Law Firms Are Not Run Like Businesses

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I remember my first “real” interview after I graduated from MULS (this phrase may explain my lack of success in OCI).  One thing the managing attorney said to me continues to stick out in my memory, especially now that I have started my own mediation firm.  “Firms are not run like businesses.”  He stated this in relation to firms renting versus owning real estate space, but in my experience I have recognized this axiom being true in other respects as well.  The one that has stuck out to me is that the hiring process performed by law firms does not conform to standard business practices for HR processes. Continue reading “Law Firms Are Not Run Like Businesses”

The Kindle as Research Tool

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Westlaw released its new Westlaw Next research platform about a year ago. One of the new features of Westlaw Next is that a person can export research and then read it on the Kindle. A person can also take notes about the research on the Kindle and then print it all out.

The Westlaw representative told my Appellate Writing and Advocacy class about this new feature, and at least one of my students has tried it out with great success. She reported back to the class that she found it easy to read the research on the Kindle and appreciated the ability to take notes and highlight the material.

Continue reading “The Kindle as Research Tool”

Reminiscing About Legal Education – How Technology Changed Examinations, Course Materials, and Instruction

Posted on Categories Legal Education, Marquette Law School History, Public1 Comment on Reminiscing About Legal Education – How Technology Changed Examinations, Course Materials, and Instruction

[Editor’s Note: This month, we asked a few veteran faculty members to share their reflections on what has changed the most in legal education since they became law professors. This post is the second in the series.]

In 1983 when I became a law professor, no one had a personal computer.  Dictaphones were a common piece of office equipment.  Secretaries typed our syllabi, handouts, and examinations. Examinations had to be reproduced on the mimeograph machine and collated by hand. Of course, students handwrote exam answers in bluebooks.  The law school didn’t allow students to type their answers, even if they offered to provide their own portable typewriters.

Around 1985 faculty members received personal desktop computers for the first time, thanks to Dean Frank DeGuire’s advocacy and generous donations from the members of the Woolsack Society. Those computers changed our lives and made instruction so much more efficient, especially once we learned how to press “Escape,” “Transfer,” and “Save” to save a document to a 5 ½” floppy disk. (Lost documents were a constant problem for neophyte computer users.)   Continue reading “Reminiscing About Legal Education – How Technology Changed Examinations, Course Materials, and Instruction”

The Making of a Law Professor

Posted on Categories Feminism, Legal Education, Public1 Comment on The Making of a Law Professor

There’s an adage in law that claims that the students who earned As in law school become law professors, the students who earned Bs become partners, and the students who earned Cs become judges.  I can’t verify that the adage is correct, but there is some truth to the first part.  Typically law professors had excellent law school grades.  But that’s not all.  They often members of their school’s law review, and most have held at least one – sometimes two – judicial clerkships.  A good number also spent a couple of years in practice.

As my colleague Gordon Hylton recently noted, such qualifications are considered indicators of the person’s potential to teach law.  The irony here is that few law professors have any background in education or pedagogy and even fewer have any experience teaching. And while law schools often support a new professor as she develops her classroom skills (through formal or informal mentoring or paying for the professor to attend conferences), law schools don’t offer any formal training in teaching law.  Generally, a law professor’s only real teaching qualification is that she once was a law student. Continue reading “The Making of a Law Professor”

Growing Pains

Posted on Categories Legal Education, Legal Practice, Marquette Law School, Public2 Comments on Growing Pains

I recently had the opportunity to re-read the personal statement I submitted with my Marquette Law School application, now almost three years ago, for one of my current classes.  While many things had changed—for example I am now far less idealistic, definitely less “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” and no longer have a passion for criminal law—the opening and closing statements still ring true and effectively capture the development as a person and future lawyer I have experienced during my law school career at Marquette.  As the new class of future Marquette attorneys has only recently began this journey at Eckstein Hall, I wanted to write a blog post to them explaining what I think the most influential and important aspects of my almost-complete legal education have been.

“When a butterfly struggles to free itself from its cocoon, it causes fluid to be pumped back into its wings. This independent act of vigilance, determination, and extreme effort is what allows the butterfly to take flight. This fact has inspired me as I enter the next phase of my life, and has shaped my perception of law school’s purpose. I enter the ‘cocoon’ of law school well-prepared and with the knowledge that with conviction and a lot of hard work, after three years I too will take flight.”

The above paragraph, while admittedly a bit hokey, was the opening to my personal statement.  It reminds me of a fact that Father O’Meara shares with the entering 1L class each year: it is common knowledge in biology “that growth occurs along places where there is tension, stimulation, or irritation.”  His point is that tension is necessary for both development and learning. These statements illustrate the personal growth I, and I’m assuming most other students, experience during law school.  Continue reading “Growing Pains”

What Has Changed the Most in Legal Education Since You Became a Law Professor?

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[Editor’s Note: This month, we asked a few veteran faculty members to share their reflections on what has changed the most in legal education since they became law professors.  This post is the first in the series.]

I became a law professor in 1970, my first year on the Georgetown law faculty. I believe that one of the most changed aspects of legal education in the past forty-one years is the care and feeding of law students. By that, I refer to the remarkable proliferation of in-house extra-curricular activities. Innumerable law societies shedding light on the various interests of students and weekly opportunities to hear great speakers are but the tip of the iceberg. Not to be overlooked is the availability of frequent free lunches at these noon events. So much for the “feeding.” As to the “care,” the heightened interaction between faculty and students represents a fundamental change in legal education. I do not believe that I ever spoke to one of my professors outside of class. Contrast this with the expectations of today’s students. To conclude, I almost wish I were a law student now instead of then.

The 100th Anniversary of the Law School’s First Real Graduation

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Although the fact went largely unnoticed, the May 2011 Law School Commencement marked the centennial anniversary of the first real law degrees awarded by Marquette University.  In June of 1911, nine students who had entered the initial full-time law program offered by Marquette University in the fall of 1908 received their bachelor of laws diplomas at the annual Marquette Commencement ceremony.

The subject of early Marquette law degrees is complicated by the decision of the University to award Marquette Law degrees to all the former students of the Milwaukee Law School (which Marquette acquired in 1908) who had passed the Wisconsin bar examination.  The decision was apparently made at the last minute, and few documents pertaining to the decision survive.  (It is, for example, hardly mentioned in the Trustee minutes.)  Apparently the decision was also intended to apply to former Milwaukee Law School students who were enrolled at the time of the “merger” and who continued on in the new night program at Marquette.

As a consequence, more than 80 law degrees were awarded in 1908, before the new law school actually began operations, and additional degrees to former Milwaukee Law School students were awarded at the next several commencements.  This decision later came back to haunt the law school, as critics (especially faculty members of the University of Wisconsin Law School) later accused the school of “selling diplomas.”  (Degrees were not automatically awarded to former Milwaukee Law School students who passed the bar examination; they first had to apply to Marquette for a degree and pay a $5 diploma fee.)  In response, the degrees awarded to the Milwaukee Law School students were soon re-labeled “honorary degrees.”

However, by the spring of 1911, there were students who had completed all of the requirements of the new full-time, day-only law program at Marquette.  A class picture of these students now hangs in the hallway of the Dean’s suite in Eckstein Hall.  (The composite photograph actually shows 11 members of the graduating class, when in fact only 9 actually graduated.  The photograph was apparently prepared before the end of the Spring 1911 semester and circumstances apparently kept two of the 11 from graduating.  Things like that do happen.)

The 1911 Commencement was held at 8 p.m. on the evening of June 21, 1911, in the Pabst Theater.  Music was provided by the Marquette University Orchestra and the Marquette University Mandolin Club, and the event was presided over by Marquette President James McCabe, S.J.

The 1911 Commencement had a distinctively “legal” flavor (in part because the Marquette Medical College and its affiliated programs held their own separate graduation ceremony).  The Commencement address was delivered by Patrick H. O’Donnell, a prominent Chicago lawyer and graduate of Georgetown law school who was instrumental in the creation of the law school at Loyola of Chicago the following year.

The only honorary doctorate awarded that day was a Doctorate of Laws degree awarded to the Rev. Antoine Ivan Rezek, the author of the recently published “The History of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette.”  (Why Father Rezek was awarded a Doctor of Laws degree rather than a Doctor of Arts is not clear.)

Of the 29 actual degrees awarded, 18 were in the field of law.  Of the non-law students, Luis Rivera, a citizen of the Philippines, received a Master of Arts degree.  Nine students received the Bachelor of Arts degree while a tenth received the degree of Bachelor of Science.

As  mentioned above, nine graduates were awarded the Bachelor of Laws degree for work done in the day division, while an additional nine were awarded “the Honorary Degree of  Bachelor of Laws” for work done either at the Milwaukee Law School or in the Marquette evening program and for passing the Wisconsin bar examination.  Because the next administration of the bar examination was not until July, none of those students who had finished the night course in June of 1911 were eligible for degrees.

(In 1911, any person who had studied law for three years was eligible to take the Wisconsin bar examination regardless of whether or not they had a law degree, and the diploma privilege would not be extended to Marquette degree holders for another two decades.)

Only one of the first nine “true” graduates—Albert O’Melia—graduated with honors, but there was obviously a great honor simply in being a member of the inaugural graduating class.  A more detailed account of the law school experiences of the Class of 1911 can be found in my earlier blog post entitled “The First Joe Tierney’s Marquette Legal Education.”

[Update: a reference in the fourth paragraph was corrected to read “1911” instead of “2011.”]

A Child Remembers 9/11

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I was driving to work on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, talking on my cell phone with my mother.  Suddenly, she interrupted our conversation to say that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center buildings.  My first thought was probably like the thoughts of many others who heard the news second-hand:  it must have been a small plane, a Cessna maybe, an inexperienced pilot or some mechanical error.  Surely an accident.  A few minutes later, my mother exclaimed, “Oh my God, another plane hit the other tower!” Then she hung up.

It wasn’t until I got to work and huddled around a TV with my colleagues that I fully understood what had happened. In a hushed room with several others, I watched in horror, my mouth agape, as the Towers crumbled, as people ran through the streets of Manhattan, thick smoke filling the streets behind them.  It looked like a scene you’d see from somewhere else, somewhere across the world.  But not here.

Those of us with young children at home struggled with what to tell them, what to let them see and hear. What do you say to a child who has hardly seen or experienced much of the world outside his home, his community, his state, that allows him to understand the magnitude of 9/11?  What do you say to let him know the larger world can be unpredictable and scary and dangerous, but so that you don’t scare him into never experiencing that larger world? Continue reading “A Child Remembers 9/11”

Can Intellectual Property Be a Source of Repression?

Posted on Categories Intellectual Property Law, Public1 Comment on Can Intellectual Property Be a Source of Repression?

Concerned with the current direction of world intellectual property law, an international group of intellectual property and information policy experts has issued the Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest. The Declaration calls for a re-articulation of the “public interest dimension in intellectual property law and policy” and expresses concern for the “unprecedented expansion of the concentrated legal authority exercised by intellect property rights holders.”

The document’s primary assertions are that national and international “intellectual property policy affects a broad range of interest within society, not just those of rights holders,” and that “markets alone cannot be relied upon to achieve a just allocation of information goods—that is, one that promotes the full range of human values at stake in intellectual property systems.”

The document was issued following the Global Congress on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest, held at American University in Washington, D.C. from August 25-27, 2011. As of September 9, there were 420 signatories to the document. Early signers include Marquette University Law School Professors Irene Calboli (#187) and Gordon Hylton (#243) and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Professors Dick Kawooya (#191) and Richard Grusin (#376).

The text of the Washington Declaration can be found at http://infojustice.org/washington-declaration.

International Law as a Tool for Ascertaining Gaddafi’s Whereabouts

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In a prior post, I explained that the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) has jurisdiction to prosecute Muammar Gaddafi because the Security Council passed a resolution to that effect in February 2011. Utilizing that jurisdiction, the Court issued arrest warrants against Gaddafi, his son, and his military intelligence chief for crimes against humanity in connection with their suppression of an uprising in eastern Libya several months ago. With Gaddafi effectively out of power and in hiding, news media have begun to speculate on his whereabouts. The latest reports suggest that he may have headed by land into Niger, which shares part of Libya’s southern border. It is unclear whether Niger would be Gaddafi’s final destination, or whether he has even left Libya.

Wherever Gaddafi is headed, international law provides an intriguing tool for prediction. Under the Rome Statute—the ICC’s founding treaty—a state-party is generally obligated to comply with ICC requests for arrest and surrender. Of the states bordering Libya, Chad, Niger, and Tunisia are all party to the Rome State, and thus seem to be obligated to turn Gaddafi over to the Court if they find him within their borders. If international law is effective, we should anticipate that Gaddafi will avoid these states out of fear of arrest. Continue reading “International Law as a Tool for Ascertaining Gaddafi’s Whereabouts”

What Should Be the Prerequisites for Becoming a Law Professor?

Posted on Categories Legal Education, Marquette Law School, Public10 Comments on What Should Be the Prerequisites for Becoming a Law Professor?

Unlike the situation in most academic disciplines, law professors typically do not possess a true doctoral degree.  The J.D. degree, the basic law degree in the United States, is the highest educational level attained by most law professors.  There was a time in the past when advanced law degrees, the LL.M. and the S.J.D., would viewed as desirable prerequisites for would-be law teachers, but that day has clearly passed.  The S.J.D. degree is nearly extinct, and the LL.M. has been reduced to a kind of specialization certificate that implies concentrated, but not necessarily advanced, law study.

New law professors have traditionally been hired to law school faculties on the basis of their impressive level of performance in law school.  High grades and law review membership have usually been equated with potential for teaching, particularly if they are supplemented with a prestigious clerkship and some, but not too much, experience as a practicing lawyer. Professors hired solely for their practical expertise in law are relatively rare.

A recently published study by Joni Hersch and W. Kip Viscusi, two law professors at Vanderbilt University, reveals that this situation maybe slowly changing.

According to Hersch and Viscusi, at least some law schools have begun to hire individuals whose credentials also include a Ph.D. degree. Although Ph.D. degrees in law are quite common in Europe and other parts of the world, they are almost unheard in the United States, so law professors with Ph.D. degrees in the United States usually hold the degree in a field other than law.

Examining the faculties of 26 “leading” law schools, Hersch and Viscusi, discovered that 361 of 1,338 current law professors (27%) have Ph.D. degrees.  Thirteen percent (13%) of faculty members have Ph.D. degrees in the social sciences other than economics; 7% have degrees in economics; and 7% have them in other fields ranging from English to chemistry.  Slightly more than 18% of law professors with Ph.D. degrees (65) possess a Ph.D. degree but no law degree.  However, most law professors with Ph.D. degrees (296) hold both a law degree and a Ph.D.

Northwestern University appears to have gone further than any other school in this regard, and 50% of its law faculty now hold Ph.D. degrees.  Other law schools with high percentages of Ph.D. professors include Pennsylvania (43%); UC-Berkeley (42%); Yale (40%); Cornell (40%); and Stanford (39%).

The issue of hiring law professors with Ph.D. degrees goes to the core of the question of the real purpose of law school education. If law schools are primarily academic departments charged with providing students with a sophisticated analytical framework for studying the structure and function of American law, then the Ph.D. law professors, with their systematic training in scholarship and research, clearly have an edge over their non-Ph.D. counterparts who typically scramble for years trying to pick up such skills on the fly.  On the other hand, if the primary purpose of law schools is to prepare lawyers for the nuts and bolts of the practice of law, the Ph.D. law professor is probably at a disadvantage, having spent years in graduate school rather in setting where one learns what it really means to practice law.

Obviously, the temptation is to say that law schools should be both, both centers of scholarship and sources of practical training.  However, balancing the scholarly with the practical is a challenge.  As it is, much of the legal scholarship produced by law professors is held in relatively low regard by the other branches of the academy, and the bar regularly complains that law schools are not doing an adequate job of preparing their students for the realities of law practice.

The Marquette Law School faculty currently includes four professors with Ph.D. degrees.  Three earned their degrees in American universities: Professors Blinka (History); Hylton (History of American Civilization); and Papke (American Studies); while the fourth, Professor Calboli, received hers in law from a European university.

Dismissal for Failure to Prosecute Does Not Count as PLRA Strike, Seventh Circuit Rules

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Choosing form over substance, the Seventh Circuit ruled earlier this week that dismissals of a prison inmate’s repeated “unintelligible” complaints do not count as strikes under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, even though the cases should have been dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim. Paul v. Marberry (No. 10-3670). The PLRA requires prepayment of all filing and docket fees by inmate-plaintiffs who have three strikes — a requirement that may effectively doom lawsuits by indigent inmates. The PLRA specifies that a strike should be assigned for each action brought by an inmate that was dismissed for failure to state a claim.

Paul filed a series of complaints, each of which was initially dismissed without prejudice under FRCP 8(a)(2) for failure to provide a “short plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” In none of the cases did Paul take advantage of the opportunity to file a new complaint in compliance with the rule. The district court then dimissed each case for failure to prosecute. Paul finally obtained the assistance of a fellow inmate who had better drafting skills and managed to file a complaint that did state a claim. However, the district court dismissed the new complaint based on the PLRA three-strikes rule and Paul’s failure to prepay his fees.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit indicated that the earlier cases should have been dismissed for failure to state a claim instead failure to prosecute (5). But, given that the dismissal orders nowhere used strike-triggering language, the court held that they should not be counted against Paul:

[W]e think the plaintiff was entitled to take the previous dismissals at face value, and since none of them was based on any of the grounds specified in section 1915(g), to infer that he was not incurring strikes by the repeated dismissals. The statute is explicit, and the case law confirms, . . . that classifying a dismissal as a strike depends on the grounds given for it; since most prisoners litigate their civil claims pro se, they should not be required to speculate on the grounds the judge could or even should have based the dismissal on. (7-8)

Cross posted at Life Sentences Blog.