Posted on September 22, 2009
Films are a wonderful way to teach the legal profession. Unlike casebook reading, they allow students to immerse themselves in the role of the lawyer, client or judge and ask the question, “How would I handle myself?” A simple search on the Internet will turn up a list of films usually including “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Amistad,” “Twelve Angry Men” and so on. But there are some overlooked films out there that I believe warrant some recognition.
“Legally Blonde” is about a fashion merchandising student, Elle, who attends Harvard in an attempt to win back her boyfriend. She ends up being really good at law and even wins a case during an internship.
What can be learned from “Legally Blonde”? Elle promises her client that she won’t divulge her aliby: She was getting liposuction during the time her husband was getting murdered. Elle sticks with her promise and gets her off using her knowledge of perms.
“Rounders” is about a poker-playing prodigy law student who is trying to work his way through law school when his old partner is released from jail. To help his old partner out, he joins him in a round of poker-playing, cheating style. Bad things happen.
What can be learned? Playing the game by the rules and using your talents is how you win. This is true in poker, life and law school.
“The Devil’s Advocate” is about a small-town defense lawyer, Kevin Lomax, who is romanced by a large firm in the big city. Come to find out, the head partner, John Milton, is Lomax’s dad. And the DEVIL!
What can be learned? Regardless of the stage set, you always have free will to choose how to handle yourself, your clients and your career.
In “Liar Liar,” a boy’s wish is granted and his father, a very prosperous attorney, cannot lie. What can be learned? Family life is the highest priority, and honesty wins out over deception.
In “Miracle on 34th Street,” a man who thinks he is Santa Claus is brought before the court in a commitment hearing. Surely a guy who thinks he is Santa Claus is insane!
What can be learned? Certain kinds of disputes ought not be submitted to the court. In particular, disputes about belief should not undergo judicial scrutiny. Whether or not Santa Claus exists is a matter of personal belief, not something the courts should decide.
In “Jury Duty,” Tommy Collins, an unemployed stripper who lives at his parents’ home, is sequestered for jury duty. He decides to cause the trial to drag out as long as possible so he can live in the lap of luxury.
What can be learned? There are imperfections in the legal system. The film also delivers the message that because we are human beings and not machines, it’s natural that justice demands such a system. Note: This is an adaptation of “Twelve Angy Men” but stars Pauly Shore.
So go out, rent some movies and see what you learn. And let me know if there are any other movies you like that are law-related.
Posted on September 18, 2009
The Public Interest Law Society at KU Law is off to a great start this year.
We just secured The Alton Ballroom at Pachamama’s as the location for our big annual fundraiser, Casino Night. It will be Oct. 1 from 7 pm to midnight. We will have roulette, poker, blackjack, prizes and all the fancy food and drink we can take. We hope the whole law school will be able to attend.
The proceeds fund all the club’s activities, including a career panel, a trip to Yale for a few delegates to the Rebellious Lawyer conference, and summer stipends for students who volunteer at a Legal Aid or other public interest organizations over the summer.
Also, KU PILS has a new Facebook page this year to keep up with our members on the site they visit most. Search KU Public Interest Law Society on Facebook and join us online!
KU Public Interest Law Society (KUPILS)
Posted on September 16, 2009
On Sept. 24, the Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity is hosting its 2nd Annual KU Law Sand Volleyball Tournament in conjunction with a Multicultural Potluck Picnic.
All law students will be invited to form volleyball teams to take on last year’s defending champion team from the Native American Law Students Association.
This event is co-sponsored with several other student organizations, and everyone is encouraged to bring along their favorite cultural dish to share with the group. Last year, 60 students attended the picnic for an afternoon of volleyball and great food, and we are looking forward to an even larger turnout this year.
Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity, Green Chapter
Posted on September 15, 2009
I would like to introduce to you one of my favorite databases: HeinOnline.
William S. Hein & Co. Inc. started 80 years ago as a preservation publisher. This means they would take long, out-of-print legal research material and reprint it in either hard copies or microfilm/fiche format. In the early 1990s, they started using digital technology to make this process easier. Little did they realize the future of digital technology!
In the late 1990s, Hein found itself in a unique position to help legal researchers around the world. Hein already had millions of pages in digital format as well as the microfilm/fiche that could easily be converted. Working with Cornell Information Technologies (Cornell University), Hein established HeinOnline, a product that give access to historical legal publications, previously unavailable through other sources. The cool part about it is that all of the documents would be in the original page-image format (PDF), ensuring the authenticity of the original hardcopy document in an online environment.
By mid-2000, HeinOnline was already on its way to changing online research. The value of fully searchable PDFs is beyond comprehension. Today, HeinOnline’s content spans multiple library collections with more than 40 million pages of research material, much of which is only available through HeinOnline. Here are some examples of things not available anywhere else (or at least not compiled so completely):
- English Reports, Full Reprint (1220-1867). English case law from 1220-1867. Seriously. Over 100,000 cases reprinted verbatim. 178 volumes.
- European Center for Minority Issues. Just as the name suggests, ECMI deals with minority issues all across Europe.
- Foreign & International Law Resources Database (FILRD). Contains more than 50 international yearbooks, U.S. Law Digests, Publications of The Hague Court of International Justice, and the Reports of International Arbitral Awards.
- Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS). Presents the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity and is comprised of more than 500 books. 1861 through 1975 (Lincoln through Nixon).
- Legal Classics. Offers more than 1,400 works from some of the greatest legal minds in history, including Joseph Story, Louis Brandeis, Benjamin N. Cardozo and Edwardo Coke. In addition to many “classics”, this collection includes rare items that are found in only a handful of libraries around the world. The collection focuses on constitutional law, political science, and other classic topics.
- National Moot Court Competition. This is a compilation of the records and briefs required for the National Moot Court Competition. The winning briefs are also available.
- Philip C. Jessup Library. Looking to participate in the Jessup Moot Court Competition or practice international law? This database is for you! It contains Ad Rem: The Magazine of the International Law Students Association, ASILS International Law Journal, ILSA Journal of International Law, and Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition Compendium.
- Subject Compilations of State Laws (1960-2009). Fifty-state serveys are a gathering of all of the laws on a particular subject and the bane of a first-year associate. This is a topical gathering of many 50-state serveys by topic.
- Treaties and Agreements Library. Contains ALL of the U.S. treaties, whether currently in force, expired or not yet officially published. This library is the world’s largest and most complete online collection of U.S. treaties and agreements. This HeinOnline library features a custom Treaty Metadata Search option that allows you to quickly locate a treaty and a summary of the key treaty information.
- U.S. Federal Legislative History Library. Really, two databases in one:
Sources of Compiled Legislative History Database: derived from the looseleaf publication Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories: A Bibliography of Government Documents, Periodical Articles, and Books by Nancy P. Johnson, Law Librarian and Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law.
U.S. Federal Legislative History Title Collection: a collection of full-text legislative histories on some of the most important and historically significant legislation of our time. In addition to major complete legislative histories, this collection also includes texts related to legislative histories.
- U.S. Presidential Library. Includes such titles as Messages and Papers of the Presidents, Public Papers of the Presidents, CFR Title 3 (Presidents), Weekly Compilation of the Presidential Documents, Economic Report of the President, and other documents relating to U.S. presidents.
- World Trials Library. This collection includes more than 2,200 trials, including complete sets of American State Trials, Howell’s State Trials and the Nuremberg Trials. Additionally, you can find famous trials from the Jenkins Law Library World Trials collection and the University of Missouri-Columbia’s trials collection. We welcome your suggestions for additional content. In addition to trial transcripts and other critical court documents, this image-based (PDF) collection includes trial-related resources such as monographs, which analyze and debate the decisions of famous trials as well as biographies of many great trial lawyers in history.
Of course, law journals and federal material are also available. Buy why on earth would you use HeinOnline to pull a journal article available through another vendor?
I am sure you are familiar with the hierarchy of citations, right? Ideally, you would like a Supreme Court case followed by an appellate court case in your jurisdiction. A statute on point would be nice, too. After that, you get into hazy territory.
Well, did you know that there is a hierarchy of documents? It’s true. You see, the hard copy is most reliable, followed by an image of the original page (PDF). If all else fails, you can then call upon the digital world. If you are relying on the exact language or if you need to cite to a specific page, you really do need to look at the hard copy. But with so much material coming out so quickly mixed with space and time restraints, digital-imaging is becoming more and more prevalent and acceptible.
So PDFs are almost as good as hard copy. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an electronic database that was completely searchable with a sophisticated algorithm (you use the word “algorithm” all the time, right?) but would produce PDFs? Yes it would.
Posted on September 11, 2009
Most professionals I know, and most students in professional school for that matter, spend a good deal of time each day composing e-mails. While some of these e-mails undoubtedly address personal matters, business matters generate lots of electronic traffic.
Cover letters and resumes are the backbone of job-search correspondence, but effective use of e-mail can greatly enhance, or diminish, one’s chances of landing a quality position. The care with which you compose a business e-mail says a lot about your effectiveness as a communicator and your savvy as a professional.
Just think about a few of the reasons a law student might compose an e-mail to an attorney:
- to express interest in a job opening;
- to ask questions about the attorney’s practice;
- to follow up with an attorney after an interview;
- as a thank-you note;
- to negotiate the terms of a job offer;
- to confirm the acceptance of a job offer;
- to request an informational interview; and
- as a means of networking, such as by providing the attorney information about developments in a practice area of mutual interest.
If budding lawyers do not learn to e-ail effectively while in law school, they’re destined for a crash course in e-mail etiquette when they begin to practice. Time is, after all, money, and the inefficient and clumsy use of e-mail will frustrate coworkers and opposing counsel alike.
The following rules are taken from the excellent article “E-Mail Like a Lawyer,” by Wayne Schiess, that first appeared in the May 2007 edition of Student Lawyer.
Schiess directs the Legal Writing Program at my legal alma mater. He taught me that the flowery and complex writing I so dearly loved as an undergrad had little place in legal writing. His article makes clear that plain, well-organized thoughts are critical in e-mail communication as well.
- Think. Pause. Think Again. Send.
- Use the subject line.
- Use a salutation.
- Write short messages.
- Use short paragraphs in block style.
- Put the question or point up front.
- Explain attachments.
- Use a sign-off.
These are great tips for law students and lawyers alike. The recipients of your e-mails will thank you.
Todd Rogers, Assistant Dean for Career Services
Posted on September 9, 2009
- On the first day of law school, everyone is on an even playing field, regardless of age, career background, undergraduate major, or LSAT score.
- Your LSAT score is not necessarily an accurate depiction of how well you’ll do in law school.
- In certain undergraduate classes, you were probably able to “BS” your way to an A. That strategy does not work in law school! You need to learn the material and know what you’re talking about.
- There is no reason to start reading your law school casebooks over the summer to get a jump start on everyone else.
- If you read any books about “How To Survive Law School,” keep in mind that those books feature just one person’s opinion. That author’s advice might not work for you, and you will figure out the best ways for YOU to prepare for class, study and take finals throughout your first year.
- NETWORKING! Keep in touch with friends you grew up with and people you meet during undergrad. You never know who you will need to contact when you start searching for jobs.
- You should help out your law school classmates if they ask you to. Why? Karma. The next time you need notes from class or help studying for finals, your classmates will remember whether you explained something to them last week or refused to give them notes last month.
- Be prepared to relearn how to read and write! Law school classes are completely different from any class you’ve ever taken, and legal writing is completely different from any way you’ve previously been taught to write.
- Do not underestimate the amount of time you’ll spend in the library. That said, you will still have time to do non-law school things, so set aside time to exercise and relax.
- To get the most out of your law school career, get involved in student organizations! It will give you a much-needed break from studying, and it’s also a great way to meet new people.
Posted on September 8, 2009
Posted on September 4, 2009
Associate Dean for Student Affairs
Posted on September 1, 2009
- QuickOffice. This app actually allows you to edit Word and Spreadsheet documents. Honestly, I mostly use this app as an easy way to transfer documents to and from my iPhone, and to view them on the iPhone.
- Any of the Cliff Maier reference apps. These apps are designed for legal reference and include the following:
- Federal Rules of Appellate, Bankruptcy, Civil and Criminal Procedure
- Federal Rules of Evidence
- Intellectual Property Laws
- State Evidence Rules for various states (not Kansas).
Price ranges from $0.99 to $7.99. Each app offers the ability to jump to a section or to search. There is cut-and-paste (for iPhone 3GS), as well as linking. The cool thing is when you are done looking at your link, you can go back to the app and it will still be where you left off.
- Black’s Law Dictionary is now available for the iPhone. This is Thomson Reuters’ first venture into app-dom, and I hope it’s not their last. You find terms in the app by typing into a search bar. Results appear as you begin to type, so you don’t even need to finish typing to find what you need. There is an audio button which, when tapped, will pronounce the word for you. Slick! It runs $50, which is a little pricey for an app. It does work really well, though. And it IS cheaper than the hard copy.
- Law in a Flash – iPhone Law School Flashcards. You know the product, right? Little flash cards with humorous scenarios on Criminal Procedure, Torts, Corporations, Criminal Law, Federal Income Tax, Professional Responsibility and Wills & Trusts. This is a great resource for law students on the go needing to study as much as they can for exams and/or the bar exam. The application allows users to take notes within the program, bookmark cards and put cards into shuffle mode for quick study. The cards are modeled after the multi-state bar exam. Each subject is $39.99.
- Law Pod Foundation provides some legal reference apps not unlike Cliff Maier. There’s not as much there, but at 99 cents per app, it’s well worth a look. Includes Federal Rules of Civil, Criminal, Appellate and Bankruptcy Procedure as well as the Constitution. Each one is searchable. There is also an app called Title 35 that gives you similar access to the patent-relevant parts of the United States Code for $2.99.
- The Legal News Reader app, which costs 99 cents, conveniently aggregates all recent legal news in one place, for those not interested in the time it takes to search for it on their own.
- DocScanner, available for $8.99, is another great app for lawyers. With this app you can scan a document to your iPhone by taking a photo of it. It is then converted to a .pdf file that can either be e-mailed or saved to your phone.
- Amazon Kindle is a great, free app for long, unexpected delays in court. You can download books, some for free, directly to your iPhone and peruse them in an easy-to-read format at your leisure.
- Law School 100 is an iPhone app that ranks 100 law schools in the United States and provides capsule profiles of each school. It’s produced by LawTV Inc., the publisher of The Law School 100.
- TimeWerks. Sure, you thought that the iPhone meant you were a free-wheeling, outside-the-box kind of lawyer. But nobody escapes death, taxes and, if you’re a law firm attorney, billable hours. While no programs that I’m aware of can seamlessly sync with firm billing apps, it’s a step up from filling out paper billable sheets while you’re out of the office. TimeWerks, $9.99, will track your projects and time spent in a way that, while not strictly built for lawyers, is user-friendly and versatile, and lets you export a .csv file that may streamline getting the data to your main billing program. A lite version does exist for free if you just want to try things out.
Posted on August 28, 2009