NYS Board of Law Examiners to Simplify Character and Fitness Examination

The New York State Board of Law Examiners today announced plans to simplify the Character and Fitness investigation process. “The current process, requiring the bar applicant to submit a significant amount of paperwork, is cumbersome and time-consuming, as well as subjective and prone to error and bias,” the BOLE said in a statement. “It also fails to address the competitive pressures that play such an important part in many ethically problematic situations.”

The new Character and Fitness process will feature a series of practical, objective tests to assess the bar applicant’s ability to make ethical decisions in circumstances of limited information. In the elimination round of the test, pairs of bar applicants will stand on a bridge over a trolley track, while a group of retirement-age law professors attempt to repair the track before the arrival of the oncoming trolley. In the judgment and decision-making round, the bar applicant will be stationed near a train switch. On one fork of the tracks will be a group of recent law school graduates (funded on a temporary basis by their law schools), while a fellow bar applicant with a higher law school GPA will be tied to the other track.

“Our analysis of the data shows that, over time, this process will help to resolve the current market imbalance between the number of law grads and available law jobs,” the statement continued. “The outlook for law school admissions is bright, especially for applicants with quick reflexes and good upper body strength.”

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Special Documentary Screening in Buffalo: “Kids for Cash”

The ticket reservation deadline has been extended to 8:00pm Friday, March 21. We have 32 reservations as of 11:00am Thursday, so we need 24 more. Please click on http://gathr.us/screening/7402 now so we can bring this screening to Buffalo.

Kids for Cash
7:00 pm, Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Dipson Amherst Theater
2500 Main Street
Buffalo, NY
Tickets: $10.00
http://gathr.us/screening/7402

To bring this screening to Buffalo on April 2, we have to reserve at least 56 tickets by Monday, March 17 Friday, March 21. Click here (http://gathr.us/screening/7402) to reserve your ticket. Your credit card will not be charged until we meet the minimum of 56 tickets.

KIDS FOR CASH is a riveting look behind the notorious scandal that rocked the nation when it first came to light in 2009. Beginning in the wake of the shootings at Columbine, a small town in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania elected a charismatic judge who was hell-bent on keeping kids in line. Under his reign, over 3,000 children were ripped from their families and imprisoned for years for crimes as petty as creating a fake MySpace page. When one parent dared to question this harsh brand of justice, it was revealed that the judge had received millions of dollars in payments from the privately-owned juvenile detention centers where the kids—most of them only in their early teens—were incarcerated.

Exposing the hidden scandal behind the headlines, KIDS FOR CASH unfolds like a real-life thriller. Charting the previously untold stories of the masterminds at the center of the scandal, the film reveals a shocking American secret told from the perspectives of the villains, the victims and the unsung heroes who helped uncover the scandal. In a major dramatic coup, the film features extensive, exclusive access to the judges behind the scheme. Now serving a 28 year sentence in federal prison, the former juvenile court judge at the heart of the scandal shares his ulterior motives, revealing that his attorneys never knew about his interviews for this film.

  • “A vital, urgent and infuriating look at the devastating failures of the juvenile court system and the insidious reach of prison privatization.” – Inkoo Kang, Los Angeles Times 
  • “After a stage-setting opening passage, director Robert May cuts deeper—past the allegations of wrongdoing, to a more multi-faceted critique of the justice system.” – A.A. Dowd, AV Club
  • “Bring something you can punch, as you will be furious.” – Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice

 

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iPad Gear: Protec Zip iPad Sling

After endless searching, I may finally have found the perfect bag for carrying my iPad and Apple wireless keyboard: the $35 dollar Protec Sling Bag.

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Elke with bag

50 pound dog added for scale.

Available from Amazon (in black, green, or blue) and eBags (in black or blue), it’s thin, feather-light, and has just enough room to fit an iPad and keyboard in the 12 x 8.5 x 1 padded main compartment.

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An expanding pocket on the front includes zip pockets and slots for usb chargers, charging cables, and pens, and a slim pocket on the back holds papers (if you fold them).

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The strap is adjustable and includes a stretchy pocket on the front for your smart phone.

The bag’s external dimensions are 15 x 1.5 x 9 inches. It is well made of sturdy nylon. It keeps my hands free, and I love the slim, unobtrusive profile. So far I’m thoroughly pleased.

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New on SSRN: Legal Education in Crisis, and Why Law Libraries are Doomed

It’s still a bit rough, but in view of recent developments in law library land (including reports from Washington University Law School), I thought I should post this for comment:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2370567

Legal Education in Crisis, and Why Law Libraries are Doomed

Abstract:      

 
The dual crises facing legal education—the economic crisis affecting both the job market and the pool of law school applicants, and the crisis of confidence in the ability of law schools and the ABA accreditation process to meet the needs of lawyers or society at large—have undermined the case for not only the autonomy, but the very existence, of law school libraries as we have known them. Legal education in the United States is about to undergo a long-term contraction, and law libraries will be among the first to go. A few law schools may abandon the traditional law library completely. Some law schools will see their libraries whittled away bit by bit as they attempt to answer “the Yirka Question” in the face of shrinking resources, reexamined priorities, and university centralization. What choices individual schools make will largely be driven by how they play the status game.
  
Number of Pages in PDF File: 37
 
Keywords: law libraries, legal education, law schools, rankings, reputation

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Breaking News: Non-parallel Lines Intersect

The Red Velvet Lawyer writes:

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 byLSAC 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.

 

In other words, as long as enrollment keeps falling and the current attrition rate of 12% holds up, there will eventually be few enough law grads remaining that most should be able to find jobs. Of course, they’ll be competing with all the current grads who still haven’t found jobs, and all the lawyers who’ve been laid off, but maybe those other lawyers will have found non-legal work by then.

Of course, not everyone sees the glass as half empty.

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The Giraffe Riddle: The Definitive Answer

If you are on Facebook, you have probably encountered the giraffe riddle. If not, the story is here.

“The door” or “your eyes”? I submit that choosing “your eyes” is based on faulty neuroscience and an inadequate understanding of “free will.” Who is the “you” that opens your eyes? Neuroscience has shown that your eyes open before “you” have any conscious awareness or agency. In other words, your eyes open: “you” do not “open” them. Agency enters into it only when “you” decide to open the door–or better yet, stay in bed until your parents go away. They should have called first. 

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Teaching Kinder, Gentler Legal Ethics

Teaching Legal Ethics as a summer course for the first time seemed like a good opportunity to try some new techniques, or some old techniques I’ve never quite mastered before. This week I had four students do a role-playing exercise on working with an impaired lawyer (a lawyer suffering from substance abuse or depression). I gave them an outline of the simulation: one played the impaired lawyer, one a friend and associate in the firm, and two senior partners. The first act was a conversation between the lawyer and the associate; the second act was some time later, when the two senior partners have gotten involved. I gave them some short readings for guidance (see the list below) and let them loose to script their own scenario.

I wanted to see how the students handled this difficult conversation. I hoped that the first act would explore how a friend and co-worker would at least attempt to raise his or her concerns (a drinking problem, in the scenario they developed) in a sensitive and compassionate way. The students all did a very good job of analyzing the issues and the Model Rules, and played their parts well. They clearly took the assignment seriously. I should probably not have been surprised, though, that the scenario played out immediately in a somewhat adversarial, disciplinary, and corporate style. The tenor of the first conversation was “I’ve noticed some problems, and if you don’t shape up I’ll have to report you to the senior partners.”

From the discussion after the exercise, it was clear that the students focused on the reporting requirements of the Model Rules and on the potential liability of the law firm. While those are important, I also wanted to get across the human aspects of situations like this, and how a law firm may respond in a positive and supportive way to lawyers’ personal issues without hiding them or looking the other way. I suggested that law firm cultures vary, and that the setting they created was a highly corporate and depersonalized one. Some firms (I hope) have a culture that is more personal and caring. Rather than immediately putting the lawyer on paid leave of absence, as they did in their role-playing, a firm might grant the impaired lawyer a temporarily reduced workload, with appropriate supervision and guidance.

What I learned from the exercise was that I need to do more to emphasize the humanity of lawyers amid ethical concerns. The “scared straight” approach, while useful in moderation, can be counterproductive if it promotes depersonalization and incivility, even among colleagues in the same firm.

Readings:

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