Saturday, November 30, 2013

Teaching Writing to Others: Using the Timed Writing Exercise in Groups

Writing Imperfectly While We Strive for Perfection

Pam Jenoff -- in her articleThe Self-Assessed Writer: Harnessing Fiction-Writing Process to Understand Ourselves as Legal Writers and Maximize Legal Writing Productivity, 10 JALWD (Fall 2013) -- admits that students have a hard time committing fully to the timed writing exercise I described in my last post.

She explains:
When I use Goldberg’s exercise with writing groups, I read a passage that explains the importance of such exercises in silencing our inner editors:
"Our “monkey mind” says we can’t write, we’re no good, we’re failures, fools for even picking up a pen; we listen to it. We drift. We listen and get tossed away. Meanwhile, wild mind surrounds us—sink into the big sky and write from there, let everything run through us and grab as much as we can of it with a pen and paper. This is all about a loss of control."
Janoff then asks her students to do the timed writing exercise.  She may instruct them to:
write with a particular focus or to answer a certain question, or they may just write generally. I tend to make the exercise relevant to the memorandum or brief on which the writers are working, but its less technical aspects, such as writing the fact section. I instruct them to write for ten minutes without lifting up the pencil or ceasing typing or stopping themselves to edit or doubt. 
Janoff recognizes the challenge of this exercise for many writers:
Many writers find themselves uncomfortable with the concept of writing freely and nonstop. In order to break into this exercise, it is best to do it several times in different sessions, first for just a few minutes then gradually working up to ten or fifteen minute bursts. 
Goldberg analogizes it to running: “This is the practice school of writing. Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. . . . You just do it. . . . That’s how writing is too. . . . Through practice you actually do get better.”
She de-briefs the exercise by discussing the challenges and benefits of writing for a predetermined time without using the inner-critic and editor. She says:
[S]tudents often struggle with keeping their hands moving without stopping to edit or to doubt the quality of what they are writing. But they find that once they have persevered through the exercise and repeated it more than once, they have a body of written material with which they can work. Writers are generally pleased to have overcome their initial resistance. They gain confidence and walk away from the workshop with a body of written material to use as a starting point.
The take-away for me is this: Writing is not easy.  But, it does get easier with practice.  And, until we reach the point when the writing process brings us flow, joy, satisfaction, and success, we should be gentle with ourselves.  We need to find the tools that support our learning.  And, we should give ourselves permission to write imperfectly while we strive for perfection in the end.

Do you have a favorite tool for jump starting the creative writing process?  

Writer's Block: An Exercise to Jumpstart Creativity

Vomiting on the Page

The timed writing exercise can help a writer jump start the creative writing process.  Pam Jenoff, in her articleThe Self-Assessed Writer: Harnessing Fiction-Writing Process to Understand Ourselves as Legal Writers and Maximize Legal Writing Productivity, 10 JALWD (Fall 2013) describes the technique:
Keep your hand moving. Frequently, a writer pens a sentence, then stops to consider it and edit, losing the flow of the idea. This exercise requires the writer to commit to writing without stopping for a specific period of time. 
Lose control. Write without fear that the work is not good enough — a common problem that can stop writers mid-project. This underscores the idea, which many of us already teach in both legal and fiction writing, to “get it out there” and then fix it up later.  
Be specific. Even on the first draft, look for language that gets to the heart of what you are trying to say and that captures the essence of the idea. 
Don’t think—get below discursive thought to the place where your mind is original, fresh. Just write and let your hand flow without stopping to edit or worry about the quality of the work at the initial stage. 
Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling, or grammar. These can come in at a later draft stage and should not hinder free-association writing. 
You are free to write the worst junk in America. Write without fear in starting a new writing project. 
Go for the jugular. Go deep, something that may be difficult at first draft stage. 
In short, for a predetermined amount of time, the chief rule is that the hand must keep moving — no editing or stopping to think.
Janoff takes this exercise from Zen Buddhist author Natalie Golberg's book: Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind (2005).

When I taught Legal Writing to our 1L students, I told them to jump start the writing process by "vomiting" on the page.  Even if it stinks, your are making progress.

Plodder or Pantser: Approaches to Legal Writing

Recognizing the Source of Writer's Block

A plodder is the type of writer who creates an outline or a well-established story structure before he or she ever begins writing.  A pantser -- as the name indicates -- flies by the seat of his or her pants. A pantser writes first, then organizes later.

So says, Pam Jenoff, in her article: The Self-Assessed Writer: Harnessing Fiction-Writing Process to Understand Ourselves as Legal Writers and Maximize Legal Writing Productivity, 10 JALWD (Fall 2013).  Jenoff also suggests that each writer is both plodder and pantser depending on a number of factors, including:
  • The nature of the project
    • Size
    • Subject matter
    • Etc.
  • Whether one is co-authoring.
  • Whether one is required to submit an outline in advance of publication.

Each type of writer faces different challenges when it comes to the next stage of writing.  

The free-writing pantser often can't get the material she's written properly organized.The plodder, in contrast, may feel stymied in getting words on paper.  He needs a way to jump start creativity.

Jenoff suggests that most legal writers fall in the plodders category.  They may need some exercises to help them begin the actual writing process.  

In my next posting, I'll describe one of those techniques to surmount writer's block. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Storytelling for the Legal Writer

Non-Fiction Storytelling Advice for Lawyers

Lawyers tell persuasive non-fiction stories in letters, briefs, motions, negotiations, transactional representation, and oral arguments.

The Fall 2013 issue of the JALWD, the journal for Association of Legal Writing Directors, suggests two books that will make lawyers even more effective at describing the situations of the clients they represent. The reviewer of the first book, Jack Hart's Story Craft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction (U. Chi. Press 2011), notes that people learn best when they receive information through story. Neurobiologists have watched fMRI images of people thinking in story structure. Hart explains:
[S]tory is story. The same underlying principles apply regardless of where you tell your tale . . . . Successful nonfiction storytelling requires a basic understanding of fundamental story theory and story structures the theory suggests. Ignore them, and you’ll fight a losing battle with human nature.
The book reviewer, Ruth Anne Robbins, calls the book "an eminently readable book," "skillful," providing "readily accessible and transferable messages," with examples drawn from the author's experience as a journalist.  The chapters cover topics including your distinct writing voice and point of view.

The second book, William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting (Warner Books 1983), is apparently a "raunchy," "painful," "funny," insider's view of the world of the Hollywood screenwriter responsible for the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, A Bridge Too Far, and The Princess Bride.

The reviewer, Ian Gallacher, finds the proof that "good writing in whatever form we might encounter it" comes from this "beautifully written" book in a fascinating, valuable, insightful, and entertaining way.  The four sections of the book cover the process of making movies, the roles people play in the process, the author's experience on the movies he scripted, a "brutally honest" analysis of the screenplay he wrote for Butch Cassidy, and an opportunity to see a short story converted to a screenplay.

The reviewer also describes the speed-writing process Goldman uses to write scripts after he has completed his research.  For Butch Cassidy, Goldman conducted eight years of research, but wrote the first draft of the script in four weeks.  The script, of course, went through numerous revisions, but the speed-writing technique allowed him to capture his creative passion.

The reviewer also highlights Goldman's emphasis on structure in a script.  "[I]f the structure is unsound, forget it."  Law students, struggling with the IRAC or CREAC organizational method, should pay attention to this advice.

The reviewer concludes:
Goldman has written other books about Hollywood, another about Broadway,and many books of fiction, and they’re all interesting, entertaining, and wonderfully written. But any writer, including any legal writer, who wants to learn from a master craftsman could do much worse than reading this book carefully. It’s an entertaining master class that will teach important lessons about writing while being appropriate beach reading. There aren’t many books about which you can say that.
This older book is still available on Amazon and in bookstores.  I just put it on my Christmas list. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Distinguished Alumni: David Robinson

Distinguished Alumni 
of the 
Appalachian School of Law: 
David J. Robinson

David J. Robinson is the Senior Legal Advisor at the Illinois State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office in Springfield, Illinois.  Effective January 1, 2014, he will become its Deputy Director. Thus, in only seven years following graduation from the Appalachian School of Law in 2007, his career has taken him to this high level of responsibility and leadership in state government.

As a Senior Legal Advisor, David prepares special prosecutions and the defense of criminal appeals.  Thus, his experience on ASL's Moot Court team prepared him for this career path.

As a member of the Director's office, David helps to "promulgate[] and implement[] the rules and regulations governing the administrative and legal functions of the District Offices. The Director's Office is responsible for all Agency administrative and managerial functions, legal policy and other extraordinary legal concerns, budgetary and legislative matters, and Agency publications."

David teaches legal studies at Robert Morris University, where he also serves on the University's Advisory Board. He teaches Real Estate Law, Legal Writing, Domestic Relations, Professional Development, Law Office Technology, and Business Law.  As a Board Member, David assists faculty and the administration in advancing the legal studies program, as well as complying with ABA accreditation standards.

He has authored numerous state-wide and national publications.  Most recently, he published Admissibility of "Dog Sniff" Evidence: The New Foundational Requirements after Florida v. Harris, Illinois Bar Journal (April 2013).

He frequently lectures on search and seizure.  His most recent presentation -- in St. Charles, Illinois (May 20, 2013) -- covered the following topic:  Search, Seizure & the Forensic Examiner: Putting the Fourth Amendment Under Your Microscope.

Family Life

David lives in Springfield, Illinois with his wife, Jennifer, and the couple's two-year-old daughter, Amelia, and dog, Neeley.  They recently moved to a home built in 1938 that is located in the Washington Park neighborhood --  a famous Lincoln-era park located in the downtown area of the state capital.

David is pictured here with Amelia during a vacation to Savannha, Georgia.  She also appears as the curious gardener.

Neeley is pictured below.  And, as a dog lover, I know the important role she plays in family life.

Military Service

Like many of our students and alumni, David first served in the military before coming to law school.  It likely explains his successful effort to establish a veteran-focused student organization -- The Hamilton Society --on the ASL campus.

His service record includes:
  • Untied States Army - 19K10 M1A1 Armor Crewman; Combat Arms:  July 1997 to November 1999.
  • Awarded Joint Service Commendation Medal by Secretary of Defense William Cohen for "exceptionally meritorious service" in defense of Kuwait: 1998.
  • Awarded two Army Achievement Medals by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas G. Pope for "tireless efforts and dedication to mission accomplishment" while assigned to the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Division: 1998 & 1999.
  • Awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal by General Anthony Zinni, Commander of United States Central Command, for providing ground deterrence against invasion of Kuwait in support of Operation Desert Fox: 1998.
  • Awarded Army Good Conduct Medal by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas G. Pope for conduct in keeping with the highest standards of military discipline and performance: 1999.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Distinguished Alumni: Judge Daniel T. Boyd

Distinguished Alumni 
of the 
Appalachian School of Law: 
Judge Daniel T. Boyd

Daniel T. Boyd became a Juvenile Court Judge in August 2011, less than a decade after graduating from the Appalachian School of Law in 2002.

Judge Boyd is lifelong citizen of Rogersville and Hawkins County, Tennessee.  He graduated in 1994 from the Cherokee Comprehensive High School and in 1998 from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Prior to ascending to the bench, Judge Boyd practiced law in Rogersville with his father.

Daniel is married to Melissa Cupp Boyd and has two children, Eli and Anna Mae.

Tennessee Juvenile Courts

Tennessee offers the public 98 juvenile courts with 109 juvenile court judges and 45 Magistrates serving parties appearing before them. Of these 98 courts, 17 are designated "Private Act" juvenile courts while the remaining 81 are general sessions courts with juvenile jurisdiction. At least one juvenile court exists in each of the state's 95 counties.

The courts are county-based and locally administered, with the exception of Bristol and Johnson City. Tennessee’s juvenile court judges intentionally adapt their practices and procedures to meet the needs and preferences of the people living in a particular community.

Juvenile Court Jurisdiction

These courts attend to the needs of persons under the age of eighteen who have not been previously transferred to adult court. Juvenile courts deal with delinquency and status offenses, issues concerning dependency and neglect, child abuse, child support, custody issues, establishing parentage, visitation, and the need for medical and/or mental health treatment for children.

These courts often work in conjunction with CASA for Kids, Inc. and assign professionally trained Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA Volunteers) to cases of abused or neglected children.

15,000 Page Views for The Red Velvet Lawyer

15,000 Page Views
Friends, family, and colleagues:

Another milestone reached!  This time with the help of Brian Leiter, an ABA Top 100 Blawgger, who linked to several of my postings this month.

Being a Thankful Lawyer, No Matter the Firm Size

Being a Thankful Lawyer, No Matter the Firm Size

The Attorney at Work blog this week reminds us to "bloom where we are planted."  Each firm practice setting -- solo, small firm, and big firm -- offers practitioners many opportunities to be thankful.

Blogger Merrilyn Astin Tarlton reminds us that:
In a Solo Practice
  • You can dress and decorate how you please. No one is going to question your choice of socks or hair color (what purple streak?) or office accessory — even if it’s a Pomeranian.
  • It’s a simple matter to change your mind and do things differently for a while.
  • You don’t have to be a systems engineer to know what’s going on. It’s all happening within arm’s reach.
  • A person can get a little peace and quiet around there.
  • You don’t have to wait for other people to make up their minds about how much money you can take home.
  • Firm name? A no-brainer.
  • You can run like the wind and stop on a dime.
In a Small Firm
  • You can say “Good morning” to every person in the office by simply walking to the coffee machine and back — and you even know their names!
  • Firm management is rarely a mystery. Closed-door meetings are few and “transparency” is difficult to avoid.
  • You know your colleagues’ practices, workloads, temperaments and networks. Cross-selling? It’s much easier to brag about someone else than to talk about yourself.
  • You can try a thing or two without risking it all.
  • If you’re lucky, your slow times are balanced out by your partner’s busy-busy ones.
  • Your ideas and hard work can easily make a difference to the whole firm.
  • You get credit when it’s due, but you don’t have to carry the load all alone, either.
  • You may not have the deepest bench, but you always know who you can count on.
In a Big Firm
  • You have other people who are paid to worry about technology, staffing, phone systems, insurance, emptying the trash, stocking the kitchen … you name it. Your job is to practice law.
  • You show up everywhere prepackaged in the reputation of your firm’s good name.
  • The financial ups and downs of your personal practice are easier to weather.
  • There is security to be found in making decisions as a group.
  • You get to learn about new cities and states (and maybe even countries) when you visit your firm’s multiple offices.
  • You and your colleagues have star power! Just look at the next issue of The American Lawyer! It’s all about big firms.
  • In the office after hours? You’re never alone because there’s always something going on.
  • There’s never a problem finding enough people to pitch in, whether it’s to finish a deal, or for the bowling team, or for that Habitat for Humanity project.
What makes you thankful for your law practice setting?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Distinguished Alumni: Chris Fortier

Distinguished Alumni 
of the 
Appalachian School of Law: Chris Fortier

As the press release describes:  In less than a decade, ASL alumnus Chris Fortier earned one of the highest honors bestowed on a young lawyer by the Virginia State Bar. The Bar's Young Lawyers Conference awarded Chris its 2013 R. Edwin Burnette Jr. Young Lawyer of the Year Award.

The award recognizes young lawyers who demonstrate dedicated service to the conference, the legal profession, and the community. It is named in honor of Lynchburg Judge R. Edwin Burnette Jr., past president of the VSB (1993-1994) and the YLC (1985-1986), with whom Fortier is pictured.

Fortier served as chair of the Young Lawyers Conference (YLC) annual Professional Development Conference for two years and then expanded that program from Richmond to a second location in Northern Virginia. The Professional Development Conference provides courses in basic substantive legal skill training to Virginia lawyers.

YLC president Brian R. Charville noted: “In his work on the PDC he has demonstrated creativity, implementing skills, and a real selflessness in service of the program and its participants.”

Fortier also founded the Professional Development Series (PDS), which he envisioned in late 2012 as a vehicle for broadcasting YLC programs and other bar organizations' content throughout the bar year, one program each week. He recorded the Professional Development Conference segments and content from other bar organizations including the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyer’s Division and developed a schedule to air the programs. “While the PDS is still quite new and its effects aren't yet known, there is no doubt that Chris's vision and hard work have led to the creation of a useful practice resource for the YLC's members,” Charville wrote. “Chris simply has enviable abilities to brainstorm and implement programs that serve our profession well.”

He also helped the VSB staff develop a website and its contents.

Educational Background and Activities at ASL

Fortier is a graduate of James Madison University (2002) and the Appalachian School of Law (2005).

He grew up in Poquoson, VA, and he and his wife Brittany, also an ASL graduate, live and practice law in Vienna.

While on the ASL campus, he worked with the Student Bar Association, serving as the Student Bar Treasurer in 2003-2004, where he led a team of senators and students who drafted the rules for financing student organizations. 

In 2004-2005, Fortier served as the American Bar Association (ABA) Law Student Division representative and the Executive Lieutenant Governor for the 4th Circuit in the ABA Law Student Division. He also served as the law student liaison to the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division that year. 

During his year of leadership, ASL won the Bronze Key for highest membership in the Circuit. Chris won a Silver Key and the Liaison of the Year Award from the ABA.

While at ASL, he also served as Treasurer of SPIA in 2004-2005.

Employment History

After graduating from law school, after a short stint as a contract attorney, Fortier joined the Social Security Administration as an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review. 

In that role, he researches case files; the Code of Federal Regulations; Social Security Rulings; rules from the Social Security Administration’s Hearings, Appeals, and Litigation Law Manual; claimant and expert testimony; and case law. He also creates written decisions, interrogatories, memoranda, and correspondence. Finally, he reviews, prepares, and summarizes evidence for the hearing.

When he first joined the Social Security Administration, he drafted decisions for up to seven administrative law judges. He also handled child disability claims, remands from the Appeals Council, and cases involving mental and physical impairments.

In 2011, his workplace recognized his contribution with the Associate Commissioner’s Citation for excellent work (team award).

While in law school, Fortier interned for the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance; the Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS); and for United States Congressman Michael Michaud (ME).  Thus, Fortier has consistently shown a passion for community and public service.

"Toxic" Press Environment for Law Schools?

"Toxic" Press Environment 
for Law Schools?

At the October 2013 conference of the Midwest Association of Prelaw Advisors, Washington University School of Law Dean, Kent Syverud, gave a speech on the Future of Legal Education.  I have discussed different aspects of the speech in several postings.

At one point, he identified the current press environment surrounding law schools as "toxic."  I recently had my own experience with this press environment.

Yesterday, Brian Leiter discussed this toxic environment in his own blog, which I highly recommend.

A Complex Set of Factors

This week-end, I finished reading Brian Tamanaha's 2012 book, Failing Law Schools. I found his discussion of the ABA regulatory environment of law schools especially interesting.  While it created high quality law schools, it also drove up the price of a legal education by requiring additional "inputs," including higher salaries for faculty members; more time for faculty members to produce scholarship; more faculty members to reduce student-faculty ratios; shiny new buildings; advanced technology; and bigger library holdings.

A mission-driven school, like ASL, even if it wanted to pursue a low-cost strategy, had to comply with the ABA requirements if it wanted to obtain and keep accreditation.

I also liked Tamanaha's discussion of the role of the U.S. News and World Report rankings in escalating tuition costs. Law schools competed on services rather than price to ensure a higher position in the ranking. (ASL, as an unranked, 4th-tier access school, has been indirectly affected by the ranking system, but that story is too long to tell here.)

Falling Tuition Costs

The good news is that the cost of law school is coming down.  Several schools have cut tuition costs, including New York Law School, Seton Hall Law School, and University of Arizona College of Law.  Other schools are freezing tuition, including the Appalachian School of Law, the University of St. Thomas School of Law, the University of Massachusetts School of Law, and Ave Maria Law School.

Most law schools are offering scholarships to applicants with higher LSAT scores, thus substantially reducing the sticker price of law school.  Many schools, including ASL, offer 100 percent tuition scholarships to especially attractive students.  For some students, it has never been a better time to get an affordable legal education.

Tamanaha's book also discusses the risk of student debt, which all applicants to law school should read.

I will continue to do my best to sort through the data on the New Normal.  If that means I also personally deal with the "toxic" environment created by a few scambloggers, so be it.

And, I will continue to be proud of ASL, its faculty, staff, students, and graduates.  I know what we are doing here.   I know how dedicated we are to helping people.

Dec. 8, 2013 update:  The University of Iowa School of Law announced a tuition reduction.  For stories about it, see herehere, and here.

Dec. 14, 2013 Update:  More on the "price war" among some law schools in highly competitive markets.

Dec. 31, 2013 Update:  Even Above the Law (or at least its readers) seems to be tired of the law school "crisis" storyline.  Perhaps, having declared "victory," even he will reduce the toxic environment surrounding law schools and the decision to become a lawyer.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Leading Law Blogger Recognizes The Red Velvet Lawyer

Appreciate the Recognition for ASL's Mission!

I got back from some restorative massage to find a nice email from ADR colleague, Art Hinshaw, a blogger on ADR Prof Blog. He congratulated me for getting recognition from Brian Leiter's ABA Top 100 Blawg for my recent posting on job prospects for future graduates.

Here's Prof. Leiter's posting:
Thursday, November 21, 2013 
We are on track for there to be more new jobs for lawyers than there are new law school graduates...
By Brian Leiter 2016 or 2017. Hopefully this will help some of those currently unemployed, but it is also probably quite good news for those starting law school now or next year. (I commend Professor Young for taking the time to run the numbers, which in the current toxic cyber-environment where facts are never welcome [recall the irrational reception in cyberspace of the Simkovic & McIntyre study, even though it completely altered the terms of debate in the real world], requires considerable courage. I also commend to the attention of readers Professor Young's profiles of graduates of the Appalachian School of Law, a nice snapshot of the important role legal education plays in communities throughout the nation.)
I am very happy to see this leading blogger, from one of the top-ranked law schools, appreciating the mission of my law school.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Prediction: Full-Time Jobs will Exceed New Law Graduates for Graduating Class of 2016

The Tide Turns Again?
New Jobs Exceed the Number of Law Graduates in 2016?

At the conference of the Midwest Association of Prelaw Advisors held at the end of October 2013, Professor Jerry Organ predicted that jobs would exceed the number of law school graduates in 2016 (as I recall).

He suggested that the market would turn because applicants to law school would continue to decline while the trend in new law jobs would hold at least steady.

So, here is my attempt at supporting this prediction.  I am using data provided by LSAC at the MAPLA conference, which I have discussed in earlier postings.  I am also relying on data provided by NALP.

I make the following assumptions:
  • Enrollment of first-year law students will decline by 8.0% from the previous year through the 2015 entering class.
  • Each entering class experiences an attrition rate of 12 percent. So, only 88 percent of each first-year class graduates three years later.
  • New full-time jobs in three categories -- bar required, JD advantage, and other professional jobs -- will hold steady at the 2012 level of 31,776 jobs.
  • All categories of full-time jobs will hold steady at the 2012 level of 33,759 jobs.
If all these assumptions hold up, full-time jobs (in three categories) will exceed the number of graduates from law school in 2017. If I include all full-time jobs in the count, then those jobs will exceed law school graduates in 2016. 

Here's my math: 

Decline in first-year law students from the prior year, according to the LSAC data. Pointed brackets (<>) indicate my predictions.

2009-10     52,500          3.5%     (number graduating in 2012:  46,364) (all time high)
2010-11     48,700        -7.2%     (projected number graduating in 2013: <42,856>)
2011-12     44,500        -8.7%     (projected number graduating in 2014: <39,160>)
2012-13   <40,940>   <-8.0%>   (projected number graduating in 2015: <36,027>)
2013-14   <37,665>   <-8.0%>   (projected number graduating in 2016: <33,145>)
2014-15   <34,652>   <-8.0%>   (projected number graduating in 2017: <30,494>)
2015-16   <31,879>   <-8.0%>   (projected number graduating in 2018: <28,054>)

[As noted in an update below, NALP and ABA report data differently.  According to the ABA reports, the all-time-high enrollment of 52,500 occurred in the Fall of 2010 (not 2009).  Accordingly, my data is off by one year because I use the NALP data.]

Employment for 2012 graduates, according to the NALP data:
  • 46,364 total.  (The data shows that about 12 percent of law students who start law school in 2009 did not graduate in 2012.)  
  • 44,339 reported their employment status to NALP.
  • Of those reporting their employment status, they fell within the following categories:
    • Bar passage required, full-time:   26,876
    • JD Advantage, full-time:                4,730
    • Other professional, full-time:          1,770
    • Non-professional , full-time:             330
    • Unknown, full-time:                            53
    • Total full-time employment:          33,759
  • 2012 graduates with jobs in the first three categories total 31,776.  
Nov. 19, 2013 Update:  The Faculty Lounge blog suggests that the down turn in law school applications (and hence first-year enrollees) could be higher than expected. So, my estimated 8.0% decline in first-year enrollees could be conservative.

Nov. 20, 2013 Update:  Brian Tamanaha, in his book Failing Law Schools,  cites data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicating that "from 2000 to 2010 the economy created 123,000 new lawyer jobs; departures from the legal profession over ten years added another 151,400 openings.  Combining the two, there were about 275,000 job openings for lawyers . . . ."  I assume his use of the terms "lawyer jobs" or "job openings for lawyers" ties to the NALP category of "bar passage required, full-time" jobs.

He also says: "The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects about 25,000 openings for lawyers each year through 2018 (new positions and replacements for departures) . . . ."   Thus, if the discussion is confined to full-time jobs requiring bar passage, the decline in applicants to law school would need to be sharper and more sustained to ensure that every graduate got a job in that category.

Nov. 22, 2013 Update:  I received this email today from Professor Deborah J Merritt, John Deaver Drinko/Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law, Moritz College of Law:
Paula, I saw your interesting post on when the number of law graduates will equal the number of jobs that were available in 2012. Unfortunately, I think you confused the degree totals for 2012 and 2013 -- it's an easy mistake to make because of the odd way in which the ABA reports data. I've made a post on my blog in which I re-run the calculations and also make some different assumptions about jobs. I thought you might like to see the results:
Just to make it clear, I relied on a report prepared by LSAC for the MAPLA conference.  It does not make the source of the data clear, but does drop a footnote suggesting that the applicant data came from the ABA. I know the two entities share data, but I've not done the research to know how or what.  Thanks, Professor Merritt for your further analysis.  She predicts that law jobs requiring bar passage will not exceed the number of law graduates until 2021.

Nov. 23, 2013 Updates:  One of the scambloggers has picked up this posting and offered commentary, most of which is an ad hominem attack against me and my law school (or its graduates).  As I have said elsewhere, and as the headlines clearly indicate, this was not my prediction, but an effort to support the prediction of Prof. Organ. In addition, I have continued to update this posting with links to the analysis of other people and have posted all three of the comments received so far.

As far as his barrista comment, yes, barristas would be included in the total count of full-time jobs needed to see a market turn in 2016.   They would fall in the non-professional, full-time category, which in 2012, included 330 of the 33,759 graduates reporting employment.  As far as I know, none of our ASL graduates became full-time barristas after graduation.  And, even if they did, they soon found better employment. Please see the comments to this posting about the limitations of the 9-month cut off for employment data.

Nov. 27, 2013 Update:  Wall Street Journal blogger, Jacob Gershman, picked up the story and concludes:
"So is it a good time to consider law school? The jury is still deliberating."

Dec. 6, 2013 Update:  For more on this topic see here (JD Advantage jobs), here (JD Advantage jobs), and here (the unemployed and grads working part-time) and the embedded links to the National Jurist article on the job equilibrium.

Dec. 7, 2013 Update:  An ABA Journal blogger has picked up the story and mentioned The Red Velvet Lawyer here.

Dec. 9, 2013 Update:  Job data reported for legal industry here.

Dec. 10, 2013 Update:  TaxProfBlog picks up the story and says I've predicted a 2017 equilibrium date. I'm not sure where he got that.  I'm still saying 2015 or 2016 depending on how you define "employment."

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.

Jan. 9, 2014 Update:  The National Jurist has analyzed the data and made a prediction here.

March 2, 2014 Update:  Finally, Prof. Organ, who started this conversation, has weighed in with his well-supported prediction here.

March 12, 2014:  Professor predicts "almost guaranteed legal employment for all law school graduates" over the next two decades.

March 21, 2014 Update:  Another professor offer insights.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

San Diego Conference on "Branding"

Branding: The Event

Branding, as in a consistent brand identity. It is all about the perception you create about yourself in others.

I have spent the last three days in a lovely hotel in Del Mar outside San Diego getting an intense exposure to the rules, concepts, and goals of branding.   The event sponsor, Re Perez, brings years of expertise to his business of helping entrepreneurs become more successful.   The program has helped me identify my core values and clearly define my purpose.  I'm excited about the potential.

He has also partnered with other entrepreneurs who have taught sessions on Facebook marketing and a "touch" management system called Infusionsoft.

I wish our students and alumni could get this training and this service.  The results of these systems and approaches are nothing short of impressive.

Today, I plan to win a $20,000 consulting package for the law school in a raffle. Please send your well wishes my way.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Distinguished Alumni: General Sessions Court Judge J. Todd Ross

Appalachian School of Law Distinguished Alumni:
General Sessions Court Judge 
J. Todd Ross

J. Todd Ross graduated from the Appalachian School of Law in 2002, and like many of his ASL colleagues, rose quickly to a position of service, responsibility, and power.  A decade after graduation, Hawkins County, Tennessee voters elected him to the position of General Sessions Court JudgeRoss, a Republican, handily defeated Democrat Terry Risner by 2,819 votes, 4,064 to 1,245.  Ross will serve the remainder of an eight-year term that began in 2006.  Ross intends to run for re-election in 2014.
"I hope to be Hawkins County's General Sessions judge for a long time." 

The jurisdiction of General Sessions Courts varies from county to county based on state laws and private acts. This court of limited jurisdiction hears both civil and criminal cases and one serves every county.

Legal requirements limit the court's civil jurisdiction to specific monetary limits and types of actions. They also limit the criminal jurisdiction of this court to preliminary hearings in felony cases and misdemeanor trials in which a defendant waives the right to a grand jury investigation and trial by jury. General Sessions judges also serve as juvenile judges except in counties in which the legislature has established separate Juvenile Courts.

From is published bio:
A Hard-Working Attorney
Throughout his career as an attorney, Judge Ross earned a reputation for providing quality legal representation to his clients throughout East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, while building a successful multi-jurisdiction, multi-attorney law firm. Judge Ross represented thousands of clients, while maintaining a thorough and compassionate approach to best serving the needs of each client. 
A Devoted Husband 
Judge Ross met Heather at East Tennessee State University where they were both students. They married May 18, 1996, following Todd’s graduation from graduate school and Heather’s graduation from nursing school. Heather has been a Registered Nurse for 15years. During their 17 years of marriage they have been blessed with three children, Sydney (15), Lauren (10), and John (7), all students in Hawkins County public schools. 
A Proud Father 
Judge Ross will tell you that his greatest joy and proudest achievement was becoming a father. Watching his children grow, being involved with their education and their many activities has been central to his life. Todd recognizes that our kids are God’s greatest blessings, and we must treasure them above all else. 
A Community Leader
Judge Ross has volunteered for, and accepted, the role of leader in a variety of community activities. As a counselor, a school supporter, a coach, a mentor, a parent, a board member, and a concerned citizen, Todd understands the responsibility that he has, and that all of us have, to contribute to our community and to serve our fellow man.
And "Coach Todd" 
As a little league coach for many years, for football, basketball, T-Ball, softball, and soccer, Todd understands the positive growth that comes from old fashioned ideas like “team-work” and “good sportsmanship” and “self-sacrifice.” He believes that one of Hawkins County’s greatest assets is its community spirit and small-town atmosphere where adults look out for their own kids and their neighbor’s kids too. Todd believes that those are qualities worth protecting.
Judge Ross earned a B.S. degree from Eastern Tennessee State University in 1993 with a major in psychology and business.  He earned a Master's in Education from ETSU in 1995 with a focus on marriage and family counseling.  

He created the law firm of Ross and Associates in 2004, located in Kingsport, Tennessee. He worked there until his election to the bench. While in private practice his firm provided legal services in the areas of bankruptcy, personal injury, workers compensation, family law, Social Security, estates and trusts, real estate transactions, and criminal defense.

Ross promised to restore the reputation of the court after Hawkins County experienced a scandal.

In May 2012, the late Judge David Brand died in office. The Hawkins County Commissioners appointed former Judge James F. Taylor to the bench in July of 2011. Taylor eventually had to resign in May 2012 as part of an agreement with the Court of the Judiciary. Taylor resigned after local prosecutors indicted him on 41 counts of theft charges.  Prosecutors alleged "that when Taylor was an attorney and part-time judge, he falsified documents to make it appear that he represented clients that he had not been hired or appointed to represent, then submitted false bills to the Administrative Office the Courts, which reimburses lawyers for services to indigent clients."

Under a plea agreement, Taylor will serve 13 years and be disbarred at least through 2025.

J. Todd Ross said in a pre-election comment:  

The most immediate issue that will face whoever takes office in September will be restoring public confidence in the Office of the General Sessions Court judge. Throughout the last several months, the controversies and allegations related to this position seem to have taken a dramatic toll on public opinion as it relates to the Court. The General Sessions Court has the potential to be a major influence on our community, but it needs the support of the community to be successful.
Appalachian School of Law was founded with a focus on professional ethics.  We know that Judge Ross will serve the public with the highest integrity.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Distinguished Alumnus: District Court Judge W. David McFayden III

Distinguished Alumni of the Appalachian School of Law:

District Court Judge 
W. David McFayden III

W. David (Dave) McFayden III provides another example of the quick rise to leadership, power, and responsibility many of the alumni of the Appalachian School of Law experience.  A 2005 graduate of the law school, in 2012, Dave ran against an incumbent judge to win the position of District Court Judge in the North Carolina 3B Judicial District.  He serves the people of Craven, Caeteret, and Pamlico counties.

North Carolina District Court Judges serve for four years and must reside in the district in which they are elected.   The District Court Judge hears both civil and criminal cases, most typically cases involving amounts in controversy of $10,000 or less. The District Court also hears domestic relations cases involving alimony, child support, child custody, divorce, and equitable distribution. Juvenile matters also fall within the jurisdiction of these busy courts. In criminal cases, District Court has exclusive original jurisdiction over misdemeanor cases and most traffic offenses.

Judge McFayden grew up in New Bern, North Carolina, a picturesque and progressive community situated at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent Rivers that Baron Christopher de Graffenried of Bern, Switzerland, founded in 1710.   New Bern is the second oldest town in North Carolina and the first state capital. Judge McFayden also has deep family roots in Pamlico County, an area with miles of waterfront property on the Pamlico Sound, not far from the Cape Hateras lighthouse, which stands at the mouth of  that sound.

At the New Bern High School, Judge McFayden played varsity soccer and ran track.  He attended East Carolina University and later graduated from North Carolina State University. After college, he took a job with the North Carolina Division of Health and Human Services, working in the Office of Citizen Services. He helped North Carolinians gain information about critical services. Later, he joined the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation as a Criminal Intelligence Analyst and assisted SBI agents with criminal investigations. 

Feeling the call to public service, he enrolled in the Appalachian School of Law to fulfill a lifelong aspiration to become an attorney. 

After graduating from law school, he joined the Kellum Law Firm in New Bern, focusing his practice on civil law and litigation. In late 2006, Dave and his father, retired 3-B District Attorney W. David McFadyen, Jr., opened the McFadyen Law Firm – which later added a partner and became Valentine and McFadyen, P.C. H e practiced there until elected to the bench. He concentrated in the areas of criminal, juvenile, and civil law.   In his bio, he states that he took "great pride in his work with juvenile and indigent clients, and work[ed] diligently to ensure they, like the rest of the clients he serve[d], receive[d] quality representation."

Judge McFayden is or has been a members of several professional organizations, including:
  • Craven/Pamlico County Chapter of the East Carolina University Educational Foundation, Member and Former President
  • North Carolina State Bar
  • United States District Court, Eastern District, North Carolina
  • North Carolina Bar Association
  • American Bar Association
  • North Carolina Advocates for Justice
  • Craven County Bar Association
  • 3-B Judicial Bar Association
His hobbies include listening to music, boating, reading, watching college sports, and biking.  He spends as much time as possible with is family, which includes his wife, Erica, and his son, Mac, and  labrador retriever, Scout (named after a character in To Kill A Mockingbird).

Consistent with ASL's emphasis on community service, Judge McFayden has volunteered his time to a number of community service projects. He coached and refereed youth sports, served on the Citizens for Sidewalks Committee, and actively supports his church, the Garber United Methodist Church. He also participated in the historical reenactment of Bayard v. Singleton for New Bern’s 300th celebration in 2010.

His bio notes: "I come from a family long known for service in a variety of ways to Craven, Carteret, and Pamlico counties. I want to continue that service from the District Court bench, and will do so in a way that is patient and respectful towards those who appear before me. I have a passion for the law that I want to share with the public, and will do so with enthusiasm and dedication. I understand that the first priority of a judge is to serve and do the will of the people who elect him. I will do this to the best of my ability."

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Who Should Go To Law School Today?

Who Should Go to Law School Today?

At the MAPLA conference in late October, which I have covered in several postings, Washington University School of Law Dean Kent Syverud described three things:

  • Who should go to law school today;
  • Who should not go to law school today; and
  • Which school a student should pick. 

Who Should go to Law School Today?

You should still go to law school, despite the debt-to-annual income ratio, if you:

  • Care passionately about obtaining the skills needed to change the world;
  • Will make sacrifices to earn the J.D. degree;
  • Will be astute at figuring out how to get an affordable education;
  • Will be flexible and adaptable to the changing career landscape; and, 
  • Will be adaptable to obtaining new skills as that landscape changes.

Who Should not Go to Law School Today?

Dean Syverud also advised that you should not go to law school if:
  • You don't know what else to do;
  • It only helps college or university career office statistics; or
  • You plan to make a lot of money. 

On this last point, data assembled from Illinois and Missouri lawyers about a decade ago shows that the average lawyer makes an income of about $110,000.  That number may have changed a bit, but I suspect it is reasonably accurate even today.  I'll provide the links when I get back from my trip this coming week.

Which School is the Best Fit for Today's Student?

Finally, Dean Syverud identified the best school for today's prospective law student. It should:

  • Have utmost integrity and deliver on its promises;
  • Deliver key skills in a quality way;
  • Have every member of its administration, faculty, and staff helping graduates find jobs in this tough job market; and,
  • Offer an affordable education for that student.

Using Pre-Law Advisors:

In this difficult time of transition, Dean Syverud suggests that the role of the pre-law advisor is coming back. He said 70 percent of students have not talked with a pre-law advisor about whether to attend law school, which school to choose, and how to keep the cost affordable.  Instead, prospective students rely on:
  • Websites;
  • Blogs;
  • U.S. News rankings; and 
  • Law school publicity. 

Several of my postings have looked at the cost of law school, the job market, the value of a law degree, and whether I'd go to law school today.  As I have noted earlier, I believe deeply in informed decision-making. After my experience with the midwest pre-law advisors,  I agree that pre-law advisors should play an important role in the decision-making of prospective law students.

Dec. 14, 2013 Update:  LSAC data on law school applicants for 2010 to 2014.  In light of it, law schools will compete even more heavily on price.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Graduate School Bubbles Bursting Across all Professions?

Graduate School Bubbles Bursting Across all Professions?

One of my colleagues forwarded this story appearing in The New England Journal of Medicine.  The story provides an answer to the following question: "Are we in a medical education bubble market?"

The authors answer that question in the last paragraph of the story and suggest a difficult future for other professional schools.
Although it seems unlikely that we're in a bubble market for medical education, we may already be in one for veterinary medicine. That bubble will burst when potential students recognize that the costs of training aren't matched by later returns. Then the optometry bubble may burst, followed by the pharmacy and dentistry bubbles. At the extreme, we will march down the debt-to-income-ratio ladder, through psychiatrists to cardiologists to orthopedists . . . until no one is left but the MBAs.
It explains:
In medicine, students buy their education from medical schools and residency programs . . . . This education is transformed into skills and credentials that are then sold to patients in the form of services. So long as it is believed that patients, or whoever purchases health care on their behalf, will keep paying more and more for physicians' services, students and trainees should be willing to pay more and more for the education that enables them to sell those services. 
A simple measure of this market economy is the ratio of the average debt of a graduating
student to the average annual income in the profession on entry into the workforce. There are more precise ways to measure the return on investment in medical education — for example, the net present value of the stream of cash flows out (for education) and in (for services). But that value isn't very intuitive for most prospective students. In contrast, debt-to-income ratios reflect what students must borrow rather than what they must pay and, given whatever other assets they may have, how much in the hole they have to go. Thus, these ratios may better reflect how students actually feel about buying education.
It concludes that graduates can still expect to pass on debt costs to patients, except in two fields of medicine: primary care and psychiatry.  It then suggests:
[A]s high as the debt-to-income ratios may be for primary care and psychiatry, they are even higher for some other fields — notably, veterinary medicine, optometry, pharmacy, and dentistry. [Chart omitted.] For veterinarians, incomes have risen slowly even as student debt has exploded. [Citation omitted.] 
In short, the adjustments law schools are now making to respond to the decreasing volume of law school applicants predict adjustments other professional schools will likely face.

And, this generation of college graduates have no good, affordable, choices, it seems, if they want to obtain professional training that leads to a predictable middle-class lifestyle.

So, where are the stories about why professional school got so expensive across the board?  What role did the U.S. News ranking system play in the run-up in costs?  Did the professional school accreditation process contribute to the escalation of costs?

At the MAPLA conference, Washington University School of Law Dean Kent Syverud noted that legal education "has never been better."  We saw a period of extraordinary demand for a legal education that attracted domestic and foreign students.  The academy offered "terrific" teaching and research.  The best scholars in the world migrated to US law schools from abroad because U.S. law schools offered opportunity and stature.  Very qualified students entered law school with aspirations to change the world.  Law schools built "amazing" buildings with broad professional functionality. Law schools offered "stunning" services to students.

He suggested that dozen of current law schools now offer an education equal to the education offered only by the top 10 schools 25 years ago.  I believe that.

He called it a "Golden Period."  But, schools did not compete on price, but on U.S. News ranking.  (I thought as much.)  It came during an era of abundance with readily available student loan money, low default rates, and plenty of jobs for graduates.  He said (as closely paraphrased as I can get): "That world is gone.  We face dramatic change."    

Nov. 23, 2013 Update:  For more on the dental school analogy, see

Nov. 1, 2014 Update:  More on the dental school analogy.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

10,000 Page Views for The Red Velvet Lawyer

10,000 Page Views
Friends, family, and colleagues:

Another milestone reached!

Some time this morning -- while I was creating my latest profile of a distinguished ASL alumnus now serving the public interest -- you pushed to over 10,000 my total page views for the blog I launched in March.

I truly appreciate your interest in this aspect of my "voice."  I enjoy communicating with you, and I want to serve your needs.

Let me know what else I can do to make your student or law practice lives easier or more informed.   Feel free to send me suggested topics.

Love you!

Distinguished Alumni: Commonwealth's Attorney Gerald Arrington

Distinguished Alumni of the 
Appalachian School of Law:  
Commonwealth's Attorney 
Gerald Arrington

Gerald D. Arrington serves as the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Buchanan County, Virginia. As Commonwealth’s Attorney, he is the county’s top prosecutor and prosecutes its most important and highest profile cases, including murder, robberies, multi-count drug indictments, and crimes against children.

Gerald grew up and lives in the small community of Breaks, Virginia, near The Breaks Interstate Park, about
35 minutes from the law school campus. He lives with his wife and two sons. He graduated from the University of Virginia’s College at Wise in 2001, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Government. During his college career, he worked two jobs to help pay for his education and served as a co-captain for the college’s mock trial team.

In 2004, he graduated magna cum laude from the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia. The Virginia State Bar admitted him to practice later that year. While at ASL, Gerald received a number of awards including the Book Award for the top grade earned in the Trial Advocacy, Remedies, and Virginia Practice and Procedure courses. Gerald also served as an Editor for the Appalachian Journal of Law.

After graduating from law school, Gerald began working at Hancock and Skinner, P.C. in Lebanon, Virginia, where he handled personal injury and criminal defense cases. In 2005, Gerald began his career in public service when the Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney for Buchanan County hired him. Soon after that, he became an adjunct professor at ASL, where he taught first year students in the courses of Legal Process I & II.

In 2008, Arrington hung his shingle and formed Arrington Law Office PLC. He represented hundreds of clients facing criminal charges throughout the Commonwealth. While in private practice, judges in four different counties appointed him as a special prosecutor to represent the Commonwealth in cases ranging from theft to homicide.

On November 8, 2011, voters elected Gerald as Commonwealth’s Attorney. He resumed his career in public service in the same office in which it began.

Reflecting on his first two years in office, Arrington says that he is most proud of the results that he obtained in the cases of Commonwealth vs. Young and Commonwealth vs. Justus. In the Young case, it took the jury less than 30 minutes to return guilty verdicts and less than 10 minutes to recommend a life sentence for the 2011 murder of a Hurley, Virginia man in what began as a long running legal dispute over property.
In Justus, the jury recommended a sentence of nearly 9 years in prison in the attempted cover up of the murder that Young had committed.