In Brief

Vol. 40 No. 9

Getting serious about science, your academic support office, and cover letters.

Rethinking technology and the legal profession

Is your undergrad degree in English or another of the humanities? Did you go to law school at least in part because you love to read and write—and hate math and technology?

Daniel Martin Katz, an assistant professor at Michigan State University College of Law, believes that this is often the case—and that it’s something that may need to change.

In a post called “Training students for the technology-infused law practice of the 21st century” at Legal Ethics Forum, Katz argues that law schools—and their students—should move away from a liberal arts mindset that shuns math and science and toward what he calls “the MIT School of Law.”

“From both a scholarship and training perspective, it is time to get serious about science, computation, data analytics and technology,” he writes.

In an increasingly competitive legal arena, Katz believes, law firms, general counsels, and individual clients will expect much more sophisticated and accurate predictions regarding how much the work on their legal matters will cost and what the rewards might be. Katz calls this type of computer-aided forecasting Quantitative Legal Prediction, and he believes it will be an important part of your future.

In short, he says, “Yes, there is going to be math (and technology) on the exam.”

Your academic support office: Scientifically proven to help you feel better

If you’ve been considering dropping by your school’s academic support office but are in need of one more nudge, here you go: A two-year study found that, among several other benefits, you’re likely to emerge feeling more supported in your ability to achieve, and also that your law school is a more “human” place.

In an abstract posted at Legal Skills Prof Blog, Professors Louis N. Schulze Jr. (New England) and Adam Ding (Northeastern) report that in general, well-developed law school academic support programs lead to increased well-being and a “more robust educational experience.”

Toot your own horn … carefully

Looking for a job? A cover letter is key, and Professor Eugene Volokh of the UCLA School of Law has some suggestions on how to write a good one.

In a post called “Effective self-promotion in cover letters” at The Volokh Conspiracy, he says that this type of writing requires a careful balance between promoting yourself enough without being excessive.

One way to achieve that balance, Volokh writes, is to back up your self-promotion with verifiable evidence. So, he says, “I got an A+ in my Legal Writing class” works, whereas “I’m an excellent writer” might not.

But in bolstering your letter with evidence, don’t forget enthusiasm, he adds. For example, if you’re seeking a clerkship, just saying that you published three articles while in law school isn’t as strong as “I’ve long loved legal writing; my experience publishing three articles reaffirmed this for me, and made me realize how much I would enjoy clerking.”

And don’t forget to proofread both your cover letter and your résumé. “Many readers will assume that if you erred in documents that are so important to your own success, you’ll also be sloppy on other matters,” Volokh says.

 

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