Blawg Review #232 – World Teachers’ Appreciation Day 2009

Yes, it was Ed. who suggested I do Blawg Review for this auspicious day – World Teachers’ Day, October 5th – and on the Solo Practice University blog. One would think he believes I admire teaching?

What is World Teachers’ Day? From the Education International website:

World Teachers’ Day 2009

5 October is a day to celebrate teachers and the central role they play in guiding children, youths & adults through the life-long learning process. This year, World Teachers’ Day will focus on the role of teachers within the context of the global financial and economic crisis and the need to invest in teachers now as a means to secure post-crisis regeneration.

It is critical, during these difficult times, to seek mechanisms that protect the teaching profession. It is also crucial, despite the crisis, to ensure that investment in teachers is sufficient and proportionate to the demands made upon them. It is the teaching force with its knowledge, experience and foresight which can bring new insights to global solutions.

However, what is the future of education, higher education as we’ve always known it?

[T]he day is coming—sooner than many people think—when a great deal of money is going to abruptly melt out of the higher education system, just as it has in scores of other industries that traffic in information that is now far cheaper and more easily accessible than it has ever been before. Much of that money will end up in the pockets of students in the form of lower prices, a boon and a necessity in a time when higher education is the key to prosperity. Colleges will specialize where they have comparative advantage, rather than trying to be all things to all people. A lot of silly, too-expensive things—vainglorious building projects, money-sucking sports programs, tenured professors who contribute little in the way of teaching or research—will fade from memory, and won’t be missed.

But other parts of those institutions will be threatened too—vital parts that support local communities and legitimate scholarship, that make the world a more enlightened, richer place to live. Just as the world needs the foreign bureaus that newspapers are rapidly shutting down, it needs quirky small university presses, Mughal textile historians, and people who are paid to think deep, economically unproductive thoughts. Rather than hiding within the conglomerate, each unbundled part of the university will have to find new ways to stand alone. There is an unstable, treacherous future ahead for institutions that have been comfortable for a long time. Like it or not, that’s the higher education world to come. (From ‘College For $99 A Month – The Washington Monthly)

And here is an amazing insider’s look at higher education provided by Stephanie West Allen which is a must read for those who want to peer inside the workings of higher education.

Let’s face it, everything is about education and life-long learning. It is celebrating those who impart knowledge tirelessly in that more structured environment, the one which dispenses degrees. It’s all about the teachers.

But it also embraces, in my opinion, the accidental educator. Who is the accidental educator? In this case, the lawyer, regardless the myriad motivations for doing so, who shares his or her expertise that benefits many through the ever-expanding world of the internet. The tweeter who tweets one article that helps another find invaluable life-saving information and who continues to do so often and in random fashion. The lawyer who condemns in the court of public opinion a rule of law which is just plain wrong. But for this forum it might go unnoticed by the majority, unheard and unexplained. The opinionated who challenges you to rethink your position. The provocateur who baits others to engage in a much needed public debate. They are all educators if they make you think. They are all educators if they challenge your ideas, your biases, your beliefs. If they create and promote the conversation, they educate. You don’t have to agree, but you listen.

This blawg review highlights the blawgosphere’s educators and celebrates them. We don’t have to agree with them. But we have to commend them for their tireless efforts, no matter their motivation for doing so, to enlighten, inform, inspire, instigate, aggravate and keep us coming back for more.

So I present you the ‘teachers’ this week in no particular order and with the understanding that there are hundreds of great lessons to be learned authored by hundreds of lawyers which were not included in this Blawg Review…or I would have been writing for days..and days…and days.

Therefore, it’s only fitting we start with the one of the blawgosphere’s most opinionated, instigating, aggravating yet most thought-provoking educators out there, Scott Greenfield. In a post entitled This is a Book he challenges those who embrace the Kindle as having no soul. While practically no one agreed with him stating it is the content, not the delivery system, it does give pause to those of a certain age who have many fond memories of hiding away in some private space with a compelling tale and never wanting the book to end. I could imagine reading in the throne room may not be the same with a Kindle but I don’t know for sure because I don’t own one. I still have a soul.

Though technically not a blawg and not a lawyer, no one is more of an influential teacher to the legal profession than Ron Baker of Verasage Institute (and faculty at Solo Practice University). He is single-mindedly and with a laser-focused discourse attacking the sacred cow of the legal profession – the billable hour – and in the process is giving us a master’s course in economics. This week he engaged in a heated debate in the blawgosphere with Patrick Lamb and we all had a front row seat in the classroom.

We have two problems with this debate. The first is a linguistic issue. We all seem to be using a somewhat different definition of efficiency and effectiveness.

We believe all change is linguistic, so we should agree on terms. For example, you say in your post that I am one of the “leading thinkers on the issue of value billing,” but we at VeraSage don’t use the term “value billing,” since billing is done in arrears, whereas pricing is done up-front, before the work is started. There’s an enormous difference in these two approaches.

We also don’t believe law firms are “professional service firms” but rather “professional knowledge firms (PKFs),” terminology more in line with Peter Drucker’s famous definition of knowledge worker and knowledge economy.

So let me begin by defining how I am using the terms efficiency and effectiveness, which I take from Peter Drucker:

  • Efficiency focuses on doing things right.
  • Effectiveness concentrates on doing the right things.

Now many people argue that both of these are important, and up to a point I agree. However, past some point—which we argue occurs sooner on the graph in a knowledge firm than, say, in a factory—the two become mutually exclusive. I can cite hundreds of examples where a decrease in measured efficiency still leads to an increase in effectiveness.”

You can learn more here. And please click on links to Patrick Lamb’s post as they parry and thrust.

One of the newest shining lights in the blawgosphere is Jennifer Laviano who authors the Connecticut Special Education Lawyer Blog. In her no nonsense style she challenges that not all educators are so great, especially when it involves the special needs of children.

Another perennial favorite who teaches us everything we never wanted to know but had to learn about tax law is Tax Girl, Kelly Erbst. This week she reminds us you can’t check ‘Prepared By Google’ on your tax return and hope to get a pass. There are many lessons embedded in this post and it segues nicely into Matt Homann’s posted opinion that lawyer’s advice might one day be irrelevant because of people who think they can glean free legal expertise from the internet without the benefit of a lawyer. However, I disagreed.

An unsung blawgosphere educator is Chuck Newton. In his great blog, Chuck Newton Rides the Third Wave, he talks about the various niches a solo can explore to separate from the pack. This week, the Water Law Niche.

And speaking of niches, here is a new one for you: Bicycle Law. This week I learned all about cyclists’ rights in Chicago. You can, too, at the Chicago Bicycle Advocate.

We also learn about marketing, branding and copywriting through education and discussion. Law firm tags generated so much discussion about what constitutes a bad tag line and why at Stem Legal. Learn from the comments.

The very cerebral and cerebral-focused educator, Stephanie West Allen of Ideallawg tells us five reasons why your brain may like procrastinating.

At Balkanization we can suffer the lawyer’s angst in this thought-provoking post – Personhood in Citizenship’s Shadow.

There is something humiliating about having to argue that your client is a person. And yet, for those of us who represent noncitizens, we are forced to argue personhood all the time.

And we can also get an inside view of how a law school dean is selected at The Faculty Lounge. Today’s dean is not your momma’s dean.

Counsel to Counsel reveals a study which reminds us that networking remains a critical component of generating work for most lawyers. But how one networks is changing.

You can take notes from a great post on the monopoly on legal information at New Generation Lawyer right here where the author includes this highly provocative statement:

As lawyers, we make a living exploiting the ignorance of our clients. It’s true. They have a need, they have no idea how to solve it, we have access to the information to help them, and we earn a living by connecting the dots. There’s nothing wrong with this model. It’s been around a long time. In defense of this model, I’d argue we have a unique skill set to understand the issues and leverage the information to the client’s full advantage. And with skills, comes marketable value. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this.

We can learn to improve our legal writing while disproving famous writing tomes. Strunk & White were WRONG? The passive voice has a good side at Adams Drafting.

Having buyer’s remorse about law school during the recession?

First, why does it occur? According to research, people are poor at predicting the true state of their emotions. Second, buyers’ remorse attaches to people’s self confidence about the decision. Often times, mediation and litigation is a foreign environment and the clients fear that they may have made the wrong decision because of lack of knowledge.

Learn about buyer’s remorse at Mediation Matters. And if you’ve already completed school and still question your choice as a legal professional head on over to the Lawyer Satisfaction blog and learn about your choices.

You can also learn from lawyers (and MBAs) in transition as they educate en route to their next venture discussing issues such as musicians squaring off against each other in an effort to punish file sharers.

And we can definitely learn from lawyers-yet-to-be as they inhabit the Legal Underground. or when they file their own lawsuits against their professors.

Those who want to delve more deeply into jury selection have never been failed by the author of Deliberations, Anne Reed. And she graciously points you in the direction of more high quality education on the subject in this post.

And here’s where we get some insight into the origination of some of the more bizarre public policies. The British Government is attacking the symptom rather than the disease at Lowering the Bar and Overlawyered by mandating plastic pint glasses (the “glass” variety can be used as weaponry when the booze overtakes the boozer)

But the Brits are not the only ones who can’t necessarily figure things out properly. Slaw discusses The Rule Of Law vs the Rule of Reason and makes you think about how much cold medicine you really need.

Students traveling abroad can get educated on the various cultural norms (and aberrations). Too bad this young student didn’t know that in Mali if you are alone in a room with a man it is considered to be consent to sexual intercourse. Should the school have told her the custom and are they responsible for her rape?

And in a horrible segue, if you’re into sex toys don’t move to Alabama.

Over at the University of Chicago Law Blog the discussion is open as to whether ” in many of its capital punishment and substantive due process decisions, the Court is not responding to trends in public opinion but is instead just indulging its own ideological preferences or policy views.”

Based upon the above it makes sense then to read this sobering post from Law Is Cool, “Into the minds of the condemned: statements from Death Row

The School Law Blog reviews “From Schoolhouse to Courthouse” discussing the impact of the courts on our educational system.

Finally, one of the Blawg Review sherpa’s favorite posts this week about the hilarious response to Glenn Beck’s WIPO complaint, from the Citizen Media Law Project, “His Identity Revealed, Publisher of Glenn Beck Parody Site Comes Out Swinging”.

There is an amazing education to be gotten through all of the blawgosphere’s accidental educators and we should encourage, not muzzle, those lawyers who would capitalize upon ‘educational marketing’ to enhance their practices. Here are some examples of educational marketing which benefit other lawyers and consumers:

Don’t Let Face Book Torpedo Your Client.” – Personal Injury Attorney, Jim Reed.

Entertainment Law Updates – Entertainment Lawyer, Gordon Firemark

The North Face Claims That Consumers Don’t Know Their Heads From Their Asses – First Amendment Lawyer, Marc Randazza

A Novel Marketing Technique – from Legal Marketing Expert, Mark Merenda

Use a Low Cost Filing Service Instead of Me? Sure. Why Not – The Start Up Tool Kit

Worker’s Compensation Extends to Weight Loss Surgery – The New Jersey Injury Attorney Blog

Pesticide Salsa Sickens 20 in Kansas – Food Safety News

Seven Myths of Divorce – South Carolina Family Law Blog

If You Like To Cut Your Grass in the Nude – Legal Juice

We all win with more information through the wonder that is the internet and educational marketing. We’re all accidental educators and we should relish the role.

You can learn more about next week’s Blawg Review here.

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