Debra Austin, JD, PhD

Career Vision Statement

Adapted from The Happy Lawyer: Making a Good Life in the Law
by Nancy Levit & Douglas O. Linder

Assignment Instructions

Please read the excerpt from Chapter 2 of The Happy Lawyer and the excerpts from The Happy Lawyer below. Draft a 2 paragraph Career Vision Statement according to the instructions below.

Defining Success in Law School

When you enter law school, it is easy to get on the “institutional glide path.” Law schools often define success for their students in terms of grades, class standing, and journal participation that lead to well-paying jobs at prestigious law firms. Law students report hearing about these prizes during law school orientation even before their first day of class. Consequently, students tend to internalize these prescribed measures of success and feel pressure to perform. As Harry Lewis, former dean of Harvard College, wrote in Excellence Without a Soul, students try to obtain high grades as a form of credentialing rather than seeking understanding or mastery of the material. You can easily get sucked into believing that success and meaning can only be found in attaining a top ten percent grade point average, making Law Review, and having a full dance card for on-campus interviews. If you let these extrinsic markers of achievement define you, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness. One of the first questions to ask yourself is whether other people are setting school and career expectations for you? p. 125-26

Research in learning theory shows that when students study toward the goal of mastering a topic and concentrate “on acquiring the skills or knowledge that are the subject of study,” they actually perform better academically than those students who set performance goals that focus “on grades or other performances relative to … fellow students.” In other words, if you are studying Property “hard” and agonizing over whether you are studying “hard enough to get a B,” you are likely to perform less well than if you study with the goal of being able to explain various rules about covenants that run with the land to a future client. If you learn to focus on your own objectives and consider what fulfills you personally, you will be more likely to pursue individually satisfying – rather than socially-prescribed – career directions. p. 133

Ben-Sharhar urges job-seekers to use what he calls “the Three Question Process.” He identifies three inward-looking questions most helpful to the search: (1) What gives me meaning? (2) What gives me pleasure? (3) What are my strengths? p. 145

Investigating Possible Futures

The best way to estimate your future happiness in a job is to ask people who currently hold that job whether they like their work – look at surrogates for your future self. This is especially important for those of you just embarking on your law careers.

You need to get a picture of what, physically, you will be doing every day when you go in to the office. The actual day to day tasks and interactions can be as important as practicing in a particular substantive area. When you get up in the morning, you want to look forward to going to work. Every job has multiple dimensions, but two are key to happiness: what you will be doing on a daily basis, and with whom you will be doing it. p. 151-52

What Do Lawyers Do?

  • 74% are in private practice.
  • 8% work in government.
  • 8% work in private industry.
  • 5% are retired or inactive.
  • 3% are in the judiciary.
  • 2% are in academic, consulting or accounting jobs.
  • 1% work in legal aid or public defender offices. p 9


What Happiness Research Predicts About Your Career

You are more likely to be happy if

  • You work in solo practice or a small firm than if you work in a large firm
  • You work for the government than for a private firm
  • Your compensation is above $70,000 per year than if it is below that amount
  • You have been a lawyer for 10 years or more than if you recently graduated from law school
  • You’ve always wanted to be a lawyer since a young age
  • You like and trust the people you work with
  • You believe that your work aligns with your values

You are likely happy with the intellectual challenge that your law career affords.


You are likely to change jobs three or more times before your career ends. 

You are most likely to complain about lack of feedback, lack of work-life balance, unethical attorneys and ungrateful clients, and meaningless work.

You are likely, at the end of your career, not to regret your decision to become a lawyer (although there will have been days when you questioned your decision.) p. 231

Career Vision Statement Assignment

Use the 10 guiding questions below to draft a 2 paragraph vision statement for your career. Paragraph one: What kinds of jobs would best match your personality, values, and skills? Paragraph two: Where do you want to be at the height of your career? p. 147-49

1.  Do you have a general idea of what kind of career you want? Do you plan to practice law? What do you envision yourself doing in 20 years – at the height of your career?

2.  What are your values? Do you value financial security? Time with your family and friends? Autonomy? Stability? Creativity? Do you want to have children? Do you like to take risks? Do you like variety? Do you like excitement and pressure or do you prefer life without stress? Do you desire leisure time to pursue various interests? Are your career plans consistent with your values

3.  How do you want to spend your day? Do you like dealing with people? Do numerous meetings make you crazy, or do you welcome the time to noodle issues with colleagues? In what size groups do you work best: all alone, with one or two other people, with a larger group? Do you like spending large blocks of time researching and writing? Do you like detail work? Do you enjoy or hate business development? How do you feel about the prospects of litigation? Do you like to travel? Do you prefer new challenges or handling matters over which you have some mastery? Do you know what kids of law do not interest you?

4.  What kinds of hours do you envision yourself working as a lawyer: a mammoth number of hours, a 9 to 5 day, part-time? Are you someone who is able to create work life balance for yourself, or do you take on too much work?

5.  When you are considering a job, will the salary and benefits meet your basic minimum needs? Will some other factor be paramount in your job search (for instance, whether the work is meaningful to you or can keep your interest)?

6.  Are you interested in entering a type of law that might dictate you live in a particular region (such as international law or water law)? Do you prefer cities? Large or small? Suburbs or rural areas? Domestic or international travel?

7.  Do you feel that other people (perhaps family members such as parents or partners) have specific expectations for what you will do with your law degree? Do they match yours?

8.  What are your signature strengths as they relate to a legal career? Weaknesses?

9.  What are your interests or hobbies? Do they relate to your career plans? Can they?

10.  If you could not be a lawyer, what would you do? Do any of these alternative careers suggest what you could do with your law degree other than practice law?

Legal Research Plan

You will explore the resources on the Required Resources list and create a Research Plan designed to guide the research for the Paper Topic you select. Your Research Plan must be produced in Word and submitted to me via email attachment to daustin@law.du.edu. The subject line of the email should read: ALR Research Plan. The document should be named FirstnameLastnameResearchPlan.doc (or .docx). You may submit your project early.

The goal of this assignment is to create a Research Plan for the Paper you will write on your chosen topic. You must do research in all the Required Resources. You must include all the Required Research Plan Components. You may include additional resources. Anything you would like to do to enhance your project beyond the scope of the assignment is perfectly acceptable, but will not be considered during the grading process.

For each resource, you must determine the appropriate format for summarizing/citing to the type of information that is available on your topic. At a minimum, please include appropriate titles, authors, and cites to sections or page numbers. Bluebook citation format is not required. If you find no information in a required resource, you do not need to include it in your project. I will assume you found no relevant information if the resource does not appear in your project. However, it you leave something out of your project and I locate relevant information in that source, a point deduction will be the result.

Required Research Plan Components

  • Introduction (1 to 3 paragraphs)
  • Secondary Sources
    • Citations to resources that are useful for your topic
    • Critique of 2 resources that you found helpful, including a justification of their effectiveness (1 to 3 paragraphs per critique)
  • Primary Authority
    • Citations to resources that are useful for your topic
    • Critique of 2 resources that you found helpful, including a justification of their effectiveness (1 to 3 paragraphs per critique)
  • Practice Materials
    • Citations to resources that are useful for your topic
    • Critique of 2 resources that you found helpful, including a justification of their effectiveness (1 to 3 paragraphs per critique)
  • Online Resources
    • Citations to resources that are useful for your topic
    • Critique of 2 resources that you found helpful, including a justification of their effectiveness (1 to 3 paragraphs per critique)
  • Conclusion (1 to 3 paragraphs)


Research Plan Required Resources

  • Secondary Sources
    • Encyclopedias
      • Am. Jur. 2d
      • CJS
      • West's Encyclopedia of American Law
    • Treatises
    • A.L.R. Annotations: Federal and State
    • Legal Periodicals: Law Reviews, Bar Association Journals, Legal Newspapers & Newsletters
      • Citation List from LegalTrac and
      • Citation List from Westlaw or Lexis
  • Primary Authority
    • Cases
      • Digests - List of applicable Key Numbers
      • Print Only - Located in Library
    • Statutes
      • Federal: U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S.
      • State: West's C.R.S.A. or Lexis C.R.S.
    • Administrative Materials
      • Federal
        • Regulations (CFR)
        • Agency Websites
      • State
        • Regulations (CCR)
        • Agency Websites
  • Practice Materials
    • Looseleaf Services
      • BNA (Bureau of National Affairs) - Looseleafs, treatises, reports, journals, and newsletters
    • Federal or National
      • Am. Jur. Trials
      • Am. Jur. Proof of Facts
      • Am. Jur. Pleadings and Practice
      • Causes of Action
      • Applicable Forms
    • State
      • West's Colorado Practice Series
      • CLE of Colorado
    • Other Materials
      • Jury Instructions
      • Self Help Books: Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  • Online
    • Applicable Web Sites


Research Plan Presentation

You will do a short (5-7 minute) presentation summarizing your Research Plan results. Please practice your presentation to ensure you can complete your presentation within the time constraints. You are encouraged to utilize images and a theme to tell your research "story." You may use PowerPoint or Prezi to create your presentation and you will email your presentation at least 3 hours prior to class on your presentation day and use my laptop for the presentation.

Presentation Components

  • 5 to 7 minute summary
  • 2 or 3 highlights from your research experience, which could include:
    • useful resources
    • research process information/reflection
    • information on your topic
    • demo of web resource
  • use of a theme and/or visual support to tell your abbreviated research "story" this is similar to developing a theory of the case
  • 6 to 12 PowerPoint slides or Prezi frames


How to Speak in Public without Fear

Take Public Speaking Tips from Abraham Lincoln

Research Paper

Students will select a topic, within the Practice Area of focus for the semester, on which to write a 5-6 page paper which should not exceed 6 pages. The paper may be double-spaced. The Research Plan assignment will provide an outline of useful sources in which to conduct research for the paper. Students will submit a First Draft, which should be of a high quality. Students will receive feedback from me and will then submit a Final Revision of their paper. If you want this paper to satisfy the Upper Level Writing Requirement, it must be 10 pages in length, but should not exceed 11 pages.

Your paper must be produced in Word. Papers are required to be submitted to me via email attachment to daustin@law.du.edu. The subject line of the email should read: ALR Paper First Draft and ALR Paper Final Revision. The document should be named FirstnameLastnameFirstDraft.doc and FirstnameLastnameFinalRevision.doc(or .docx). You may submit your paper early.

Library Purchasing Plan

You will prepare a Library Purchasing Plan on the best or major research tools necessary to open a practice in your chosen area of law. Your Library Purchasing Plan must be produced in Word. Library Purchasing Plans are required to be submitted to me via email attachment to daustin@law.du.edu. The subject line of the email should read: ALR Purchasing Plan. The document should be named FirstnameLastnamePurchasing Plan.doc (or .docx). You may submit your project early.

The goal of this assignment is to present information on your chosen area of practice regarding the applicable legal research resources necessary to practice. Information on publishers and pricing are required for each Required Resource listed below. You may include additional resources. Anything you would like to do to enhance your project beyond the scope of the assignment is perfectly acceptable, but will not be considered during the grading process.

You can use the ALR web site to help you. Many of the Required Resources will be linked in the outlines on the ALR site. These will link you directly to the publisher book store and provide both publisher and pricing information. Resources that are unique to your project include treatises, looseleafs, and legal periodicals. For these resources, you could:

  • use the Library Catalog for Treatises
  • use the BNA databases for looseleafs and Google for legal newsletters
  • use the looseleaf publishers listed on the Practice Materials page for looseleafs
  • use the West and Lexis online bookstores, OR
  • search Google, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble to find the publisher if the other methods don't work for you.


For legal periodicals, try to find the subscription price for 1 or 2 for your practice area. You would likely not subscribe to a general law review published by a school to keep you updated in your practice area. Try to focus on topic specific legal periodicals and bar journals that you would want to review each month.

You will include either a Westlaw or Lexis online price plan. The representatives will give you ballpark pricing during the in-class presentations and that is acceptable for inclusion in your project.

You will begin with an introduction to your project. You will write a conclusion about which resources you would purchase and why, the total cost of your selected purchases, and which format they would be purchased in (print, Westlaw, Lexis, Internet). You must do the analysis (include all the publishers and pricing for each resource on the Required Resources list) in order to make a conclusion. You must get information on all the resources on the Required Resources list so that you gain an understanding of resource costs that you could face in any number of practice areas after graduation from law school. The conclusion is the most important component of this project.


You will include the resource name, publisher, and pricing information for each of the Required Resources.

You can organize your Library Purchasing Plan using the 4 major resource groups: Secondary Sources, Primary Authority, Practice Materials, and Online. Formatting for this project will be fairly simple. For example, you may use the outline format for you resource lists:

  • Secondary Sources
    • American Jurisprudence 2d
      • Publisher: Thomson/West
      • Price: $10,582


Library Purchasing Plan Components

  • Introduction to Purchasing Plan (1-3 paragraphs)
    • your practice area, the size of your firm, your financial goals in constructing your library, etc. You are free to determine these variables according to your professional goals.
  • Secondary Sources
    • pricing & publisher information
  • Primary Authority
    • pricing & publisher information
  • Practice Materials
    • pricing & publisher information
  • Online Resources
    • pricing & publisher information
  • Conclusion (1-3 paragraphs)
    • what you would purchase for your practice and the justification
    • format (onine, print, etc) of your purchases
    • total cost of your selected purchases
    • You may use a table format or a paragraph format for the Conclusion


Library Purchasing Plan Required Resources

  • Secondary Sources
    • Encyclopedias:
      • Am. Jur. 2d
      • C.J.S.
    • Treatises
      • include at least 2 from your practice area
    • A.L.R. Annotations
      • Federal and State (most recent editions)
    • Legal Periodicals
      • include a subscription to at least 1 Journal that you would subscribe to for keeping current in your practice area (might be online pricing)
  • Primary Authority
    • Cases
      • Federal Practice Digest (most recent edition)
      • Federal Reporter (most recent edition)
      • Federal Supplement (most recent edition)
      • State Digest (most recent edition)
      • State Reporter (most recent edition)
    • Statutes
      • Federal: U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S.
      • State: West’s C.R.S.A. or Lexis' C.R.S.
    • Administrative Materials
  • Practice Materials (if there are multiple editions, use most recent edition)
    • Looseleaf Services - include at least 1 if you included a looseleaf in the Research Plan Use Looseleaf web sites BNA does not have pricing: put Contact BNA on project
    • Federal/National:
      • Am. Jur. Trials
      • Am. Jur. Proof of Facts
      • Am. Jur. Pleadings and Practice
      • Causes of Action
    • State
      • West’s Colorado Practice Series Methods of Practice and any other sections that are relevant to your practice
      • CLE Practice Materials
  • Online
    • Westlaw or Lexis Price Plan (from information distributed by the representatives in class)
    • Internet Applicable Web Sites from Research Plan (no additional cost)


Final Presentation

You will do a short (5-7 minute) final presentation. Please practice your presentation to ensure you can complete your presentation within the time constraints. Your final presentation may cover your Research Paper or your Final Reflection Paper content. You may use PowerPoint or Prezi to create your presentation and you will email your presentation at least 3 hours prior to class on your presentation day and use my laptop for the presentation.

Presentation Components

  • 5 to 7 minute summary
  • 2 to 4 highlights from your:
    • Research Paper OR
    • Final Reflection Paper
  • 6 to 12 PowerPoint slides or Prezi frames


Final Reflection Paper

Please describe three significant legal research resources covered in the Advanced Legal Research course and how they will impact your development of legal research strategies in practice, once you have graduated and no longer have Lexis and Westlaw on tap for free. You should discuss how your research preferences, various resource formats, and resource costs will help you make determinations about formulating future legal research strategies. Please use 3 to 6 paragraphs to address this question.

Please discuss three significant things that you learned or improved in the Advanced Legal Research course and how your new knowledge and skills will impact your future work in internships, clerkships, and/or practice. Please use 3 to 6 paragraphs to address this question.

Your paper must be produced in Word. Papers are required to be submitted to me via email attachment to daustin@law.du.edu. The subject line of the email should read: ALR Reflection. The document should be named FirstnameLastnameReflection.doc (or .docx). You may submit your paper early.

Course Policies


Late Work

For each week or portion of a week that any written assignment is overdue, I will deduct 10% from the assignment score. For every administrative requirement that is disregarded (such as labeling your email or naming your document), I will deduct 5% from the assignment score. I will not accept submission of assignments beyond 1 week after the assignment due date and the student will be awarded 0% for the assignment if not submitted by this late submission deadline.

If you fail to show up for a presentation, I will deduct 20% from your presentation score. You are responsible to contact me to reschedule your presentation. No presentations will be scheduled after 1 week from the 1st presentation date on the syllabus or after the last day of class and if a student has failed to give a presentation by those late presentation dates, the student will be awarded 0% points for the presentation.

Attendance

The ABA requires law students to attend their law school classes. Students students must attend at least 80% of the class meetings. If a student misses more than 80% of the lecture and presentation classes, it may impact the final grade for the class. If you have to miss a lecture or presentation class, please email me as a courtesy.

Disability Accommodation


If you have a disability/medical issue protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and need to request accommodations, please visit the Disability Services Program website at www.du.edu/disability/dsp. You may also call (303) 871-2372, or visit in person on the 4th floor of Ruffatto Hall; 1999 E. Evans Ave., Denver, CO. http://www.du.edu/studentlife/disability-services/faculty-staff/index.html.
 

Extraordinary Circumstances

I reserve the right to amend any course policy for a student who experiences extraordinary circumstances during the semester and communicates these circumstances to me in a timely fashion, co-creates a plan with me to complete class assignments, and completes the agreed upon plan. The best way to reach me is via email.

Grade Curve

Law school policy requires the grades in this course be curved where the mean (average of all grades) and the median (middle score) must be a B.

The curve in ALR is based upon a 100 point scale. The scores for all written assignments and presentations are added together for each student. All the student score totals for the section are sorted from highest point total to lowest point total. Law school policy specifies 2 requirements as to the curve: the median (middle score of the group) must be a B and the mean (average of all scores) must be a B or 3.0.

The first thing that is determined is the median. In a section with 15 students, the median is score number 8. There are 7 scores above the median and 7 scores below the median. Score number 8 is the middle of the curve and is an automatic B. The curve flows out from there depending on the point total of the median and the point totals received by all the other students. There are natural breaks in the point totals and that is where the B+ or B- range starts.

The other factor is the mean. The mean is the average of all student score totals and it is required to be 3.0 or B. This means that generally for every grade above a B there must be a grade below a B to maintain the B average.

The curve requirement is a law school administrative policy. What I can control is the creation of a productive learning environment where I hope students acquire knowledge of the major legal research resources, their respective benefits and costs, the free internet alternative sources, and the skills of creating a cost-effective legal research strategy and using some technology in their law practices. Finally, I hope I provide in the ALR web page an ongoing research resource that will be useful to graduates for many years.

Assignments and Policies

  • Career Vision Statement – 5% (Jan 9 to discuss in class)
  • Research Plan Presentations – 10% (Feb 13 or 15)
  • Legal Research Plan – 20% (due Feb 22 by 11:00 pm)
  • Research Paper First Draft – 20% (due Mar 15 by 11:00 pm)
  • Library Purchasing Plan – 10% (due Apr 3 by 11:00 pm)
  • Final Presentations – 10% (Apr 10 or 12)
  • Research Paper Final Revision – 20% (due Apr 24 by 11:00 pm)
  • Final Reflection – 5% (due Apr 24 by 11:00 pm)
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