Monday, June 30, 2008

Volokh Conspiracy's Post on Reducing the Pain of Taking the Bar Exam

One of our own law students directed me to Ilya Somin's post (here) on the Volokh Conspiracy blog, never a boring blog. Prof. Somin's advice is to study less for the bar exam: read the review books, take some practice tests, memorize the rules, and relax.

Hoo, boy. I disagree heartily. Maybe his advice is true for a few brave and risk-taking souls, but I can't imagine wanting to take that type of risk with the one barrier to entry to practice that's given only twice a year that would stand between me and my ability to practice my choice of career.

Full disclosure here: I am a lecturer for a bar review course, which may taint my perspective, but I also sat for a state bar a year ago. In order to prepare for the Nevada bar, I took a bar review course (not, BTW, the one for which I'm now a lecturer). Let me say right now that I was extremely grateful that I had taken that course, could not possibly have passed the bar without having had that level of review, would not have had the stamina or sitzfleisch to have studied that intensely on my own, did not have the knowledge base in at least six of the Nevada subject areas being tested, and could not have imagined having the chutzpah to have risked my results with LESS study than I had given any of my law school courses. Moreover, I did not need to pass the bar to keep my job. I'm a law professor, not a lawyer. I took the bar because my husband and I had an understanding that, if he had to take the Nevada bar when we moved here, I had to take the Nevada bar as well.

And the Nevada bar is HARD. Hard as in H-A-R-D. Hard as in "I sweated out waiting for my results" hard. (We both passed, but we both worried about passing.)

So, Prof. Somin, I respectfully disagree with your post. (So, by the way, does Jim Chen--see his post here.) THIS law professor wants to send out a different message about studying for the bar. DON'T slack off. Embrace the pain of studying. Suck it up. Work your butt off. Face it: you'd rather have three months of pain now than three months of pain now and then three more months of pain later, when you have to retake the bar. Maybe you'll have wasted your effort and, looking back, you could have worked less hard. But is it so bad that you worked hard to achieve a goal?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thomas Sowell on college rankings

Loved Thomas Sowell's take on the rankings, including his reasons for disparaging USNWR's rankings (here).  In his column, Dr. Sowell quotes Professor Thomas Vedder, who observes that USNWR's use of inputs to measure quality "'is roughly equivalent to evaluating a chef based on the ingredients that he or she uses.'"  Bravo, Prof. Vedder, and Bravo, Dr. Sowell!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Dave Van Zandt does it again--Northwestern Law to offer the option of an accelerated two-year law degree

Dave Van Zandt, one of the true visionary law deans, has announced that Northwestern Law will  offer an option for a two-year law degree (see here).  The degree will be available for students with at least two years of prior work experience (which most Northwestern Law students already have--another Van Zandt trademark).  I've been watching this law school for years, because I already like how it mixes law students and MBA students.  (About the only thing on which Van Zandt and I disagree is the use of the USNWR rankings as a metric for measuring progress.)  Keep an eye on this school.  It continues to impress.

More about the local lawyer who did the right thing

When I blogged about Louis Schneider (here), I didn't know he was a graduate of the William S. Boyd School of Law. Now our law school has one more reason to brag.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I can't remember which comedian has a routine about this....

It may be Patton Oswalt.  But a real-life version of someone's bit happened to me over the last few days.  I've been getting text messages on my cell phone from an 808 number (Hawai'i, apparently), and they've been in Spanish.  I wish I could speak Spanish, but I am seriously other-language-deficient.  After a few days of these very long texts, I finally texted back that I don't speak Spanish ("no habla espanol"), drawing on one of the very few phrases that I could recall.  

The anonymous texter texted me back with, "Excuse me."  Thinking that I was being polite, I texted back, "De nada.  Sorry!"  I figured that my response text would be the end of this exchange.  I was wrong.

Anonymous texter then replied, "De nada means your [sic] welcome....lo siento means sorry."  As glad as I was to learn this new phrase, I think that the texter missed my original point.  So I replied, "Ah.  I guess this proves that I don't speak Spanish."  

Isn't technology wonderful?????

Update on capital case involving alleged judge/prosecutor affair

Yesterday's scheduled execution was stayed (see here, with some great commentary by my friend Larry Fox), but the fight to do the right thing is far from over.  Keep an eye on Legal Profession Blog for more updates--the folks there have been doing a great job watching this case.

I don't know anything about the underlying crimes of which Mr. Hood is accused.  That's a separate issue from whether his original trial was conducted under outrageously biased conditions.  It would be difficult to imagine a more biased set of circumstances than a judge sleeping with the prosecutor in the case.  Each ruling--each judgment call--in the case is inherently suspect.  

Here's a new question:  if any attorney in the case had actual knowledge of the relationship between the judge and the prosecutor, didn't that attorney have a duty to report the judge and the prosecutor for ethics violations?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Outrageous! In what world is it ok for a judge and a prosecutor to sleep together while working on the same case?

Charles Hood is scheduled to be executed tonight at 6pm Texas time. According to the New York Times (here) and ABC-TV (here), Hood has alleged that the judge in his case was sleeping with the prosecutor in his case. Late yesterday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Mr. Hood's appeals on procedural grounds, declaring that the claim of judicial bias was raised too late. The court chose to dismiss the claim, despite the fact that (according to an email that I've just received), "only days ago, on June 3, 2008, a former assistant district attorney in the Collin County District Attorney's Office submitted an affidavit testifying that '[i]t was common knowledge' that Judge Holland and District Attorney O'Connell 'had a romantic relationship' for several years, including at the time of Mr. Hood's trial and death sentence."

Outraged? You might want to contact Governor Perry's office at 512-463-2000 and ask to speak to counsel handling the Charles Dean Hood case.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Local lawyer does the right thing

After a lawyer misappropriated more than $200K from her firm's client trust account (an act for which she was later suspended from the practice of law), an associate in her firm compensated all of her clients by working for free for roughly three months on those files. For the full story about this case, see here. Here's the part I loved:
[Attorney Louis] Schneider said he relied on the teachings of his father, a retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, in deciding to come forward [and report his boss to the state bar].

"He has always told me you do the right thing, even if you stand alone," Schneider said.

"On flat-fee cases I completed their cases, and on hourly cases I gave them credit for the missing money, because it was the right thing to do," he said. "So I essentially worked for free for three months cleaning up those cases."

. . . ["] I was was not going to risk losing my license to practice law, or embarrass my son or my father," Schneider said.
Compare that behavior to Bill Lerach's behavior, reported in a recent Joe Nocera column (here). Nocera reports that, in an essay on (see here), "Lerach expresses zero remorse, positions his crimes as having hurt no one while serving a greater good and makes the absurd claim that he was railroaded by his political opponents." Nocera has it completely right when he calls Lerach's essay "a brazen, shameful piece of work."

So we have, on the one hand, an honorable lawyer who worked for free for three months to restore his clients' faith in the justice system and, on the other hand, a dishonorable felon who has cost honest plaintiffs' lawyers so much in terms of credibility. Unfortunately for all of us, the honorable lawyer didn't make national news. I'd love to think that the reason that Schneider's actions didn't make national news is that most lawyers would do exactly what he did: fix the problem, repay the clients--do the right thing. I'll bet that a lot of them would do that. But the Lerachs of this world aren't exactly few and far between, either, and his ilk tap into the stereotype of the lawyer as leech. Shame on you, Bill Lerach--if you can still feel shame.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Brian Leiter is becoming one of my go-to bloggers for problems w/the USNWR rankings

As I sit in the Phoenix airport, grateful for the free wireless, I've been browsing my favorite blogs, and I always read Brian's posts on the rankings.  On June 3 (hey, I have some catching up to do....), Brian names names about the schools that take the most transfer students (see here).  Paired with Brian's post are two important follow-ups from Bill Henderson (see here and here), with the second post being Bill's response to another interesting post by Larry Ribstein (see here).  

Personally, I like the idea of taking transfer students, who have proven themselves to be good law students.  The LSAT is a decent predictor of first-year grades, but it just isn't the same thing as first-year grades.  I also love the idea of finding a way to make the LSAT less important in the USNWR rankings.  I've just never been a fan of using LSAT or UGPA as the sole measures of "student quality."  Nor have I been a fan of cheating on the rankings.  I think there's a role for intent in answering the damnable thing.  But then again, I also think that managing earnings to lie to investors about how much money a corporation really has is also a bad thing to do.

And now, for something completely different:  in another one of his posts, Brian has captured my favorite PowerPoint on the subprime mess (here).