The Ideal Law School Graduate: An Expert Researcher With Soft Skills

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According to the Wall Street Journal blog, legal employers are looking for expert researchers with people skills.

Focus group results show that law school graduates entering the workforce need to know that “it’s the softer skills, like work ethic, collegiality and a sense of individual responsibility, that really impress legal employers, according to the study.” While the “researchers had thought that the attorneys would focus mostly on the need for basic practical skills, like writing, analysis and research, the comments on soft skills — defined as “personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee” — tended to dominate the responses.”

Ultimately, “The focus-group participants said ideal job applicants have a strong work ethic, can work independently without excessive ‘hand holding,’ and would bring a positive attitude to the workplace.”

The other important skill was the ability to research. “Employers, particularly those with more years in practice, rely on new attorneys to be research experts. The employers in [the] focus groups have high expectations when it comes to new hires’ research skills, i.e., ‘[t]hey should be able to adequately and effectively find everything that’s up to the minute.'”

And according to these legal employers, “[b]eing a research expert also means knowing how to scour books, not just websites. ‘Statutes, treatises and encyclopedias, and desk books are the sources employers still use in paper form. For this reason, new attorneys may want to be familiar with these paper sources.'”

And last but not certainly not least, legal employers want new hires to know their audience when it comes to memo writing. There are some clients who might prefer the “full-blown research memo” that is learned in law school, but there are other clients who just want the answer in a short and succinct format. It’s important to know which type of client you are dealing with to best suit their needs.

Coherently Reporting Research in Emails

note-34686_960_720Garner’s On Words series in the ABA Journal is filled with great advice for law practice. Each month, he offers wonderful tips for better legal writing.

One of Garner’s posts discusses coherently reporting research in emails. As noted, “[i]n the rushed exigency of modern law practice, with the expectation of nearly immediate responses to all manner of queries, emails are overtaking formal memos as the standard method for communicating research to senior colleagues and to clients.”

As Garner mentions, email is often seen as an informal means of communication, which means that many emails are rushed and may lead to more questions than answers.

He advises that “[b]efore hitting ‘send,’ step back and ask yourself exactly how clear you’re being. Avoid answering in a way that is sure to beget further queries. You might be well-advised to make your summary at least as clear as it should be in a formal memo.”

To paraphrase Garner, instead of replying to a research question directly in an email, you may want to provide a more structured answer with a question presented and a brief answer. After all, research queries are often put aside until needed, so it may be a while before the email is read for comprehension. This could lead to the frustration of having to sift through a long email exchange to fully understand the final answer.

See Garner’s full post for great examples of drafting effective email memos.

Guidelines for Excellence in Law Reviews

400x400_fitbox-journal1In 2011, The Scrivener released the Scribes Guidelines for Excellence in Law Reviews written by Bryan A. Garner and Richard C. Wydick.

According to Garner & Wydick, every member of a law review should be required to buy and learn the current editions of these books:

Each edit suggested by a new member of the review should be supported by citation to one of those texts.

A law review office should have in its library current editions of the following books:

The guidelines mention that anyone wishing to become an editor of the law review should be able to certify that he or she has read at least three of the books listed above.

It is also advised to do the following:

  • Fret about the opener of each piece: an interesting lead that immediately predisposes readers to continue (be wary of stultifying “roadmaps”).
  • Insist on good, idiomatic English of the kind to be found in such publications as The New Yorker or The Economist and other first-rate nonfiction publications.
  • Delete every unnecessary paragraph, sentence, and word.
  • Footnote sensibly, not rabidly. Use your head — and repeal any “rule” that requires a footnote after every sentence.
  • As a tonic to your style, as a caution to your members, have everyone affiliated with your law review read Fred Rodell’s Goodbye to Law Reviews — Revisited, 48 Va. L. Rev. 279 (1962). While you’re at it, you should also read George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language,” 4 The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell 127 (1968) (and widely reprinted).

These are great guidelines for law review editors to become excellent editors. In addition to the above list of recommended reading, I would add William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.

The Incomparable Bob Weninger

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In late November, we received news that Tech Law had lost a legend. Bob Weninger spent over 40 years shaping the minds of thousands of future lawyers.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bob in 2015 when I started at the Law Library. We became fast friends as I assisted him with publishing what would be his last full-length piece on the Spanish class action. He told me about the on-site research he did in Spain to understand Spain’s fairly recent adoption of the class action regime, an area that has increasing importance in a globalized economy.

When strategizing about the publication process, we discussed, in detail, the title of his article and how it should entice a 2L to select the article for publication. On one of his weekly visits, he mentioned a conversation with John Krahmer where John recommended tying the article to the VW emissions scandal, which was all over the news. Eureka! That was it! And the title of his article was born: The VW Diesel Emissions Scandal And The Spanish Class Action. 

He incorporated the VW scandal into the Spanish class action by taking a “law-in-action” approach. And the article was picked up by the Columbia Journal of European Law. Bob’s other work is regularly cited and has had a wonderful impact on the legal community. See recent citations here, here, here, and here.

His work will live on in our own archives and others and, will no doubt, continue to have an impact.

The incomparable.

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The Law School will hold a memorial service on campus. Please share condolences and favorite stories here.

A Ziggy Stardust Reading List for Halloween

For the avid library lover who launched a thousand Halloween costumes, let’s pay tribute to David Bowie’s reading list.

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David Bowie’s top must-read books

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  1. The Age of American Unreason, Susan Jacoby (2008)
  2. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz (2007)
  3. The Coast of Utopia (trilogy), Tom Stoppard (2007)
  4. Teenage: The Creation of Youth 1875-1945, Jon Savage (2007)
  5. Fingersmith, Sarah Waters (2002)
  6. The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens (2001)
  7. Mr Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, Lawrence Weschler (1997)
  8. A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1890-1924, Orlando Figes (1997)
  9. The Insult, Rupert Thomson (1996)
  10. Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon (1995)
  11. The Bird Artist, Howard Norman (1994)
  12. Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir, Anatole Broyard (1993)
  13. Beyond the Brillo Box: The Visual Arts in Post-Historical Perspective, Arthur C Danto (1992)
  14. Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, Camille Paglia (1990)
  15. David Bomberg, Richard Cork (1988)
  16. Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of
  17. Freedom, Peter Guralnick (1986)
  18. The Songlines, Bruce Chatwin (1986)
  19. Hawksmoor, Peter Ackroyd (1985)
  20. Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music, Gerri Hirshey (1984)
  21. Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter (1984)
  22. Money, Martin Amis (1984)
  23. White Noise, Don DeLillo (1984)
  24. Flaubert’s Parrot, Julian Barnes (1984)
  25. The Life and Times of Little Richard, Charles White (1984)
  26. A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn (1980)
  27. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole (1980)
  28. Interviews with Francis Bacon, David Sylvester (1980)
  29. Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler (1980)
  30. Earthly Powers, Anthony Burgess (1980)
  31. Raw, a “graphix magazine” (1980-91)
  32. Viz, magazine (1979 –)
  33. The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels (1979)
  34. Metropolitan Life, Fran Lebowitz (1978)
  35. In Between the Sheets, Ian McEwan (1978)
  36. Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, ed Malcolm Cowley (1977)
  37. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes (1976)
  38. Tales of Beatnik Glory, Ed Saunders (1975)
  39. Mystery Train, Greil Marcus (1975)
  40. Selected Poems, Frank O’Hara (1974)
  41. Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s, Otto Friedrich (1972)
  42. Bluebeard’s Castle: Some Notes Towards the Re-definition of Culture, George Steiner (1971)
  43. Octobriana and the Russian Underground, Peter Sadecky (1971)
  44. The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, Charlie Gillett(1970)
  45. The Quest for Christa T, Christa Wolf (1968)
  46. Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock, Nik Cohn (1968)
  47. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)
  48. Journey into the Whirlwind, Eugenia Ginzburg (1967)
  49. Last Exit to Brooklyn, Hubert Selby Jr (1966)
  50. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote (1965)
  51. City of Night, John Rechy (1965)
  52. Herzog, Saul Bellow (1964)
  53. Puckoon, Spike Milligan (1963)
  54. The American Way of Death, Jessica Mitford (1963)
  55. The Sailor Who Fell from Grace With the Sea, Yukio Mishima (1963)
  56. The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin (1963)
  57. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess (1962)
  58. Inside the Whale and Other Essays, George Orwell (1962)
  59. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark (1961)
  60. Private Eye, magazine (1961 –)
  61. On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious, Douglas Harding (1961)
  62. Silence: Lectures and Writing, John Cage (1961)
  63. Strange People, Frank Edwards (1961)
  64. The Divided Self, RD Laing (1960)
  65. All the Emperor’s Horses, David Kidd (1960)
  66. Billy Liar, Keith Waterhouse (1959)
  67. The Leopard, Giuseppe di Lampedusa (1958)
  68. On the Road, Jack Kerouac (1957)
  69. The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard (1957)
  70. Room at the Top, John Braine (1957)
  71. A Grave for a Dolphin, Alberto Denti di Pirajno (1956)
  72. The Outsider, Colin Wilson (1956)
  73. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
  74. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell (1949)
  75. The Street, Ann Petry (1946)
  76. Black Boy, Richard Wright (1945)