Wednesday, March 29, 2006

THE MAKINGS OF A GREAT CAREER

The Memphis Commercial Appeal is reporting that Professor June Entman at University of Memphis Humphreys School of Law has banned laptops from her classroom.

When I graduated from law school in 1996 laptops were pretty common, but hardly anyone brought them to class, and they were usually pretty annoying. Since then laptops have become ubiquitous in law schools. My old school has plugs and network jacks at essentially every seat in the law school. I believe that students are required to own laptops at my old school. Professors tell me that essentially every student has their laptops open and types straight into them all the time. Times have changed. I understand that. Still, the reaction to Professor Entman's decision is very interesting.

Professor Entman apparently teaches Civil Procedure, Advanced Civil Procedure, and Evidence. These classes all have one thing in common. They are teaching students how to use and anaylze rules that are explicit and in writing. The Federal Rules of Evidence have an inherent outline structure. While there are concepts that need to be learned (hearsay is an out of court statement presented for the truth of the statement asserted, right Professor?) the rules themselves have a coherence in their organization. The same is true of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. These are distinct from many law school subjects in that you, as the student, don't have to figure out the structure of the law and then how those parts relate. You just need to figure out how the parts relate.

In light of this, when student Cory Winsett is quoted as saying that "if he must continue without his laptop, he'll transfer to another school . . . [because] he won't be able to keep up if he has to rely on hand-written notes, which he says are incomplete and less organized" I think that young Cory may be in for a rough ride in the law. First, Cory, you don't know enough in most classes to have "organized notes." You don't know how the six class periods you do on acceptance in contracts relates to the six you will do on consideration until AFTER you have had the classes on consideration. Therefore, your notes after acceptance class two are not "organized" in any meaningful way. Second, if we are in a meeting with a client and I do not want you to disappear behind a screen like a court reporter because I want you to interact and develop as a lawyer, I STRONGLY suggest that you learn to close the laptop and take effective notes. Just something to think about Cory.

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