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February 29, 2008

Was Judge Too Quick to Resign?

After highly regarded Boston-based U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Somma pleaded no contest to a DUI charge earlier this month and news media reported that he had been dressed in women's clothing when arrested, he resigned from the bench. Now, sentiment is coming out of two camps that Somma may have been too quick to hang up his robes.

Boston-area bankruptcy lawyers this week waged a letter-writing campaign to urge the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reject Somma's resignation. The campaign -- reportedly spearheaded by Goodwin Procter partner Michael J. Pappone -- yesterday submitted letters to Circuit Executive Gary H. Wente saying, "Recent events do not in any manner diminish Judge Somma’s ability to fulfill his duties and to remain as a highly respected member of the bench with the overwhelming support of the community of bankruptcy practitioners." Above the Law has the full text of the letter.

Also this week, the New Hampshire newspaper credited with breaking the story is taking heat for reporting the alleged cross-dressing and exposing the judge and his family to embarrassment. The New Hampshire Union Leader published the story under the headline, Arrested Judge Wore Dress, Women's Hosiery. But EDGE Boston, a gay news Web site, reports that the newspaper's decision to turn cross-dressing into headline news is drawing as much scrutiny to the paper as the story brought to the judge. "Reader responses posted on the paper’s Web site have ranged from conscientious objections to vehement outrage," EDGE contributor Scott Kearnan writes. The judge may have betrayed public safety by driving drunk, Kearnan adds, but should he also have to explain his choice in hosiery?

February 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Blog Helps Expose International Hoax

In a post here last September, Blog Book Chronicles $33M Verdict, I told you about Jane Daniel, the Gloucester, Mass., woman who launched a blog, BESTSELLER!,  to tell the story in serial form of the lawsuit that resulted in a $33 million verdict against her and her small publishing company Mt. Ivy Press. (Although Gloucester adjoins my town, I have never met Daniel.) The 2001 verdict was awarded to Misha Defonseca and her ghostwriter Vera Lee as the result of disputes over copyright and promotion of Defonseca's memoir, Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years, about surviving the Holocaust on her own as a young girl, in part through her "adoption" by a pack of wolves. The book became a bestseller in Europe and is the basis for a new French movie, Survivre avec les Loups (Surviving With the Wolves).

In my September post, I wrote that Daniel's blog provided "an intriguing perspective on the litigation system as nonlawyers see it." She described that system as a crap-shoot that left her in shock and pain. While her ongoing story would most certainly reach an end, she wrote, she did not then know what it would be. As it turns out, her book-via-blog may have helped write its own ending. In what is perhaps poetic justice if not legal justice, Daniel's blogging about the case helped expose hidden facts and generate renewed publicity that resulted yesterday in Defonseca's admission that her story was a hoax. As David Mehegan writes today in The Boston Globe:

Yesterday's confession follows a week of intense publicity in French and Belgian media, prompted by disclosure of documents unearthed by Waltham-based genealogical researcher Sharon Sergeant showing that Monique De Wael (Defonseca's real maiden name) was baptized in a Brussels Catholic church in September 1937 and that she was enrolled in a Brussels primary school in 1943-44. The researcher also discovered that Defonseca's parents, Robert and Josephine De Wael, were members of the Belgian resistance and were arrested and executed by the Nazis.

Sergeant, the genealogical researcher, became interested in the case through Daniel's blog and provided her discoveries to Daniel to post there, drawing out even more information. Kathleen Valentine, another Gloucester blogger and friend of Daniel, posts a description of Sergeant's detective work and notes that part of what makes the story so interesting "is the incredible role the internet and blogging has played in the story."

While revelation of the hoax has no direct bearing on the verdict, which the Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed in 2005, Daniel tells the Globe that she hopes it provides her a basis to challenge the original lawsuit on the grounds that Defonseca's contract with Mt. Ivy Press had warranted the truth of her story. For lawyers, the entire tale offers another chapter in a different developing story -- that of the interplay between blogging and the legal system.

February 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Court Expectorates Mouthwash Class Action

Two Massachusetts plaintiffs were left with bad tastes in their mouths after the state Appeals Court refused to give class action status to their lawsuits against the manufacturer of Listerine mouthwash. Today's decision in Kwaak v. Pfizer concluded that claims of the potential class plaintiffs were too different to join together in a single action.

Two separate lawsuits, both filed in Superior Court in Boston, each alleged that Listerine's maker, Pfizer Inc., engaged in deceptive advertising through a campaign that claimed the mouthwash was "as effective as floss." The two plaintiffs, Sherry Kwaak and Jerry Natale, had used the product for at least a decade. "Kwaak bought Listerine and other mouth rinses to freshen her breath and clean her mouth, and Natale bought Listerine to fight plaque and gingivitis and to freshen his breath," the court informs us. Claiming damages of the difference between what they paid for the mouthwash and its actual, lower value attributable to the deception, they sought to certify a class of all Massachusetts Listerine purchasers.

But after swishing the request around, the Appeals Court ejected it as not meeting the class certification standards of the state's consumer protection law, M.G.L. c. 93A. The court distinguished this case from an earlier "true market value" Mass. case involving advertising of Marlboro Lights cigarettes, Aspinall v. Philip Morris Cos., in that Aspinall involved labeling common to every package of Marlboro Lights while Listerine used an array of advertisements and labeling.

In this case, there is insufficient information in the record to identify any such similarity of exposure, deception, and causation. The class certified is everyone who purchased Listerine products during the advertising campaign, regardless whether a purchaser was exposed to the campaign. Unlike in Aspinall, not every product was mislabeled. Some Listerine products, for example, contained no label or tag connected to the advertising campaign.

In a concurring opinion, Appeals Court Justice Frederick L. Brown said that the interests of the potential plaintiffs were so dissimilar that he was puzzled by why plaintiffs' counsel bothered to divert their attention from the clients they already represent. Noting that an attorney's paramount interest should be his or her client, Judge Brown offered the lawyers this advice: "Dance with the one who brought you."

February 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Pricey Lawyer Draws Curious Crowd

Over the past three weeks, the legal malpractice trial against law firm Thompson Coburn in a Madison County, Ill., courtroom drew hardly a single spectator. That changed dramatically Wednesday, reports legal newspaper The Record, when gawkers filled the courtroom to see a lawyer charging $1,000 an hour testify as an expert witness against the firm. During questioning of the lawyer, Thomas Q. Keefe Jr. of Belleville, Ill., the courtroom "was jammed with legal professionals from every field: trial attorneys, probate lawyers, prosecutors, public defenders and even judges came by to witness the day's proceedings."

The plaintiff, Magna Bank, is suing the law firm over legal advice that allegedly cost it millions in settlements after a local businessman stole millions in structured-settlement funds. Saying the trial could continue for weeks, The Record describes it as "one of the most dramatic and complicated civil trials ever held in Madison County" That's saying a lot, given that Madison County long held the top spot on the American Tort Reform Association's annual list of Judicial Hellholes.

It is not clear whether the crowd of curious onlookers was attracted by Keefe's lofty hourly rate or by his opinion that Thompson Coburn committed legal malpractice in the advice it gave the bank. As for Keefe, he said he agreed to appear as an expert to "make amends for the two-week brain fart" he had when he represented another lawyer in a case years ago. And his pricey fee? He is donating that to charity.

February 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 28, 2008

Will the Constitution Doom McCain's Presidency?

Republican presidential candidate's John McCain's detractors may call him many things, but "un-American" isn't one of them. The Constitution suggests otherwise. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution says that only a natural-born citizen is eligible for the presidency -- and by that standard, McCain, who was born on a military base in Panama, is arguably not American enough to hold the office of Presidency.

Ridiculous?  Not entirely. Bloggers Scott Greenfield, Jonathan Turley and WSJ Law Blog's Dan Slater discuss the potential constitutional impediment to McCain's presidency in greater detail. 

Even more interesting, McCain's likely opponent, Barack Obama, bypasses a similar constitutional question under Article II, Section 1 by just two years. Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961, just two years after Hawaii gained statehood. If Obama were just a little older, Hawaii would have still been a territory, and Obama would have faced the same constitutional question as did Barry Goldwater -- who was born in Arizona when it was a territory as well.

February 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Supreme Court Justice Recusals Attract Accusals

The possibility of a 4-4 ruling in the Exxon Valdez punitive damages case as a result of Justice Alito's recusal (he holds stock in Exxon) has triggered a discussion around the blogosphere over whether there's a better way for the Court to handle recusals so as to avoid the possibility of a tie vote (in which case, the appellate court's ruling stands).

Eugene Volokh believes that the recusal issue deserves renewed attention because tie votes produce a "pretty bad result":

An important issue will be unresolved, the Justices' time will be wasted, the parties' money will be wasted, and all over what is likely just a few thousand dollars' worth of investment.

Volokh suggests that Justices be prohibited from owning a stake in the parties' stock, even if that means selling the stock once cert is granted. 

Professor Bainbridge points out, however, that Justices can recuse themselves, and then "un-recuse" themselves by selling any stock interests that they hold in party and re-enter the case.  As Bainbridge explains, a specific Tax Code provision allows judges to divest an asset causing a conflict of interest so as to hear the case and avoid paying capital gains so long as any gains are deposited into a Treasury security or an approved mutual fund.  Bainbridge wonders why Alito didn't take advantage of these provisions to sell his Exxon holdings so that he could hear the case.

Howard Bashman offers another suggestion in the comments section at Volokh. Bashman recognizes that not all recusals are driven by conflicts caused by financial interests; frequently, the Justices must recuse themselves where, for example, they have  a personal or family relationship with one of the parties or their counsel.  Obviously, these types of conflicts are not cured by divestiture.  So, to avoid the possibility of a 4-4 tie, Bashman proposes legislation or a judicial rulemaking to  authorize the U.S. Supreme Court to randomly tap a non-recused judge from the U.S. Courts of Appeals to replace a recused Justice in a case in which certiorari has been granted.

February 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Are Law Firms Behind the Times When It Comes to Face Time?

In spite of technological advances like e-mail, remote computer access and low cost Web conferencing, it's back to the twentieth century for associates at large firms -- that is, if you accept Hunton & Williams partner Dionne Carney Rainey's conclusion that face time still matters for law firm associates.  Based on an informal survey of her Texas colleagues, Rainey found that most agreed that "associates need to be physically in the office during regular business hours Monday through Friday."  And Rainey herself adds that "there are many reasons [why face time] is necessary to one's legal career."

Rainey goes on to list some very twentieth century sounding reasons for why associates need to work onsite -- to meet other lawyers, obtain work and form relationships.  She continues:

If an associate is not sitting in her office when a partner comes by to give an assignment, the partner will move on to the next associate. This will not only adversely affect the amount of work the associate receives, but when she becomes eligible to make partner, she will not have made the connections necessary to support her application. By working in the office, the associate has the opportunity to be seen and become respected by the partners — both as a person and as an employee. These personal relationships simply cannot be built remotely and are critical to one's career.

As for weekend time, Rainey says sometimes face time is necessary as well, to show partners that associates are hard workers, who are "accessible days, nights and weekends if necessary." 

I had always believed that modern technology would eventually liberate us from the physical confines of the office and offer the flexibility to work where, if not when we choose.  Many large corporations now have liberal telecommuting policies in place or rely on Web conferencing technology which allows employees to have face-to-face meetings over the Internet without the necessity of a shared physical location.   My guess is that many of these modern companies, which often use large firms to handle legal matters, must be having a good laugh at lawyers' quaint practice of forcing associates to come in on the weekend to impress the boss.  That is, until they see the bill for associates' weekend face time, at which point they may decide to retain a law firm that places more importance on how quickly work is completed, rather than where it is performed.

Or perhaps I'm just ahead of the curve.  So readers -- help me out.  Does Rainey's article on face time accurately depict the face of law firm life today?  Or is her concept of the importance of face time woefully behind the times?

February 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Blawgers Help Victim of Lost Bar Exam Find Relief

There's a happy ending for Eric Zeni, one of the victims of last summer's New York Bar exam fiasco which involved the loss of 47 bar exams due to a software snafu.  Zeni, whose laptop crashed during the exam and appeared to have erased one of his essays, successfully appealed his failing score after learning about the review process from Eric Turkewitz at New York Personal Injury Lawyer, whose own exam results had been lost by the New York Bar examiners 22 years earlier.

Yesterday Zeni shared the details of his story, and Turkewitz's role in this exclusive post at New York Personal Injury Lawyer.  In November 2007, Zeni learned that he had failed the New York Bar exam by four points.  After obtaining copies of his exam, he discovered that the essay he'd been writing when his computer crashed and subsequently finished by hand, was incomplete.  Zeni had seen extensive coverage of the software malfunction at Turkewitz's blog and made contact to learn whether Turkewitz was aware of a review process.  Turkewitz called the Board of Law Examiners (BOLE) and confirmed  that it would entertain appeals based on the malfunction.  Eventually, after Zeni's repeated communications with BOLE officials, Zeni's lost essay response was recovered and graded and Zeni passed the exam. 

Zeni credits Turkewitz for his advice and assistance.  But there's another law blogger involved in this story, who helped these two victims of lost New York Bar exams find each other.  That would be Above the Law's David Lat, whose request for anecdotes about lost bar exams inspired Turkewitz to share his own story and to cover last summer's New York bar scandal.

Do you have a "feel good" lawyer blogging story to share?  Send it our way!

February 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 27, 2008

Law School Rankings: Off, Off Broadway?

Sovern No offense to the author, but here is one play unlikely to be produced on the Great White Way. Jeff Sovern, professor at St. John's University School of Law and co-author of the  Consumer Law & Policy Blog, has just published his one-act play, Rankings: A Dramatization of the Incentives Created by Ranking Law Schools. Its intended audience, as he explains on his blog, is that subset of consumers known as law students. His belief, as he writes in the play's introduction, is that "law school rankings encourage schools to shift resources away from improving the quality of the education they provide in favor of investing in improving their standings in the rankings."

The play attempts to dramatize these issues and make them more vivid. Sovern's villain is fictional law school dean "Leslie," who woos potential students with the school's secure spot high in the rankings, then confides to "Lee," a professor, that the school cannot afford to spend more on educating the students who are already there.

Let me spell it out for you. Nobody cares about what the students learn here. OK? We care about them before they get here because the rankings look at their LSATs and undergraduate grades and how we do in attracting them. We care about them after they leave because the rankings take account of how many of them get jobs and whether they pass the bar, but that's pretty much it. OK?

Tragically, the school's rankings falter after all, and both Leslie and Lee head off into the sunset -- but only one does so voluntarily.

February 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Dusting Off the Old Debate: Mac v. PC

Macvpc Not sure why the ABA Journal has ranked the age-old Mac-versus-PC debate worthy of front-cover coverage, but at least the editors had the wisdom to recruit a member of the blog network, Rick Georges of FutureLawyer, to make the case for the PC. Florida solo Georges spars with Mac-user Ben Stevens, partner in Stevens-MacPhail in Spartanburg, S.C., and author of the blog The Mac Lawyer, over  which  system is  better for the legal community.

It is, as the opening paragraph reminds us, a decades-long debate, a war of clever marketing versus market share. "You can buy a Hyundai or a Mercedes," says Stevens, who sees the Mac as the Mercedes. "Which one is more dependable, and which one is more fun to drive?" But for Georges, the argument boils down to, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The two lawyers run down the usual bullet points -- dependability, choice of hardware and software, ease of use and susceptibility to viruses. Unfortunately, other than updating the standard arguments, I'm not sure the piece brings much new to the table. This is not the authors' fault -- they both do a thorough job of presenting their cases. Georges has the easier position to defend, given that he has the massive weight of the legal profession's inertia on his side. It is just that this is well-worn ground that provides little reason for a revisit. Next month in the ABA Journal: Word vs. WordPerfect?

February 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Lawyers Crushed by Information Overload

Information overload is crushing white-collar professionals of all ilks, but hitting lawyers particularly hard, according to a LexisNexis survey of workplace productivity published yesterday. Among professionals generally, seven in 10 feel inundated with information and two in five believe they are headed for an information "breaking point," the survey says. But among lawyers, 80 percent report being overloaded with information and 70 percent say they spend too much time sifting through irrelevant information. Common symptoms of information overload for lawyers include spending too much time conducting research, having trouble recreating research time for billing purposes, and wasting time searching for old e-mails and documents.

But while information overload is crushing us, nearly 70 percent of lawyers say that finding specific pieces of legal research or information is easier today than just two years ago, with 20 percent saying it is much easier today. Virtually all agree that having leading-edge legal technology is crucial to cutting through the clutter. For the lawyers surveyed, the most important technology tools are those that return comprehensive results, focus on the lawyer's practice area, provide analysis and expertise in addition to data, and are regularly updated. Less than half thought it was important to have a tool that offers access to online communities where they can discuss issues of law with their peers.

So where do blogs fit into this problem of information overload? For fanatics such as myself, they clearly exacerbate it. I regularly track hundreds of blogs and spend way too much time sifting for gold among the grit. But if, as the survey says, lawyers want technology tools that are focused, timely and both factual and analytical, then blogs clearly fit the bill, at least those that are devoted to specific practice areas. Yes, blogs can add to information overload, but they can also alleviate it by helping lawyers monitor and sift what is important in their fields. Like technology of all sorts, blogs can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you use them.

February 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Medtronic Hit With Two Huge Fee Awards

It has not been all good news this month for Medtronic Inc. Yes, it won a major victory in the Supreme Court last week when the court ruled in Riegel v. Medtronic that federal law preempted state common law claims over the safety of a medical device it manufactured. But elsewhere in February, federal judges in two states slapped separate Medtronic divisions with huge attorneys' fees awards over their litigation tactics in patent cases -- one in Massachusetts for $10 million-plus and another in Colorado expected to total several million dollars.

The $10 million award came Monday from U.S. District Senior Judge Edward F. Harrington against Medtronic Sofamor Danek Inc. for resisting the construction of the patent claims mandated by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals earlier in the case. "The defendants prolonged the proceedings unnecessarily (thus unduly imposing upon the jury's time), they sought to mislead both the jury and the Court, and they flouted the governing claim construction as set forth by the Federal Circuit," Harrington wrote in imposing the $10 million sanction. In addition, he ordered payment of 15 percent of plaintiffs' attorneys' fees from the date of the Federal Circuit's mandate through the date of the verdict. The case is Depuy Spine Inc. v. Medtronic Sofamor Danek Inc.

In Colorado, U.S. District Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch was so infuriated by the trial conduct of counsel for Medtronic Navigation Inc. that he had already overturned a jury's $51 million verdict in its favor, as The Denver Post reports. Then, on Feb. 12, he ordered Medtronic to pay the fees and costs of defendant BrainLAB Inc., a German company, an award estimated to total several million dollars. In ordering the sanction, Matsch cited the "cavalier and abusive" conduct of two McDermott, Will & Emery lawyers during the 13-day patent-infringement trial.

We can assume that Medtronic will be heading back up the appellate ladder.

February 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 26, 2008

Lobbying for Lawyers

Lobbying has always been a staple of law firm business here in Washington D.C. where I practice.  But increasingly, law firms are grabbing a larger piece of lobbying work, much of which is sheltered from disclosure under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA).

As reported by The Hill, two law firms, Patton Boggs and Akin Gump respectively, hold the top two slots for lobbying revenue generated.  In 2007, Patton Boggs broke the $40 million mark, while Akin Gump earned $32 million in lobbying revenue.

One reason for the big gains?  Much of the lobbying-related work that law firms handle involves political intelligence gathering for hedge funds and Wall Street clients that can afford to pay big fees.  However, firms need not disclose this type of work under the LDA.  And because many clients do not want their interest in an issue publicly known, law firms -- which have the skills to perform intelligence gathering work-- will continue to attract large clients and generate lobbying revenue.

February 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lawyer Presidential Primary Roundup

PresbadgeWith the presidential primaries still moving along, it's time for another roundup of news on the legal issues raised during the race and on the two remaining lawyer-candidates competing for the Democratic nomination.

Negotiation Style: Obama v. Clinton With Obama and Clinton going head to head in serial debates, there's lots of discussion and analysis of their respective debating and negotiating styles. Daily Kos gives the edge on negotiation skills to Obama, wondering if Clinton holds a disadvantage because negotiation skills weren't taught in the law school curriculum of her generation. And Settle It Now Negotiation Blog discusses two mediators' assessments of the effectiveness with which Obama and Clinton have voiced their respective messages.

Signing Statements Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on the remaining candidates' positions on signing statements, a practice whereby the President, instead of vetoing a law, signs it but publicly states his reservation about enforcing it.  For the record, as we posted here, President Bush frequently employs signing statements, a practice that the ABA criticized.  As for the candidates' position on signing statements, McCain says, "Never, never, never, never. If I disagree with a law that passed, I'll veto it."  Clinton and Obama believe that Bush has gone too far with signing statements, however, neither would rule out the practice in appropriate (Obama) or rare (Clinton) situations.

Obama's Impact on Biglaw Attorney Taxes Ted Frank, guest posting at Above the Law explores the impact that Obama's tax policy might have on biglaw attorneys' take home pay.  Frank points out two adverse impacts: an end to the Bush tax cuts, that could bump taxes up by three percent and (2) an end to the social security tax cap, currently set at $102,000.  The elimination of the tax cap could add several thousand dollars to a large firm lawyer's annual tax bill.  Visit the post, where you can play around with a spreadsheet to predict the economic impact of an Obama presidency on your individual financial state.

Clinton the Criminal Defense Lawyer Who knew that once upon a time, Hillary Clinton acted as a court-appointed criminal attorney?  Hat tip to Sentencing Law Prof Doug Berman for the link.

February 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Supreme Court to Lower Courts: Admission of 'Me Too' Evidence Is For You to Decide

Today, the Supreme Court decided to let lower courts decide the admissibility of testimony by employees other than the plaintiff regarding workplace discrimination, also known as "me too" evidence, in discrimination cases.  The Court's unanimous ruling in Sprint v. Mendelsohn  held that "federal rules... do not make [me too] evidence per se admissible or per se inadmissible." 

A ruling barring "me too" evidence would have been a winner for employers, comments Mike Fox at Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer.  But Fox still finds a silver lining for employers in the ruling.  Fox explains that because the admissibility of evidence rests with a federal judge's discretion, and most federal judges prefer to limit the scope of issues addressed at trial, judges are more likely than not to exclude "me too" evidence to keep trials from spinning out of control.

Jonathan Hyman at Ohio Employer's Law Blog opines that "the decision makes a lot of sense."  He explains that while the decision does not give trial judges guidance on when to admit "me too" evidence, this guidance would have been difficult to provide since the relevance of "me too" evidence depends upon the context and theory of the case. 

At Workplace Prof Blog, Paul Secunda says that given the present rightward bent of the court, today's ruling represents a moral victory for ADEA plaintiffs.  But like Hyman and Fox, Secunda anticipates that on remand, the ultimate ruling on admissibility is not likely to favor the plaintiff.

For more news related coverage, see posts at SCOTUS Blog and

February 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to Succeed In-House

After my colleague Bob Ambrogi's post yesterday about the ginormous salaries and $100,000 bonuses for corporate counsel, you're probably salivating over the option of moving in-house.  But before you start exploring the in-house option, you may want to ask yourself if you have what it takes to succeed as a corporate counsel.

As Sun Microsystems general counsel and blogger Mike Dillon writes, life is different in-house.  To excel, you must act like a business person first and lawyer second, collaborate and work as part of a team and provide calm, dispassionate counsel rather than resorting to a lawyer's instinct to inflame a stressful situation.  And you'll know that you've achieved succeeded when your client says: "You don't act like an attorney."

By the way, for more information about what it's like to blog in-house, read the LexBlog interview with Mike Dillon.

February 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 25, 2008

For GCs' Salaries, Survey Says: Ka-ching!

Money_bag With newly-minted lawyers commanding stratospheric salaries, businesses are having to up the ante for top legal talent, enabling chief legal officers at large companies to command median cash compensation totaling nearly $800,000 and general counsel to draw $564,000. So says Inside Counsel's 2008 compensation report, which measures law department  salaries and bonuses using Hildebrandt's Law Department Survey and Altman Weil's Law Department Compensation Benchmarking Survey.

As might be expected, compensation is tied closely to sales, with CLOs and GCs at companies earning more than $10 billion earning a median of $740,000 while those at companies earning $300 million or less take home under $300,000. What might not be expected is that the locality with the highest average cash compensation for CLOs/GCs is Minnesota's Twin Cities at $666,900, compared to averages of $481,100 in New York and $590,700 in Silicon Valley. Nicest paycheck cited in the report: The Walt Disney Co.'s Alan Braverman at $4.45 million. Some other findings:

  • The median cash compensation for CLOs/GCs in publicly held companies is $509,000 compared to $331,000 for those in private companies and $284,000 for those in non-profit or government entities.
  • Most in-house attorneys are eligible for bonuses and all who are eligible received them, at a median bonus of $135,000.
  • The top-paying industries are food/beverage and retail trade and the highest-paying practice area is trademark litigation.

The full article in PDF can be downloaded here. Hat tip to Geoffrey G. Gussis at InhouseBlog.

February 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Does a Lawyer's Price Reflect Performance?

Consider this: Taste-testers consistently prefer expensive wine over cheap wine -- even when both wines are actually the same labeled with different price tags. And this: Among consumers given an energy drink and then asked to solve word puzzles, consumers who bought the drink at full price scored better than those given a discount. These studies point to the power of our expectations, suggests an essay published yesterday in The Boston Globe, Grape Expectations: What Wine Can Tell Us About the Nature of Reality. And this power is not merely superficial, says the essay's author, Jonah Lehrer, editor-at-large at Seed magazine -- the wine tasters showed greater levels of activity in their brains' pleasure centers when told they were given more expensive wine. Citing Stanford neuroeconomist and marketing professor Baba Shiv, the leader of the energy-drink study, Lehrer concludes that a key implication of all this is that it is possible to make a product more "effective" by increasing its price.

A good marketing campaign can have a similar effect, as it instills consumers with lofty expectations about the quality of the product. For instance, Shiv cites research showing that cars made in the same factory, with the same parts, but sold under different brand names (such as Toyota and Geo) receive markedly different reliability ratings from consumers. When we drive a car with a less exalted brand name, we are more likely to notice minor mechanical problems.

Reading this, I remembered back to my early days as a solo representing the plaintiff in a discrimination lawsuit. Arriving with my client at defense counsel's office for his deposition, I could see immediately that he was struck by the elegance of its furnishings and design. We were escorted into a large, ornately decorated conference room with dark wood paneling and a highly polished conference table surrounded by plush chairs. As we stood there alone, waiting for the others to come in, he said of the opposing counsel, who he had not yet met, "She must be a very good lawyer."

We have all encountered these "grape expectations" in our careers -- the perception by clients, potential clients, judges and others that the higher the price, the better the lawyer. Worse yet, many of us have fallen prey to this prejudice, letting ourselves be intimidated by high-priced lawyers at big-name firms. But why is that? Are these expectations shaped by experience? Is there any reason to believe that higher-priced lawyers are generally better than those whose fees are more reasonable? Lehrer's essay recommends that consumers protect themselves from their own expectations through fact checking and "blind" testing. "Instead of trusting big-name brands, or naively assuming that we always get what we pay for, consumers can learn to bargain hunt," he writes. As one who believes that bigger is not always better, I would extend this to the legal field, and urge legal consumers -- and lawyers themselves -- to learn to fact-check their expectations.

February 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

How Paralegals Can Stay in the Know

Knowcoversmall Can you name the country's 10 most influential paralegals? Which famous TV stars began their careers as paralegals? What offbeat tricks do paralegals use to accelerate their careers? The answers to all of these questions will be revealed in June, with the premiere of a magazine designed specifically for paralegals. Called Know, the magazine is the brainchild of Chere B. Estrin, author of the blog The Estrin Report and CEO of Estrin LegalEd, and Jeannie Johnston, a paralegal and founder of Estrin writes on her blog that the magazine will include feature stories such as those mentioned above, together with regular columns on technology, e-discovery, careers and more.

February 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fishing for Theme, Blawg Review Finds Memes

If Blawg Review was simply about rounding up the week's more interesting blawg posts, it would be work enough. But as the number of weekly installments moves well into the hundreds, the challenge for each week's reviewer to come up with a novel theme in which to wrap the roundup. For Blawg Review #148, Brett J. Trout, the Iowa patent attorney who writes BlawgIT, says that his search for a theme led him to Internet memes. He explains:

When considering a theme for this week’s Blawg Review, one thing that struck me was that lawyers do not seem to spend nearly as much time screwing around on the web as your average employee. As a result, most lawyers are wildly deficient in their knowledge of Internet memes. An Internet meme is any amusing video, email, picture, audio clip or other material that spreads virally across the internet. Unlike computer viruses, which spread based upon how many paint chips the people opening them consumed in their youth, Internet memes spread based upon how entertaining people find them.

Thus, as Trout reviews the blawgosphere week that was, he delivers as well a compilation of several of the most popular memes, from Rick Rolling to Numa Numa. Lest your associates think you're one of those workers Trout mentions who spends too much time surfing the Web, you may want to check out this Blawg Review from the safety of your home office.

February 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 22, 2008

Bill More Hours, Get More Clients

You'd think that handling cases as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible would be the best approach to generating more business.  But as Rees Morrison of Law Department Management shows us in this post, the opposite is true: Billing big leads to more business.

From Morrison's post:

An off-hand remark by a partner, quoted in Of Counsel, Vol. 27, Feb. 2008 at 3, snapped me to attention. Kevin Newsom was describing his having been hired to handle a case for the Governor of Alabama that will be argued in the Supreme Court. Newsom remarked: "The best marketing I can do is to work myself silly on that case and do as good a job as I can."  Aha! Big bills = big success = big book of business! One of the perverse drivers of legal costs is exactly this: If you log hour after hour and spend wads of your client's money and do well, another client may hire you.

Does the mantra "work smarter, not harder" apply everywhere else but the legal profession?

February 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Can Women Litigate and Procreate?

Can a woman attorney successfully litigate and raise a family? That's the question veteran law blogger Nicole Black tackles in her month-old blog, Women Lawyers -- Back on Track.

Black discusses an American Lawyer article discussing many of the challenges that litigation poses for women: clients with 24/7 demands, regular travel and unpredictable work schedules, to name just a few. And while the life of a litigator presents problems for fathers struggling with balance, women are still disproportionately impacted because they frequently bear the burden of family responsibility.

The article implicitly raises the question of whether work-life balance solutions are feasible when the nature of litigation is so incompatible with raising a family. Dan Hull of What About Clients says no. For Hull, you either "serve clients with passion and energy...or get out of the game." Yet, if that's the case, what does that mean for women litigators who love the courtroom and their families? Here's what Black says in her post:

I love trying cases--always have, always will. And yet. And yet. I have a family--a husband and young children whom I actually enjoy spending time with on a daily basis.  Little children who are growing up so fast--so quickly.  And, I love watching them grow.  I love watching their minds develop--their little personalities emerge.  I love them more than life itself, and unfortunately, I can't say the same about litigation.   I enjoy it and it's in my blood, but I can live without it--for now.  So, research and writing it is (edited to add that my practice has now expanded).  And, it's [a] good thing.  I've always enjoyed and excelled at that aspect of practice--almost as much as I enjoy litigating.   But, the call of the courtroom is ever present.  I'll hold it at bay for now.  But, in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger:  I'll be back.

Readers, what do you think?  Do work-life balance work in the context of a litigation practice -- and what's the solution that worked for you?

February 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Statistics From Around the Blawgosphere

For fans of statistics, this week's blawgosphere offers a small bounty, with two recently-released studies on (1) law professor blogging and (2) Supreme Court voting trends. Earlier this week, Paul Caron of Tax Prof Blog offered the results of his study of law professor blogs based on traffic statistics for the period February 2007 - January 2008. Not surprisingly, Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit tops the list with nearly 71 million visits, over five times more than Hugh Hewitt's Townhall Blog, the first runner up. Volokh Conspiracy ranked third, with 8.6 million hits.  However, in contrast to Reynolds and Hewitt, who post on politics and general interest matters, the VC deals largely with pure legal issues, often offering lengthy scholarly analysis.  Given the relative sophistication of the VC content in the blogosphere, where readers often have short attention spans, scoring over 8 million hits represents a significant accomplishment.  And in fact, I was surprised to learn that so many of the law professor blogs draw as much traffic in comparison to many practicing lawyer blogs.  For example, Immigration Law Prof Blog which ranked 25 on the list still boasted 188,000 visits or roughly 500 per day -- a number that many practicing lawyer bloggers would find enviable. 

In a different type of record keeping, SCOTUS Blog today released a new stats pack, showing the breakdown of how each Justice has ruled at the quartermark of the term.  One new statistic includes how often each Justice votes with the majority, both overall and in divided cases. 

February 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Firms Force Employees to Arbitrate -- Is Blogging the Reason for It?

Earlier this year, I identified Above the Law editor David Lat's in-depth coverage of Aaron Charney's discrimination lawsuit against Sullivan and Cromwell based on sexual orientation as a post that rocked the blogosphere. Before blogs, law firms could keep these types of lawsuits private, but in the aftermath of Lat's spotlight coverage of the lawsuit, I predicted that law firms would be forced to "reconsider how to handle these disputes going forward."

Turns out that at least one law firm has done just that. As reported at Above the Law (original source) and Conde Nast's Portfolio, Kirkland & Ellis has sent a memo to its associates informing them that disputes that cannot be resolved internally must go to arbitration rather than court. Employees must agree to the policy by March 3. According to Portfolio:

The move appears to be a response to the publicity generated by the legal battle between Aaron Charney, a young associate at Sullivan & Cromwell, who sued the firm, contending that it discriminated against him based on his sexual orientation.  The Kirkland memo says that management believes "this program will provide a more efficient means to resolve disputes that cannot otherwise be resolved internally."

Mandatory arbitration agreements are becoming more common with employers as I posted back here in December. I wonder how the K&E associates who are called upon to defend those mandatory arbitration agreements for their clients feel now that the firm has applied those agreements to them? 

February 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 21, 2008

Facebook's Fine Print: Trouble for Lawyers?

Picking up on the growing popularity among lawyers of Facebook as a marketing tool, Brian J. Ritchey at the blog More Partner Income issues a caution. He points to an article this week in Britain's The Birmingham Post warning that Facebook could prove to be a minefield for businesses. The source of that warning is U.K. law firm Manby Steward Bowdler, as the Post explains:

Neil Forrest of Manbys says many businesses are unaware Facebook is for personal profiles and not for businesses and highlights the phrase in Facebook's terms and conditions 'you have properly gained access solely for your personal, non-commercial use.'

He also points out that every user agrees not to register for more than one user account, not to register a user account on behalf of another, or register a user account on behalf of any group or entity.

At More Partner Income, Ritchey notes that legal-marketing professionals such as Kevin O'Keefe, Larry Bodine and Joshua Fruchter have recently extolled the virtues of Facebook for lawyers. (I'll confess: All the buzz prompted me to sign up.) But lawyers should be careful how they use it, he suggests. As long as their purpose is to network rather than to market, they are probably OK, he believes. But lawyers who plan to use Facebook, he adds, should make sure they adhere to its terms and conditions.

February 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Trial Lawyers Get Lucky

Lucky_tie "Superstition ain't the way," Stevie Wonder warned long ago, but trial lawyers, apparently, didn't listen to Wonder's 1972 hit. Trial lawyers, it turns out, are as dependent on superstitious rituals as pro athletes, writer Mary Flood tells us this week in the Houston Chronicle, relying on good luck charms along with legal skills in hopes of success in the courtroom. Flood tells of criminal defense attorney Kent Schaffer, who puts his faith in a battered briefcase, gold cuff links and a lucky Montblanc pen, and white-collar defense lawyer Tom Hagemann, who first discovered the magic powers of his wooden file box with the U2 sticker while an assistant U.S. attorney two decades ago. Others cite lucky boots, lucky watches and karmic rituals, both before and after trial.

Stranger still, these talismans and rituals may actually help. Stuart Vyse, a Connecticut College psychology professor who wrote a book about superstition, tells Flood that such beliefs may have a placebo or focusing effect that reassures the lawyer. "The rituals can be mantra-like, calming and give a sense of control that can be psychologically beneficial," Vyse says. "It can give the illusion of control."

Other lawyers' good-luck charms range from mints to music, and in the latter category, from Eminem to Aaron Copland. But the most common trial talisman for lawyers, Flood says, is probably the lucky tie.

[Hat tip to ABA Journal.]

February 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Court Dismisses RIAA Class Action

After the RIAA dropped its file-sharing suit against Oregon single mother Tanya Andersen in June, Andersen responded with a class action lawsuit against the RIAA and several record labels for malicious prosecution. This week, U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown dismissed Andersen's complaint, finding that she "has not adequately stated claims for relief" -- but the judge gave her 30 days to cure those deficiencies in an amended complaint.

Andersen's lawyer, Lory R. Lybeck of Lybeck Murphy in Seattle, told Ars Technica that he plans to refile and move ahead with the lawsuit, noting that the judge provided specific comments on the complaint's deficiencies during the hearing on the motion to dismiss. But an RIAA spokesperson saw it differently, telling Ars Technica: "The court's decision to dismiss all of the claims in their entirety merely serves to confirm our view that the claims were meritless when they were filed."

As Ars Technica recounts, Andersen's complaint set out "a litany of misdeeds allegedly perpetrated by the record labels in the course of their lawsuit. Those include trying to contact her young daughter at school and her apartment building without Andersen's knowledge or permission. The RIAA was also accused of libel, negligence, and fraud." But Judge Brown wrote in her order that she "provided the parties with a specific and detailed analysis of each claim and its deficiencies at oral argument."

February 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Mess in the Minn. AG's Office

Loriswanson Just what is going on in the office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson? Over the past week, Minnesota Lawyer newspaper and its companion Minnesota Lawyer Blog have been covering staff attorneys' efforts to unionize -- an organizing campaign complete with a blog of its own, AG Organizing Update. But the story seems to get stranger by the day.

As Minnesota Lawyer reported Monday, three assistant AGs went public with their demand for a union by posting their letter to Swanson on their blog. The Feb. 13 letter asked Swanson to "recognize the will of the staff to be represented by a labor union." Last May, it says, a majority of the office's attorneys signed union authorization cards, but Swanson declined to recognize the union or to meet with representatives. The letter continues:

Since our organizing effort began, we have witnessed a number of conditions at the AGO that are of serious concern, including the abrupt and apparently unwarranted dismissal of employees engaged in the unionizing effort, the anonymous dispersal of anti-union literature in employee mailboxes and offices, and the rapid departure of one-third of the attorneys in the office.

Recently, the letter contends, virtually all staff attorneys have been asked to sign either an anti-union petition or a declaration of support for Swanson.

On Monday, a Republican state representative distributed copies of the letter on the floor of the House and called for an investigation of the AG's office. On Tuesday, Swanson issued an e-mail responding to the letter. She had not responded sooner, she wrote, because she had been out sick with the flu. She described the letter and the manner of its distribution as "embarrassing to the institution of the office" and said she disagreed with many of its accusations. She said that she had asked two of her deputies to meet with the letter's three authors "to flesh out the purpose of the letter and whether the three signatories actually represent the rest of the staff."

Then yesterday, the situation took another strange turn when Swanson announced that she had asked former U.S. District Judge Miles Lord and former Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Lebedoff "to conduct an informal advisory" by visiting with staff attorneys yesterday afternoon. Not surprisingly, the Lord/Lebedoff poll concluded that a majority of lawyers in the office do not support the three letter writers, Minnesota Lawyer reported yesterday afternoon. "A source close to the situation said the final tally was 52-30 against the three letter-writers. However, the source said, 14 employees refused to complete the form, calling it coercive, and approximately 30 others were either out of the office or otherwise unable to participate."

What did they expect? Minnesota Lawyer editor-in-chief Mark Cohen sums it up well:

It's hard for me to say what that vote means because I find the question itself confusing. You could be in favor of a union and not agree with everything that was in that letter. Or you could agree with everything that was in that letter, but not want to give the letter writers the authority to speak for you. It would have been a much simpler and cleaner affair if they had just asked the employees if they wanted to unionize.

Not to mention the intimidation factor: When two former federal judges come waving a union-organizing letter and ask whether you support it, how frank are you likely to be?

February 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

February 20, 2008

Preemption-Mania at the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court released five opinions today, four of which in one way or another deal with federal-state preemption.  Three of the decisions involve classic preemption cases, i.e. whether a statute enacted by Congress overrides a conflicting state statute or common law remedy.  In Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transport Association, the Court unanimously held that a Maine law prohibiting Internet tobacco sales to minors was preempted by federal law that prohibits states from regulating prices, routes or services of shipping companies.  The Maine law directly conflicted with federal law because it would have restricted transportation companies from delivering tobacco products directly to consumers.  In Preston v. Ferrer (which involved TV celebrity judge Alex Ferrer), the Court, in an 8-1 ruling, found that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) compelled arbitration of Ferrer's contract with his talent agent, and preempted a California law that required an administrative hearing prior to arbitration.  Only Justice Thomas dissented, reiterating his previously stated opinion that the FAA does not apply to state court proceedings.  Finally, in Riegel v. Medtronic, the Court, in an 8-1 ruling found that the Medical Device Amendments (MDA) of 1976 which created a scheme of federal safety oversight for medical devices, preempted state common law tort claims against the device manufacturer.  Here, Justice Ginsburg dissented, arguing that Congress never intended a "radical curtailment" of state common law claims when it enacted the MDA. 

The Court's fourth decision, Danforth v. Minnesota isn't technically a preemption case because it doesn't involve a conflict between federal and state statutes.  However, Danforth fits with the preemption theme, because it addresses a state-federal conflicts question:  whether the U.S. Supreme Court or the states have the final word on whether a Supreme Court decision in a criminal matter has retroactive effect. In Danforth, a 7-2 majority held that states are free to make the benefits of Supreme Court decisions apply retroactively, even if the Supreme Court itself has ruled they are not retroactive under federal law.  The majority's decision did not sit well with Roberts and Kennedy, both of whom dissented, asserting that the decision is "contrary to the Supremacy Cause and the Framers' decision to vest in "one supreme court" the responsibility and authority to ensure the uniformity of federal law.  (See SCOTUS Blog for more discussion.)

Bottom line: The Court has no problem restricting a state's power when a Congress so mandates by statute.  But with the exception of Roberts and Kennedy, the Court is reluctant to force states to abide by federal rules on retroactivity that are judicially created -- even by the Court itself.

February 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Law Firms Still Not Sold on the Concept of Selling

As compelling as lawyers are when it comes to selling a client's position at trial or during a negotiation, their powers of persuasion somehow dry up when lawyers are called upon to sell something equally important:  their own services.  As this article from The American Lawyer describes, while law firms are finally starting to recognize the importance of marketing, they have a long, long way to go towards doing it strategically and effectively.

I have to admit that I was shocked at the article's description of the pre-historic condition of marketing departments at today's top law firms.  For example, one major law firm was not using client relationship management software (CRM), thus losing out on an important opportunity to keep in touch with clients.  The firm's marketing director set up a robust CRM system and over the course of a year sent out 500 items such as client alerts or information on firm seminars.  At least ten percent of the mailings produced new work.

Yet even though simple marketing initiatives like this offer proven results, many partners aren't willing to personally engage in marketing over a long period of time -- and then blame the marketers when they don't instantly produce results. From the article:

[a] lot of partners don't want to do things themselves. Getting CRM systems running requires lawyer time. They've got to go through their Rolodexes and PDAs and figure out which contacts to contribute to a central repository, adding information about those clients -- like what sort of work the firm does for them and what alerts they might want to receive. Lawyers, of course, are already pressed for time. The situation explains another finding from the survey: While 62 percent of marketing officers say CRM software is the most useful tool they have, they also say it's been a challenge getting partners on board. Indeed, according to the survey, CRM ranks as the marketing project most resisted by partners. "All of the large firms struggle with CRM," says one marketing officer. "The problem is the upkeep of the data. You have to get lawyers to continually update their contact information while they are busy trying to practice law."

In stark contrast to the attitude towards marketing at large firms, Larry Bodine  spotlights a small law firm that requires new associates to have a sales background.  Pam Scholefield of Scholefield Associates, P.C. has created a "sales attorney" role that is similar to the position of a sales engineer at construction engineering firms where Scholefield worked before becoming a lawyer.  Both a sales engineer and sales attorney require individuals with a sales background, but who at the same time have enough specialized training to understand client needs.

What is it about lawyers and selling?  What causes the disconnect between (1) the need to find clients and (2) the desire to practice law?  After all, you can't have the latter without the former.  Sure, sales attorneys and marketing personnel are all important tools to help lawyers find clients -- but at the end of the day, it's the lawyer who has to close the deal and make the sale. 

February 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Should Judge Who Jailed 46 Defendants for a Ringing Cell Phone Get a Second Chance?

Should one bad decision by a judge -- O.K., make that one egregiously horrendous decision that resulted in locking up 46 defendants because no one would take responsibility for a ringing cell phone -- cost him his career?   The New York Commission on Judicial Conduct thinks so.  As we reported back in November, the Commission recommended removal of Niagara Falls City Court Judge Robert Restaino, who sent a room full of defendants in domestic violence cases to jail after a cell phone went off in the courtroom. Only Raoul Felder, chair of the Commission, dissented, concluding that "one bizarre incident" of misconduct did not justify the destruction of Restaino's career. 

Restaino appealed the removal recommendation to the New York Court of Appeals.  And now, as the New York Law Journal reports, support for Restaino is piling up, with ten amicus curiae briefs filed by various legal, judicial and civic groups.  The gist of  supporters' arguments is that Restaino's otherwise spotless 12 year judicial record, his standing in the community and the isolated nature of his "cell phone purge" militate in favor of reducing the punishment to censure.  However, the odds don't favor a respite -- since 1978, the Court of Appeals has approved 63 of of 72 removal recommendations by the Judicial Commission and reduced only nine to censure.

Dan Slater at WSJ Law Blog asked readers whether Restaino should face removal for "two hours of inexplicable madness" -- and the commenters aren't very sympathetic towards the judge.

As for me, while I feel badly for Judge Restaino, ultimately, he's getting the punishment he deserves.  The 46 defendants who showed up for court to appear in domestic violence cases and wound up in jail didn't get a second chance.  Why should the judge who put them there?

February 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Law Firm, Circa 2018

What will the legal landscape look like in 2018?  Rather than wait ten years for an answer, international law firm Eversheds decided to peek into the future for itself, commissioning a major study entitled "The Law Firm of the 21st Century," discussing likely trends in the legal profession over the next decade.  The study's findings, based on a survey of 50 partners at 25 top firms and 50 corporate clients, are summarized in this press release, posted yesterday at Law Fuel.  (H/T to What About Clients.)

The study included several predictions, many of which, in my view, are best characterized as "the more things change, the more they stay the same."  For example, the study indicated a possible erosion of the dominance of the quintet of global, London-based firms known as the Magic Circle as one-third of the study's respondents said that they planned to obtain legal services from other firms to get better value for money and better client service. 

Likewise, despite the persistent cries of death to the billable hour, few predict its demise.  Despite taking a licking, over 80 percent of lawyers and partners expect the billable hour will still be ticking in 2018.  And only half of the study's participants believe that credible work-life balance is compatible with large firm practice, with just 40 percent of study participants stating that flexible work hours should be a key business objective for law firms. 

The survey suggests that the biggest challenge law firms need to address over the next ten years is the potential for commoditization of legal services.  The report recommends that partners need to constantly re-evaluate their practice and ensure that the work they are doing remains "premium."   

Quite honestly, I don't see how the legal landscape of 2018 differs all that much from the way it looks today.  In 2018, clients will demand good value for service, and will leave if they don't get it -- just as they are beginning to do now.  And while in 2018, more aspects of law practice will become mechanized, clients will always need experts for premium legal service -- just as they do now.  Is it really going to take another decade for law firms to realize and deliver what clients want right now?

February 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

February 19, 2008

Judge Shuts Down Wikileaks, Then Reconsiders

David Ardia at Citizen Media Law Project gives the rundown on the fast-paced turn of events that resulted Friday in a federal judge issuing a permanent injunction shutting down -- a site for anonymous leaking of government and corporate documents -- and then amending the order soon after to allow it to resume operations, but without the documents sought to be blocked by the plaintiff, Cayman Islands banking entity Julius Baer Bank and Trust Company. The turn of events must have come about, writes Ardia, after the judge "finally read the United States Constitution." As for Wikileaks, the site remains down as of this writing.


February 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Next Best Thing to LegalTech Live

Whether you never made it to LegalTech New York or just want to catch up on what you missed, a series of podcasts and videocasts offer the next best thing to being there:

  • On Lawyer2Lawyer, we have a two-parter on LegalTech. First, while I was wandering through LegalTech's exhibit halls and seminars, my podcast cohost J. Craig Williams recorded a show, What's New in Legal Technology, featuring guest Monica Bay, blogger and editor-in-chief of Law Technology News. Meanwhile, as I wandering, I was toting an MP3 recorder and interviewing various exhibitors and attendees. We wove those interviews together into a second LegalTech podcast, LegalTech Recap, in which you can hear about what's new in legal technology direct from legal-technology executives and experts.
  • The aforementioned Monica Bay also produced her own podcast from LegalTech, E-discovery '08, discussing the show's dominant theme with LTN's e-discovery columnist Craig Ball. Bay also interviews LegalTech Managing Director Henry Dicker on making the most of attending LegalTech.
  • Thomson West created the blog to provide live coverage of LegalTech and included a series of video interviews shot live on the exhibit hall floor with Thomson executives and others. They include Will Roberts, general manager of LiveNote; Rich Rifkin, vice president of Contact Networks; John Sweeney and Joe Mann, president and VP of Thomson Litigation Consulting; Bruce Wilson, VP at Thomson Elite; George May, VP of West Solutions; Kim Massana, senior VP of Thomson Elite; Chris Kibarian, president of FindLaw; Steve Buege, president of Thomson Elite; the ubiquitous Monica Bay; the Thomson Safari Guy; and even yours truly.

One other way to make up for missing LegalTech New York: Go to LegalTech LA June 26 and 27.

February 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Blawger and the Bankruptcy Judge

By all accounts, Robert Somma had been a top-notch U.S. bankruptcy judge since his appointment to the bench in 2004 and a top-notch bankruptcy practitioner for many years before that. The sense of many in the Boston area is that the 63-year-old's retirement Friday from his $158,000-a-year bench seat is a tragedy. Circuit Executive Gary H. Wente told The Boston Globe that Somma was "an absolutely excellent judge, first rate," and Boston bankruptcy lawyer Daniel M. Glosband said, "I think he was an excellent lawyer, I think he was an excellent judge, and I'm very sad that he's chosen to resign."

A footnote to this story is that a legal-blogger may have contributed to the judge's decision to resign. Somma's resignation came on Feb. 15, two days after he pleaded no contest to a DUI charge in Manchester, N.H. He was arrested late on Feb. 6 for rear-ending a pickup truck after leaving a Manchester bar. One fact left out of initial news reports was the judge's attire at the time of his arrest: black cocktail dress, fishnet hose and high heels. Even the police report omitted this, except to note that the judge "had a difficult time locating his license in his purse." Enter New Hampshire blogger Chris King, a former lawyer and journalist who claims both on his blog and on BostonNOW to have "scooped" the news media in reporting the judge's attire. On the day after the judge entered his plea, King described the judge on his blog as having been "in drag" at the time of his arrest. The day after that, the story appeared in the New Hampshire Union Leader and the judge resigned.

In an e-mail, King said that he trusted a source. "At the point the [Union Leader] and everyone else was writing about the purse but nobody straight up said 'in drag' I did, and it took balls to say that but I know which sources to trust, and I was right." King is himself controversial in New Hampshire, where he once faced felony extortion charges, since dismissed, and writes a second blog devoted to seeking disbarment of N.H. Attorney General Kelly Ayotte. Fellow blogger Mike Cernovich once wrote at Crime & Federalism about King  as a case study in the psychological toll taken by someone facing an indictment. We will never know whether King's post contributed to the judge's resignation, but even he agreed that the judge's choice of attire did not "have one wit to do with his competence on the bench." On that we can all agree.

February 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (10)

Lessig for Congress?

The Feb. 11 death of U.S. Rep. Thomas Lantos (D-CA) means parts of Silicon Valley and San Francisco will be holding a special election April 8 to fill his seat. Within the blogosphere, one potential candidate has emerged as the front-runner: Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Lessig. Lessig has not formally declared an intent to run, but that hasn't stopped a slew of supporters from launching the Draft Lessig campaign, complete with its own wiki and Facebook group.

According to Ars Technica, the campaign started with a rumor posted on the blog Daily Kos that Lessig planned to run for Lantos' seat. That report spurred John Palfrey, Harvard law professor and executive director of The Berkman Center for Internet & Society, to launch the draft Lessig group on Facebook. Within 24 hours, Ars Technica says, the group had 1,000 members, and it is now past 2,200 members. "It’s high time we had our first true Free Culture candidate for public office," Palfrey wrote on his blog. "Who better than the movement’s founder and hero? I have no reason to believe he’d actually do it, but I think we should send a message to Lawrence Lessig that we’ve got his back if he were to run."

Supporters of the campaign include Denise Howell, Jonathan Zittrain and Dave Winer. Already there are lessig 4 congress t-shirts and badges for supporters' Web sites. All the campaign needs now is an official candidate.

February 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 15, 2008

Study: Judges Misled by their Intuition

Two legal scholars and a federal magistrate-judge have conducted an in-depth study of how trial judges decide cases and reached an intriguing conclusion: Their frequent reliance on intuition results in regular mistakes in their decisions. The three -- Chris Guthrie of Vanderbilt University School of Law, Jeffrey J. Rachlinski of Cornell Law School and U.S. Magistrate-Judge Andrew J. Wistrich of the Central District of California -- have just published their findings in an article to be published in the Cornell Law Review, Blinking on the Bench: How Judges Decide Cases.

The authors set out to explore the question, "How do judges judge?" Do they follow the formalist model and mechanically apply the law to the facts? Or do they follow the realist approach, applying hunches and gut feelings to reach conclusions that they then rationalize with deliberative reasoning? To find out, they went straight to the source, administering a "cognitive reflection test" to more than half the circuit court judges in Florida. Based on these results and other information, the authors conclude that trial judges "are predominantly intuitive decision makers, and intuitive judgments are often flawed." They go on to say: [M]illions of litigants each year might be adversely affected by judicial overreliance on intuition."

They call this "blinking on the bench." Drawing on psychological research, the authors propose ways that the judicial system can help judges "override" their intuitive tendencies. These include giving them more time to deliberate on their rulings, encouraging them to engage in the "discipline" of opinion writing, enhancing their training and feedback, and providing them with scripts and checklists. Even as they propose these changes, they acknowledge that "each of these reforms tends to make decision making more costly or time consuming." Given that, my intuition tells me not to hold my breath while awaiting their implementation.

[Hat tip: The Buck Stops Here.]

February 15, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

New Web Salvos in Tort War

They are the Hatfields and McCoys of the legal profession: the plaintiff and defense lawyers who practice in the area of tort law. Two new Web sites drive home their divide, one with soberly dramatic videos, the other with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

The sober one stands on the defense side. Called I Am Lawsuit and produced by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, it features real-life "victims" of lawsuit abuse telling their stories in professionally produced YouTube-style videos. Among them are last year's poster children of lawsuit excess, Jin and Soo Chung, the owners of the Washington, D.C., dry cleaners sued for $54 million by now-infamous D.C. Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson. Of course, the system worked, in that Pearson lost, but he has appealed and the experience left the Chungs nostalgic for their native Korea,  where they had never even been to a police station, let alone a courthouse.

Over on the other side of the aisle, staff members of the Center for Justice and Democracy launched a blog, The Pop Tort. Its perspective is summed up well in the front-page picture of a smiling, anthropomorphic piece of toast popping out of snarling toaster and proclaiming, "If loving civil justice is wrong, I don't want to be right!" Like the organization from which it comes, The Pop Tort follows the news with an eye towards busting big-business myths about civil justice, laced with generous helpings of sarcasm and irony.

Neither site will bring the Hatfields any closer to the McCoys, but both are worth watching, whichever side you come down on.

February 15, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Trademark Fight: Yoko v. Lennon?

On Tuesday, Techdirt  conveyed news that Yoko Ono had filed "what is essentially a lawsuit" with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office attempting to force musician Lennon Murphy to give up her trademark over the name "Lennon." That post was based on Murphy's own Feb. 7 post to her MySpace blog in which she said that she'd received notice of Ono's action against her for cancellation of the trademark. "This could very well mean the career that I have worked so hard at, the one you all have believed in, may come to an end," Murphy wrote.

Yesterday, Techdirt posted an update after receiving an e-mail from Ono (or someone on her behalf) offering her side of the dispute:

Several years ago, Lennon Murphy sought Yoko's permission to do her performances under her name, Lennon Murphy. Yoko, of course, did not object to her request. Subsequently, without Yoko's knowledge, Lennon Murphy filed an application in the United States trademark Office requesting the exclusive right to utilize the name 'Lennon' for musical performances. Yoko's attorneys asked Lennon Murphy's attorneys and manager to withdraw her registration of exclusivity to the name LENNON for the trademark. Yoko also offered to cover all costs Lennon Murphy had incurred in filing for the trademark. But Lennon Murphy went ahead to register.

Yoko did not sue Lennon Murphy, but sought to stop her from getting the exclusive right to the name Lennon for performance purposes. For that, Yoko's attorneys, simply notified the Trademark office that Yoko did not believe it was fair that Ms. Murphy be granted the exclusive right to the 'Lennon' trademark in relation to musical and entertainment services. As you can see, this is a very important issue for Yoko and the Lennon family.

The e-mail added that Yoko is "really hurt if people thought I told a young artist to not use her own name in her performances and had sought to sue her."

Based on the TTAB file, Ono's request is to cancel Murphy's registration of the word "Lennon." Ono, meanwhile has twice registered the name "John Lennon." She is represented by Dorothy M. Weber of Shukat Arrow Hafer Weber & Herbsman in New York.

February 15, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 14, 2008

Will Roger Clemens Face Perjury Charges?

Roger Clemens went to Capitol Hill yesterday to deny  allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his career as a Major League pitcher.  Apparently, the question around the blogosphere isn't so much whether Clemens used drugs or not -- most of the opinions I've seen remained skeptical about Clemens' denials.   The more pressing question is whether Clemens will face perjury charges for lying under oath before the House Committee.   

For example, Paul Flannery at the Boston Magazine Blog asserts: 

There is very little doubt in our area that Clemens is lying his “palpable mass” off...Clemens spoke haltingly, answered evasively, contradicted himself, and whispered with his lawyers when asked to explain these contradictions.

  Flannery also questions the strategy of Clemens' attorney, who apparently insisted on the hearing.

Another commenter, Katherine Darmer, a former U.S. Attorney quoted in this MLB article opined that Clemens "simply was not credible" and that he ought to prepare himself for the likelihood of perjury charges.

But not everyone expressed a similar position.  In the view of Tom Kirkendall of Houston's Clear Thinkers, McNamee, Clemens' former trainer (who made the allegations of drug use) "came across as such a manipulator that my sense is that it's doubtful that prosecutors would base a criminal case against Clemens primarily on McNamee's testimony."  At the same time, Kirkendall believes that the testimony probably hurt Clemens in the court of public opinion. 

Peter Henning of White Collar Crime Blog agrees that both McNamee and Clemens came across as less than truthful.   However, Henning does not believe that perjury charges would stand against Clemens (since a jury would not believe McNamee). 

So what was the purpose of the Congressional hearing?  In Scott Greenfield's view:

This was a perjury trap.  Someone was going to walk away under the cloud of perjury, whether it was Clemens or McNamee.  McNamee had the upper hand, having been far more practiced for the performance ahead of him by having had much more time and being far more inclined to be molded for the purpose of giving a good performance.

Do you have any thoughts on the likely outcome of all of this?

February 14, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lawyers Advertising Badly

Today may be Valentine's Day, but some lawyers won't be feeling much love as a result of their advertising campaigns.  Consider, for example, the West Virginia law firm participating in a radio station's Valentine's Day promotion for a free divorce.  Charleston attorney Rusty Webb will handle the actual filing. "Sure we can give away concert tickets, and we do," explains Jay Nunley, the station's program director. "That's going to make you happy for a little while. This is the chance to make someone happy for the rest of their life."

In the meantime, several personal injury firms have drawn ire from their PI colleagues for running full-page news ads soliciting the families of victims of an explosion at a sugar refinery near Savannah, Ga.  Ken Shigley of the Atlanta Personal Injury Blog write that Georgia does not currently have laws that prevent "the predatory, vulture-like behavior of lawyers who swoop in immediately after a disaster."  Shigley believes that any changes in the law should apply equally, both to PI attorneys and also to defense counsel who approach victims immediately after an accident.   Both Shigley and New York personal injury attorney Eric Turkewitz believe that predatory advertising makes all personal injury attorneys look bad -- and fear that if they don't take steps to "clean house," someone else will.

February 14, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Law Firms Breaking Records for Revenues and Profits Per Partner

Remember last month's news about impending hard times for law firms?  Forget all that!  This month, law firms are celebrating record growth for 2007.  For example, as Legal Week reports, Weil Gotshal broke the $2 million barrier for partner profits in 2007, up from last year's number of $1.9 million.  And firm revenue increased to $1.175 billion. 

But even that number pales in comparison to Latham & Watkins' $2 billion revenues for 2007. As  noted in Conde Nast's Portfolio, just 11 law firms belong to the "billion dollar club," so reaching $2 billion is a big deal indeed.

So what's up with all of this?  We're always reading about corporate gripes about law firms charging too much, and recently, the news has brought stories of associate layoffs.  While those developments may make interesting headlines, at the end of the day, corporations still believe "that there is great advantage to breadth and depth [of large law firms], that's what their purchasing patterns indicate," says Peter Zeughauser, an expert quoted in the Portfolio piece.

Size also matters when it comes to profits.  Ralph Baxter Jr., chairman of Orrick says that even firms of 500 lawyers will have trouble competing with larger firms and will either "shrink or get gobbled up." 

My only question is how large can law firms grow?  In the business world, antitrust law keeps businesses from establishing monopolistic control.  I assume that ethics rules -- such as those prohibiting client conflict -- will prevent a situation in which a small handful of law firms dominate the globe.  Or are we heading towards a track where the Am Law 100 becomes the Am Law 10...and everyone else?

February 14, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 13, 2008

First Thing We Do: Investigate Bush's Lawyers

Last week on the blog The Free for All, civil libertarian Harvey Silverglate issued a call for an ethics investigation of the Department of Justice lawyers who advised the CIA on the legality of its torture practices. Yesterday, Silverglate renewed that call, finding both precedent and vindication in the Justice Department's indictment this week of a well-respected Florida lawyer for the advice he gave a second lawyer.

Silverglate's first call came in the wake of news reports that Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey would not allow an investigation of CIA interrogators because they had acted in reliance on the opinion of Justice Department lawyers. Those who rely on a Justice Department legal opinion should not be subject to criminal investigation when "the political winds change," Mukasey told the House Judiciary Committee. Fair enough, responded Silverglate, but that hardly ends the inquiry. "Why are these lawyers not being investigated in order to determine whether they wrote their legal opinions in good faith, or instead made up fanciful legal theories to appease the administration’s interest in taking the gloves off when it came to dealing with suspected terrorists?"

As Silverglate was writing that first post, the Justice Department was in Miami, unsealing an indictment against Ben Kuehne, a respected Miami lawyer whose clients have included former Vice President Al Gore. The charges stemmed from legal opinion letters Kuehne wrote for another high-profile attorney, Roy Black, allegedly paving the way for Black to receive tainted legal payments from an accused Colombian drug kingpin. If a respected private lawyer can be prosecuted for his legal advice, should not the same hold true for Justice Department lawyers? Silverglate asks.

But let’s be generous and say that prosecution would be overkill -- or let’s be pragmatic and say that in this political climate it simply won’t happen. But if a respected Miami lawyer can be indicted for writing a legal opinion -- which many Florida lawyers believe to have been written in good faith -- on a drug-money question, then surely government lawyers can and should have to undergo, at minimum, an ethics investigation for selling out themselves, the legal profession, and American politico-legal values in order to tell Bush and Cheney that they could torture prisoners to their hearts’ content.

Silverglate points to Scott Horton's post last week for Harper's Magazine, in which he makes a similar argument, specifically directed to John Yoo and Steven Bradbury, the Office of Legal Counsel staffers who wrote the torture memos. "So if we apply the reasoning the Justice Department advances in the Kuehne case," Horton writes, "Yoo and Bradbury are engaged in a criminal conspiracy to subvert the law and may be chargeable in connection with the underlying crimes." What's good for the goose, in other words, is good for the DOJ.

February 13, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

ABA Endorses Conditional Bar Admission

In case you missed it, the American Bar Association just wrapped up its midyear meeting in Los Angeles, where perhaps its most interesting action relating to law practice was its adoption of a model rule that would grant conditional bar admission to applicants with chemical dependency or mental health conditions. ABA Journal editor Edward A. Adams has this report on the measure, which would have to be adopted by individual states to take effect. Nineteen states and Puerto Rico already have adopted versions of a conditional admission rule, Adams writes. (Here is the draft version of the model rule; the commentary was revised during the ABA debate to leave it to states to decide whether to make public the conditional nature of the admission.)

In other actions this week, the ABA:

February 13, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Scalia's Latest Smack

Driving to a meeting yesterday, listening to BBC via my local NPR station, I almost went off the road as I heard Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia come on the air and express his doubts about whether anything in the Constitution would prohibit torture of a suspect who may pose a threat to public safety. "It seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say you couldn't, I don't know, stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face. It would be absurd to say you couldn't do that," Scalia told the BBC program Law in Action. Drawing a distinction between the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and what he labeled "so-called torture," he continued, "Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to find out where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited by the Constitution? Is it obvious, that what can't be done for punishment can't be done to exact information that is crucial to the society? I think it's not at all an easy question, to tell you the truth."

Now I'm no constitutional scholar, but what bothers me most about this comment is that it ignores the presumption of innocence. If law-enforcement authorities know someone is guilty of something that could endanger the public, nothing in the Constitution would prohibit a good smack -- or perhaps even waterboarding -- to get the person to fess up. But there's the rub: How do authorities get to that degree of certainty without some due process along the way? Perhaps this is what ABC News legal correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg had in mind when she noted on her blog that Scalia was never asked whether torture would violate Due Process. Greenburg reminds us that Scalia is a big fan of TV counter-terrorist Jack Bauer, defending his vigilante approach to law enforcement at a conference last year with the comment, "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. ... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Are you going to convict Jack Bauer?" Note the common thread here of saving Los Angeles, at all costs.

I agree with Chuck Newton on this one, who wonders how Scalia's comments might be interpreted by law-enforcement authorities:

It is fine to call someone a terrorist, but what he is saying is taser a suspect, hit a suspect, kick the crap [out of] the suspect, water board the suspect as long as you are trying to gain information -- in short as long as they are not telling you what you think you want to hear, or not pleading to a crime they did not commit. ... What Scalia says is that the Constitution does not protect our kids, our teenagers and our young adults from the excesses of vigilante cops and corrupt public officials.

Granted, it's been a tough year for 24 fans, what with the show's star going to prison and the writers' strike delaying the season's scheduled Jan. 13 premiere. But please, Justice Scalia, let's not take it out on the Constitution. LA needs the Bill of Rights more than it needs vigilantism.

February 13, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

How Does a Blogger Launch a Book?

Mmydjcover With a virtual book launch party, of course. Tammy Lenski, author of the blog Mediator Tech, just published her book, Making Mediation Your Day Job. To celebrate, she is inviting readers to her Web site to join in the festivities. Not only will there be digital party favors, but Lenski is offering visitors the chance to win more than $2,500 worth of prizes, all tied to helping an aspiring mediator jump-start a new ADR business. While you're enjoying the fun, of course, feel free to pick up a copy of the book.

February 13, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 12, 2008

Law Firm Starts a Wiki -- and Bribes Staff to Use It

Many times, the greatest obstacle to successful integration of new technology by a law firm is resistance from attorneys and staff who don't have the time or inclination to figure out how to use it. If that's the case at your firm, why not consider the approach of the Rosen Law Firm which bribed employees to contribute to the firm's wiki with the promise of a chance to win $1000.

As this CNN story reports:

In an effort to get his employees to collaborate more effectively, owner and chief executive Lee Rosen had decided to put his entire operation on a wiki - with a $1,000 cash prize as an incentive to use it.  At its simplest, a wiki is software that lets users work together to create and edit a collection of linked web pages....That's why all 32 employees at Rosen, from the lawyers and "life transition" coaches down to the receptionist and the guy who does the document scanning, had been creating as many pages on the wiki as they could. For each page created, they earned one new possible combination to the company safe. After three months they gathered in the conference room to see who had won the correct combination and the cash inside.

Surprisingly, the thousand dollar incentive for using the wiki cost less than the annual cost of the software itself. According to the story, the Rosen firm's will pay $600 a year to host the firm wiki at PB Wiki. The firm will begin moving all case files over to the wiki, eliminating the $100-per lawyer license fee that the firm now pays for Lotus Notes.

What does your law firm do to encourage lawyers and staff to adopt new technology?

February 12, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Law Firm Offshores an Office to India

Offshoring document review to India hasn't gained much traction with most law firms, in large part because of concerns about security and quality control.  So as The American Lawyer reports, one Am Law 200 firm, Howrey has decided to try a different approach: opening its own office in India to handle document management in litigation, IP and arbitration matters around the world. 

According to American Lawyer, Howrey is the first major law firm to open an office in India to handle client work such as document review.  As Robert Ruyak, Howrey's CEO explained, an outpost in India supervised by a Howrey partner will offer clients top law firm quality at lower rates:

"It's just like if you had people working at home or in another location," says Ruyak. Much of Howrey's work is document-intensive litigation, intellectual property and international arbitration. And already, much of the firm's document management work is done by more than 200 employees, most non-lawyers, who work in an office in Falls Church, Va. It's not a huge leap, Ruyak hopes, to extend that work to India, where a paralegal would earn $20,000 to $25,000 per year, as opposed to $40,000 to $50,000 in the United States.  Ruyak concedes that clients "don't want to use outsourcing." But this, he repeats, will be different. "We will have our own people working on this. It's training, it's control, maintaining the security, the quality of the results." He adds that clients will have the choice of whether to use the Indian office to cut costs or to have their work done in the U.S.

But setting up shop in India is only partly about saving money for clients.  It's also about potential business opportunities, as highlighted by this recent interview with Stuart Popham, senior partner of Clifford Chance, which recently opened an office in India to handle back-office and administrative tasks.   Popham discussed how India's booming local economy offers many potential business opportunities for law firms.

Ultimately, it's those business opportunities that are driving firms to set up outposts in India, argues Jordan Furlong. The Law21 blogger and editor-in-chief of the Canadian Bar Association's National magazine writes that although foreign firms cannot, at present, practice law in India,

they can plant their flags in a related industry (document management), build up relations and goodwill with the local Bar, let their brands seep into the marketplace, and prepare for the inevitable day when foreign law firms can open up full shops. Contracting with a Pangea3 is great for getting high-quality legal work for your Western clients, but it doesn’t give you market presence and first-hand experience and expertise in India itself.  Maybe Howrey and Clifford have decided to buy, not rent, that expertise. If so, that could presage a whole new dimension in the relationship between the legal industries of India and the West.

February 12, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (5)

YouTube Video Leads to Officer's Suspension

A Baltimore police officer, Salvatore Rivieri, was suspended yesterday after a YouTube video showed him bullying and pushing a fourteen year old and confiscating his skateboard.  From what I could glean from the video clip, the officer's tirade was triggered by a belief that the teenager showed disrespect when the officer told him that skateboarding at the Inner Harbor was prohibited.  And the officer's ire peaked further when the teen addressed him as dude, leading the officer to exclaim: "Don't call me dude.  A dude is someone who works on a ranch!"

We've already seen the impact that video has had in law enforcement cases -- recall last year's multiple YouTube video clips of a Florida student tasered by a campus officer after pleading "don't tase me, dude!"  But will we begin seeing videos of abusive behavior in other contexts?  For example, could a video of a law professor using the Socratic method to humiliate a student (like this) make its rounds on the Web? What about a law partner berating an associate for screwing up an assignment? And is the threat of e-shaming through YouTube sufficient incentive to stop people -- either police officers or law partners or nasty supervisors -- from behaving badly?

February 12, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4)

New Resources for Lawyer-Job Hunters

Today's mainstream news publications brought stories about two different online tools for lawyers seeking law firm jobs.  A Wall Street Journal blurb mentions Lateral Link, which combines an online job database with a traditional recruiting service.  On the surface, Lateral Link works similarly to any job database -- users enter search information and receive information about job matches.  But Lateral Link is different in that access to postings is limited to graduates of top-tier law schools with a minimum of two years of work experience.  And because Lateral Link gathers information more efficiently through an online interface, it passes cost savings on to job hunter by offering  a $10,000 bonus to members who land positions at law firms.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune reports on Legal Intelligence LLC, a new venture launched by former Jenner & Block attorney and multi-tasking entrepreneur, Jennifer Sara Levin. Legal Intelligence LLC will help law students find the law firm that fits them best, partly through online video conferences.  Law firms pay to participate in order to find graduates who are both qualified and, more importantly, fit the law firm's culture. 

February 12, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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