It’s holiday card sending season in lawyer land. Texas Lawyer’s John Council shared the holiday card he received last year from Alexander Dubose Jones & Townsend, an appellate shop in Austin, Houston and Dallas, with the note “ADJT takes the opportunity to briefly wish you all an appealing Holiday Season.” Kevin and Robert Dubose help teach an excellent Appellate Advocacy class with Randy Roach at the University of Houston Law Center. Highly recommended for UHLC students.
Caveat blog reader – this post is only tangentially related to the law. I’m perpetually fascinated with people who are able to do things are thought to be impossible. In Wendy Kopp’s case, I’m not sure which is more impressive: (a) generating measurable educational outcome improvements in schools populated in large part by students more likely to fail in more traditional environments or (b) turning teaching in the nation’s toughest schools into a prestigious and sought-after position.
I tend to think her thoughts, via a New York Times interview, on hiring people are transferable to other professions, perhaps ours:
Weâ€™ve done a lot of research on the characteristics of our teachers who are the most successful. The most predictive trait is still past demonstrated achievement, and all selection research basically points to that. But then there is a set of personal characteristics. And the No. 1 most predictive trait is perseverance, or what we would call internal locus of control. People who in the context of a challenge â€” you canâ€™t see it unless youâ€™re in the context of a challenge â€” have the instinct to figure out what they can control, and to own it, rather than to blame everyone else in the system.
Talent wins many battles; perserverance many wars.
As noted on the Texas Bar blog, KERA public radio in DFW has put together a series called Texas Trailblazer, featuring two noted Texas lawyers – Judge Barefoot Sanders and Louise B. Raggio. Raggio’s segment is available below:
In the 1950s, married women in most states needed their husbandâ€™s permission for legal and business transactions. They couldnâ€™t open their own bank accounts, sign contracts or control their own paychecks. Texas Trailblazer Louise Raggio tells the story of the Texas attorney who changed all that. Raggio went to law school to support her family after her husband returned from WWII emotionally shattered. She made history by leading the effort to draft and secure passage of the Marital Property Act of 1967 and became an icon in the struggle for womenâ€™s rights.
My favorite story from the interview:
Then in 1954 she got a call from then Dallas Court district judge Sarah Hughes. “Go down to see Henry Wade. He may have an opening. So I got myself fixed up and went down. He hired me. He told me a year later that he only reason he hired me is he figured I would fall flat on my face and he wouldn’t have to listen to Sarah Hughes any more. He didn’t realize that a woman could do the job.” A year later she was assigned to county criminal court. Her appointment made headlines as the first woman prosecutor in Dallas County.
Interestingly, both Louise Raggio and Sarah Hughes took their law degrees in evening programs, Hughes while working as a police officer.
The Federalist Society hosted Eugene Volokh at the Law Center yesterday where his brother (and co-conspirator) Sasha Volokh is a visiting professor this year. The talk was a thought-provoking exploration of Prof. Volokh’s Mechanisms of the Slippery Slope. It’s well worth a read.
Exactly how, skeptics ask,would one step today lead to another, quite different step later? Why shouldnâ€™t voters, legislators, and judges have the confidence to consider each proposal on its own merits? To accept a slippery slope argument, detractors claim, is to say that â€œwe ought not to make a sound decision today, for fear of having to draw a sound distinction tomorrow.â€ It turns out, though, that the realities of the political and judicial processes can make the slippery slopeâ€”or, more precisely, several diâ‰ erent kinds of mechanisms lurking behind the label “slippery slope”â€”a real concern.
- Eugene Volokh, Mechanisms of the Slippery Slope, 116 Harv. L. Rev. 1026 (2003).
- Eugene Volokh and David Newman, In Defense of the Slippery Slope (.pdf)
Lorie Graham and Stephen McJohn’s Cognition, Law, Stories unpacks the linguistic concepts of Steven Pinker’s Stuff of Thought into a legal context. Or at least it begins to. Although they recognize – “Cognitive science will play an increasing role in the law, from litigation to refinement of doctrine to legal theory to legal education” – it leaves it the application a rather open question. Hopefully others will take them up on it.
People do readily use complex concepts as fluidly as simple ones. But that arises through “chunking.” Once someone has learned a more complex concept, it can be treated as a single chunk, and readily used. We use â€œbuyâ€ as easily as â€œgiveâ€ because it has become a single, chunked concept. Here, as throughout the book, the discussion of cognition lends itself quickly to law. Law school, in large part, consists of assembling chunked concepts. A tort, like battery, is composed of several elements, each of which breaks down into sub-elements. After enough practice, students and lawyers use â€œbatteryâ€ as fluidly as “give.”
Consciousness of chunking would seem necessary whether you’re practicing in a courtroom, boardroom or classroom. Natural communicators recognize the elements necessary to convey understanding and build with these intuitively. For others, their existing understanding of complex concepts might block their ability to perceive potential confusion or fall back on clumsy analogies that are simplistic rather than simple.
The paper is being published in the upcoming issue of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science and Technology.