Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow Day: School Day Postponed!

But, Boy, Is that a Pretty Picture!

When it snows here in Grundy, the flakes cling to every tree twig, limb, and leaf.  They stick to the rock crevices on all the mountain outcroppings.  They cap the fence pickets, bird feeders, and flower pots.  

As you look out, you swear you are living in a white cloud. Few things are quite as lovely as snow in the Appalachian Mountains. 

I've talked about the surrounding mountain beauty in several postings, my favorite appearing here.   

ASL alumni, I know this makes you feel a little nostalgic. 

Positive Affirmations for February Bar Exam Takers

Claim Your Well-Deserved Prize!

An ASL grad posted this Facebook comment in response to one of my blog postings in July 2013 about claiming your right to success, abundance, love, and creative energy found here.
Prof. Young, last year you recommended bar takers to do affirmations to boost our confidence and success rates.  It felt hokey and certainly could never take the place of diligent studying[.]  [B]ut, it definitely helped me relax before the exam and helped reduce my stress during it.  A very belated thank you and a recommendation to bar takers that you give wonderful advice!  
To make it easier for you to find some affirmations that may work for you, I am providing them below.

Find the affirmation that deals with a specific challenge you face right now in connection with the bar exam.  Also, find an affirmation you plan to use shortly before the exam date, and as you sit to take the exam.  Write the affirmation ten times in your journal every day.  Say it just as often. 

When you say the affirmation or write it down, do so with passion, power, and conviction.  State it as if the statement is happening now.  Don’t say it “will” happen.  Talk to your subconscious mind as if the reality you seek already exists.  

  • I am open to new experiences today.
  • I have everything I need today.
  • Peace and relaxation flow through me with every breath I take.
  • I look for the positive in each situation.
  • I do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.
  • I am positive and directed, and I have purpose in my life.
  • I am waiting patiently for the opportunity to serve my purpose in life.
  • I am learning to relax today.
  • I take full responsibility for my life today.
  • I am responsible, organized, motivated, and productive today.
  • I deserve to feel safe.
  • God is guiding me safely on my journey.
  • I am passing the bar exam with ease.
  • I am filled with all the knowledge I need to pass the bar exam.
  • My mind is relaxed and open to all that I need to learn today.
  • I am finding learning to be fun and exciting.
  • I am doing the very best I can.
  • I’m becoming smarter and more skillful every day.
  • I am learning to refrain from judging myself if I have trouble with ________________ (insert your own word or phrase).
  • I am learning to refrain from demeaning myself if something is too hard.  I can ask for help without feeling less than others.
  • I can!
  • I know, love, and trust myself today.
  • I am equal to the task I face.
  • I am giving up my need for self-pity today.
  • I am letting go of the burden of shame in my life.
  • I am willing to forgive myself for things I have done in the past.
  • God is giving me all the strength I need today.
  • I am willing to move forward, in spite of my struggles.
  • I am getting more and more successful in _________________ (insert your own words or phrase). 
  • I am successful in all that I do today.
  • God is guiding me forward to succeed.
  • I am working towards successful results.
  • I surrender the things that hold me back.
  • I give up my need to do everything alone.
  • I’m developing my God-given talents.
  • My talents and abilities are valued and needed.
  • I have put aside my regrets from the past and my fear of the future.
  • This is the first day of the rest of my life.
  • I am relaxed and patient.
  • I trust that God is guiding me to my next steps in life.
  • I am letting go of doubt, fear, anger, and distrust, and quietly accepting the unknown.
  • I am on the right path for me today.
  • I am willing to do everything I can to nurture my mind, heart, and body.
  • I am a positive and loving person.
  • Fear can’t stop me from moving forward.
  • I’m turning my fear into faith.
  • I’m moving beyond my fear.
  • I’m worthy of positive changes in my life.
  • Today, I welcome change as an opportunity.
  • I am fulfilling all my commitments today.
  • I am confident in my ability to meet challenges today.
  • I feel strong and confident today.
  • I have all that I need to do what is good and right in my life today.
  • I am learning to trust my own wisdom and give myself permission to follow it.
  • I feel confident in my ability to study for and pass the bar exam.
  • I have all the courage I need today to face my shortcomings.
  • I use my energy to create positive results.
  • I am not my feelings.
  • I do not have to act out on all my feelings.
  • I’m handling my feelings in a healthy way.
  • I am letting joy into my life.
  • I am letting go of the blocks that keep me stuck so I can be free to move forward.
  • I am setting realistic goals for me today.
  • God gives me all the strength I need to reach my goals.
  • I have all the intelligence I need today to pass the bar exam.
  • I am an intelligent person.
  • My past no longer owns me.
  • I am no longer a victim of my past.
  • I’m letting go of self-imposed burdens today.
I adapted these affirmations from Ruth Fishel, Change Almost Anything in 21 Days: Recharge Your Life with the Power of Over 500 Affirmations ( 2003).

Gary Vaynerchuck on Content Marketing

More on my Favorite Topic these Days -- 
Content Marketing

When I was looking for  Gary Vaynerchuck's Wine Library and Daily Grapes videos (so I can model them in my own marketing), I found this TEDtalk that tells us what we need to be doing. 
  • Be happy.  
  • Do what your love.  
  • Share your passion.  
  • Work VERY hard.  
  • Build your personal brand. 
  • Be authentic; and,
  • Use the new social media platforms to really connect with your tribe
Here's what I said in an earlier posting about his books on the use of social media, content-based, marketing.

  • Explains how to use the existing and developing social media platforms by describing each platform, explaining its “native” communication style, describing its primary audience, and offering good and bad examples of the use of each platform.  Beautifully illustrated and well-written.  Includes discussions of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, and Snapchat.
Gary Vaynerchuk, The Thank You Economy (2011).
  • My business coach recommended this good summary of why you should be using social media to market your product or service.  Very engaging writing.  I finished the book in a couple of days. 
He says:
I believe that we are living through the early days of a dramatic cultural shift that is bringing us back full circle, and that the world we live and work in now operates in a way that is surprisingly similar to the one our great-grandparents knew.  Social media has transformed our world into one great big small town, dominated, as all vibrant towns used to be, by the strength of relationships, the currency of caring, and the power of word of mouth.  In order to succeed now and in the future, it’s going to be imperative that we remember what worked in the past.  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

More Law Schools are Cutting Tuition

Drop in Applicants to Law School Generating Another Kind of Equilibrium

In December 2013,  I reported on the law schools cutting tuition, especially in highly competitive markets, like Pennsylvania.   

Another blogger has updated the list and suggested law schools use Groupon to offer tuition discounts.  

As I noted in my earlier posting, ASL has been and continues to be one of the most affordable private law schools east of the Mississippi River.  And, we held tuition stable this last year.  With scholarships, ASL can be as good a value as adjacent state-sponsored law schools, like University of Kentucky.

Yes, unmitigated plug. 

Feb. 11, 2014 Update:  More law schools drop tuition. 
Feb. 27, 2014 Update: Tulsa, on scholarships and tuition.

ASL Alumnus Appearing in Syfy Reality Show "Opposite Worlds"

Syfy Reality Show Will Feature ASL Alumnus JR Cook

An alumnus of the Appalachian School of Law, JR Cook, will play the role of "Johnnie Rocket" on the new Syfy reality show Opposite Worlds.  See his introductory interview.  Episodes here.  Fan page here.

He mentions his recent engagement to Jessica Taylor, also an ASL alumnus.  

Follow him on Facebook here. But, he may not be making any postings until he can earn his way into "the future."

For an interview with fiance, Jessica, see here

Fan page for JR Cook here.

If you tweet to support him, be sure to include #AppalachainSchoolOfLaw. Twitter handle is @TeamJRsyfy


Friday, January 24, 2014

Constitutional Law Professor Stewart Harris Quoted in Area Newspaper

        Appalachian School of Law in the News

In a recent article, The Bristol Herald Courier quoted Appalachian School of Law Professor Stewart Harris on the case involving Virginia’s Attorney General and his decision on a controversial same-sex marriage statute.

Good job, Stewart!

AG’s announcement met with sharply divided reactions



Thursday’s news that Virginia At­torney General Mark Herring de­clared the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional shows how elections are important, a lo­cal law professor said.

“Elections matter,” said Stewart Harris, who teaches constitutional law at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va. “That is what this tells us.”

The announcement was met by sharply divided reactions, as some applauded Herring’s move to join other states in supporting same­ sex marriage and some said he was going against his duty to uphold the state’s constitution. Virginians voted in 2006 to amend the consti­tution to ban same-sex marriage.

The race between Democrat Her­ring and Republican Mark Obens­hain for the attorney general seat entered a recount process because the margin of votes was so close. Harris said the position of attorney general is a powerful one.

“Often, what the attorney general decides is what position to take on important legal cases,” Harris said, adding that Herring and his pre­decessor are very different. “We’re seeing a 180-degree turn.”

Former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican who lost his gubernatorial bid, was ada­mantly opposed to same-sex mar­riage, while Herring, a Democrat, said Thursday that he wants to be on the “right side of history and the right side of the law” when he joined two federal lawsuits chal­lenging the ban. “What could ultimately happen is, [one of the cases] goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could decide if the Virginia constitution is itself unconstitu­tional. Even the state constitution has to comply with the federal con­stitution,” Harris said. “It’s possible this could be the case that defines a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.”

But if that’s the case, it would be years away, he added.

For now, the declaration is an indicator of what can be expected from Herring, not even a full month into his tenure as the state’s top at­torney.

One state legislator, a Republican, and a federal lawmaker, a Demo­crat, were divided on the issue.

“In 2006, the people of Virginia spoke on this matter when we passed the constitutional amend­ment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman for our commonwealth,” said state Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City. “This has been the law in Virginia and should not be changed. The primary role of Virginia’s Attorney General is to protect and defend the laws and the constitution of the Commonwealth, regardless of his own political beliefs. General Her­ring’s announcement this morning is troubling, and shows a complete disregard for Virginia law and a key responsibility in his new role as at­torney general.” U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a Demo­crat and former governor, applaud­ed Herring’s stance.

“As governor, I opposed this dis­criminatory amendment and agree it’s time for Virginia to be on the right side of history with respect to marriage rights,” Kaine said in a written statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Content Marketing Lessons from Actor Kevin Spacey

They are Dying for Stories

One of my favorite actors, Kevin Spacey, gave a speech that has run through the content marketing world with great enthusiasm.  In fact, he will now be a keynote speaker at the Content Marketing Institute's World 2014 conference in Cleveland, Ohio on September 8-11, 2014.  I'm going!

If you have not watched this video, you can find it here. It's really great, especially if you're a House of Cards fan, like I am.

Spacey explains the experience he had with marketing the series to the major networks before Netflix backed the project.  He then argues:
The audience has spoken.  They want stories.  They are dying for them.  They are routing for us to give them the right thing. 
And they will talk about it; binge on it; carry it with them on the bus and to the hairdresser; force it on their friends; Facebook; tweet; blog; make fan pages; make silly GIFs; and God knows what else about it. Engage with it with a passion and intimacy that a blockbuster movie can only dream of.  
And, all we have to do is give it to them.  The prize fruit is right there.  Shinier and juicier than it's ever been.
He also explains:
Give them [the audience] what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in . . . . The audience wants control.  They want freedom.
Give it to them, even if the story is dark, sophisticated, complicated, developed over a long time, and made available for binge consumption.  What does that "tribe" want?  How do you engage with that tribe?

If you want more information about content marketing and the cultural shift behind it, see my posts here and here.

December LSAT Takers Lowest Number Since 1987

And, the Number of Applicants Tends to Track the Number of LSAT Takers.  
So . . . . 

LSAC has now posted data on the number of LSATs administered at the December 2013 sitting.  As a commenter to a Faculty Lounge posting here, known as "Former Law Review Editor," notes:  

"Only 28,363 people took the December 2013 LSAT."

I blogged about the historical data here.  

For another summary of the historical data, by LSATs administered, look here.

The recap:

Date of Administration/Number of Takers

  • Dec. 2013/28,363
  • Dec. 2012/30,226
  • Dec. 2011/35,825
  • Dec. 2010/42,096
  • Dec. 2009/50,444 (highest since 1987 when LSAC began keeping these records)
  • Dec. 2008/43,646

You have to go back to 1997 to see this low level of Dec. LSAT takers (then, 29,879 takers).  It has never been lower since LSAC began keeping (or at least publishing) data on LSAT takers in 1987.  

Jan.13, 2014 Update:  From the same comment thread by commenter, "Jesus Buddha Mohammed":  

"The December LSAT numbers are down, but that is not entirely accurate this year because there were a number of test centers that canceled the test due to weather that weekend. The February LSAT numbers may go up as those people make it up. Or some may not bother. We'll have to see."

Brian Leiter's Comments appear here:
Judging from the last few years, there's a reasonable chance that the number of applicants may stabilize in the next year or two, since this year's declines are much smaller than the prior years. So, for example, LSATs taken jumped 15.6% in December 2009 from the prior year, then fell 16.5% in 2010, dropped another 14.9% in 2011, and another 15.6% in 2012, but only dropped 6.2% this year. The pattern is similar with the other test months.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Content Marketing: My Recommended Reading List

Content, Permission, and Social Media Marketing: 
What You Need to Know to 
Market Your Legal Services More Effectively

As promised in an earlier posting, here is my list of recommended reading on content marketing.  

  • Brogan explores this newer platform that allows you to follow influences (unlike Facebook where people must give you permission to follow them).   I joined it because I figure the Google bots were paying attention to the content (like my blog postings) that I reposted there. 
  • I also follow Brogan through his website,, which is very stylishly designed and includes an example of a “Valuable Free Offer” opt-in page.  By opting in, you get on his “list,” which then serves as permission for him to continue to engage with you. 
  • He also has a podcast (available in iTunes) and blog.
Kelby Carr, Pinterest Marketing for Dummies (2012).
  • I love this platform because of its visual orientation and the ability to generate strong emotions through the boards you create.  This book provides a great introduction that I would use in conjunction with Gary Vaynerchuck’s most recent book (see below).
  • For a look at the Pinterest account I created for ASL, see here. You need to have a Pinterest account to access it. 
Andrew J. Dagys, Podcasting Now! (2006).
  • I don’t know that I will become a podcaster, but I was curious how to use this media to provide high-quality content to potential consumers of products and services.
  • I also like the podcast: This Old Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose (available on iTunes).  It covers content marketing, brand storytelling, and social media marketing. 
  • I have read everything in Godin’s ouvre. Most of Godin's books seems to be a collection of edited blog posts.  Even so, I love his work and he has helped me make important shifts in my thinking. 
  • This prolific and well-known thinker, author, and trend-spotter (if not creator), -- whom Tom Peters called an Internet Marketing Guru -- wrote one of the first books on permission marketing.  It makes the distinction between push marketing and pull marketing.  My business coach introduced me to the concept from a practical perspective.  This book helped me understand the theory, psychology, emotions, and technology behind this huge cultural shift made possible by the Internet. 
  • For me, it provided a huge shift in my thinking about how to interact with clients, customers, potential students, and other people who came into my life. 
  • This short book to explain that the key to success is to standout (like a purple cow in a field full of brown cows) in a noisier and nosier marketplace.   “[B]oring always leads to failure.” It builds on his permission marketing book.  
  • He calls on us to take risks and do amazing things.
Seth Godin, Free Prize Inside! The Next Big Marketing Idea (2004).
  • This book is more eclectic (again a collection of blog posts, I’m guessing), but the focus is on marketing philosophy and strategies given the shift to social media platforms.  He preaches about connection, being remarkable, leading the way, and creating a conversation about your product or service.  He invites readers to create a product or service worth talking about.
Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead (2008).
  • I talked about this book in an earlier posting.
  • Godin asks us to consider three questions as marketers:
    • What's your story?
    • Will the people who need to hear this story believe it?
    • Is it true?
  • He argues that great marketers do not talk about features and their benefits.  Instead, the tell us with stories why we should buy expensive wine or expensive cars. 
Susan Gunelius, Blogging All-in-One for Dummies (2010).
  • Very good book that will teach you how to create, design, start, promote, and maintain a blog on any of the leading platforms.   I used it to create The Red Velvet Lawyer, and if I can do that, anyone can create a blog.
  • This series offers book with particular blogging focuses. So check the other publications, too.
  • P.S. If I had to do it over, I’d be sure to use a blogging platform that allows me to archive posts by topic.  Blogger only archives by date, but it was a good starter platform because of its template choices and ease of use.
  • Another author’s look at building relationships with consumers through social media marketing and permission marketing.  He makes the distinction between blasting consumers with you marketing message and building relationships with consumer through high-touch, valuable content that draws them to your product or service.  It argues that consumers are smarter than ever and connected in a way that a smart businesses can use, but only by providing a high-quality customer experience from beginning to their next purchase (and then some).
  • This is a good introductory book, like Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing (see above) or Gary Vaynerchuck’s The Thank You Economy (see below).
Kyle Lacy, Twitter Marketing for Dummies (2011).
  • I have not read this book yet.  I have just started playing with Twitter with intention to market me or the law school.  I would be sure to combine its advice with that of Gary Vaynerchuk in his new book, described below.
  • This book helped me understand the theory behind Google SEO (search engine optimization),  advised whether to pay for search page priority placement or “earn” it organically, suggested many ways to earn organic optimization, and covered topics on why Google placements are important to your business and personal brand.  It also covered the ethics of optimization and the penalties for trying to outsmart Google’s algorithm (which changes frequently).
  • Even though this book is only a year old, Google is an ever-changing world.
  • My business coach recommended this older, but durable, book on the challenges any business faces in marketing a product or service.  My business coach put this on her required reading list for her students in her Gold Mastermind program.
  • Marketing is brand building.  The brand differentiates you from competitors.  Branding pre-sells the product or service by creating a strong (you hope, positive) association in a buyer’s mind.  This book offers laws of branding, as the title suggests, and has added 11 laws of Internet branding.
Tim Templeton, The Referral of a Lifetime: The Networking System that Produces Bottom-Line Results Every Day (2005).
  • My business coach recommended this book.  The writing style irritated me a bit.  It was written as an extended conversation among several players, but the advice and strategies are solid.  They would be especially helpful for lawyers, who must rely, in part, on referrals to build a successful law practice.
  • I especially like the idea of providing regular gifts of appreciation to your better referral sources.
  • Here's the publisher's description of the book:
In The Referral of a Lifetime, author Tim Templeton frames a powerful plan for cultivating clients and customers in a fable about businesswoman Susie McCumber, who feels increasingly like a failure. A friend refers her to the mysterious Mr. Highground, who introduces her to four successful people. They show her how they transformed their businesses and their lives by determining how others view them and how they view themselves as both human beings and businesspeople. Each of the four represents a "type" in this schema - from the "relational/business" type who puts the relationship first but thinks strategically when the talk turns to business, to the "business/business" type, who avoids relationships unless they work to a business advantage. Templeton shows how understanding one's type allows one to showcase strengths while improving weak areas in this simple, easy-to-use guide to success in business and in life.
Gary Vaynerchuk, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World (2013).
  • Explains how to use the existing and developing social media platforms by describing each platform, explaining its “native” communication style, describing its primary audience, and offering good and bad examples of the use of each platform.  Beautifully illustrated and well-written.  Includes discussions of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, and Snapchat.
Gary Vaynerchuk, The Thank You Economy (2011).
  • My business coach recommended this good summary of why you should be using social media to market your product or service.  Very engaging writing.  I finished the book in a couple of days. 
  • He says:
I believe that we are living through the early days of a dramatic cultural shift that is bringing us back full circle, and that the world we live and work in now operates in a way that is surprisingly similar to the one our great-grandparents knew.  Social media has transformed our world into one great big small town, dominated, as all vibrant towns used to be, by the strength of relationships, the currency of caring, and the power of word of mouth.  In order to succeed now and in the future, it’s going to be imperative that we remember what worked in the past. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Content Marketing Lessons Taught by an Extreme Body Modifier, Christine Kane, and K.T. Vandyke

Content Marketing, 
the "Long Tail," 
Your Legal "Tribe"

Last spring, I helped teach our law students about starting a solo practice.  I taught the session on marketing a law practice.  One thing I tried to do was update the so-called "old-fashioned" legal marketing techniques for a more web-based/technology-based strategy.

Christine Kane, Gold Mastermind, and Up Level Your Business

If we offer it again this spring, I could provide even more valuable advice for 3Ls because of the path I've been on this past year as a member of the Gold Mastermind training offered by Christine Kane through her Up Level Your Business coaching programs.

One thing I said last year, that I would repeat this year is this.  We now have cheap ways to find our "tribe" and then provide members of that tribe with high quality content that does several things:
  • Positions you as an expert in an area of law;
  • Let's you tell your story in a meaningful way;
  • Builds trust; and then,
  • Encourages clients to come to you for paid legal services. 
In a later posting, I will put together a list of books and other resources that will help you explore this topic more.

So, let me share the non-legal example I shared last year.  Then let me explain why this approach holds so much potential.

Content Marketing and an Extreme Body Modifier

On March, 15, 2013, Shannon Larrett died.  A Wikipedia page describes him as:

the creator, former editor and publisher of BMEzine, an online magazine noted for coverage of extreme body modifications. He published several books, including ModCon: The Secret World Of Extreme Body Modification. He was also an artist, computer programmer, film producer, and business owner.
This was his tribe -- extreme body modifiers.  If you watched the episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit called Strange Beauty, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

In any event, this guy found a niche, created a business, and found success simply by appealing to a tiny number of the 2 billion people that live on this planet and have internet access.

For the First Time Ever

For the first time ever, each one of us has the tools available to reach our tribes through low-cost, content-rich means: blogs, websites, Facebook postings, tweets, Pinterest boards, Instagram portfolios, iTunes inventories, Etsy offerings, Youtube videos, Vine clips, Snapchat ephemera, and Google +, LinkedIn and Tumbler accounts.  All these web-based platforms give us the opportunity to reach people who follow very narrow topics of interest -- but they are passionate and engaged when it comes to those topics.

In a December 2, 2013 issue of The New Yorker magazine, Kelefa Sanneh reviews the book Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment.  In it she describes the shift that record company executives did not foresee and then, when it was upon them, dismissed.  It was the move from big hits to obscure downloads from iTunes.

The Long Tail

She explains:
Chris Anderson, who was then the editor of Wired . . . published The Long Tail, which celebrated the coming demise of "the hit-driven mindset" and the growing importance of online distribution [of music].  Using Netflix, Amazon, or iTunes, you could browse what Anderson called "the infinite aisle," where vast inventories and smart suggestions software made it easy to shun blockbusters and follow your own passions, no matter how obscure.  He argued that retailers, too had been freed from the tyranny of the hit.  Technology made it possible for businesses to profit by "selling less of more," catering to an explosion of niche markets that, taken together, rivalled the size of the mainstream. Consumers were traveling down the demand curve, away from the head, where the most popular products lived, and out onto the tail, home of the miscellany, which was growing longer (as variety increased) and fatter (as sales of non-hits increased).  The new popular culture would be more interesting and more efficient, catering to the ever more diverse tastes of a general public . . . .
K.T. Vandyke and Driftin' Westward

So, let me give you a specific example of exploiting the long tail. My favorite local band is Driftin' Westward, whose lead singer is K.T. Vandyke.  Besides being charming, talented, award-winning, and a Jude Law doppleganger, he is building a devoted following of musical fans and an inventory of original songs.

He could, if he applies the long tail theory, build a successful musical career simply by creating, recording, and posting songs that his fans can download for a small price.  No big dollar split with the recording company or with a middle man.

If he sells 100,000 downloads for $.99 each,  he could make an attractive living.  He might only need 1,000 dedicated fans who download ten songs each, every year, for the next 40 years -- the equivalent of one CD per year for life.

In contrast, the recording industry would ignore him. 100,000 downloads a year simply did not (and does not) support the economic model that the industry created based on a few megastars who could sell millions of albums.

But that model discouraged talented musicians to keep producing wonderful music, and it denied fans a chance to explore music that fell on the long tail and outside the big-hit pop, rock, or rap mainstream musical offerings.

Legal Marketing

Lawyers can use the same tools to create engagement with potential clients.  Yes, lawyers tend to be cautious adopters of new marketing tools, and the bar association regulators are still trying to figure out how rules governing traditional advertising apply to these new web-based options.  But, those lawyers who do adopt these tools -- not at the exclusion of traditional approaches, but as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy -- will do well in an increasingly competitive legal market.

I have seen several of our alumni, including Jeremy Burnside and David Johnson, using Facebook effectively to market themselves.  They could be doing so much more with additional web-based platforms.

January 21, 2014 Update:  Nice discussion of niche marketing and whether we have content "overload" or an enthusiastic ability to find what we need in the sea of ever-increasing information.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

More on the Legal Job Equilibrium: The National Jurist Provides its Calculations

Refining the Data Analysis Further 
Adding Assumptions

The National Jurist, as promised, has followed up its December 2013 article (apparently no longer available if you don't have a subscription) with the data on which it relied to predict that an equilibrium between new legal jobs and new law grads would come in 2015.  Here is the link.

This article also predicts jobs will exceed law graduates for the graduating class of 2016, but reaches that conclusion by applying an historic average for full-time employment in "bar-passage required" jobs of 69 percent. It says:
The analysis by both [Profs. Young and Merritt] assumes that the number of [new] jobs remains flat and that the balance point between supply and demand is 100 percent full-time legal employment by graduates within nine months of graduation. 
But since NALP began tracking data in 1985, the percentage of recent graduates who were employed in full-time legal jobs has never exceeded 84.5 percent. 
In fact, from 2001 to 2008, the number of full-time bar-passage required jobs averaged 69 percent, and the number of full-time bar-passage jobs and J.D.-advantaged jobs averaged 75 percent.  That is because some graduates chose not to pursue legal employment, and others found it difficult to land a job when they failed the bar exam.  In 2012, 77 percent of all first-time takers in the U.S. passed the bar exam, a percentage very similar to the number who found full-time employment between 2001 and 2008. 
So if the 69 percent figure is used as the historic equilibrium point, The National Jurist analysis finds that the class of 2015 will be the first to return to it.  
In other words, in 2015, the graduating class will see the number of legal jobs equal the number of law grads.

The graduating class of 2016 will have better news.  It will graduate into a market where legal jobs will exceed graduates (when applying the historical average for employment in those jobs).

I am happy to say that I made a contribution to this conversation by being one of the first bloggers to attempt to calculate when the equilibrium might come.  Over time, later bloggers and commentators have refined those calculations (including myself). While my analysis included certain assumptions later bloggers modified (and criticized), my ultimate conclusion corresponds to the prediction of The National Jurist.  (That may show again that even a blind squirrel can find a nut.)

For my analysis of the topic, look at the following posts, which include links to other commentary and analysis in the updates.
P.S. This edition of The National Jurist also has a story entitled: Wanted: Rural Lawyers.  Need a Job? Many Rural Communities are Desperate for Lawyers.  

A number of ASL grads, as our founders intended, return to rural areas of the central Appalachian Mountains to provide much-needed legal services to residents of these small communities.  Our grads also provide political leadership and community service as the profiles of our distinguished alumni illustrate.

March 2, 2014 Update:  Professor Organ, who launched this conversation at the MAPLA conference, has provided his well-supported analysis of the future market for legal jobs here.

Nov. 18, 2014 Update: Analysis of new BLM calculation of legal market. The author suggests it inflates the need for new lawyers. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

#polarvortex, Climate Change, and My Course on Environmental Dispute Resolution

Understanding and Solving Complex Environmental Issues

This Cold Morning

Schools and offices closed as the temperatures dipped to lows not seen in decades. Experts explained what was happening here and here.  A deep dip in the jet stream allowed the frigid cold and winds of the North Pole to descend far south.  

This morning, my little micro-climate in the central Appalachian Mountains registered a temperature of nearly six degrees below zero.  My home town of St. Louis, inundated with a large snow fall and even colder temperatures, is reportedly "closed" today.  The entire city.

As I write this post, I am bundled in a fleece robe, long underwear, yoga pants, a hat, and my pink, fluffy, finger-less gloves.  I've got a lap blanket wrapped around my legs and mid-section, but I'm about to crawl inside my down sleeping bag so I can continue to work at the computer comfortably.

Boo Boo, my littlest dog, is wearing two layers of dog clothes and has curled up on what I call his "heating station," a heating pad set on "4."  I've wrapped him in a lap quilt to finish the heat treatment.   

Climate Change: The Deniers and the Believers

In a New Year's tweet, Donald Trump used the bitter winter weather to argue that global warming is "bullshit."   On Facebook, a friend posted this response:  "Just because you can stick your head in your fridge's freezer does not mean the house is not on fire!"  

And so, that is how so many conversations about our big problems go.  Funny, but they do not help us move forward in any meaningful way.

What might?  How about building more capacity for group facilitation, consensus building, and cooperative behavior?

Environmental Dispute Resolution Course at the Appalachian School of Law

Last year, my Dean, Lucy McGough, invited me to teach a course on Environmental Dispute Resolution. Yes, I said!  Please!  

Less than 20 of the 200 ABA-approved law schools in the U.S. offer this type of course. I am proud to say Appalachian School of Law is one of them.  

But, what a sad statement that statistic offers about the kinds of skills we are teaching the next generation of civic and legal leaders graduating from our nation's law schools. These graduates face complex problems that repeatedly teach us that "we are all connected."   Yet, they have a modest tool box of tools, unless they attend a school like ours.

Here's how I describe the course to students:
This course explores the characteristics of environmental disputes, how they arise, and how we choose to resolve them.  We will examine a range of consensual and non-consensual processes (litigation, arbitration, multi-party negotiation, mediation, negotiated rule-making, consensus-building, collaborative governance, and group facilitation) and evaluate the consequences of process selection.  We will explore and examine the advantages and disadvantages of different process choices in environmental disputes.
The course gives me a place to teach these various processes and their corresponding techniques, skills, values, and ethics.  I also use it to teach distributive bargaining skills when parties have a fixed pie they must divide.  More often than not parties think they have a fixed pie when, instead, they have many opportunities to expand the pie before they begin dividing it.

I rely on four original simulations to teach the course:
  • Icky Stuff (about a dangerous by-product of a manufacturing process);
  • To Hell with Your Angels' Share (about widespread property damage resulting from a fungus that grows in the presence of ethanol fumes arising from aging whiskey);
  • Proposal to Reintroduce Red Wolves into the Central Appalachian Mountains of Southwestern Virginia (as the name suggests); and,
  • The East River Wind  Farm Project (about the attempt of Dominion Power to locate a wind farm on a ridge of the Appalachian Mountains located about an hour from the law school).  

Students are assigned roles that include government officials or regulators, local businessmen, industrial representatives, farmers, landowners, environmentalists, eco-terrorists, hunters, local politicians, and labor.  Each representative has confidential facts he or she can share strategically as the negotiation evolves.

Last year, my trained mediators got an opportunity to serve as the group facilitators. They were surprised at the additional skills the task required and pleased at the chance to experience the complexity and promise of these types of processes.

At the end of the course, students will know:
  • The relevance and prevalence of consensual processes (multi-party negotiation, mediation, negotiated rule-making, consensus-building, collaborative governance, and group facilitation) in solving environmental problem;
  • The role of environmental litigation and adjudication to enforce standards, interpret laws, and to attribute liability;
  • How to effectively prepare for and participate in an environmental problem-solving process;
  • What consequences process selection has on the outcomes that are possible;
  • How environmental conflicts differ from other conflicts and how they can be managed effectively;
  • The central elements of effective advocacy and the different ways organizations manifest them;
  • The purpose and effective elements of public comments to administrative agencies;
  •  Judicial review of administrative decisions;
  • The role of arbitrators and administrative law judges in administrative decision-making;
  • Basic theory and practice of administrative adjudication;
  • Basic theory and practice of administrative rule-making;
  • Basic legal processes; how a case proceeds through the courts; and,
  • The basic structure of government, and the federal/state separation.

I must have done something right last year, even if I barely stayed one step ahead of the course calendar. This year, I understand the course has a wait list.  I know it will be a lot more fun for me, and based on the lessons I learned last year, it should be a better course for students.  

We won't tackle climate change, although Mediators Without Borders keeps trying. But, we can get a sense of how talk works even with big, polarizing issues, like climate change. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Distinguished Alumni: Magistrate Nicole Lawson

Distinguished Alumni 
of the 
Appalachian School of Law: Magistrate Nicole Lawson

Legal Career

Nicole A. Lawson is another ASL graduate serving as a Magistrate for the Supreme Court of Virginia, along with Elisabeth Griffith and Zack Stoots.   She works in the Norfolk Magistrate's Office. (Lis Griffith, fellow ASL alum works in the same office.)  

Lawson and her husband, Robert Wnukowski, moved from Stafford, Virginia to Virginia Beach, Virginia the week after they returned from their honeymoon in August 2012.  

She was hired the following month as a Magistrate.  After the two-month certification school process, she began holding bond hearings and issuing arrest warrants, search warrants, temporary detention orders for mental health crises, and emergency protective orders.

Robert works as an 8th grade Civics and Economics teacher at Kempsville Middle School located in Virginia Beach.   

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.
Lawson said:  "I enjoy public service and will likely stay in public service in the future."

During undergraduate and law school, she served: 
  • as an extern at the Fredericksburg Public Defender's Office, where she worked mostly with juvenile defendants; 
  • as an intern with a small law firm in Lynchburg,Virginia (her hometown) that focused primarily on family law; and 
  • as an intern at another small law firm in Lynchburg that focused primarily on contract law, wills, and estates.
Law School Career

Lawson always knew she wanted to be a lawyer.  Even in high school, her friends nicknamed her "Elle Woods" and "Legally Blonde." 

That dream soon came true after she graduated from ASL in 2012, having earned the Lawyer as Problem Solver Certificate

Other recognition and awards included:
  • Deans List for Spring 2012, 
  • Book Award Spring 2012 in Client Interviewing and Counseling,
  • Book Award Spring 2011 in Dispute Resolution, 
  • The (much coveted) Willard Owens Award for Excellence in Community Service - Class of 2012, and
  • Best Organization of the Year Award for 2010-2011 for ASL C.A.R.E.S. 
She passed the very difficult Virginia bar exam in February of 2013.

Lawson says:  
ASL was helpful in fine-tuning my people skills and greatly prepared me for my job as a Magistrate.  Daily, I talk with people, respond in a way they can understand, while also correctly explaining the legal process. These interactions let me use the skills I especially learned in the Dispute Resolution and Client Interviewing and Counseling courses.   
Also, I constantly reference the knowledge I gained in the Virginia Procedure and Criminal Law courses.  As part of my job, I determine whether probable cause exists and whether or not I can issue a warrant or bond.  
Community Service and Student Organization Activities

While in law school, Lawson was extremely active with ASL C.A.R.E.S., the animal rights' group on campus, and served as its President during her 3L year.  Her community service focused on the Buchanan County Animal Shelter, sometimes visiting and providing services five days a week.  As part of that commitment to animal welfare, she fostered  many, many animals.  She traveled all over Virginia, as well as into Tennessee, transporting animals to new homes or animal rescues.

She kept for herself one dog needing a good home -- Pepper -- a salt and pepper schnauzer-terrier mix

She served as Treasurer for the legal fraternity Phi Alpha Deltaand was also involved with Appalachian Women in Law.  

She helped at the Remote Access Medical Clinic (RAM) her 1L year. She found it very rewarding to help deliver medical, dental, and eye care to needy local residents. 

Undergraduate Career and Athleticism

Lawson says she was an athletic child and teen, involved in cheerleading, softball, basketball, gymnastics, and karate.

After graduating from Brookville High School in 2005, with honors, Lawson attended the College of William & Mary for Undergraduates.  

Taking her high school cheerleading skills into college sports, she cheered for four years and served as captain of the squad her senior year.  She also served as the cheerleading representative on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.  

Expressing an early interest in community service, she participated in activities sponsored by AVALON -- a Center for Children and Women and by the Heritage Humane Society.  She also served as a volunteer cheerleading coach at the Williamsburg Indoor Sports Complex.  

She graduated in 2009 with a BBA in Accounting and a minor in Marketing.

She currently plays in a recreational kickball league.

She also enjoys spending time at the beach and playing with her dogs.   Her second dog, Sadie, appears in this photo.

Now that life has settled a bit for her, she plans to again volunteer at local animal shelters.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Three Questions to Keep You Motivated

Your Own 

Chris Brogan, one of the bloggers I follow who gives advice to entrepreneurs, offered this advice in his E-zine today:

I’m asking myself a bunch of recurring questions every single morning, and all throughout the day:

* What’s my vision of myself and my business and how will I make that real today?

* If I say I am ____ (this kind of person), then what does that look like in action DAILY?

* What can I do to change reality towards what I want it to be? What, specifically, can I change to make the world come closer to matching my vision?

These are huge questions, but they are business questions, they are life questions, they are the questions of an owner. They are not “how do I get the boss to notice me” questions. They are “how do I get the UNIVERSE to do what I want it to do” questions.

* * *
Your year is made up of days, and those days must be treated like your only hopes and chances exist within them.
So, I will quit watching episodes of Absolutely Fabulous on Hulu (which I dearly love) and read Gary Vaynerchuk's new book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.   Then hit the gym.  Then grade exams so I can start the new semester fully present for my wonderful students.
That's the day I want to create as a step towards the future I want.

How about you?  How would you answer the three questions today?

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Deeper Look at the "Law School Crisis"

Professor Brian Leiter 
Takes on the Scambloggers

Professor Brian Leiter, a well-known blogger, is now writing for the Huffington Post. In American Law Schools: The New Reality, he describes the many factors that have contributed to the down turn in applicants to law school including:

  • Competition among law school for US News rankings, which forced them to compete based on expensive services instead of affordable tuition;
  • Rising student debt;
  • Poorer employment outcomes for graduates in a recessionary economy;
  • Congressional overhaul of bankruptcy laws as they relate to student loans; and
  • Lax oversight by the ABA regulators.
I've blogged about all these topics this past year.  And, it is nice to have this summary for easy reference.

In his second article, American Law Schools and the Psychology of Cyber-Hysteria, Professor Leiter looks at the "toxic" environment law schools face while trying to respond to the market downturn in responsible ways.  He starts the article by saying:
Previously, I wrote about how the steep decline in applications to law schools was an unsurprising "consumer" response to the downturn in the legal sector in the wake of the financial crisis and the recognition that student debt was no longer dischargeable in bankruptcy. What was surprising, however, was the new "meme" that took hold in cyberspace: this economic catastrophe was the fault of law schools and law professors. The psychology of this "meme" is our topic here.
* * *  
The cyber-hysteria about law schools is not only tediously repetitive, it is immune to facts or evidence.
He concludes:
If, as The National Jurist predicts, we are only a couple of years away from an equilibrium in the market between jobs and new law school graduates, then the irrational cyber-hysteria about law schools will soon be a thing of the past. The suffering that has brought it on, however, remains real, and soon Congress will need to take up debt relief for a generation of students caught in the vise of an economic catastrophe.
I want to thank Professor Leiter for using this national forum for enriching the conversation about law schools, the value of a legal education, the job market, student debt, and the role U.S. News and the ABA have played in creating the current situation.  Perhaps with a more measured analysis, we can limit and avoid suffering by all the interested stakeholders.