Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Red Velvet Lawyer Wishes All of You a Joyous and Successful 2014!

Enjoy the evening, and I will see you soon. 

Don't forget about my postings about resolutions and will power, the 3-word approach to goal setting, and designing your future with 5,000 goals.

Jan. 1, 2014 Update:  Here's some additional coaching about how to pick your 3-word goals.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Distinguished Alumni: Magistrate Zachary A. Stoots

Distinguished Alumni 
of the 
Appalachian School of Law: Magistrate Zachary (Zack) A. Stoots

Magistrate Zachary (Zack) A. Stoots, a life-long resident of Southwest Virginia, has served his community in many capacities.  Like many of our graduates, he is the first generation of his family to graduate from college and the only member in his family to attend graduate school.

In December 2011, he joined the Magistrate's Office in Tazewell County, Virginia. Interestingly, he served as a Magistrate immediately after law school in July 2010. After six months in that position, he moved to the Russell County Commonwealth Attorney's Office as an Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney.  Zack left the part-time position at the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office for full time employment back with the Magistrate's office.

The Magistrate Manual describes the position this way:
The office of magistrate is probably more important today than it has been at any other time since the creation of the magistrate system. The enhanced standards for search and arrest warrants, as well as the changing philosophies about bail, have made the work increasingly more difficult, requiring responsible deliberation on the part of each magistrate. Moreover, the frequent contacts with the general public, make it necessary that every magistrate be fully informed of the mechanics of his or her job so there will be no doubt by others that they are being treated by fair-minded and competent officials.

* * * 
[M]agistrates [must] realize that they are members of the State judiciary and his or her actions are a direct reflection on the quality of justice in Virginia, especially to tourists and non-residents who may never pass through Virginia again. Accordingly, magistrates are expected to conduct themselves at all times in a manner consistent with the responsibility and honor of the office. A professional appearance, a suitable place for conducting business, and a business-like, but courteous manner, are essential. Further, as judicial officers, magistrates occupy a position of public trust. Therefore, he or she is expected to meet an ethical standard considerably higher than that imposed on the average person.
His duties as a Magistrate also take him to Washington and Russell Counties. His duties also include training new hires in the Magistrate's Office.

For a few months in 2013, during his supervisor's maternity leave, he served as the Acting Chief Magistrate for the Central Magistrate District of Region 1.

Recently, Stoots and three co-workers from the Central Magisterial District won the state-wide competition, known as the "Magistrates Bowl." The competition tests knowledge of applicable law and of the magistrate system. Stoots is pictured with his colleagues after their win.

As the Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney, from January 2011 to November 2011, Stoots prosecuted felony and misdemeanor cases, assisted in obtaining assets through the civil forfeiture process; researched evidentiary issues and successfully debated those issues; and interviewed witnesses in preparation for trial. 

Law School Career

Stoots graduated form the Appalachian School of Law in 2010. While on campus, he served as a Student Bar Association Senator, a Student Ambassador, on the Fiscal Budget Committee, as Treasurer of the American Association for Justice, and as Vice President of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society.

He currently serves as President of the ASL Alumni Association.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Bluefield College in 2007, with a major in Criminal Justice.

Magistrate Stoots made Dean's List during law school and college.

Family Life

Stoots married his college sweetheart, Sarah Moore in September 2011, exactly seven years to the day after they first met. They welcomed a son on August 2, 2013. They currently live in Lebanon, Virginia.

During his spare time, he follows professional wrestling, which he describes as a "male soap opera." He fell in love with it as a four-year old. He also plays Xbox Live with his nephew and enjoys hiking with his wife in Russell County near Big Cedar Falls.

Community Service

Magistrate Stoots has served as an Adult Leader, 4-H Cloverbud Camp, supervising crafts, activities, and games for elementary school students. During the summer of 2007, he served as a Community Event Organizer for the Relay for Life fundraiser and celebration.

Lawyer's Duty of Competence Extends to Technology

It's Not Enough to Keep Abreast of 
Changes in the Substantive Law

Robert Ambrogie, blogger at LawSites, lists the 10 Most Important Legal Technology Developments of 2013.  Two entries on the list especially caught my eye.

The first entry discusses the ethical obligation to be competent in the use of technology.  The second entry discusses increasing efforts by some law schools to teach students about the use of technology in law practice.
3.  Competence in technology turned from dalliance to necessity. 
In August 2012, the American Bar Association voted to amend the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to make clear that lawyers have a duty to be competent in technology. Specifically, the ABA voted to amend the comment to Model Rule 1.1, governing lawyer competence, to say that, in addition to keeping abreast of changes in the law and its practice, a lawyer should keep abreast of “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” During 2013, we saw several states follow up on the ABA’s action. Delaware became the first state to formally adopt a duty of technology competence and it created a Commission on Law and Technology to help lawyers comply. Massachusetts is considering adoption of this rule. And in Pennsylvania on Nov. 21, amendments took effect to that state’s professional conduct rules to comport with the ABA model rule.
* * * 

8. Law schools discovered legal technology. 
This was the year in which a second wave of law schools began to discover the importance of teaching and studying legal technology. The first wave came years ago when some truly innovative law schools started programs focused on legal technology. They include Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology, William & Mary Law School’s Center for Legal and Court Technology, Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver and, of course, Cornell’s Legal Information Institute. But in the decade or so since those programs launched, there has not been much new coming out of law schools. Until this year, when several schools took steps to recognize the undeniable importance of technology in legal education. A good example is Suffolk University Law School in Boston, which last April launched its Institute on Law Practice Technology & Innovation and then last month announced one of the country’s first formal law school concentrations in legal technology and innovation. This year also brought the launch of the Center for Law Practice Technology at Florida Coastal School of Law and the establishment of a joint degree program in law and technology at the University of Pennsylvania. Not to be overlooked is the ReInvent Law Laboratory at Michigan State University College of Law, founded in the spring of 2012.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Infographics on Web-based Legal Marketing

More on Legal Marketing: Especially for You Visual Learners

I really like these infographics about web-based marketing for lawyers over on The Rainmaker Blog.  Check out all twelve covering the following topics:

  • How to do Keyword Research.
  • 7 Website Essentials to Land You More Leads.
  • How to Get More Likes on Facebook.
  • How to Create Perfect Posts on Social Platforms.
  • Increase Traffic to Your Website.
  • Using Social Media for Lead Generation.
  • SEO Copywriting: 10 Tips for Writing Content that Ranks in 2013.
  • 14 Ways to Make Google Love Your Site.
  • Breakdown of a Person's Google Results: How People Look in Google -- And How to Look Better.
  • Mobile is the Future . . . Is Your Website Optimized? 
  • How to Build a Credible Blog.
  • Getting Past Your Social (Media) Anxiety.
And, here is a wonderful video depiction of how marketers can make it harder for your customers/clients to "buy" on line. 

Chromecast and the Lawyer

The Droid Lawyer Speaks

So, I've been watching ALL the episodes of The Good Wife on Hulu over the winter break.  Yes, I know.

They've been populated with ads for Chromecast, but the ads don't tell you a thing. So, you will find more information about Chromecast here and here with descriptions of how lawyers can use it in their practices.  

For a 2013 round up of articles on Droid and Android use in law practice, see Jeffry Taylor's blog: The Droid Lawyer here.

Dec. 30, 2013 Update:  Here's the 11th infographic:  How to Build a Credible Blog. 

Distinguished Alumni: Assistant Attorney General Rebekah Baker

Distinguished Alumni 
of the 
Appalachian School of Law:  
Assistant Attorney General 
Rebekah Baker

Legal Career

Mrs. Rebekah Ann Baker serves as an Assistant Attorney General in the Tobacco Enforcement Division of the Attorney General’s Office for the State of Tennessee.  The Tobacco Enforcement Division, one of five consumer/crime protection divisions, enforces the provisions of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement and handles other tobacco–related matters. 

In that position, Mrs. Baker not only represents the State in civil litigation matters involving tobacco, but she also helps track and review all tobacco-related legislation introduced in the General Assembly each year. She also drafts legislation and legislative amendments when necessary.  In addition, she works on regulatory matters involving tobacco companies doing business in Tennessee.  Mrs. Baker serves on several working groups within the National Association of Attorneys General Tobacco Project and chaired the Legislation and Regulations working group for a two-year time period.  She is also involved in coordinating public health efforts and events centered on tobacco prevention and cessation with other state and local agencies. 

Mrs. Baker graduated cum laude from Marshall University with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.  In 2005, she graduated cum laude from Appalachian School of Law.  She was thereafter admitted to the Tennessee State Bar.

Upon graduation, Mrs. Baker served in a highly coveted, one-year clerkship for the Honorable Justice Adolpho A. Birch, Jr., during his last year with the Tennessee Supreme Court

In 2006, after her clerkship, Mrs. Baker joined the Attorney General’s Office.

Law School Career

During law school, Mrs. Baker completed a summer externship with the District Court in Greeneville, Tennessee, serving the Honorable Thomas Hull.  Mrs. Baker also volunteered extensively at the Mountain Mission School and at the preschool program at the Grundy United Methodist Church

Mrs. Baker served as Editor for the Appalachian Journal of Law, and the journal published her article entitled: Can States “Locke” The Treasury Door Against Religion: A Look at State Scholarships Used to Fund Religious Education.  She also served on the Appellate Advocacy/Moot Court Team during the fall/winter of 2004 and 2005.

Family Life

Mrs. Baker is married to another Appalachian School of Law alum, Josh Baker (also class of 2005). (I'll profile Josh later. He also works in public service.) 

She has two beautiful little girls—Rosalie (4 years) and Alice (11 months).   

Recently, Mrs. Baker said: 

"I feel like I am one of the lucky ones who has a job that I love that does not completely consume me, amazing kiddos that I get to see by 5 or 5:30 every night, and a wonderful hubby who has his own amazing career and supports mine (and with whom I sometimes get to spend time alone). We have a great life right now."

Community Service

Consistent with ASL's emphasis on community service, for the past two years, Mrs. Baker has served as an editor of the newsletter produced by the Marion Griffin Chapter of the Lawyer's Association for Women (LAW): LAW Matters. 

She has coached a high school mock trial team for the past seven years.  

She also serves in several leadership positions within her church and sings second soprano in the church choir. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Red Velvet Lawyer Mentioned in AmLaw Daily

In the ongoing discussion about when law graduates and available law jobs will reach equilibrium, Matt Leichter, of the Law School Tuition Bubble blog, has continued to work with the numbers and published in the AmLaw Daily here a story called: No, It's Still Not a Good Time to Apply to Law School. (You may need a subscription to read the story but his blog posting covers all or most of the same data.)

He mentions my launch of this conversation and concludes that Prof. Merritt may have the better analysis. He looks at several more data-bases to reach that conclusion. 

As I've said before, I want prospective students to make decisions about law school using informed decision-making.  The more we talk about the numbers, the more information they have to make better choices about the careers they want to pursue.

I'd invite Leichter to expand his analysis to other professions, because the bubble may be bursting for students attending vet, dental, pharmacy, optometry, and med schools (for two practice areas: primary care and psychiatry).  What an expanded analysis might tell us is that a generation of college graduates will be shut out from using professional schools to climb into or secure a solid middle-class income.    

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Limited Reserve of Willpower and New Year's Resolutions

Enhance Your Willpower 
Reach Your Goals

Robert Hatch, owner of Human Business Works, a business coach, and an author, sent me some advice this morning on making and achieving New Year's Resolutions.

I can sum it up with a quote from Wayne Dyer:  "Once you begin working on your problem areas with small, daily, success-oriented, goals, the problems will disappear."

What I like about Hatch's iteration of the way you must operate to reach a specific goal is the acknowledgement that we only have a certain limited reserve of willpower. He is so in to the idea, he eats the same thing for breakfast every morning. It limits the drain of will power and reduces, by one, the decisions he must make as entrepreneur through the rest of the day.  Ok, not me.  But, interesting.

For the science on willpower, take a look at this Stanford School of Medicine blog.  Two things can enhance your reserve of willpower: Meditation and regular exercise, partly because they help you manage stress better. Stress, in contrast, reduces your ability to resist urges and temptations, as does sleep deprivation and poor nutrition.

Hatch's more extended discussion follows.
You’ve heard it before . . . . Statistics show that a small minority of folks follow through on their resolutions.

There are a few reasons for this, understanding why may help you.

How Success Is Built.

Maybe we set a goal that we will lose 30 pounds this year but by the time January is over and we haven’t lost the 30 pounds (or some significant undetermined amount) we feel like we failed. We start to let things slip and eventually, our efforts disappear.

Success is not built by simply stating the end goal. Success is structured bit by bit. Understanding how to construct the path, helps us stay on it.

Another reason why success slips away is that we fail to supplement our willpower. We seem to have it in abundance this time of year, but willpower is a limited resource.

Willpower can actually run out in the course of a day. Putting our willpower to focus on a project at work can deplete it such that we struggle to get to the gym later.

Understanding how to structure our day and supplement our willpower, is important.

Resistance Is Futile…

Accepting that you simply don't have an endless supply of will is a good first step. Here are a few ideas for supplementing the willpower you do have.

How - Instead of stating what you will do, map a plan for how you will do it. Keep it simple. Establish a reasonable plan of action with actionable steps and small successes built on one another throughout the year. The results will come.

Losing 30 pounds is not an action. Creating a menu from which you will shop and stock your pantry, is. Making $10,000 in new sales each month, is not an action. Making 5 calls a day, is.

Stick to the plan - We have this tendency to want to riff before we understand the notes. When you establish a plan, you are not waking up everyday wondering what to eat, or how many calls you should make. The plan is clear, follow it. The results will come.

Be Reasonable and Kind - For some folks, a no excuses, no days off, approach is spot on. It’s admirable. For others, it is unrealistic and missing one day, feels like failure. Set yourself up for success by understanding what is reasonable for you, your time, your commitments. I’m not saying you can’t push yourself to do more, but for some 4 days a week is more.

If you fall off the plan, it happens but it does not immediately signal failure. Be kind to yourself and start again tomorrow.

Take time to structure and support the willpower that has you excited for all you will accomplish in the coming year. Your goals deserve it. Small actions lead to big goals and I know you are going to accomplish great things.
For more on stress, willpower, and pursing healthy habits, see here and here.

Jan. 5, 2014 Update:  This New York Times article offers four strategies for keeping New Year's resolutions.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Senate Hearing on Pre-Dispute Arbitration Clause: Arbitration Fairness Act

Arbitration Fairness Act

And, now a look into the debate about pre-dispute arbitration clauses found in consumer and employment contracts. Several witnesses testified about the problems with these clauses. Then, Senator Al Franken questioned a U of Georgia Law School professor, Peter B. Rutledge, who planned to support the clauses. Watch the video here.

From the Consumerist:
Earlier this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on mandatory binding arbitration clauses, those fun bits of contractual language that take away your right to sue a company and force you into a resolution process that is heavily weighted in the company’s favor. The hearing was chaired by Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, who earlier this year introduced the proposed Arbitration Fairness Act, and so he obviously has a thing or two to say on the topic.
* * *  
Starting at around the 1:55 mark in the above video, Franken cites the professor’s own previous statements that certain arbitrators can, by the decisions they make in resolving disputes, develop pro-business reputations with the goal of being used more frequently and earning more fees.
Overall, I am not in favor of these types of clauses in the consumer and employment context.  But, arbitration can be a viable option to "lumping it" even in these contexts.   Lumping it is often the only other option available if the parties cannot negotiate a satisfactory outcome to the dispute or afford full-blown litigation.

My colleague and former LL.M. law professor, Jean Sternlight, is well-known for her opposition to the clauses. For more on her point of view, see here.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Red Velvet Lawyer Wishes You A Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

To my family, friends, colleagues, and students: I wish you a wonderful time with your family and friends this week. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Updating My Blog Roll

My Picks from the 
7th Annual Blawg 100

In December, the ABA Journal published its 7th Annual Blawg 100 issue listing those law blogs it identifies as hosted by dedicated, creative, and engaged bloggers. Polls closed for voting on the current list, but I've used it to update my blog roll.

One of the unanticipated benefits of having a blog is the opportunity to build a blog roll. Postings on the blogs I track keep me inspired and up-to-date.  I also hope the list gives you a quick way to link to some of the top law bloggers that may be of interest to you.

So, here are the blogs I'm adding:

  • Arbitration Nation
  • Dewey B Strategic
  • JD Careers Out There
  • Jotwell
  • Law School Cafe
  • The Legal Watercooler
  • The Legal Whiteboard
  • Real Lawyers Have Blogs
  • Small Firm Innovation
  • Technology & Marketing Law Blog

And, I am dropping nine blogs from the roll.  After a year of tracking them, I find that I did not like the quality of the content, the infrequent posting, or the focus that did not align with my current interests.  I dropped several blogs relating to litigation or appellate practice.  They just don't hold that much interest for me these days despite my background as a commercial litigator.

Instead, I focus on law firm marketing; technology and the law; and small and solo firm management.  I continue to track blogs commenting on the current state of the legal field and the challenges law students and prospective law students face in choosing a school and in planning a career path.  I also have a soft spot for anything related to ADR, although most of my favorite ADR-related blogs don't make the ABA Journal list. I'll start working on that.

Dropped from the roll:

  • Fox Test Prep
  • How Appealing
  • Leave Law Behind
  • Legal Writing Prof Blog
  • Ms JD
  • The Girl's Guide to Law School
  • The Jury Room
  • The Official Findlaw Blog
  • Verdict

Saturday, December 21, 2013

New Normal is Now the Norm: Revolution Continues Whether We Like it or Not

"Folks, the change is here. 
We’re living it."

Jordan Furlong, a partner in Edge International, a leading management consultancy, describes the "revolution" that is ongoing in the legal field and in legal education in a recent posting he calls: You say you want a revolution?  He opens his posting this way:
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m convinced of a couple of things: (1) Fundamental shifts in the legal services environment will spawn a diverse population of new providers that will expand access to those services while destroying lawyers’ market exclusivity; and, (2) This is, on balance, a good thing. I’ve never been more certain than I am today, at the close of 2013, about the first — but I’ve never been less certain about the second.
After summarizing evidence of the revolution, he offers some predictions for the future, and asks regulators, bar associations,  law schools, courts, and lawyers to take action now that will respond in a way that enhances services for clients while protecting core values of the profession.  He offers one apocalyptic prediction that arises if we, as a profession, do not respond quickly and strategically to the trends.

Try to find some time during the busy holiday season to read it and the comments.

Friday, December 20, 2013

ASL's First January Intersession: Course Offerings

Appalachian School of Law 
Offers Two Courses 
Over the Winter Holiday Break 

January Intersession

Introduction to Natural Resources Law

ASL will offer this 2-credit hour course on its campus the week prior to the resumption of January classes (January 6-10, 2014). This intensive course will run from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 9:00 a.m. to noon on Friday. 

The course will familiarize students with the legal, business, and environmental aspects of the natural resources law. Although broadly covering natural resources, the course will include a basic introduction to the U.S. legal and governmental system relating to environmental, natural resource, and energy laws, including hard mineral law, oil and gas law, water law, environmental law, energy policy, land use law, renewable energy law, and issues related to climate change and sustainability. 

Four faculty members will co-teach the course. More specifically, they have designed the course to commit one-day to each of the following topics: energy law and policy, mineral law, natural resources law, and environmental law. And, the co-faculty will all attend the panel discussion scheduled for the final day.

Professor Pat Baker, one of the co-faculty members for this course and the Director of the Natural Resources Law Center, explained:  

The Natural Resources Law Program proudly continues to innovate and offer specialized classes that provide our students with real world exposure to today’s energy issues, problems, and solutions. This course is just another step in our commitment to creating the policy makers and lawyers of tomorrow.

ASL will also offer this 2-credit hour course on its campus the week prior to the resumption of January classes (January 6-10, 2014). This intensive course will run from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 9:00 a.m. to noon on Friday. 

The Lawyerpreneur course helps bridge the gap between academic study and a career in the legal field by having students work on legal problems that lawyers and professionals in law-related fields are asked to solve. 

Students will work individually and collaboratively in teams, acting similarly to junior associates at a law firm.  They will identify client goals and develop sound ideas and work product that address those goals. 

Just like in the real world, the instructor, who has significant private practice experience, will expect students to complete tasks within time-intensive constraints.  The professor, student peers, possibly guest evaluators and clients will assess students.  Students will also engage in self-assessment.

Students will use legal research, writing, analysis, and oral communication skills, combined with practical judgment and ethical/moral considerations to help clients resolve problems in creative, innovative, and legally sound ways. Students will also develop an appreciation for the skill-set needed to be an effective advocate and will learn how to think like a lawyer, a business person, and an entrepreneur. Students should expect to bounce between tasks of varying complexity within very short windows of time.

To Register:

To register for any of the courses, please complete this registration form and/or contact our Admissions Office at admissions@asl.edu or at 1-800-895-7411. 

Current ASL JD and Master's (MLS) students should not use this registration form. Instead, please contact the Registrar, Eric von Kleist at ekleist@asl.edu,  for registration and pricing information.

Just Three Words: An Approach to Annual Goal-Setting

Robin, Launch, & Wealth

During the past month, I've talked about goal setting twice: here and embedded here.  I just found this interesting discussion on how one successful entrepreneur works with goal setting.  Among other things, he picks three words to guide him over the next year.  They help keep him focused on his priorities.

Take a look here.  I'll wait.

For 2014:

My three words for 2014 are these:

Robin:  I am referring to Robin Wright Penn, the actress who plays the wife, Claire Underwood, to Kevin Spacey's character, U.S. House Majority Whip Frank Underwood, in the TV series, House of Cards.  As Claire, she portrays a strong, independent, ambitious, powerful, effective, kind-hearted, stylish, and fit woman who is trying to change the world through her non-profit foundation.  This, folks, is what we all want "50" to look like (even if she is actually 47).  Robin, the actress, has been choosy about the projects she will do and the people she dedicates herself to. Her biographies suggest she is guided by a strong inner voice.

Launch:  I am referring to my plan to launch, this summer, a web-based teaching program for business and professional women who have trouble asking for what they want and need for fear that they will lose love and connection if they assert themselves.  I will teach them how to manage those negotiations so they can protect the relationships they value while getting what they need and want for themselves, their families, their businesses, their employers, and their clients.

Wealth:  I am referring to "wealth consciousness" as described in the book, A Happy Pocketful of Money. Wealth is energy that we should love and share freely.  It brings us freedom, choice, and opportunity.

For 2013:

Looking back at 2013, I would identify with the following three words:

Growth:  I am referring to my decision to take the business coaching programs offered by Christine Kane.  I invested about $9,000 in two coaching programs that have changed my mindset, introduced me to permission marketing, increased my comfort level with technologies and on-line platforms (including blogging), and allowed me to create relationships with a group of motivated, energetic, loving, entrepreneurial women who are changing the world in many diverse and wonderful ways.

Service:  I am referring to my heightened commitment to serve ASL's students and alumni.  I am also thinking about my year-long gig as President of my tribe -- The Virginia Mediation Network.  I could also put that gig under "growth," because it asked me to "lean in."

Courage:  2013 raised many opportunities to succumb to the fears generated by my noisy, ego-driven, left-brain.  Instead, I faced those fears with the knowledge that each challenge created opportunities for growth, learning, and leaning in.  Even my failures taught me how to succeed.

So, what three words would you choose to guide you in 2014?

Dec. 22, 2013 Update:  And, here is some very good advice for goal setting for law students and young lawyers.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

53 Law Schools Accredited by the ABA Since 1970

And, a Decade of Added Capacity 
No Longer Needed?

Yesterday, I linked to the ABA report showing the drop in applicants who actually enrolled in law school in 2013. By one blogger's calculation, enrollment (average per law school) has not been this low since the late 1960s.

The ABA Journal reported:
Law school enrollments nationwide are down 11 percent this year from last year and 24 percent from 2010, new figures show. 
The nation’s 202 ABA-accredited schools reported that 39,675 full- and part-time students were enrolled in a first-year J.D. program this fall, according to figures released Tuesday by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. 
That’s a decrease of 4,806 students from the fall of 2012, when 44,481 students began their law school studies, and a decrease of 12,813 students from 2010, when an all-time high of 52,488 first-year students were enrolled in an ABA-accredited school.
(Emphasis added.)  In a more recent article, the ABA explains that:  "The last time enrollment was so low was in 1975, when 39,038 students were enrolled. And, at the time, there were only 163 ABA-accredited schools."

Since 1970, the ABA has accredited 53 new law schools of the current total of 202 ABA-approved J.D.-conferring law schools.  It also granted provisional accreditation to four more schools (Belmont, La Verne, U. Mass-Dartmouth, and U. Cal-Irvine) in 2011 to 2013.

In addition, Duncan School of Law at Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee currently seeks provisional accreditation along with a few more new law schools.  Oddly, I can't find additional information about the schools seeking provisional accreditation, except for Duncan, which had a very public denial of its application for provisional accreditation by the ABA in a December 2011 order and a lot of negative blogger coverage here, here, here, and here.

The ABA began accrediting law schools in 1923.  That year it approved 40 schools, including well-established private schools -- like Harvard, Yale and Washington & Lee -- and a number of state-sponsored law schools, many of which are associated with land-grant universities.

Too Much Capacity

I guess what I am trying to say is that the ABA approved a lot of law school "capacity" since 1970.  In the last decade, it granted accreditation -- full or provisional -- to 16 law schools.

Assuming those 16 new schools expected to have a student population of about 300 law students, the ABA created capacity for 4,800 more students. Many of the new schools -- especially the for-profit schools, including Charlotte, Arizona Summit (formerly Phoenix), Charleston (soon to join the Infilaw family), and Atlanta's John Marshall -- hope to have substantially larger classes to meet their profit expectations.

Thus, the drop in enrollees seen just in 2013 wiped out the need for all the capacity added over the last decade.  Current trends suggest that the ABA should not accredit any more law schools.

December 20, 2013 Update:  Commentary on the current market situation for law schools here.

Dec. 21, 2013 Update:  And this statement, nestled in a broader discussion of the revolution happening in the legal field:
If you want an example, take a look at law schools. You’re probably aware that applications to US law schools have been dropping like a stone and that enrolment is now down to itslowest level since 1977. As Bruce MacEwen notes (and as I’ve been saying for some time now), this story has only one ending: many American law schools will close or will become so small as to turn into veritable cottage businesses. There’s no question that there are too many law schools providing too little value to their students and to the clients they’ll someday struggle to serve, and that a major correction is overdue here. There’s also a lot of schadenfreude throughout the profession right now as these schools wriggle on the hook. 
We can hope for and work towards a renaissance and reinvention of law school. But what if that fails? What if 80% of US law schools close and are not replaced? Will the profession and the public be well served by a legal education system that features Harvard, Yale, Stanford and a few other clones, and nobody else? Or what if the failed law schools are followed by profiteering private law degree factories that replace the passive academic lecture with cookie-cutter “practical training” packages bereft of jurisprudence and professionalism? I think this is an unlikely outcome. But it is a possible outcome — a possibility that didn’t exist 10 years ago, but does today.
Jan. 1, 2014 Update:  This National Law Journal 2013-in-review summary spoke to the issue of new law schools:
Think plummeting demand for a law degree would put the brakes on plans to open new schools? Think again. The Indiana Tech Law School in August opened the doors to its new $15 million building in Fort Wayne. The school didn't meet its initial enrollment goal of 100 students — the inaugural class comprises 32 — but its dean has expressed optimism about the future. Meanwhile, administrators at the University of North Texas at Dallas are moving forward with plans to open the long-discussed UNT Dallas College of Law next fall; the school is now accepting applications.
Jan. 3, 2014 Update:  Prof. Debbie Merritt offers here her assessment of whether existing law schools will close in light of the current fall off in applications to law school.

Distinguished Alumni: Commonwealth's Attorney Andrew Nester

Distinguished Alumni 
of the 
Appalachian School of Law:

Commonwealth's Attorney 
Andrew Nester

Andrew Nester graduated from the Appalachian School of Law in 2005, suma cum laude, and, in a mere eight years, assumed leadership of the Commonwealth's Attorney Office for Henry County, Virginia.  The county is located on the southern border in the middle of the state. 

He works out of an office in Henry County, where he supervises a staff of eleven, including four Assistant Commonwealth's Attorneys, an office administrator, three support staff, and three members of the victim-witness program.

As the Commonwealth's Attorney, he prosecutes felonies and misdemeanors in the Circuit and District Courts.  The cases include complex financial crimes, arson, robberies, vehicular manslaughters, and larcenies.  He also serves on the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Voters elected him to the position in a special election held on November 5, 2013. Nester had served for seven and a half years as Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney. During the campaign, Nester said he would continue to work closely with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office in crime prevention and public safety. Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry personally endorsed Nester and thanked Nester for his hard work on behalf of the people of the county.

Nester planned this career path early, having served his 1L externship in the same office. While in college, he also served in summer internships with the 21st District Court Service Unit and the Martinsville Police Department.

Community Service

Consistent with ASL's emphasis on community service, Nester joined the Collinsville Volunteer Fire Department in 2002 and became its Chief in 2012.  He is a certified Fire Instructor and Fire Investigator and holds various certifications in pump operations, haz-mat awareness and operations, and vehicle extraction.

Law School and College Career

At ASL, he made Dean's List in six consecutive semesters; earned the Virginia Associations of Trail Lawyers Advocacy Award; and recieved four Book Awards for earning the highest grade in the following courses: Legal Process, Estates and Trust, Virginia Civil Procedure, and Trial Advocacy.  He graduated second in his class of 101 students.

He served as Vice President of the Student Bar Association and joined the Christian Legal Society and the
Federalist Society.

He graduated from Ferrum College, magna cum laude, with a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice and business administration and completed the degree in three and a half years. There he earned several recognitions: the Susan E. Homestead Outstanding Criminal Justice Graduation Senior; Dean's List in seven semesters, and Alpha Chi Honor Society membership.  

He served as the President of the Criminal Justice Club, as a Ferrum College Admissions Ambassador, and as a member of the Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity.  

His hobbies include fishing in the Smith, James, and New Rivers.  He is an avid hunter, camper, ATV rider, and kayaker.  

He is shown below with his wife, Christy -- whom he married in October 2007 -- on an ATV trip and while vacationing in Tennessee. They have no children or pets -- yet. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Smallest Entering Law School Class (Average Per School) Since the 60's

Big Drop in Law School 

So the big story this week is the significant drop in enrollees in law school. In other postings here and here, I've tracked the drop in applicants and applications.

The ABA has finally released a report showing the drop in the number of applicants who actually enrolled in law school for the year beginning in Fall 2013.  The ABA explains that:  "The last time enrollment was so low was in 1975, when 39,038 students were enrolled. And, at the time, there were only 163 ABA-accredited schools."

By one blogger's calculation, enrollment (average per law school) has not been this low since the late 1960s.

And, with applications to law school expected to drop this year compared to last, we could expect further erosion of the number of law school enrollees for Fall 2014.

This new data allows us to better predict job equilibrium, which I have discussed here, here, and here.  It is good news for graduates and students who are looking for a job.

The chart, 1L Growth Rate, for the period 1948 to 2013, shows four periods in which law schools showed negative growth in law school enrollees:  about 1949 to 1952; about 1982 to 1986; about 1995 to 1997; and this last one beginning in 2011.  I say "about" because the chart is a little difficult to read when trying to pinpoint specific years.

I'm sure an economist could correlate these dips to changes in the economy.

I notice this.  The magnitude of the negative growth dip for the first and last periods is substantially greater than for the two intervening dips.  The graph suggests that unlike the second and third dips in enrollment, the most recent dip is deeper and potentially longer lasting.

Dec. 27, 2013 Update:  One blogger, Matt Leichter, of the Law School Tuition Bubble blog,  has continued to work with the numbers and published a story in the AmLaw Daily here.

Dec. 28, 2013 Update:  The National Jurist covered the story here.

Oct. 26, 2014 Update:  Analogy to dental school experience in the 1980s  Ongoing decline in applicants expected.

Oct. 26, 2014 Update:  Fewer LSAT takers for Sept/Oct. 2014 test probably means fewer applicants to law school.

Nov. 1, Update:  More on the dental school analogy.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

NALP Salary Data for 2012 Law Grads

The Bell Curve 
The Spike

First, forgive the look of this blog posting.  I have reproduced the chart from the NALP website, and this blogging platform makes me keep the original formatting (in this instance).

Now, I saw this chart for the first time at the conference of the Midwest Association of Pre-Law Advisors (MAPLA).  LSAC General Counsel, Joan Van Tol, included it in her slides along with data on applications to law school. 

She explained that the chart showed two salary patterns.  The bell curve on the left hand side of the chart shows the starting salary for most (reportng) law school graduates 9-months after graduation.  Most of the jobs held by new grads pay $40,000 to $65,000.  

The second pattern appears on the right side of the chart and reflects starting salaries of graduates who land jobs with BigLaw.  Van Toll called this part of the chart "the spike."  The spike moved away from the bell curve during the dot.com era (as I recall her saying) and has been durable even through the recession, even if fewer graduates landed jobs in BigLaw.  The webpage shows charts for salary data going back to 2006.  

The Adjusted Mean and Mean tell another story.  Yes, they represent the average of all salaries for new law grads (who reported salaries to NALP), but relatively few jobs actually pay these salaries.   Instead, "the spike" pulls the average away from the bell curve towards the salary level represented by the spike.

Salary Distribution Curve
Class of 2012
For more information on the Class of 2012 salary distribution curve, see The NALP Salary Curve for the Class of 2012
Distribution of Reported Full-Time Salaries — Class of 2012

[NALP] Note: Graph is based on 20,709 salaries reported for full-time jobs lasting a year or more. A few salaries above $205,000 are excluded from the graph for clarity, but not from the percentage calculations. The left-hand peaks of the graph reflect salaries of $40,000 to $65,000, which collectively accounted for about 51% of reported salaries. The right-hand peak shows that salaries of $160,000 accounted for about 16% of reported salaries. However, more complete salary coverage for jobs at large law firms heightens this peak and diminishes the left-hand peaks — and shows that the unadjusted mean overstates the average starting salary by about 7%. Nonetheless, as both the arithmetic mean and the adjusted mean show, relatively few salaries are close to either mean. For purposes of this graph, all reported salaries were rounded to the nearest $5,000.
The scambloggers are correct in criticizing marketing that suggests that most new law graduates will earn six-figure salaries straight out of law school.  Only the very large law firms pay this premium salary.

NALP reported that BigLaw firms (500 plus) hired 3,600 new associates in 2012, down from 5,100 in 2009, but up from hirings in 2011. Employment opportunities at BigLaw rose 27 percent over the last two years.   

Here is the employment trend at these BigLaw firms. For a graphic depiction of the partner to associate ratio in BigLaw, see here

In pre-recession 2007:
  • 4,745 (23%) of new law grads joined BigLaw (501+).
In 2008, 
  • 5,193 (25.3%) joined BigLaw (501+).
In 2009:
  • 5,156 (25.6%) joined BigLaw (501+).
In 2010:
  • 3,750 (20%) joined BigLaw (501+). 
In 2011:
  • 2,856 (16.2%) joined BigLaw (501+). 
In 2012 (based on preliminary data):
  • 3,600 (19.1%) joined BigLaw (501+).  
So, prospective law students must keep this possible salary range in mind as they choose law schools, negotiate tuition and scholarship packages, and consider published employment data for each school to which they plan to apply.

Dec. 19 Update:  Just found this on the ABA webpage.  It's an excerpt from the November 2013 report from NALP:

NALP Issues Press Release on Associate Salary Findings 
Starting associate salaries at large law firms have remained essentially flat since 2007, despite some erosion of the prevalence of $160,000 as the norm. "The story is really one of no change, or at least not much change," noted James Leipold, NALP's Executive Director, in a press release issued recently by NALP on the findings of the 2013 Associate Salary Survey. "Compared to the period of 2006 through 2009, when associate salaries were rising year on year at a steady clip, in the period since the recession we have seen associate salaries remain more or less static," he added. "At the largest firms in the largest markets, a starting salary of $160,000 remains the norm, though its prevalence has ebbed and flowed a bit over the last several years." Read the full press release at http://www.nalp.org/associate_salaries_sept2013.
Interesting that NALP talks about the spike, even suggesting it is the norm, without talking about the bell curve.   

Are Law School Success Stories Really that Rare?

Law School Success Stories

Elie Mystal, of Above the Law, which I would characterize as one of the leading "scambloggers,"  made a posting yesterday entitled:  The Lack of Law School Transparency Claims Another Victim.

Here is the lead in paragraph:
Some guy on Twitter was complaining that Above the Law focuses too much on the negative side of going to law school. Apparently this person mistakes us for a law school admissions office — people who ignore facts when they don’t fit their happy-clappy narrative. We do bring you some law school success stories when we hear of good ones. Do you know why those stories are “news”? Because law schools are so effective at leading people down a path of career frustration and financial ruin that when somebody beats the odds, it’s mildly noteworthy.
This blog tends to focus on graduates from top-ranked schools who had expected to join BigLaw. They routinely paid $40,000-$50,000 per year in tuition at the top schools.

As some of my posts herehere and here have indicated, the largest percentage of job loss during the recession came in large law firms of 500+ lawyers. Hiring at smaller firms (2 to 10 lawyers), to which most of ASL's graduates head, has increased, even if salaries at these firms fall in the bell curve described here, with most new graduates earning between $40,000 to $65,000 to start.

So, I am putting these questions out there to our ASL alums:

  • Are you some of the law school success stories?  
    • If so, how and why?  
  • Are you happy you made the decision to attend law school?   
  • If you had not attended law school, what would you have otherwise done with your college education?  

I expect our unhappy graduates to respond first. But, I would like as many points of view as possible.

I am especially curious about this issue because I have now profiled twelve ASL graduates working in lower paying public service jobs in postings beginning here.  I have two more profiles in draft.  Based on my conversations with these alumni, admittedly about 10 percent of our graduates, they all seem happy in their careers and with the personal and professional opportunities their law degrees opened for them.

I am certain that their expectations about law practice have changed from the expectations they held as incoming 1Ls.  But, would they call a "do-over" and not attend law school?  Would you attend another graduate school even though the bubble may be bursting for graduates of vet, dental, pharmacy, and optometry schools -- and even some practice areas of medicine?