Using HARO as a Way to Showcase Your Expertise


Help a Reporter & Voila, Instant Marketing

Dustin Christensen, writing at the blawg called -- the law practices survival guide, describes a relationship -- through Help Out A Reporter (HARO) -- lawyers can establish with reporters to showcase their expertise and, as a by-product, gain some free marketing. For more information, check out this post.

When I viewed the website, it offers paid subscription packages, but also "Basic Free" opportunities delivered to your inbox, three times a day.  I assume Dustin was describing this free relationship.

Be sure to read the comments to the post.  They are interesting, too. 

Great Gold Mastermind Retreat in Asheville


Big City Food, Big City Shopping, Big City Wine, Big City Colleagues

Just spent two days with the fabulous women (and men) who are growing heart-centered businesses with the help of business coach, Christine Kane

School Issues Follow-up Press Release


Strongly Committed to its Mission

Last night, Jackie Pruitt, Director of Admissions issued the following press release, which elaborates on the changes the law school is experiencing. I've added links to topics I've covered as The Red Velvet Lawyer.

For Immediate Release

Jackie Pruitt
Director of Admissions
276-935-4349, ext. 1245



As the Appalachian School of Law anticipates smaller incoming class sizes in the fall, the Board of Trustees remains committed to offering quality legal education, promoting the school’s nationally recognized educational programs, maintaining a strong community, supporting the school’s alumni, and providing the region with practice-ready lawyers. 

Grundy, Virginia.  March 22, 2014 -  The school’s Director of Admissions, Jackie Pruitt, shed additional light on the subject, saying:

While the smaller overall class size is a reflection of the economy, we see this as an opportunity to refocus, reorganize, and regroup to strengthen our school offerings and serve our students for the long-term.  We do anticipate a smaller class next year, which is in line with the national landscape for law school admissions. 
The current national projections show a 10% decrease in applicants from last year, which was the third consecutive yearly decline.  Appalachian School of Law is institutionally strong and is backed by a committed Board of Trustees. 
Appalachian School of Law’s admissions team is fielding inquiries from qualified regional candidates and will continue to do so over the next six months of the enrollment cycle.  Historically, a large percentage of students are recruited during this period making it difficult to predict accurate final enrollment numbers. 
The Admissions Office and Admissions Committee will continue to be selective as we invite the prospective students whom we feel our school is best equipped to serve and who are most likely to thrive and grow as contributing members of our close-knit community.
Appalachian School of Law will continue to support its current students in fostering a unique and intimate learning environment unmatched by other area law schools.  Small class sizes allow deeper discussion and collegiality, experiential and clinical learning opportunities, as well as increased opportunities for leadership positions with the law reviews, in student government, in other student organizations, and on the moot court, mock trial, and ADR competition teams.    

In planning for the future success of the Appalachian School of Law, the Board, administration, and faculty are building a Natural Resources Law program that will rival any similar program found east of the Mississippi River.  The school is also creating a Public Health Law program.  With the two programs, Appalachian School of Law will graduate students with degrees sought by high-demand industries. 

We are also partnering with a marketing specialist to strengthen the school’s identity, promote its nationally recognized programs, and attract students who will excel at Appalachian School of Law.  Those students are often first generation college graduates, people with professional degrees, and traditional blue-collar workers looking to transition into white-collar positions.  The students Appalachian School of Law serves best are those who value the personal touch of establishing close relationships with professors.  They will also return to their home towns to provide much needed legal services in small firms and will serve as leaders and public servants in their communities.

Appalachian School of Law’s mission is to provide practice-ready lawyers with strong problem-solving skills and a deep sense of professional responsibility.   It assists students in realizing their dreams by providing one-on-one academic support, tutoring, and the preparation needed to successfully pass the bar exam. 

Appalachian School of Law will continue to support its alumni and is proud of the accomplishments and work its alumni are doing to serve their local communities across the region and nationwide.  ASL alumni hold positions as trial judges, state legislators, prosecutors, and public defenders.  They are partners at major area law firms, work in many positions tied to energy production, and provide legal services to underserved populations across all demographic and socio-economic categories, especially in Appalachia.  Access to justice in the region depends on Appalachian School of Law’s continued success, an issue its Board, administration, and faculty take seriously. 

Appalachian School of Law’s faculty, staff, and students have given over 150,000 community service hours to the local community, and the law school is proud to be the recipient of U.S. Presidential Community Service awards.  ASL regularly participates in the service programs of a battered womens’ shelter, FIRST Lego League robotics competitions for grade school students, Court Appointed Special Advocates for abused and neglected children, free tax preparation for low-income families, and the Wounded Warrior Project.  Students and faculty members have developed area hiking trails, stocked local food pantries, provided Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinic support for ill and injured Appalachians, served as volunteer firemen, and helped convert a local animal shelter into a no-kill shelter.  In addition, ASL students tutor local children and support children’s outreach projects.


More Praise From a Loyal Client


The Bricklayer, the Micro-burst, and the Lawyer

Yesterday, I posted some excerpts from an email I got from a former client.  I then sent him the link and said that if I needed to change anything or take it down, he should let me know.  Instead, he sent me even more heart-warming praise. 

The prior posting described my representation of a client whose shop and house suffered severe damage during a thunderstorm/tornado that struck a portion of St. Louis.  The insurance company denied his claim, asserting that the damage was caused by water and not by wind.  The policy did not cover water damage, but it did cover wind damage.

The company relied primarily on the anticipated testimony of their retained expert.  Later, using a sixth sense, I discovered that the expert had lied about his credentials.  Based on that discovery, the insurance company removed him from their list of expert witnesses.

I also learned that his report assumed a certain type of back-fill that allowed a calculation predicting that the shop wall would collapse from hydro-static pressure in a severe thunderstorm.  Working with my expert, I discovered this assumption and could refute it based on Doug's testimony about the fill used in the construction of the wall.  (He had helped build it as a young man.)   I also hired the expert I needed to bolster my client's testimony that his family had survived a tornado.  

I won this case on the science.  And, I tell my students you cannot be afraid of digging into the numbers, the scientific assumptions, or the scientific evidence.  As lawyers, we must operate across disciplines even if that work takes us out of our comfort zones.

We also won because I listened very carefully to my client, who -- despite his modest educational background -- was a very smart and successful guy.  

I aligned completely with him because I could trust him. Earlier, he had perfectly executed a masonry job at my house during the time I spent with my dying mom in Bermuda, where she was getting alternative cancer therapy. Without further input from me, he created a beautiful stone entry to my house.  If I could trust him then, I could trust him when he needed me. 

With that additional background,  here is another quote from my former client. His follow-up email is even more touching, and I hope a "teachable moment" for my students.  I am reproducing it as I got it with just a few changes in punctuation.
That was a under statement on what you really did!! You took a insurance company and kicked their ass. 
1 You earned my trust.
2 You put your client first, and listened to my story, and trusted me..or you would not of taken the case?
3 You came and visited the property multiple times.
4 You put a game plan together, that made me think WTF, I trusted in you and you were a confident person in your own abilty, I was a bricklayer that did not know that world, when a insurance company told me to clean up and take a few pictures they would take care of everything....Wrong
5 You got me twice the limits of what I was even insured for WTF 
Paula, you did this after everything was cleaned up, and the house was half ass liveable, you sifted through what few pictures I had taken, Found the Wholy Grail....The pictures of all the burn piles of branches that were laying around the house? You were smart enough to look past the house.Then took it upon yourself to recreate the sceen WTF. 
You hired the man that invented Dopler Radar.WTF that is what Kicking an insurance company ass is all about!! You were in a different league on that one...I still remember the phone call when you said, Doug, Less Lemon went through the storm records on that day and pinpointed a Micro burst on top of your house at the time you said it occured WTF, Oh and he was not a witness, that was the first time he had ever been asked to help in a case WTF that was all anything you ever write regarding my case you have my full permission....forever.....Doug Zeis [St. Louis, Missouri].
Like I said.  Lawyers have an awesome power to help people in ways those clients can never imagine.   I've got a really big smile on my face right now.   

35,000 Page Views for The Red Velvet Lawyer

35,000 Page Views
Friends, family, and colleagues:

Another milestone reached!  Some time last night, page views of my blog topped 35,000. The Red Velvet Lawyer will celebrate its first birthday in mid-March.  People tell me that this type of growth for a little ol' blog is impressive.  I have to take their word for it.

In the meantime, I enjoy the connection with all of you and the opportunity to share ideas, information, and news.

Love you all, and thanks so very much for your support!

Change in the Headcount at BigLaw Firms


Headcount Strategies

Adam Smith Esquire's Bruce McEwen, well-known blawger, in a post entitled, Where Do You Want Your Firm to be in 2020?, reports some data on the strategic planning horizon of large law firms, which he argues does not extend beyond one, two, or three years.

Interestingly, he reports the following figures for the changes in headcount at large law firms.
[C]onsider the little-remarked but sobering figures on how the proportionate composition of lawyers at the largest 250 law firms in the US based on headcount has changed over the last decade:
  • Associates: from 55% to 47% (down 15%).
  • Equity partners: from 31% to 26% (down 16%).
  • Non-equity partners: from 7% to 16% (up 129%).
  • Other’ lawyers (staff, of counsel, contract, etc): from 7% to 10% (up 43%).

He comments on these changes later in the post:
And what, exactly, is the point about the aforementioned morphing composition of lawyers at large law firms? Simple, I believe:
  • First, that shrinking pool of associates. Associates require investment in training, professional development and, yes, time write-offs. (Don’t be tempted to jump to the conclusion that firms have merely responded to client preferences by cutting associates since 2008, when clients began to get serious about refusing to pay for juniors. The decline at top 250 US firms was almost entirely before that, from 2000 [55%] to 2008 [48%].)
  • Yes, associates can cost money, but they are, or ought to be, the future of the firm.
  • Equity partners, also down, are costly in another way: to firms’ reported profits per equity partner (PEP). If the top line and the bottom line are essentially flat year after year (putting aside inflation and headcount growth), what’s a body to do? Cut the denominator of the PEP calculation.
  • Non-equity partners and "other" lawyers, both up dramatically, can provide a particularly quick jolt to the income statement. Realisation rates for both are high, because experienced non-equity partners enjoy few write-offs and "other" lawyers are inexpensive to begin with. Firms can plausibly and sincerely claim they are simply being responsive to the market – clients like experienced lawyers with kinder and gentler rates than full partners – but what do they contribute to the next generation of leadership?
Worse, keeping a large swath of non-equity partners around too often results from managerial failings when it comes to performance reviews, or a cowardly preference for avoiding awkward conversation. Yet their growing ranks deprive associates of complex work, short-circuiting the associates’ professional development, impeding their career paths, and ultimately contributing to voluntary and involuntary attrition. Yet again, we have found an ingenious technique to pay the present while mortgaging the future.

I've blogged on this topic here and here. 

Alumnus Jessica Taylor Gives Great Interview


"Think Before You Speak; Think Before You React"

Appalachian School of Law alumnus, Jessica Taylor, gave a podcast interview about her relationship with ASL alumnus JR Cook, who is appearing on the SyFy reality show, Opposite Worlds

She is quite charming ans smart! She gives her perspective on the show and some of his possible strategies in this 40 minute podcast. 

Follow Jessica on Facebook here

Fan page for Opposite Worlds here.

Fan page for JR Cook here.

If you tweet to support him, be sure to include #AppalachainSchoolOfLaw.   Twitter handle is @TeamJRsyfy


Creating Loyal Clients


Love your Clients and They will Love You, Too.

This past week, I got a very warm email from a former client. The "Re line" read:  "I miss my good friend and attorney."  

I had not heard from this client in several years.  But, when he has any type of legal problem, he contacts me. That's client loyalty. Here's a short excerpt from the email that makes me laugh and makes me very proud.  
How is the best attorney, this side of the Mississippi doing? I know you jumped ship and moved across the mighty Miss. so that would make you the best in the lower 48?
I represented this client in an insurance coverage dispute after a micro-burst during a thunderstorm destroyed his shop and compromised the integrity of his family's house.

What did I do over fifteen years ago to create such loyalty? Here's my guess:

  • I provided extremely high-quality client service;
  • I got the client an extremely favorable outcome;
  • I was creative, persistent, resilient, assertive, and brave;
  • I treated my client holistically, keeping in mind his emotional and psychological needs; and,
  • I purposely visited his home and got to know more about his wife and young daughter.

Chris Brogan, CEO of Human Business Works, sent me a newsletter this morning discussing customer loyalty to businesses. 

He describes three factors that make him remain loyal to a brand or business:
  • I will need to use this business's products or services more than once. 
  • The people involved in the experience made me feel welcome/important/worth it somehow. 
  • I have some level of access to people in this business beyond a "blind" customer service interaction.
Making our legal clients feel welcome, important, and deeply appreciated will turn them into loyal fans.

In a second email, my former client sent a photo of his house and of his lovely daughter, who is now 17 years old. Apparently, for all these years, they have called the house, "the house that Paula built" because they built it with the proceeds of the settlement of the lawsuit. 

It makes me proud and humble that my name has been used in such a wonderful way.  As lawyers, we often forget the impact we have on people's lives when we give them voice, validation, and vindication.  

This email exchange reminded me why I went to law school and why I continue to advise students to attend law school if they want to serve people while earning a comfortable living.  

My former client closed the email with this: "God bless you and anyone around you!!!!" Wow. 

My response: "Thank you." Just, thank you. 

Sam Jackson, Kevin Spacey, and The Negotiator


It is Always More Fun to Negotiate with Someone who Knows What He or She is Doing!

So, you know I'm a big fan of Kevin Spacey.  Add to the list: Sam Jackson and Denzel Washington. Students who have taken my courses know that these actors appear in a number of the film clips I use to illustrate negotiation and mediation concepts and skills.

Friday, I held a make-up class one day after a snow storm dumped 8 to 10 inches of snow on Buchanan County.  Up in the "hollers," the snow coverage could have been much deeper.  Our road crews do an amazing jobs of keeping our roads passable, but it takes time to clear all those roads at higher altitudes.

Not surprisingly, only five of eighteen students made it to class. One had to walk.

So, I decided that we would watch a long excerpt from the the film, The Negotiator, starring Sam Jackson, as Danny Roman, and Kevin Spacey, as Chris Sabian. They are both experienced, successful Chicago police department hostage negotiators now facing off against each other as Danny tries to clear his name and find the real culprits in his partner's death and in the fraud/embezzelment of the department's disability fund. Cue dramatic music.

I love this film.  It's so well written.  It uses tension beautifully. And, it illustrates so many concepts I discuss in my courses. Roger Ebert called it "one of the year's most skillful thrillers."

I've asked the missing students to watch it over the week-end.  We will then discuss it next week using the following guided note-taking.  

If, after you complete your marathon viewing of the new season of House of Cards, you still want a little more Spacey, I highly recommend this film.  You can rent it for $1.99 on Amazon.

Guided Note-taking Questions:
  1. Using the list of “Negotiating Games/Techniques/Hard Bargaining Tactics” found in the Class 9 Supplemental Materials, which games, techniques, or tactics did Danny use?
  2. Using the list of “Negotiating Games/Techniques/Hard Bargaining Tactics” found in the Class 9 Supplemental Materials, which games, techniques, or tactics did Sabian/police/FBI  use?
  3. Identify ten ways Danny controlled the negotiating environment.
  4. Identify two types of “commitment tactics” Danny used to build leverage in the negotiation.
  5. Identify three joint interests the negotiators tried to use.
  6. Identify five additional ways Danny increased his leverage in the negotiation.
  7. Identify three ways in which Sabian increased his leverage in the negotiation.
  8. How did Danny help the other officers “stand in Danny’s shoes”?  How did he maintain rapport, respect, and sympathy towards himself? 
  9. Identify three ways Danny conveyed that he was an experienced negotiator?
  10. Identify three assumptions made about Danny that affected perceptions and tactics.
  11. How did the public and press influence the negotiation?
  12. How did each side use bluffs to manage perceptions and gain (or attempt to gain) leverage? 

Life of Brian: Negotiation Strategies Illustrated in Film


and the 
Length of the Negotiation Dance

Culture can dictate the length of the negotiation dance by determining the number of rounds of concessions and the amount of each expected concession.

In cultures in which the parties expect more haggling, parties will make 12-15 offers/counter-offers.  A clip from  Montey Python's Life of Brian, starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, illustrates haggling in a way we'd expect from this group.

Brian Cohen, played by Chapman, is trying to escape the pursuit of Roman Centurions by buying a beard as a disguise.  The frightened consumer, however, cannot buy it at the sticker price.  He is forced to haggle.  

In sharp contrast, a U.S. consumer has a low tolerance for the negotiation dance.  He or she typically will make only 2 or 3 rounds of offers. 

As a result, U.S. negotiators:

  • Avoid negotiation, in general, by paying posted prices;
  • Pay more;
  • Move too quickly to the bottom line and short-circuit the dance; and
  • Get to impasse more frequently.

Defending Your Life: Negotiation Strategies Illustrated in Film

In Nearly ALL Situations, Don't Accept the First Offer. Duh!

Defending Your Life focuses on a transition stage in which recently dead folks must show to a panel of after-life judges that they have lived full and fearless lives.  If they fail at this proof, they must return to earth and try again. Meryl Streep appears with Albert Brooks who wrote, directed, and starred in the film.

I use a clip that shows Daniel Miller, played by Brooks, negotiating for his salary at a new job.  He has died suddenly when his car hits a bus head-on. Examples from his life, including the salary negotiation, increasingly show his fear. 

In this clip, he begs his wife to practice with him the night before the salary negotiation, and then, he abandons the approach he had practiced.

The clip allows me to discuss the gravitational pull of opening offers, who should open first, appropriate concession patterns, and leverage derived from your BATNA.   

Public Service Jobs Make Happier Lawyers


The Mission of the Appalachian School of Law Sets up Grads for Happier Lives

A new study reported today in the ABA Journal Law News Now reports that money and prestigious jobs obtained after graduating from a higher ranked school do not lead to happier lives as lawyers. 
The survey measured lawyers’ “subjective well-being,” a combination of life satisfaction and mood. More than 7,800 bar members in four states responded to the survey; the study focused on about 6,200 who provided complete data and said they worked as lawyers, judges or in related positions. 
The survey found that lawyers in “prestige” jobs, who had the highest grades and incomes, aren’t as happy as lawyers working in public-service jobs for substantially lower pay. Judges, however, were happiest of all. 
“Prestige” jobs included lawyers working in firms of more than 100 lawyers and those working in areas such as corporate, tax, patent, securities, estate-planning and plaintiff’s tort law. Public-service lawyers included legal-aid lawyers, prosecutors, public defenders, government lawyers and in-house lawyers for nonprofits.

The study also found:
  • Married lawyers were happier than others, as were lawyers with children.
  • There was “an almost meaningless correlation” between lawyer well-being and graduating from a higher-tier law school.
  • Those who exercised regularly reported greater well-being than others. Practicing yoga and tai chi, however, was not related to well-being.
The study concludes:
These data consistently indicate that a happy life as a lawyer is much less about grades, affluence, and prestige than about finding work that is interesting, engaging, personally meaningful, and is focused on providing needed help to others. . . . 
The data therefore also indicate that the tendency of law students and young lawyers to place prestige or financial concerns before their desires to "make a difference" or serve the good of others will undermine their ongoing happiness in life.

These findings are very good news for graduates of ASL.  As I have noted in other posts, ASL's mission emphasizes community service, public service, and leadership

As my series on distinguished alumni shows, many of our grads quickly assume public service positions designed to help others and make a difference.   

The Opposite of Success is not Failure


Fixed vs. Growth Mindsets

Today, Tom Asacker provides a nice discussion of why the opposite of success is not failure. Instead, failure leads to success because it gives us lessons, insights, and opportunities to change. With that new information, we are better positioned to succeed.  He suggests that failure leads to success in the same way that exercise leads to fitness.  

A second blogger today discussed the criteria Google uses to hire employees.  It looks for three things: cognitive processing and problem-solving on the fly; emergent leadership; and a sense of responsibility that leads to humility and ownership.  

Both posts reminded me of the book I read last month by Carol S. Dweck, a world-renowned Stanford psychologist, called: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success -- How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential (2007).  

It describes two mindsets -- fixed and growth.

The publisher describes the theme of the book as this:

Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success–but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem [or] lead to [long-term] accomplishment.  [Instead,]. . .  it may actually jeopardize success. 
With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals–personal and professional. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.
For me, the book helped me understand why some of my students may struggle in law school, or why they did not have the LSAT scores and GPAs they needed to get into a better ranked law school. 

It may also explain why some of our students struggle to pass the bar exam.  I know we give them the substantive knowledge and skills they need to succeed.  But, perhaps even small failures seem devastating to their self-images and self-esteem.  Resiliency may be at the heart of the problem.   

The book also forced me to catch when I am not fully committed to a "growth" mindset -- either for myself or for my students.  It has changed the way I offer praise to others and talk to myself.  

I strongly recommend it -- especially to parents, teachers, and coaches. 

Alumni of the Appalachian School of Law Very Pleased with ASL Experience


Survey Says . . . . We're Pretty Fabulous!

Ninety-one percent of ASL alumni would recommend the law school to potential students, potential employers, or colleagues. That's what the responses to a survey we distributed to alumni reveals. 

Ninety-three percent of our responding alumni had a positive impression of the law school.  

Slightly more than half of the survey respondents chose ASL for its location.

They identified the law school's experienced faculty (by a large margin) as the top strength of ASL. 

Two hundred and one alumni responded to the survey distributed in the Fall 2013, making the response rate 16.75 percent.  External surveys typically get 10 to 15 percent response rates. 

Thanks alums for your support. We love you!

ASL's Latest TV Ad Focuses on Veterans as Students


Appalachian School of Law Welcomes Veterans

A new television commercial for the law school will air locally over the next few weeks on WCYB Channel 5, the NBC affiliate in Bristol, and WEMT, the Fox affiliate in NE Tennessee.

This commercial focuses on veterans.  It features one of our current student-veterans, Irina Dan McGarry, ’14.  Lieutenant Dan did a great job, as you can see for yourself:   

For those who want the full TV experience, here is the broadcast schedule for tomorrow, Friday, February 28:


619 am
1118 am
1206 pm
230 pm
344 pm
509 pm
1106 pm
1141 pm

WEMT (Fox)
528 pm

1024 pm News

I want to thank Trustee Joe Wolfe for making this opportunity possible.  

Energy Sector Mediation


Best Mediator?  Best Approach?

Interesting post on the use of mediation in energy-related disputes. Frames the debate about substantive expertise vs. process/people skills and about evaluative mediation that can drift into ethically impermissible legal advice. 

Update: The Value of a Legal Education -- On Average $1,030,000


New Data Informing 
the Debate

In several postings herehere, and here, I tracked the debate between Brian Tamanaha, author of Failing Law Schools, and Michael Simkovic and Frank McIntyre, co-authors of The Value of a Law Degree.

In a recent posting, Simkovic & McIntyre update their economic analysis and take apart the basis for Tamanaha's more dismissal point of view.  

They conclude:
Comparing lifetime earnings of law degree holders to earnings of similar bachelor’s degree holders, we find that the pretax value of a law degree is approximately $1,030,000 on average, $770,000 at the median, $430,000 at the twenty-fifth percentile, and $1,420,000 at the seventy-fifth percentile. These figures include the opportunity costs of foregone wages while in law school and financing costs. We also provide separate analyses of earnings for men and women. We find that the value of a law degree at the median is higher for women than for men because of a larger increase in work hours, but at the mean, the value for men and women is similar.
Thus, the value of a law degree typically exceeds its costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Even at the twenty-fifth percentile, a law degree is typically a profitable investment.
At current price levels, law degrees generally provide an attractive double-digit pretax rate of return. Legal education is profitable both for students and for the federal government as tax collector and lender. In sum, the evidence simply does not support Professor Tamanaha’s thesis.
You can find their original analysis here

The Red Velvet Lawyer Mentioned in ABA Online Newsletter

type='html'>From the February 21, 2014 ABA online newsletter:

Question of the Week

We want to hear from you.

Have you ever had a law prof use TV or film to illustrate a concept?

Image from Shutterstock.

On a recent snowy Friday when only five students could make it to class, Appalachian School of Law professor Paula Marie Young decided that she would screen a long excerpt from the the film The Negotiator.

"It illustrates so many concepts I discuss in my courses," Young wrote at her blog, The Red Velvet Lawyer. Young teaches certified civil mediation and dispute resolution.
There's also a TV series Young likes for this purpose: "I could create an entire course based on the negotiation tactics Francis Underwood uses inHouse of Cards," she wrote in a short subsequent post. "My idea. Don't steal it, please."

Using a fictional dramas to teach law students isn't unheard of: A William & Mary law professor created a textbook and class titled: The Wire: Crime, Law and Policy, based on the HBO television show. But how often is it really done?

So this week, we'd like to ask you: Have you ever had a law prof use TV or film to illustrate a concept? If so, which program or movie? If you have your own ideas about films or TV shows that lawyers or law students could learn a thing or two from, share that as well. (But be sensitive to your fellow readers—and moderators—and include spoiler warnings if you want to discuss the just-released season of House of Cards.)

Answer in the comments.

Bridge to Practice Programs at Appalachian School of Law


New Experiential Learning Programs

As part of our practice-ready, experiential curriculum, we are adding two bridge-to-practice components. Here is how Professor Derrick Howard describes them.
Beginning in the summer of 2014, the Appalachian School of Law will unveil its Bridge to Practice Fellowship Program. This Program has two distinct aspects vital to the maturation of future practitioners: mentoring and training. 
The mentoring component links first-year law students with upper classmen to impart a greater understanding of the rigors of law school. ASL alumni are also paired with upper classmen to prepare them for life as attorneys upon graduation.

The second aspect of this Program involves the placement of rising second-year students and recent ASL graduates in internships and fellowships with legal providers whose services complement ASL’s educational concentrations in Natural Resources Law and Litigation/Alternative Dispute Resolution. 
Approximately 10 fellowships for ASL graduates will be created in the areas of Natural Resources (7), Litigation/Alternative Dispute Resolution (2) and with the Judiciary (1 with the retired judges in the 28th, 29th, and 30th Judicial Circuits of Virginia encompassing southwest Virginia).

Students who are interested in obtaining a paid internship or fellowship are placed at a site for 8-12 weeks. The Fellows are paid by the site at a rate to be determined at the time of the placement. However, the average pay ranges from $15 to $20 per hour. 
This Program is open to rising second-year law students on a competitive basis and the most recent ASL law students who graduate in good standing with a GPA that places the student in the top 25% of his or her class. Consistent with ABA Standards, academic credit is not available to students or recent graduates who receive monetary compensation in conjunction with this placement.

The Bridge to Practice Fellowship Program provides students who will soon graduate from ASL, as well as recent graduates with career development and financial support while the students continue to build their professional experience and network. The goal is to leverage post-graduate work experience as part of a broad job search to secure full-time employment. 
The Program is effective because Fellows continue to develop subject matter expertise in a targeted field; develop professional relationships and references; and broaden networks for full-time employment. 
The Fellowship is particularly valuable for students who intend to launch full-time careers with employers that prefer or require bar passage and employers that otherwise hire only as positions become available.

Moot Court Team Reaches Quarterfinals


Appalachian School of Law Team
Among Top 8 Teams 

Amanda Coop and Amanda Kash entered the quarterfinals today as the #1 seed in the 38th Annual Robert F. Wagner Labor and Employment Law Competition held March 19–23, 2014.

They had to argue off-brief, and so, while they performed extremely well, they did not advance to the semi-finals. 

We are very proud of them.  Out of 46 teams, they made the top 8! 

A special thanks to assistant coaches Nick Kalagian and Jason Morgan who worked hard this weekend keeping the team focused and prepared.

Each spring, the New York Law School Moot Court Association administers the Robert F. Wagner National Labor & Employment Law Moot Court Competition in honor of the late U.S. Senator and distinguished alumnus. The competition is the nation’s largest student-run moot court competition and the premier national competition dedicated exclusively to labor and employment law. For over 30 years, schools from across the country have competed in this prestigious event.

Videos of the final round arguments will appear here.

House of Cards and Negotiation Skills


The Francis University of Negotiation Skills and Tactics

I could create an entire course based on the negotiation tactics Francis Underwood uses in House of Cards. I could call it "Francis University" and give each graduate a pair of cuff links bearing the initials for the name of course. 

My idea.  Don't steal it, please. 

Fargo: Negotiation Strategies Illustrated in Film


The Pace of the Negotiation "Dance" 
the "Nibble" Technique

Fargo, a Joel and Ethan Coen creation, follows the escalating chaos set in play by Jerry Lundergaard's effort to extort money from his father-in-law through the planned kidnapping of Lundergaard's hapless wife. Lundergaard, a car salesman at his father-in-law's dealership, has been making ends meet by falsifying records to inflate his car sales.  Now, he plans to close the financial gap by getting money out of his bullying father-in-law.  

William H. Macy plays Lundergaard.  Francis McDormand plays the pregnant sheriff in pursuit of the bungling kidnapper, played by Steve Buscemi.  

Close to the time the Coen's show us Lundergaard's mounting financial problems, Lundergaard completes the sale of a car to a couple caught in a negotiation they thought had ended long before they returned to Lundergaard's office for the keys to their new car.  

The scene helps me illustrate the timing and size of concessions in distributive bargaining.  It also illustrates a hard bargaining technique called "the nibble."  

In negotiations focused on money, the time between moves takes increasingly longer:
  • 5 minutes signals:  “We’re working it out.”
  • 10 minutes signals: “But it is getting harder for me.”
  • 20 minutes signals: “I’m running out of room.”
  • 40 + minutes signals: “Careful, we are risking impasse.”
Parties and mediators must respect this part of the dance and the implicit messages being sent.  So, a negotiator should mirror the time it takes an opponent to make a concession, even if he or she creates reasons to leave the room ("I'll talk to my boss").  And, then spends the appropriate time talking with "the boss" about something not related to the negotiation (tickets to the Gophers game). 

Thus, a negotiator should not respond immediately to a concession in the later stages of the negotiation. Respect the time intervals required to send the right message to both sides of the table.

At the same time, the amount of the offers and counter-offers gets increasingly smaller, even as the time between offers increases.  It takes twice as long to get half as much money. 
But, the message being sent is: “If we both keeping making concessions, we should get to a deal.”

With the "nibble" technique, you can get added value at the end of the negotiation (in this case the inflated cost of the TrueCoat).   Late in the negotiation, the other side is unlikely to walk away when faced with a nibble demand.  They are too psychologically committed to the negotiation by this time.  ("Where's my checkbook!")

A smart negotiator will resist the demand, even name the game, or be prepared to go buy the car (or other subject of the negotiation) from another provider (walk to your BATNA).  

Or, the negotiator can say: "Oh, I am very glad to see you would like to re-open our negotiations. We had a few additional items we wanted to discuss, as well."

The Hero Story in Lawyer Marketing


Lawyers Are Heroes, Too

A blawger complains this week about the sad state of lawyer marketing.  What's missing?  The hero story, in my opinion.  Head without heart.  Features without benefits.  And, an inability to show how lawyers change the world in a positive way.  

Here's a couple of contrasting videos that help illustrate the differences in a North Carolina political contest.  

Reinventing the Law and Legal Practice


How Lawyers Can Respond 
to a 
More Demanding, More Competitive Legal Market

Kandy Hopkins, at the Attorney at Work blawg, has nicely pulled together some of the presentations, commentary, and reviews of the conference in New York on the topic of reinventing the practice of law. I've blogged on this topic here, herehere, here, and here.

Kandy's overview says:
The daylong conference in New York City gathered more than 800 attendees who watched nearly 40 speakers, in an event “devoted to law, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship in the legal services industry.” The word on the web from those who attended? While the conference didn’t answer exactly how or when technology will transform the legal industry, it did offer two things not often seen in the industry: hope and possibilities. Here’s some scoop on more things bloggers and others are sharing about the conference and its innovation theme.
She then organizes links into five categories:

1.  The highlight reel.
2.  Focus on clients. 
3. "Tiny law" gets a spotlight.
4.  Not all was golden (or new).
5. Change is possible.

I'll be spending many hours opening those links and digesting the material.  We are in the midst of a revolution.  Ready or not, here it comes!

March 2, 2014 Update:  And, this infograhic sums up so very much about the revolution.