Can playing video games land you a law firm job?

Someday, you may be playing video games to compete for jobs. A Dutch law firm is already doing it!

Dutch law firm Houthoff Buruma teamed up with Ranj Serious Games to create “The Game” to help the firm find the most talented students, based on the premise that grades often don’t fully reflect the talent and future success of a law student.

Players of “The Game” — graduating law students in the Netherlands — are given a complex legal scenario wherein they must represent a Chinese state-owned company as it plans to take over a Dutch family company. The players are split into teams of up to five people, given 90 minutes to confront problems as they arise and persuade enough shareholders to sell their shares. The fast-paced legal challenge ascertains how lawyers cope with stressful situations, bombarding them with CNN news flashes, video and text chats, film clips, e-mails and more than 100 fictional documents. Once the game ends, the results are displayed, and each team is given the opportunity to justify its solutions.

I believe something along these lines would work wonderfully in an Advanced Legal Research course. What are your thoughts?

W. Blake Wilson, Instructional & Research Services Librarian

Lawrence: a little big town

Downtown Lawrence

I get asked a lot about living in Lawrence.

To me, Lawrence is a little big town. It’s small enough to have similarities to my hometown of Hays, Kan. You can get just about anywhere in 15 minutes (unless there’s a basketball game). The people are extremely friendly. From my first day at KU Law, I felt welcome and comfortable. Lawrence has that small-town feel, where you tend to “bump into” people you know while out running errands.

For fun, some people go to KU sporting events, especially basketball. But the law school football tailgates draw a crowd in the fall, too. As a 1L class, we had a small section bowling tournament. If you are an outdoorsy type, Clinton Lake is just on the edge of town, and there are plenty of parks, biking and running trails around the lake. In these ways, Lawrence is comfortable and easy to learn about and love just like any small town.

If you are starting to think that Lawrence sounds too small for you, fear not! I also spent the last four years living in Washington, D.C., where there are endless museums, concerts, social events and professional sporting events. There are more things going on each night there than one person can possibly do. And I love the city life. I have always thought of myself as a city girl living in a small town.

Like larger cities, Lawrence is full of things to do beyond KU sporting events and bowling. Downtown venues like Liberty Hall, The Granada and The Bottleneck bring in lots of fun concerts, and KU’s Dole Institute hosts speakers and discussions of a political nature. There are art and history museums to peruse if that’s more your thing. Or you can just enjoy a day down on Massachusetts Street, where you will find an array of local boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops and bars.

There are always fun events going on through the law school: speakers, fundraisers, and TGITs (Thank Goodness it’s Thursday!). Another wonderful thing about Lawrence is its location between Topeka and Kansas City. In about 30 minutes in either direction, you can reach the State Capitol or any of the great things Kansas City has to offer – think shopping malls, an international airport and professional sporting events (gotta love the Royals and the Chiefs).

Overall, Lawrence is small enough to feel safe and comfortable and yet big enough to find a variety of entertainment and events! The hardest part about living in Lawrence and being in law school is finding the time to get out and enjoy it all!

Crystal Cook, 1L and Student Ambassador

Kansas Legislature website updated

If you have visited the Kansas Legislature’s website lately, you probably noticed some big changes have occurred. First of all, the website is now called KLISS. No, it’s not an awkward dating move. It stands for Kansas Legislative Information Systems and Services. From the website:

KLISS integrates the information from many functions within the Legislature and presents in a hyperlinked “no wrong door” model.

In other words, one-stop shopping! Or a gateway. Or a portal.

On the home page, you will not only find the Welcome but also “Pertinent Information.” Currently it states:

This year the Kansas Legislature changed the way it manually produced bills using a “cut and paste” computer mainframe process for making law. The old process was labor intensive and difficult to support and staff because the mainframe portion of the system was over 40 years old.

It is unclear what they mean by “copy and paste” computer mainframe. Perhaps someone who is a bit more tech savvy than me would know. It sounds like they discovered CTRL+c and CTRL+v, but surely it’s a bit more complex than that.

One of the really big differences one will notice has to do with the statute search function. KLISS has handed this over to Google. I have mixed feelings about this move. On the one hand, it’s cheap. On the other hand, the ways the results are displayed are not the most useful. Google usually applies an algorithm that determines a relevancy based upon the URL, the main headings in the webpage, the keywords and how many other websites link to the page. When using Google to search statutes, the results almost appear random. Also, Google will not search using synonyms which means if you search “alcohol,” you’ll most likely miss the sections on “intoxicating liquors.”

That being said, anyone who has had me in class should know that I am actually not a huge fan of jumping onto a computer when starting a research project. The “alcohol vs. intoxicating liquors” in the Kansas Statutes is just one example of why I think it’s a bad idea. I prefer using an index. And the index is where KLISS gets it right. At the top of the statute web page is the index. Select a letter, and it takes you to what looks like the index as it appears in the paper statutes. Only with hyperlinks! If I could have one wish … well … it would be to be able to teleport. But if I had a second wish, it would be that all online statutes did this.

As far as bill tracking is concerned, the interface is more streamlined but basically the same. There doesn’t appear to be a search function available aside from a simple filter using the bill number, type, origination and sponsor.

So go check out the new Kansas Legislature website! Let me know what you think of the changes.

W. Blake Wilson, Instructional & Research Services Librarian

Career services programming keeps students at the top of their game

The KU Law Office of Career Services prides itself on providing a wide variety of career-related programming and resources, and in being accessible, welcoming and helpful to students and graduates, regardless of their career aspirations.

In the fall of 2009, the office sponsored 26 lunchtime programs, ranging from resume and cover letter-writing and interviewing skills, to practice area-specific panels.

This fall, we sponsored another 22 programs and produced two webinars: one about interviewing tips and techniques and another detailing strategies to find a job beyond the on-campus interview process.

The series of fall 2010 presentations included programs about the state of the legal economy; panels focusing on criminal law, federal government practice, law practice in small towns, judicial clerkships, and alternative careers for lawyers; and instructional hours on resumes, cover letters, networking and positive psychology.

In collaboration with the Office of Student Affairs, we debuted the KU Law Student Wellness Series in the fall of 2009. The purpose of the series is to encourage professional behavior and teach practical skills essential to navigating the pitfalls of life as a law student and new attorney. In both the fall of 2009 and 2010, we featured programs about how to cope with law school anxiety, how to better manage finances while in law school and after graduation, and business etiquette.

Students also seek career-related information through individual appointments. From July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010, Todd Rogers had 282 appointments with students, while Karen Hester had an additional 254. Between the two of us, we scheduled more appointments from July 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2010, than in any of the previous seven falls.

I should also mention our 1L Mentor Program, through which we matched 73 1Ls with attorney mentors this fall, and our annual Legal Career Options Day, generously co- sponsored by the Kansas Bar Association, Johnson County Bar Association and Wichita Bar Association.

More information about these important networking programs, and pictures from the Mentor Reception and the 8th Annual Career Options Day, can be found on our website.

Todd Rogers, Assistant Dean for Career Services

KU Libraries offer access to variety of e-book resources

A good friend of mine, John Pappas, with the Rapid City Library, sent me the link to the eReader Guide he’s been working on. In it, he goes over six different electronic book readers: iPad, Sony Reader, Kobo Reader, Nook, Kindle and Cruz Reader. It’s a wonderful evaluation of these readers, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Reading through this page, it started me wondering what kind of electronic books we have access to here at KU. So I did a little digging and found a wonderful LibGuide by Judith Emde which highlights the e-book resources available through the KU Libraries. I would like to share some of these tips with you.

Searching the Catalog
If you would like to see all of the electronic books we have available through the catalog, simply type in “electronic books” (including the quotes) and search by keyword. You’ll notice we have quite a few options available to us. I’m going to guess that you might be more interested in just the legal books. To narrow down your search, type in “electronic books” AND law and search by AND, OR, NOT (Keyword Boolean). It should be noted that the Boolean functions should be all caps (a good practice to get into since this requirement is prolific). If you are looking for newer material, you will definitely want to set your search limits to a reasonable range, like maybe 1990 to 2011. Othewise, many of the titles pulled up will be more historical.

Ebook Library
The University of Kansas subscribes to a service called the Ebook Library (EBL). The titles it provides are available through the catalog, so you don’t have to worry about having to search more than one database. The main reason I want to point out EBL is that its interface is very intuitive and user-friendly. When you search or browse for books, an image of the cover is provided, as is the table of contents. Any books you find you can add to your personal collection, building your own electronic library!

World Library
World Library is a subscription service which loans out electronic books for only $8.95 per year, which, in my opinion, is totally worth it to have access to over 750,000 books. Beyond that, what makes World Library are the individual collections. For example, the Environmental Awareness Library Collection gathers together some 15,722 PDF eBooks on the topic. These titles range from government publications to academic journals.

Google Books
Of course we cannot forget about Google Books. Google Books is a great way to gain access to electronic books that are in the public domain. Many are available for download to your eReader. This is where I have gotten most of the free material I have on my iPhone.

So who out there uses an e-book reader? I’d be curious to find out!

W. Blake Wilson, Instructional and Research Services Librarian

Student group navigates ‘how to be Christian in law school’

The Christian Legal Society is a small group of students aligned with the national organization whose purpose is to “seek justice with the love of God.” Every week over the lunch hour, students meet at the Burge Union for Bible studies pertaining to different aspects of law and faith. Students discuss, share and encourage one another as we all experience the same trials, tribulations and joys that come with being a law student. The environment is relaxed and all denominations are welcome.

Last semester, CLS brought to campus Judge Eric Melgren of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. Judge Melgren, who has been a long-time member of the CLS national organization, spoke to the Green Hall community about his experiences as both a judge and a Christian. He commented on how his requirements as a judge interact with his faith and provided helpful insights on how to handle the challenges that are presented to Christian students and lawyers. Additionally, last semester, members of CLS purchased presents for three children through the Toys for Tots program in Lawrence. It was a wonderful experience to be able to share our many blessings by giving to those in need.

One topic that CLS has discussed at great length is essentially “how to be Christian in law school.” Under this topic come questions about whether the law school environment (and the legal profession in general) encourage or discourage a Christian perspective, ways to keep God first throughout the day, and how to manage conflicts that arise between law and faith. CLS would like to encourage anyone who may be interested in these topics or has specific questions to come to the weekly meetings and share your thoughts and ideas!

Lauren Kohn, President, Christian Legal Society

Practical matters: clinic participation and legal experience

I’ll admit it: Walking into law school, I was pretty sure that every lawsuit consisted of attending depositions with former exercise instructors and discovering crucial evidence by examining an individual’s shoes (“Legally Blonde,” anyone?). I showed up for the first day of orientation in full-blown Elle Woods mode, despite a shocking lack of pink in my outfit. Then Lawyering started.

By the end of orientation, I was introduced to the wonders of Westlaw and LexisNexis and became intimately familiar with the library. By the end of 1L year, I had written memos and briefs and spent too many hours highlighting cases. Somewhere along the way, I realized that being a lawyer had a lot to do with writing and less to do with my knowledge of this season’s flats. Trust me when I tell you that legal writing is a whole new mountain to climb. If you thought “thinking like a lawyer” was a tough transition, writing like a lawyer can be even more difficult.

While Lawyering provides a great foundation for building legal writing skills, there are some things you cannot master in a classroom. Among other things, I chose to participate in a clinic to strengthen my legal research and writing ability. KU’s clinics provide students the opportunity to get out in the field and practice law under the guidance of a supervising attorney. We have our own clients and often carry a case from beginning to end, counseling clients on their options and drafting many of the necessary documents to proceed successfully through a lawsuit. As a result, I have written supporting briefs, petitions and other documents that are ultimately filed with my clients’ cases. Being a great legal writer takes on a new level of importance when there’s a client relying on you.

The clinic has also been a great way to experience what practicing a certain area of law is like. KU offers 12 different clinics in differing practice areas, so regardless of what field interests you, you’ll likely have an opportunity to engage in practice before you graduate. Additionally, it never hurts to build more legal experience for your resume. KU’s clinics are a great way to step outside the classroom and learn what practicing law is like … preferably in a pair of really cute shoes.

Amanda Ferguson, 2L

Career services dean answers employment questions from prospective students

Let’s address some questions about employment raised by prospective students over the last few weeks.

When will employment statistics be available for KU Law’s most recent class?
For each graduating class, KU Law measures employment at graduation and nine months after graduation. Each February, every law school in the country submits final employment data to the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). In June, law schools receive a detailed report from NALP of national and school-specific trends.

We will submit our class of 2010 report to NALP on February 22, 2011. At that time, we will update our website with the “employed at graduation” and “employed nine months after graduation” data using the US News formula (which differs slightly from the NALP formula).

Here are the US News numbers from the 2006-09 graduating classes:

Graduation Year % Employed at Graduation % Employed Nine Months after Graduation US News Ranking
2009 63.2 89.0 TBD
(April 2011)
2008 69.4 93.6 67
(April 2010)
2007 67.1 95.5 65
(April 2009)
2006 65.9 94.7 73
(April 2008)

What’s the geographic dispersion of recent KU Law grads?

For the class of 2009, the last class for which we have complete information, 51.2 percent of the class was employed in Kansas, 21.7 percent in Missouri and 27.1 percent in other states and countries.

Most students reporting employment in Missouri were employed in the greater Kansas City area.

Outside of Kansas and Missouri, the most traveled-to states by the Class of 2009 were: Washington, D.C. (7), Arizona (3), Oklahoma (3), Colorado (2), Illinois (2) Maryland (2), New York (2), Texas (2), Virginia (2) and Washington (2).

Historically, between 65 percent and 75 percent of our students remain in the West North Central Region, as defined by NALP to include Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The bulk of these students find employment in Kansas and Kansas City, Mo.

Other popular regions for our grads are South Atlantic (on the strength of D.C.), West South Central (mainly in Texas) and Mountain (primarily in Arizona, Colorado and Utah).

How has the recession impacted on-campus recruiting?

Nationally, the most dramatic impact of the current economic situation was on fall 2009 recruiting of 2Ls for summer 2010 positions. At the largest national law firms, the median number of summer offers dropped from 30 in fall 2007 to 18.5 in 2008 to just 8 in 2009. The percentage of callback interviews resulting in summer jobs fell from 60 percent to 46.6 percent to 36.4 percent over that three-year period. The acceptance rate of 42.8 percent was an all-time high.Our on-campus interview (OCI) numbers serve as a rough barometer of the overall health of the legal economy, especially regionally. By tracking the last three academic years, it becomes clear that the recession was in full bloom in late summer/early fall 2009, the same time period in which employers were deciding whether to participate in the fall 2009 OCI program to recruit 2L law students for the summer of 2010.

Over half of law schools surveyed reported a decrease of 30 percent or more in the number of employers on campus in fall 2009 compared with fall 2008. Our drop was 40 percent, from 72 to 43 employers; 38.2 percent of schools in the Midwest reported a decrease of more than 40 percent.

Some good news: In the fall of 2010, 50 employers from 7 states conducted 670 interviews on campus, as compared to 562 on-campus interviews in the fall of 2009.  An increased number of call-back (second) interviews, offers and acceptances were also reported by our students.

What did last year’s 1Ls do over their summer break?

Eighty percent of the Class of 2012 reported summer employment and/or participation in summer school, a law school clinic or a study abroad program.

  • 45 enrolled in a summer school class.
  • 40 enrolled in a clinic in which they received course credit for completing practical legal work.
  • 15 participated in a KU Law-sponsored study abroad program.
  • 10 received a Bremyer Summer Clerk Scholarship for summer work with a legal employer in a less populous Kansas community.
  • 15 received a KU Law Summer Stipend for volunteer legal work with a public interest organization. Stipend recipients worked in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, California, New York, Texas and Washington.
  • Finally, 25 students secured a legal internship with an employer outside of the Bremyer or KU Law Summer Stipend Programs.

Todd Rogers, Assistant Dean for Career Services

International Law Society wine tasting fundraiser to benefit underprivileged children

Last year, more than 150 KU Law students, faculty and alumni, including local lawyers and judges, attended the International Law Society’s annual Wine Tasting Fundraiser. Guests were greeted with wine glasses and encouraged to mix and mingle over incredible wines, enjoy the exquisite fruit and cheese spread, and dance to live music. Guests were also able to bid on silent auction items flown in specifically for the event, including hand-dyed canvas batiks, hand-beaded jewelry and mounted photographs.

We had an incredible turnout and were able to make a larger charitable donation than ever before. Proceeds benefited OptimusYouth, a nonprofit organization co-founded by KU Law 2L and ILS member Sean Foley. OptimusYouth partners with well-established community efforts worldwide to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children.

The proceeds from the 2011 Wine Tasting Fundraiser will again benefit OptimusYouth, and the festivities are shaping up to be just as grand. Guests will again be treated to fantastic wines, catered hors d’oeuvres, live music and a silent auction. We hope you will join us!

2011 ILS Wine Tasting Fundraiser
7-11:30 p.m. Feb. 24, 2011
Lawrence Arts Center
940 New Hampshire Street
Lawrence, KS 66044

Lani Leighton, ILS president

Photos from last year’s Wine Tasting Fundraiser

A response to ‘Is law school a losing game?’

On Jan. 8 the New York Times published a much-discussed article called “Is Law School a Losing Game?” The article’s author, David Segal, is critical of a law school system that he alleges overstates employment prospects to prospective students, all in the name of packing classrooms with students who pay high tuitions.

The Lawrence Journal-World linked to the article on Jan. 13 and asked about the employment picture at KU Law.

Let me partially answer that query by referring to two specific criticisms leveled by the article and then explaining how KU Law does business.

  • Segal refers to the “Wonderland” of law school employment statistics and states that many schools — even some outside the top 40 — list the median starting salary of their graduates in the private sector at $160,000.

    As a prospective law student, it’s imperative to carefully scrutinize employment stats. For example, there’s a significant difference between private practice and public sector salaries. Statistics that blend private practice and public interest salaries together are relatively meaningless.

    So are private practice salary stats based on only a small percentage of graduates. It’s likely that schools outside the top 40 listing a median starting salary of $160,000 for grads in the private sector have not accounted for even a majority of those graduates when calculating the average.

    For the class of 2009, 79 KU Law students reported a private practice salary. This represented 80.6 percent of 2009 graduates employed in private practice. The average salary was $72,660.

  • Segal also alleges that schools massage employment data to produce numbers that are inciting to prospective students and palatable to current student and alumni. In doing so, he notes that “a school with the guts to report, say, a 4 percent drop in postgraduate employment would plunge in the rankings, leaving the dean to explain a lot of convoluted math, and the case for unvarnished truth, to a bunch of angry students and alums.”

    The decision to come to law school is an important one that ultimately involves three years of intense study and, in some cases, significant borrowing. Prospective law students should be afforded every opportunity to review accurate employment data. The following information for graduation years 2006-09 is available on the KU Law website.

    Graduation Year % Employed at Graduation % Employed Nine Months after Graduation US News Ranking
    2009 63.2 89.0 TBD
    (April 2011)
    2008 69.4 93.6 67
    (April 2010)
    2007 67.1 95.5 65
    (April 2009)
    2006 65.9 94.7 73
    (April 2008)

    In the midst of the recession, our numbers took a hit, but we were upfront about reporting the losses accurately.

  • One statistic not touched upon in the article, and not often discussed by prospective students, is the percentage of students employed in “bar admission required” positions.

    Most law students enroll with the goal of practicing law after graduation. By graduation, some have decided to pursue less traditional, “J.D.-preferred” or other professional positions that do not require the passage of a bar exam.

    During the recession, we’ve seen the percentage of recent grads employed in “bar admission required” positions decline as an increased number of graduates who do want to practice law have been unable to secure traditional legal positions and have been forced to look elsewhere.

    Here’s the percentage of KU Law graduates from the last eight classes who were employed in “bar admission required” positions nine months after graduation:

    KU Law Class Ratio Percentage
    2002 117/162 72.2%
    2003 96/146 65.8%
    2004 133/184 72.3%
    2005 124/179 69.3%
    2006 117/170 68.8%
    2007 115/157 73.2%
    2008 120/161 74.5%
    2009 97/156 62.2%

    (Note: Other categories are J.D. Preferred, Other Professional, Non-Professional, Pursuing Degree FT, Unemployed-Seeking and Unemployed-Not Seeking.)

The recession has certainly put a damper on graduates securing traditional legal positions, and prospective students deserve access to this information from all schools they’re considering.

Todd Rogers, Assistant Dean for Career Services