Thursday, December 18, 2014

Trigger warnings: Will rape law continue to be taught in law schools?

A recent article (linked here via tax prof blog) discusses whether law schools should or will continue to teach rape law (or, as it's known in Michigan, CSC). It's because the subject matter is emotional and possibly causes trauma to students. 

Individual students often ask teachers not to include the law of rape on exams for fear that the material would cause them to perform less well. One teacher I know was recently asked by a student not to use the word “violate” in class—as in “Does this conduct violate the law?”—because the word was triggering. Some students have even suggested that rape law should not be taught because of its potential to cause distress. (from the article).

My law school did teach law on CSC /rape. We were taught the Michigan statutory version and the common law version. The prof did give a brief "trigger warning" as follows: "I know this is a distressting subject, and I'm sorry, but I'm required to teach it. Besides, if you end up doing prosecution, or criminal defense, you will need to know this." 

Criminal law - as the curriculum is currently taught in law schools - also covers a lot of things that might not be 100% necessary for the students (whether they end up practicing criminal law or not). For example, arson, and robbery (common law robbery, which is breaking into your house at night), among others. It also does not cover a lot of criminal topics which are heavily tested on the bar exam (fleeing and eluding comes immediately to mind).

But the same is true for so many other law school topics: They are taught on the outside chance the student will need to know them, but they are also taught because the way they are learned lead to important skills in law practice, whether or not the student uses that particular piece of law or not. (Like Corporations Law, and teaching "piercing the corporate veil." I am almost 90% certain I will never use that in my law practice.)

CSC, which in its statutory breakdown, has a lot of elements and things to remember, is useful for students to learn because they will have to analyze it in an exam question. And the steps that students use to analyze - comparing the bare elements they have memorized and applying them to the situation described in the exam -- are something they will do every day in law practice.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Michigan bars could stay open to 4am under new bill

A bill that would allow some bars to sell liquor until 4 a.m. moved out of the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee on Thursday.

Sponsoring Sen. Virgil Smith, D-Detroit, said today that he got the idea to expand 2 a.m. bar hours from businesses in his downtown district.

Article here.  (Via

Bar owners would have to pay a $10,000 fee to have this happen, and the city they're located in also has to approve it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Don't copy clients on emails: law practice notes

From the Lawyerist, some real practical practice advice. 
As a general rule, you should not CC your clients on emails.

First, because it gives every other recipient a chance to communicate directly with your client. In fact, it looks like an invitation to do so. 

I can see where this might be a temptation, as an attorney, to show your client what you've been working on, or to make sure the client feels "included" in the conversation But there are other ways to do this - like 4 way meetings, or mediation, without sacrificing your client's personal information. Also, it's best to leave some discussions to be done outside the client's hearing, whether in person, on the phone, or via email. 

Lawyer argues case as Thomas Jefferson, loses anyway.

Despite his brave but bumbling efforts to defend himself while in costume, Dennis Hawver was disbarred by the Kansas Supreme Court for “inexplicable incompetence” during a 2005 capital murder trial.

Article (with video) here (via the Lawyerist). 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why did so many people fail the bar exam this time?

This article (via taxprof blog) suggests that lower LSAT scores for entering classes is the reason why the bar exam is tougher to pass:

From the article:

Are America’s law graduates really getting dumber? The people who put together the bar exam seem to think so.

The National Conference of Bar Examiners, a nonprofit that prepares one of the state-specific multiple-choice sections in which scores dropped dramatically, sent a curt message to law school deans in October. “The results are correct,” wrote Erica Moeser, the group’s president, in an Oct. 23 memo. “The group that sat in July 2014 was less able than the group that sat in July 2013.”

This is sort of a egg-then-chicken analysis, for what it's worth. Or it could be that state-level Law Examiners are making their scoring system tougher?  As a side note, Michigan has yet to release it analysis of passers by school, etc., which they call the "results before appeals." I will post them once the BLE releases them, or go here for updates.

Also, the LSAT is supposed to indicate how a test taker will perform in their first year of law school, not whether that taker will the pass the bar. Law school is designed to weed out students, a job which it does very well (my entering class had more than double the number of people I graduated with).

(Sorry! I know that image has very little to do with the bar exam. I just love Mr. Darcy, and I needed a laugh. Thanks for reading!)

Studying law ruins reading for pleasure. It's a fact.

OK, maybe not a fact. But I know it took me a few years after law school to begin reading for pleasure again. Why? Because after all the case books and exams, reading fiction seemed pointless. No fictional character needs to have a problem solved by the the book's reader (except maybe in a choose-your-own-adventure novel).

And the ABA anecdotally backs up my anecdote:

In the November issue of the ABA Journal, Black’s Law Dictionary editor-in-chief Bryan Garner writes about an encounter with a law firm partner who approached him with a problem: Ever since law school, she’s found herself scouring whatever she’s reading for the most relevant, skimming “for the main point—as if for a holding. But in literature, it’s not there.”

Article here (via ABA journal).