Friday, January 27, 2012

Yet Another Cautionary Tale Of Bad Legal Writing

The ABA Journal reports another case in which an attorney has been raked over the proverbial coals for poor writing. The title to the article - Federal Judge’s Footnote Hits Employment Lawyer for TMI in Legal Briefs - is perhaps slightly misleading. No one was actually hit. Instead, there was an unkind discussion in a footnote about the attorney's inability to get to the point and to state his case concisely. The TMI does not refer to Three Mile Island but to Too Much Information. District Judge Pratt's full opinion is here. Look for footnote 1 at the bottom of p. 2. Reading the entire footnote leads one to consider the possibility that the footnote itself might not be sufficiently concise. Excerpts from the scathing footnote -

Plaintiff’s counsel needlessly complicated the Court’s task of summarizing the relevant facts. ... Rather than identifying potential factual disputes in a concise fashion, Plaintiff’s counsel unfurled an 18-page narrative that is replete with argument and a 15-page surreply that is no better as it contains a great deal of immaterial information. ... And, for reasons that remain unclear, the brief devotes a paragraph to explaining the 15th century origin of the phrase “cat’s paw,” a legal doctrine that is inapplicable to the present matter. ... Accordingly, the Court had unnecessary difficulty excising the arguments from the facts when piecing together the background section.

Friday, January 20, 2012

ABA Law School Transparency Site

If you're interested in the new ABA transparency guidelines you might want to check out the LST - Law School Transparency - web page. The Winter 2012 Transparency Index Report is ready. This is the first Transparency Index Report. The full report is here. The following is a direct quote from the Execute Summary of the Report. It appears that many schools are still disclosure-challenged:

- 27% (54/197) do not provide any valuable information on their websites for class of 2010 employment outcomes. Of those 54 schools, 22 do not provide any employment information on their website whatsoever. The other 32 schools demonstrate a pattern of consumer-disoriented behavior.
- 51% of schools fail to indicate how many graduates actually responded to their survey. Response rates provide applicants with a way to gauge the usefulness of survey results, a sort of back-of-the-envelope margin of error. Without the rate, schools can advertise employment rates north of 95% without explaining that the true employment rate is unknown, and likely lower.
Only 26% of law schools indicate how many graduates worked in legal jobs. 11% indicate how many were in full-time legal jobs. Just 1% indicate how many were in full-time, long-term legal jobs.
- 17% of schools indicate how many graduates were employed in full-time vs. part-time jobs. 10% indicate how many were employed in long-term vs. short-term jobs. 10% of schools report how many graduates were employed in school-funded jobs.
- 49% of schools provide at least some salary information, but the vast majority of those schools (78%) provide the information in ways that mislead the reader.