, process-oriented classes as being “soft.” I really like the trend that some professors of traditional courses are co-teaching with practice-profs, so you have classes that included drafting and contracts law or the tax practice and research class I co-taught with my colleague here for some years. I hope this grows! The more I read about adult learning, the more it seems to require a variety of teaching methods and skills.

Help astronomers sort galaxies

If you, like me, love to look at images of galaxies, you might enjoy sigining on to this project to sort galaxies by type. Click on the title to this post to read an article from the Boston Globe. Galaxy Zoo is a project where amateurs are welcome -- no training or telescope needed. You sign in and scroll through a selection of images, pressing a button to note the shape of the galaxy. If you are not sure, don't worry. There is a "don't know" button, too! And your decision is added into a list of others, so the entire decision does not rest on your shoulders. Just add your little bit whenever you have time. Visit to see what it's all about. In case your cataloging instincts aren't getting enough expression at work!