We have all heard them. In the frazzled squeals of over-caffeinated classmates, in the somber tones of shell-shocked 2Ls, and occasionally, through the uncontrollable tears of a humbled perfectionist (hopefully not): Law school exam horror stories. These frightening tales echo throughout Eckstein Hall: “One exam counts for your entire grade!” “My Civil Procedure exam took over three hours!” “Twenty minutes into the Torts Final the kid next to me just threw down his pen and walked out!” Now I am not here to scare you, but I am also not going to lie to you, law school exams are not fun. Rather, I am here to give you advice based on how I survived my first semester of law school exams. Continue reading “Climbing Mountains and Creating Diamonds”
It is Halloween, and time for my annual attempt at political satire. Previous attempts at spooky political humor can be found here and here. Public response to these efforts has been overwhelming, but I am going to keep doing it anyway.
Scene: A decrepit stone mansion in suburban Minnesota. A great entry hall is lit with the flames of a dozen torches. Ragged tapestries line the walls. In the corner, a grand staircase and an iron banister, covered in cobwebs, lead to the second level. The front door creaks eerily as two shadowy figures enter the room.
Van Helsing: Quiet, Mr. Harker, don’t let her hear you.
Harker: Do you think the Countess is sleeping?
Van Helsing: No. She only sleeps during the daylight.
The stillness is interrupted by a female voice coming from the top of the stairs.
The Countess: You know me all too well, Dr. Van Helsing. Did you stop by for a cup of tea? I wasn’t expecting visitors.
She steps out of the shadows and into the flickering firelight. She is wearing a diaphanous floor length gown, colored eggshell blue. Her long brown hair extends to her shoulders, where it curves back upwards in a flip. But the most striking aspect of her appearance is her stare, with two intense brown eyes that seem to pierce into her visitors’ very souls. Continue reading “The Bride of Dracula: A Halloween Story”
A few years ago, my student Nick Martinez recommended Stephen King’s book On Writing to our legal writing class. I read the book cover to cover in almost one sitting, and since then I have read passages out loud to anyone who will listen. Nick and I discuss here what we learned about writing from the master of horror.
NM: Stephen King wrote On Writing as a tool for budding writers to use in their exploits in constructing fiction, but the book’s wisdom translates to all forms of writing. I first read this book for fun, hoping just a little that it would also bolster my creative talents.
It wasn’t until I was fully immersed in the world of legal writing that I discovered myself using the very same fiction writing tricks set forth by King. King takes time to describe the most common and fundamental ingredients in all types of writing, such as proper word choice and sentence structure. By mixing in the anecdotal flavor of his own life, King succeeds in conveying these techniques in a clear and practical manner rarely seen in writing guides. King shares an entire “toolbox” of useful tricks.
A descendent of sharecroppers, a former professional basketball player, a man hailed nationwide as a visionary – you could make an hour listening to Will Allen fascinating if you stuck just to his personal story.
But in an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” session at Eckstein Hall on Tuesday, Allen went beyond his own life and his pioneering work on urban agriculture to a broader and intriguing matter: His vision for creating a major economic base in Milwaukee around urban agriculture, and particularly commercial growth of fish in industrial sized tanks.
“I think we’re going to create thousands of jobs,” Allen told Gousha, Marquette Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy. “We’re the leading city in the nation in terms of food and water.” He added, “Fish today, that’s a huge opportunity.”
Allen said two commercial aquaculture firms are planning to develop operations in the city and Growing Power, the urban agriculture operation he heads, is including tanks for cultivating fish in an unusual five-story building it is planning for its home base along W. Silver Spring Dr., west of N. 51st St.
Allen said if he had a million pounds of lake perch fillets today, he could sell them all by tomorrow. Continue reading “Will Allen: A Fascinating Life, a Bold Vision”
Carl Barnett Rix was never a full-time professor at the Marquette Law School, but he was a part-time instructor for almost 40 years (1908-1946). During that time he taught hundreds of Marquette law students while carrying on an active law practice and a professional life that led him to the presidencies of the Milwaukee Bar Association, the Wisconsin State Bar, and the American Bar Association.
A Wisconsin native, Rix was born in September 30, 1878. His father was from Quebec, Canada, while his mother hailed from Milwaukee. After finishing his public school education, he became a school teacher, and from 1895 to 1899, he taught in the public schools in Cedar Creek and West Bend, Wisconsin. However, in the fall of 1899, he relocated to Washington, D.C., where he enrolled in Georgetown University to study law. He received an LL.B. degree from Georgetown in 1903 and an LL.M. degree the following year. He then went to work for the United States Bureau of the Census, but in 1905, he returned to Wisconsin where he passed the bar examination. He then set up practice in Milwaukee as a member of a law firm eventually known as Rix, Kuelthau, and Kuelthau. (He would remain affiliated with that firm for the next 58 years.)
Much of Rix’ career was devoted to bar association activities. Continue reading “The Marquette Law Professor Who Was President of the American Bar Association”
Yesterday we were fortunate to have Professor Sophie Sparrow of the University of New Hampshire School of Law speak to the law school faculty. Professor Sparrow’s talk was entitled “What Have They Learned? Assessing Law Students.”
Professor Sparrow began by noting that the term assessment has multiple meanings. Among other definitions, assessment can be a deep approach to learning and the process of feedback, or it can be the instrument or evidence of teaching.
Regardless of how assessment is defined (and Professor Sparrow recommends not getting too bogged down in the specific vocabulary), the key to assessment is to make it sustainable and to embed assessment in what is already happening in the class.
With the NATO action in Libya winding down, now seems to be a good time to take stock of the debate over the legality and practical implications of the intervention. What are the merits of the major legal arguments? What are the lessons for the future?
With respect to legality, the debate continues and has both international and domestic features, but I’ll focus exclusively on the former in this post. Here, Security Council Resolution 1973 has been the focal point because it authorized “all necessary measures” to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack from Gaddafi’s forces, and was the asserted basis for NATO’s intervention. The argument in favor of legality basically goes like this: Resolution 1973 was a permissible use of the Security Council’s powers under the U.N. Charter to “take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security,” and NATO acted in accordance with the Resolution by using only “necessary measures” to protect civilians from Gaddafi. I think the argument is pretty good. If NATO had acted without Security Council approval, as it did in Kosovo in the late 1990s, the international legal questions would be far more problematic. But even with Resolution 1973, legality is debatable. First, it’s not entirely clear that Libya’s internal conflict necessitated military action to maintain or restore “international” peace and security within the meaning of the Charter. Perhaps the fight between Gaddafi and the rebels would have spread across borders or sent an internationally destabilizing message of impunity if NATO had not intervened. Yet Libya was not a threat to international peace and security in the classic form of an armed conflict between states. Insofar as the U.N. Charter envisions that type of conflict as the basis for Security Council action, NATO’s action was problematic. Second, it is not entirely clear that NATO always honored the limits of Resolution 1973—some have reported that NATO bombings included military targets that were far removed from civilian populations and unlikely to present any direct threat to them. Whether eliminating those targets was “necessary” to protecting Libyan civilians is also debatable. Continue reading “The Libya Intervention: Legality and Lessons (Part I)”
Last week, Kristin Lindemann (2L), received the Milwaukee Bar Association’s Law Student Pro Bono Publico Award. Kristin was honored at the MBA’s State of the Court luncheon, where she received her award in front of large group of judges, lawyers, and law students. Kristin’s commitment to pro bono service is quite remarkable and something that we as a law school community should celebrate.
You have a task to assign to someone with whom you work. Maybe that task is producing a certain number of widgets before 5 p.m. or maybe it’s writing a summary judgment brief to file next week. What will motivate that person to complete that task and complete it well? Money? The possible recognition of Employee of the Month? Or simply the desire to complete the task the best way she can?
According to Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, if the task is more like completing widgets, rewards like money and recognition are the best motivators. But if your task is more like writing that brief, then tangible rewards are most likely to backfire in the long run.
But doesn’t making more money or garnering more recognition motivate everybody to do a good job? Not according to Pink. Continue reading “What Really Motivates Us?”
John Luther Bryant was a happy guy as he drove down the dusty roads of rural Pickens County, Alabama. Life was good on the family farm where he and his spinster sister, Miss Grace Bryant, worked to scratch out a living and raise enough food and chickens to support themselves while enjoying the peace and quiet of a simple country lifestyle.
John was a man of diminutive stature, some attributing that to poor nutrition as a child. But he was strong, sinewy, and lithe — physical attributes he proudly put to good use working his day job as a sanitation engineer (garbage man) for the City of Gordo, Alabama.
As John drove into town he had no reason to suspect the fate he was about to face. As was his regular practice, John and his coworker rode on the back of the Gordo garbage truck doing their regular route. They hopped off at each house to empty the trash and then get back onto the truck to ride to the next block.
As the truck rumbled down the uneven streets of Gordo, the unexpected happened and John’s number was called. Continue reading “The Face in the Window”
Last week, we had wonderful talk entitled Blowing the Whistle on Whistleblowing Laws. Attorney Charles L. (Chuck) Howard is one of the few attorneys in the U.S. with extensive expertise in the legal issues of ombudsmen. Howard has a national practice in representing organizational ombudsmen at universities, multinational corporations, and research institutions. His new book, entitled The Organizational Ombudsman: Origins, Roles and Operations–A Legal Guide, was just published by the American Bar Association (ABA) and is the nation’s definitive resource book about ombudsmen, mediation, and their impact in the workplace.
In this presentation, he explored how fear of retaliation limits the effectiveness of whistleblower laws and policies. There are hundreds of whistleblower laws in the United States that provide incentives for people to report misconduct and prohibit retaliation against them for doing so. While recoveries from laws like the False Claims Act are significant, the perception — and often the reality — of what happens to whistleblowers who do come forward is that they pay dearly for their actions. In addition to trying to reward whistleblowers, why are we not also looking for better ways to help people address workplace conflict or misconduct without having to be a whistleblower? Howard argued that an organizational ombudsman can help an organization address this gap between encouraging the reporting of misconduct and protecting those who raise issues.
Several of my students’ comments about the talk are below: Continue reading “Ombuds Perspective on Whistleblowing Laws”
In case any criminals reading this are hoping to avoid prosecution because budget cuts are reducing the reach of federal prosecutors, their hopes are ill-founded – at least for now, according to James Santelle, the U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of Wisconsin.
But down the road and even now in places other than eastern Wisconsin? Cutbacks in federal spending could and sometimes are translating into decisions not to prosecute cases, Santelle said.
Speaking Tuesday at an “On the Issues” session at Eckstein Hall, Santelle told Mike Gousha, the Law School’s distinguished fellow in law and public policy, that the staff he oversees in offices in Milwaukee and Green Bay, has been reduced from about 80 several years ago to about 70 now. More cuts may lie ahead, he said.
But so far, the reduction has been accomplished without affecting decisions on who to prosecute, Santelle said. That hasn’t been true in offices of US Attorneys in some places around the country, where decisions on matters such as “smaller” drug cases or white collar financial crimes are being shaped by whether the office has adequate resources. He said a $1 million bank fraud in some instances may be below the threshold a prosecutor has set for bringing a case to court, given practical limits on how much can get done. Continue reading “Budget Cuts Haven’t Meant Prosecution Cuts Here, Santelle Says”