Around the Blawgosphere: Profs on Economic Realities; Can We Have 'Authentic Conversations' Online?

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Profs’ Blogging Symposium

This week, Legal Ethics Forum hosted the “LEF Symposium on Legal Education’s Response to the Economic Realities Facing the Profession.” It was conducted by having more than 20 law professors contribute posts over a three-day period about “the implications of economic pressures on the way we teach our students. … Our goal is to inspire a meaningful conversation about how we can better serve and prepare our students in light of the economic realities they face.”

Most of the bloggers were LEF’s regular contributors, although the University of Colorado Law School’s Paul Campos wrote a post as well: “Do law faculty have an obligation to address the employment crisis in the classroom?” Campos answers the question in the title of his post by saying yes, professors in fact have an ethical obligation to take on that elephant in the classroom.

“On the first day of class, after an introductory lecture, I decided to gently prod that elephant in a rather oblique way, by making clear to the students that I understood many of them might have concerns about their futures, and in particular about the extent to which law school was still a choice that made sense for them,” Campos wrote. “I indicated I was always open to discussing such matters, in a confidential and nonjudgmental manner, and that indeed a willingness to do so was part of the requirements of my job.”

In a follow-up post at Campos’ own blog, Inside the Law School Scam, the question is raised about how much responsibility current law students should take for their respective decisions to enter law school. Has the word about the tough market for law grads been out long enough that there should be less sympathy for those who cry foul? Maybe, maybe not.

“The situation for current 1Ls is perhaps slightly different,” than for those ahead of them in school, Campos wrote. “The last year has featured an explosion of mainstream skepticism regarding the supposed value of law degrees. But we shouldn’t exaggerate: by the time that explosion began to reverberate widely (a crucial date here is David Segal’s initial NYT piece, published 13 months ago today) most current 1Ls were very far down the pipeline in last year’s application cycle. “

Mentoring and Media

Late last week, bloggers Scott Greenfield and Kevin O’Keefe talked to Bloomberg Law’s Edward Adams about whether “lawyers can have an authentic conversation” on the Internet.

Can Twitter be a means for a young lawyer to find a good mentor? Greenfield says no (and wrote more on the subject at a Simple Justice post last month).

“You don’t know enough about someone from 140-character tweets—which are generally designed either to curry favor or to be pithy—about who you’re dealing with,” Greenfield said. But “are they any good? Do they know what they’re doing? Can they help you? Do they care? That you don’t know. They care about whether you follow them. They care about being an important people in social media.”

But if young lawyers seeking mentors meet someone in person at a bar association, for instance, they’d know who they were “dealing with by reputation … by understanding where they fit in the scheme of things. You can find a mentor who’s a real person who has depth. You can then have communications with depth, and substance and nuance.”

O’Keefe disagreed: He doesn’t think it’s easier to vet someone’s qualifications at a few in-person meetings than it is online. In fact, it’s harder. At the hypothetical bar association event, “you would not have at your disposal where they work, what cases they tried, and a whole history of information about them.”

O’Keefe wrote in a later post at Real Lawyers Have Blogs that he firmly believes social media has a lot to offer lawyers, “both as a way to become a better lawyer and as way to get legal work the old fashioned way—by networking to build relationships and enhance your reputation as a good lawyer.”

A Score for Bloomberg Law

3 Geeks and a Law Blog’s Greg Lambert noted Bloomberg Law’s deal to bring its legal research platform to the desktops of DLA Piper’s 1,400 lawyers in the United States.

“This announcement will make a number of firms stand up and take note,” Lambert wrote. “There is a lot of talk about BigLaw firms going with a single-vendor, or at least a primary vendor with another smaller deal with the other. It’s apparent that the folks at Thomson Reuters and LexisNexis are taking notes as well, and attempting to set up barriers to going down this route (such as no longer offering pay-go or credit card access for one-off research requests.) With a legitimate third party in play, it may shake up the game a bit and make for some interesting times ahead for both the law firms and the legal publishers.”

Bloomberg Law unveiled the most recent version of its research platform in July and announced a sponsorship deal with SCOTUSblog in September.

The Price of Privacy?

At The Not-So Private Parts, Kashmir Hill noted a now-expired limited-time offer from Google, which offered to give volunteers up to $25 in Amazon.com gift cards if you allowed the search engine to closely monitor your Web activity. To accomplish this, a program called Screenwise would add an extension to each user’s Google Chrome browser.

So $25 is the going rate, then, for one year of access to a user’s Web-browsing? While Hill looks at that figure and notes that it’s a little less than what one would pay for a six-pack of marshmallow fluff, she reports that Google actually received an overwhelming response to the query and had to turn away volunteers.

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