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August 29, 2008

Biden's Ties to Trial Lawyers

My colleague Carolyn Elefant provided a good roundup earlier this week of perspectives on Joe Biden the lawyer. One item she pointed out was the Sunday Washington Post story about two lawsuits alleging that Sen. Biden's son and brother defrauded a former business partner in a hedge fund deal that went sour. Two subsequent reports this week shed further light on that deal and how it fits into the larger picture of Biden's ties to trial lawyers.

A USA Today story published Wednesday reports that Biden worked to defeat a bipartisan bill designed to curb asbestos lawsuits at a time his older son Beau's law firm was filing asbestos cases and a former aide was lobbying against the measure. Then yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the hedge fund deal mentioned above was made possible when Biden's brother James and son Hunter obtained a commitment of $2 million in financing from SimmonsCooper, an Illinois law firm that specializes in representing asbestos victims. In addition to financing Hunter Biden's hedge fund deal, SimmonsCooper was the source of the asbestos work picked up by Beau Biden's law firm.

In my opinion, Biden's stance on the asbestos bill was the right one to take and nothing in any of these stories suggests any legal wrongdoing by the Democratic vice presidential candidate. Still, as Mark Obbie points out at his blog LawBeat, Biden's longtime ties to trial lawyers warrant closer examination by journalists and bloggers alike.

August 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Lawyers, Guns N' Roses

The FBI this week arrested a Los Angeles blogger for posting nine songs from the upcoming and long-delayed Guns N' Roses album, Chinese Democracy. At his blog May it Please the Court, lawyer J. Craig Williams says that one interesting aspect of the case is that it will require a defense attorney schooled both in copyright and criminal defense -- and such an attorney could be hard to find.

The blogger, Kevin Cogill, was arrested after posting the songs to his music-review blog Antiquiet. On Wednesday, he was brought into federal court in California wearing handcuffs and pajamas before being released on a $10,000 bond. Two days before his arrest, in a prescient post titled "Any Lawyers Out There?", Cogill admitted posting the songs and anticipated his indictment. "If there are any lawyers out there horny for some high-profile copyright law battle, drop us a line," he wrote.

But Williams says the right lawyer could be hard to find. "In addition to this law firm, I can think of only three or four other local firms that have copyright and criminal law experience, so it may be quite unlikely he'll find one willing to represent him." A public defender represented Cogill at Wednesday's hearing. Even with the right lawyer, Williams adds, the blogger's defense will be difficult:

Even if he got a lawyer, with the admission he posted on his blog, the best that's going to happen to him is a plea bargain. Otherwise, it's jail time and a fine. The penalties for criminal infringement are determined by its extent. ... It's unclear whether [Cogill] previously posted other copyrighted songs but he apparently hasn't previously been convicted, so his exposure appears to be five years of jail time at most.

The assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case said that the tip-off to the blog's posts came from the RIAA. "We take this type of crime very seriously," he said. Guns N' Roses is remaining mum, other than to fire off a brief statement saying, "Though we don't support this guy's actions at that level, our interest is in the original source." More on point is this quote from another popular recording artist: "Send lawyers, guns and money, the shit has hit the fan."

August 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

A Cover-Up in the Judge Kent Case?

From the department of dubious achievements comes the news that U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of Texas is now the first federal judge ever to be charged with federal sex crimes. The Houston Chronicle broke the news of the three-count indictment, which charges that the judge made unwanted sexual contact with his former case manager, Cathy McBroom. The federal criminal investigation was launched in November 2007, the Chronicle reports, after McBroom complained that the judge physically touched her under her clothing twice and often made obscene suggestions during the six years she worked for him.

Kent's defense lawyer, Dick DeGuerin is taking a different tack in this case than the too-small-to-matter defense he recently employed. Instead, he issued a statement yesterday asserting that the relationship between Kent and McBroom was "completely consensual" and that she complained only when she was "about to be fired." (Why do those office affairs always break down when one tries to fire the other?) DeGuerin goes on: "This is a classic swearing match between a woman who has motive to lie and a United States District Judge who has faithfully served the public for 18 years." A classic? Wouldn't that suggest we've seen the scenario many times before?

The intriguing circumstance about this case is that this is not the first we've heard of it. McBroom's allegations first surfaced in 2007 in the form of a judicial misconduct complaint against Kent. After appointing a special committee to investigate the complaint, the 5th Circuit Judicial Council issued a curt, three-page order in September 2007 reprimanding Kent and admonishing him that his behavior was inappropriate for a judge. The order was devoid of details but said that "appropriate remedial action had been and will be taken," citing Kent's four-month leave of absence from the bench and reallocation of his docket.

For Mike Cernovich at the blog Crime & Federalism, the 5th Circuit's reticence in this matter amounts to a cover-up.

The Fifth Circuit knew of the allegations that formed the basis of the Indictment. Yet what did the judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (led by "tough on crime" Edith Jones) do?

They issued a mere reprimand, did not make the details of his conduct public, and did not ask Congress to investigate further.  They were willing to let the case end at the reprimand.

Self-discipline must go.  What Judge Kent is accused of doing borders on rape.  Yet the Fifth Circuit wanted to pass upon the issue with a simple, "It's our little secret."

It is no one's secret when a judge breaks the law, Cernovich says. Fortunately, it is hardly commonplace, at least among federal judges. The Houston Chronicle says that this is only the sixth time in 30 years that a federal judge has been charged with a federal crime. As for Kent, he will surrender to authorities Wednesday for an initial court appearance.

August 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Real Estate Deals of the Rich and Lawyerly

My morning review of the headlines brought up a reference to Chicago, a site I first wrote about here last year (Site Tracks Sales of Lawyers' Lairs). The site stands out for adding color to the standard names-and-numbers approach to reporting on real estate transactions. Rather than merely list the seller, buyer and price, it tells you a bit about who they are. It covers real estate transactions in Chicago's Lincoln Park and Lake View neighborhoods, while a companion site, BlockShopper St. Louis, does the same for suburban St. Louis County. And because those neighborhoods rank among Chicago's more well-to-do, the site's profiles include a fair share of lawyers.

So I thought I'd check in and see whether lawyers are doing their fair shares to support the real estate market in the Windy City. I am able to confirm: They are. From just the past few weeks' reports, here are some of the purchases and sales made by legal professionals:

BlockShopper has plenty more recent listings involving lawyers, including the health lawyer who bought a Lincoln Park condo for $387,000, the commercial finance lawyer who bought a Lincoln Park condo for $386,000, and the securities lawyer who bought a Lincoln Park townhouse for $896,500. One other non-scientific observation: The deals reflect an inverse correlation between years out of law school and size of firm. In other words, the younger the lawyer buying real estate, the greater the liklihood he or she works at a large firm.

August 29, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 28, 2008

Lawyer Sues Women's Studies Department for Discrimination Against Men

When a university offers a women's studies program but no men's studies program, is it engaging in unconstitutional discrimination against men?  Yes, says Roy Den Hollander, a New York lawyer who's suing Columbia University, a "bastion of bigotry against men."  Hollander alleges that the university has "thrown its influence and prestige into violating the rights of men by offering a women's studies program but no men's studies program."

Columbia isn't the only target of this self-styled civil rights champion.  Hollander has sued various bars for discriminating against men with "Ladies Night" promotions that offer free or cheap drinks to women but no similar benefits for men.  Of course, Hollander didn't learn of this grave injustice until shortly after his divorce, when he went out to a bar with a friend in an effort to lift his spirits and was charged more for his drink than his female counterparts.  In fact, Hollander hopes to convert the "Ladies Night" suit into a class action.

August 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Midlife Career Change for Lawyers

Most of the time, we hear younger lawyers expressing dissatisfaction with the legal profession, whether it's a lack of meaningful work or the lack of job opportunities.  But even older lawyers get the professional blues. As this month's ABA Journal reports, many lawyers experience malaise after a decade or two of practice.

The ABA Journal story describes what lawyers are doing to cope with this type of midlife (or midcareer) crisis.  Some leave their law firms for in-house positions while others decide to start their own law firms.   And for those lawyers simply experiencing boredom, experts advise that they seek out work they enjoy, either by making court appearances or doing more writing and research on the job, or taking up an exciting hobby -- like skydiving -- outside of work.

Have you experienced a midlife crisis as a lawyer?  What did you do to address it -- post your comments below.

August 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Should Law Students Pay Law Firms for Training?

"If associates get all the benefits of training at my law firm in the first three years, and can't really add much value anyway, why don't they pay us?"

That's the question that Dan Hull asks in this provocative post at What About Clients?.

So, here's the strategy that Hull envisions.  Rather than pay new hires those stratospheric salaries that have given law firms buyer's remorse, Hull suggests that associates work for minimal salaries in exchange for the benefit of receiving valuable legal training:

A "trainee": (1) would be paid either very minimal or at most starting paralegal-level salaries--don't laugh, paralegals are often remarkably more valuable and cost-efficient than first-year associates--and perhaps some other benefits; or (2) actually pay the law firm a nominal stipend--a "tuition", in effect--in a flexible apprenticeship arrangement which could be revisited eventually. At a minimum, making the associate bear the risk of the investment in his or her training might have the effect of deterring some new grads who were just biding time, or perhaps clearly not going to stick around after debts were paid off, from going to the law firm in the first place. It might force some new lawyers to choose.

So why would associates, accustomed to higher salaries, be willing to settle for this new system?  Because ultimately, the system benefits associates argues Hull, by giving them experience that they can use if they choose to remain at their existing firm or take to another position.  By contrast, under the present law firm model, associates may pay down law school debt early in their career or rack up some savings, but after three years, they're not much more marketable than when they started.

Has your firm ever considered this type of approach to compensation?  And if you're a recent grad, would this new model appeal to you?

August 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (16)

August 27, 2008

Hillary as Obama's Attorney?

The Columbia Journalism Review points this morning to mixed metaphors from the Los Angeles Times in its coverage of Sen. Hillary Clinton's speech last night at the Democratic National Convention. One LA Times article employed what the CJR describes as a "lawyerly lead," portraying her speech as that of a courtroom advocate making her closing argument for Barack Obama's cause, while another described her as "the good soldier." Here's that lawyerly lead, as published by the CJR:

Hillary Rodham Clinton put her presidential campaign behind her on Tuesday night and returned, for a highly anticipated half-hour, to an old job. She was an attorney again, her client was former rival Barack Obama, and her speech to the Democratic National Convention was effectively the closing argument to a jury of her most ardent supporters.

But follow the link from the CJR post and the lawyerly lead has vanished, with barely a trace to be found. The article that originally bore the headline, "Hillary Clinton Takes the Stage as Obama's Advocate," is now captioned, "Hillary Clinton Calls on Democrats to End Their Rift," and the reference to Clinton qua lawyer is gone. As of this writing, the only evidence remaining of this lost metaphor is that the "Obama's Advocate" headline still appears on the front page of the LA Times Web site. So why the editorial change of heart? Let's hope no one took offense at the comparison of Clinton to a trial lawyer.

August 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Framing a Digital Bill of Rights

With convention season in full force, is it time to convene a cyber convention to draw up a Bill of Rights for the digital age? TechCrunch co-editor Erick Schonfeld thinks so. He is proposing a Digital Bill of Rights, one that will serve as a comprehensive national technology policy for the Internet Age. "What we need," he writes, "is a Digital Bill of Rights that spells out what freedoms and rights consumers can expect from Internet service providers, content companies, device manufacturers, and the government itself."

Neither political party has put forth anything that comes close to filling the bill, Schonfeld says. "McCain's technology platform is a bit vague, and Obama's choice of tech-challenged Joe Biden as his running mate is not exactly a confidence builder." So he is taking a first stab at such a bill of rights and inviting readers to add their thoughts. His bill would cover five major "rights": to use and reuse content, to control digital property on one's own devices, to the free flow of information regardless of data type, to some degree of online privacy, and to control one's digital identity.

While he outlines the areas in which consumers should have rights, he is less clear on what those rights should be. With respect to the right to use content, for example, he writes: "The concept of fair use needs to be updated and clarified, while still balancing the fundamental right of copyright holders to profit from their creations." OK, we knew that, but updated and clarified how? Likewise on the right to control what is on one's devices: "Copyright law and DRM technologies are so intertwined and confused that both consumers and companies could benefit from clearer rules of the road." Uh-huh, but what should those rules be?

One blogger calls the whole idea a load of bullshit, arguing that no one nation can develop a policy to control the global Internet. The fact of the matter is that our laws and policies already regulate the Internet and the activity that occurs in Cyberspace. As Schonfeld points out, much of that regulation involves "inadequate attempts to transplant rules from a different era." Few would argue the point that many of our laws are anachronistic. While Schonfeld's outline offers few firm policy proposals, at least it helps frame the discussion.

August 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The ILTA Grapevine

Law firm technology wonks are gathered this week in Grapevine, Texas, for the 31st annual meeting of the International Legal Technology Association, and thanks to some of the bloggers in attendance there, we are all able to hear about it through the virtual grapevine. Kevin O'Keefe at Real Lawyers Have Blogs gives the ILTA conferees a big pat on their collective backs for their tweeting and blogging, noting that, just two years ago, he criticized ILTA attendees for the silence of their blogs during that year's conference. "Sitting in my Seattle office today, I'm getting regular blog and Twitter feeds about the presentations at the conference," O'Keefe wrote yesterday. "Some of the blogged summaries are excellent."

He singles out the ILTA coverage by two bloggers who both hail from from the Boston office of Goodwin Procter, Doug Cornelius of KM Space and David Hobbie of Caselines. The folks from are also filing regular updates from Grapevine, including video interviews with the aforementioned Cornelius as well as with David Baker, chairman of technology consulting firm Baker Robbins & Company; Jenn Steele, author of the blog Leading Geeks and director of information technology at Morrison Mahoney in Boston; Steve Priem, West's vice president of litigation; and Monica Williams, who is writing and managing the ILTA conference blog, which appears to be doing double-duty as a lost-and-found center. Other bloggers at ILTA include Mark Reichenbach of On the Mark, Ron Friedmann of Strategic Legal Technology, and Nina Platt of The Law Firm Intranet.

All this has one-time ILTA critic O'Keefe singing a different tune. "I'm no longer buying that lawyers and other professionals in our legal industry are way behind the curve in the use of blogging, social networking and social media," he writes. I can almost hear him humming, all the way from Seattle, "I heard it through the Grapevine."

August 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fire Destroys 30 Years of Legal Files

A tragic story today from the Cape Cod Times: Lightning struck a law office in the Cape Cod town of Sandwich, Mass., igniting a blaze that engulfed the building and destroyed 30 years of legal records. The building housed the law firm MacNeil & Fitch as well as the solo practice of a family lawyer who moved in just last year. The building, built as a law office in 1978 by partner Jonathan Fitch, was designed to resemble the historic colonial homes and buildings that help make Sandwich a popular tourist destination. Two other law offices attached to the back of the building were spared.

After surveying the damage yesterday, Fitch declared the building a total loss. He had no back-ups for the three decades of files in the building, but said it was possible that some records stored in file cabinets remained. "Certainly the cases in progress were not in a filing cabinet," he told the Cape Cod Times. An associate at the firm, state Rep. Cleon H. Turner, said he did have back-ups of his computer records. When he spoke to a reporter, he was at his home "backing up the back-ups."

Local lawyers offered their help in reconstructing files and extending deadlines, and the firm's clients stopped by "to offer hugs and encouragement," the newspaper reports. Needless to say, the moral of the story is obvious in underscoring the need for lawyers to prepare for the unexpected. But obvious though the lesson is, many lawyers still only learn it the hard way.

August 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

A New CMO for Holland & Knight

Just a few months into his new job as managing partner of Holland & Knight, Steven Sonberg had already started putting his stamp on the 1,100-lawyer firm, the National Law Journal reported last month. That trend continues as the firm this week hired a new chief marketing officer. Boston-based Bruce Alltop moves from CMO at Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo to the top marketing slot at Holland.

Alltop joined Mintz Levin in October 2004 as its first-ever CMO. Previously, he had worked as sales director and marketing executive at the New York and Boston offices of Ernst & Young. Earlier in his career, the Princeton University graduate had been sales and marketing manager and then general manager of an environmental services company.

Since Sonberg took over as managing partner April 15, he has made other management changes at the firm, including the appointment of new executive partners in charge of the Boston and Fort Lauderdale offices. In Boston, Steven Wright now oversees day-to-day management. A corporate, regulatory and litigation attorney, Wright is a trustee of the Boston Bar Foundation and former president of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association. In Fort Lauderdale, Nicholas G. Milano is the new executive partner. With a practice focused on real estate, Milano has held a number of professional and civic appointments.

The moves come after Sonberg had the unpleasant task of laying off 70 secretaries and staffers in May in order to cut costs. While no further layoffs are likely, Sonberg told the NLJ last month, his top priority is to ensure that the firm stays on solid ground financially. "I want to make sure we do as well as we can and boost firm performance. We need to get closer to clients and be a counselor and adviser to them, to try to be proactive to clients." And that, perhaps, is the new CMO's marching order.

August 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 26, 2008

Lilly Ledbetter's Double Play

The Democratic National Convention started yesterday, and already I've grown tired of the "where else but in America" mantra -- as in "where else but in American can the son of a single mom emerge as the Democratic candidate for president?"  or "Where else but in America can a girl raised on the Southside of Chicago get an Ivy League education?"  Still, when I learned that Lilly Ledbetter, a retired Goodyear worker and petitioner in Ledbetter v. Goodyear will address the convention tonight, I could only ask, "Where else but in America does an ordinary person have the chance to appear before both the Supreme Court and a national party convention?" -- an opportunity that not even lawyers as accomplished as Barack Obama or his wife have enjoyed. 

As you may recall, in a 5-4 decision back in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that Ledbetter's claim against her employer for paying her less than her male counterparts because of her gender was time barred because her present lower pay arose out of salary decisions made years earlier, well  outside of the 180-day statute of limitations for discriminatory employment practices under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Justice Ginsburg dissented, and urged Congress to take action to correct the Court's "cramped" reading of Title VII's statutory deadlines. The Paycheck Fairness Act has since been introduced, but as yet has not been passed.

So what makes Ledbetter relevant enough to the Democrats' agenda to warrant her as a speaker? Carter Wood at Point of Law and Dan Schwartz, guest posting at Overlawyered, both believe that Ledbetter will make the case for the importance of equal pay, which at a minimum would appeal to the female base that supported Hillary Clinton. However, Schwartz and Wood point out that there are already equal pay laws that would have conferred the relief that Ledbetter sought; the new proposals would merely expand statutory deadlines and ultimately lead to more litigation. 

But others, like Kitty Kolbert of People for the American Way, believe that Ledbetter's speech sends a message that "The Supreme Court is on the ballot." That's also an odd theory, since right now, Congress hasn't taken any action to reverse the Supreme Court's decision and thus, is as much to blame for the impact of the ruling (at least prospectively) on the Court.

So ultimately, I must confess that I don't really understand the signficance of Ledbetter's appearance at the convention.  Unless the sole point of her speech is to reinforce the mantra, "Where else but in America..."

August 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4)

U.S. News to Step Up Efforts to Stop Law Schools From Gaming the Rankings

We've posted previously, here and here on some of the controversy and criticism surrounding the U.S. News and World Report Law School Rankings, in particular, the system's susceptibility to manipulation.  Today, the Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. News is taking steps to crack down on those schools that attempt to game the rankings system by  channeling lower-scoring applicants into part-time programs that don't count as part of the rankings. U.S. News has proposed to include statistics on part-time students in its ranking system, which could lower the rankings of many schools which currently set up less selective part-time programs to generate additional revenues without compromising their status the U.S. News survey.

The U.S. News proposal is controversial.  Some say that changing the criteria may punish part-time programs or deter some schools from offering them, to the detriment of the student population -- often minorities or second careerists -- whom part-time programs have long served. 

Schools that have "gamed" the rankings system in the past are unapologetic.  The article offers the example of Phillip Closius, dean of University of Baltimore Law School, which elevated its rank to 125 from 170 by cutting the number of full-time students and adding more part-timers.  Says Closius:

U.S. News is not a moral code, it's a set of seriously flawed rules of a magazine, and I follow the rules...without hiding anything.

Just as a Closius' ability to improve rankings made him a hero, deans who fail to take rankings seriously may find themselves the goat.  Nancy Rapoport, dean of the University of Houston Law Center, resigned after the school fell to 70th from 50th in the span of a few years. (Rapoport now teaches at UNLV and discusses the circumstances surrounding her resignation and the ratings in this blog post.

So what do law professors have to say about all of this?  Neither Professor Lipshaw at Legal Profession Blog nor Professor Ribstein at Idealawg is terribly troubled by law firms gaming the rankings system because, as Ribstein points out, the rankings aren't a "moral code."  But Professor John Steele at Legal Ethics Blog wonders whether by gaming the rankings, schools are effectively teaching students, by example, to "cook the books."

Finally, David Bernstein at Volokh offers the best solution:  ranking part time programs separately since the criterion for admission and credentials of most part-time students are so different from those in full-time programs.

August 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Litigation as Profit Center

The next time you hear a tort reformer grousing that litigation is ruining the economy, you may want to consider the experience of Columbus, Ohio.  As this article describes, litigation -- or more accurately, the Franklin County Courthouse complex where litigation takes place -- has formed a profit center for the entire community. 

The Columbus Business Journal describes the range of different revenue sources that have developed around the Franklin County Courthouse.  For example, the courthouse sustains more than a half dozen bail bonds firms, including one family-owned company that has operated near the courthouse for nearly 50 years and has 11 employees.   And even though e-filing is reducing the need for bike couriers and messengers, Archive Courier Service in Columbus still derives 60 percent of its revenues from court business.  Even the parking meters around the courthouse are money makers, collecting nearly $124,000 in revenues in 1987.

The courthouse also feeds those businesses that feed court visitors and employees.  With 1.4 million visitors to the courthouse annually, hot dog vendors report that they earn as much as $120 or more during a busy lunch shift.  Court traffic also accounts for the success of the Subway franchise at the court as well as other area restaurants.  Hotels also benefit from lawyers in town to try cases who need to stay over for several days.

Ah, profiting off of litigation -- isn't that the American way?

August 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Does the Warner Brothers Suit Spell Hari Kari for Hari Puttar?

While the main characters in most movies generally survive through the final credits, in a bit of a plot twist, Warner Brothers is intent on killing off Hari Puttar (or at least the name, if not the actual character) even before the eponymously titled, Bollywood-produced film opens in September.   Warner Brothers has sued to enjoin Mumbai, India-based Mirchi Movies from releasing Hari Puttar: A Comedy of Terrors, claiming that the film's title too closely resembles Harry Potter and infringes Warner Brothers' intellectual property rights, report Yahoo News and MSNBC.  But Mirchi's CEO Munish Purii points out that there's little likelihood that moviegoers will confuse the films; Hari is common name in India and "puttar" is Punabji for son.  Moreover, Hari Puttar tells a story of a boy who fends off robbers while left home by himself -- a tale more reminiscent of the movie, Home Alone rather than the Harry Potter franchise.

Does the Warner Brothers suit spell hari kari for Hari Puttar?  Or will Bollywood successfully fend off Hollywood in this battle of the studios?  As with all good movies, you'll have to wait patiently for the ending of this cliffhanger.

For additional discussion, see WSJ Law Blog.

August 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 25, 2008

Presidential Race Roundup: Biden, the Lawyer VP Candidate

This past weekend, Barack Obama announced his vice-presidential choice, veteran Senator and fellow lawyer, Joseph Biden.  Here's a quick roundup of posts from the blogosphere on Biden's position on various legal issues, as well as how he matches up intellectually and ethically against Obama.

Biden's Lobbyist Connections -- Obama has been criticized for ties to lobbyists and his affiliation with the now-jailed Illinois "political fixer" Tony Rezko.  But Biden brings his own share of controversy to the ticket.  Biden's brother and son are embroiled in two lawsuits involving allegations of defrauding a business partner, reports the Washington Post and Biden himself has been linked to the disgraced Mississippi plaintiffs lawyer, Dickie Scruggs, according to the WSJ Law Blog

Biden's Tech Record -- CNET describes Biden as a politician with "a mixed record on technology who has spent most of his Senate career allied with the FBI and copyright holders."  The lengthy piece covers topics ranging from Biden's proposals supporting anti-encryption legislation and an expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and wiretap laws to his letter to the DOJ recommending prosecution of individuals who intentionally allow mass copying on peer-to-peer networks.

Biden on Crime -- Professor Doug Berman points out that Biden has been ahead of the curve on some sentencing issues, but also agrees with Jeralyn Merritt that Biden will toe the requisite "tough on crime" party line.

Biden's Academic Record -- While Obama earned top grades from law professors for his scholarship as a law professor, Dan Markel of Prawfs Blawg can't say the same about Biden's academic background.  Markel writes:

As a professor, I can't help but notice that Biden had (at best) an utterly mediocre  academic background, and he was busted for plagiarism as a student and as a presidential candidate. Really, do academic achievement and intellectual integrity matter so little??

Finally, a hat tip to New York Personal Injury Attorney Eric Turkewitz who predicted the Obama/Biden pairing even before the Iowa caucus. 

August 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Another Blogger Gets a Subpoena

So what if Dennis Crouch's highly regarded Patently-O blog narrowly missed being named the ABA's Top Blog on Substantive Law?  Crouch was just pinned with a far more prestigious badge of honor:  a subpoena in lawyer Eric Albritton's defamation action against Cisco and former employee Rick Frenkel, formerly known as the Patent Troll Tracker.  In this post, Crouch discloses that Albritton is seeking all documents relating to "comments, emails, communications" to him or Patently-O related to Albritton's competence or integrity or the Troll Tracker case, as well as information about the identity of anonymous blog commenters and readers who have sent private e-mails. 

For now, Crouch has responded to the subpoena with a letter, objecting to the subpoena requests for the following reasons:

Comments are posted on Patently-O and are publicly available at no charge to you. Because these comments are already available online, this request is likewise unduly burdensome and overbroad. Furthermore, most commentators post anonymously with a strong expectation of privacy in their identity. Similarly, I often receive communications sent under the condition and/or expectation of privacy and anonymity. This happens with any reporter – but is especially common in law and politics where we often find negative retribution for speaking out. I strongly support this right of anonymity and do not plan to reveal particular information that could lead to the identity of those sources without a specific court order on the topic...

The last case we mentioned in which a lawyer tried to subpoena a blogger -- looking for Kathleen Seidel's tax returns and correspondence to determine whether she was being paid by corporate interests to question the link between autism and vaccines (a frequent topic of her blog) -- the court granted the Seidel's motion to quash and sanctioned the lawyer for misusing the subpoena process to "vilify and demean" the blogger.  Crouch's case is different, however, as there's arguably a nexus between the information that Albritton seeks and the subject matter of the case.  Whereas Seidel's connection to vaccine companies had little bearing on the lawsuit against them, here, the identity of commenters could potentially yield material relevant to Albritton's case, such as the source of any defamatory material or the scope of the injury to reputation.

That's not to say that Albritton is automatically entitled to the documents and other information he's subpoenaed.  Rather, as Crouch discusses in his letter, the potential relevance triggers a balancing test -- the importance of the materials to Albritton on one hand versus the commenter's expectation of privacy on the other.  Ultimately, if Albritton doesn't back down, Crouch may find himself at the center of a case that is bound to impact not just Crouch, but his fellow bloggers as well.

August 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Not Many Law Bloggers Across the Pond

Law blogs may be all the rage here in the United States, but they've been slow to gain traction across the pond, reports the Times Online. In Britain, only a handful of law practitioners maintain blogs -- and the lawyers and firms that do are reaping benefits.  For example, Peter Wainman, a senior solicitor with Mills and Reeve and one of the authors of Naked Law told the Times that the blog had generated a "huge amount of PR." 

So why the disparity between the number of bloggers in the U.S. and the U.K? Alex Newson, an British IT lawyer, who authors the IP blog, Impact theorizes:

The US has a more discussive culture than we do. People like to debate things. Here, we're more conservative generally, and this is especially true among law firms. I suspect that cultural barriers will inhibit firms from having blogs for a few years, but I hope that we'll see them taking the requisite leap of faith soon.

It may be, too, that the embedded right to freedom of expression in American society, in contrast to Britons' tendency to discretion (exemplified, arguably, in our highly developed libel laws), is another factor in transatlantic enthusiasm for the blogosphere.

The article lists several popular U.K. blogs, including the Legal Blog Watch network affiliate blog, Human Law.

August 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 22, 2008

Female Lawyers Still Underrepresented at Firms

The number of female lawyers serving as partners at large firms continues to stagnate, according to a recent report from the American Bar Association, reports the Legal Times. Among the salient statistics: Although women account for about half of all law school graduates and 30 percent of all lawyers, they still represent only 17 percent of partners in private law firms. 

Joan Williams, a co-director at the Project for Attorney Retention and one of the authors of the reports suggests that the disparity between men and women at the top results from gender bias in evaluation of lawyers.  Lower evaluation scores mean that fewer females are promoted through the ranks. 

But who's responsible for these lower ratings -- men or women?  As I posted earlier this week, at least one study suggests that women sabotage each other in the workplace by evaluating other women more harshly.  Do female law partners do the same to younger women?  What do you think?

August 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Lawyer Scoots to Court

With so many law firms going green, you might think that Gastonia, North Carolina lawyer Brent Ratchford is just trying to be trendy by riding to court on a battery powered scooter. But while reducing emissions has been a by-product of Ratchford's vehicle of choice, his decision to scooter to court was originally motivated by vanity: Ratchford found that the ten-minute walk to court in scorching heat left him dripping with sweat.  And while lawyers and court officials initially ridiculed Ratchford for riding a scooter to court, with gas prices hovering at the $4-per-gallon mark, Ratchford is now fielding inquiries from colleagues about where they can purchase a scooter. 

There's another benefit that Ratchford has realized: For the price of a scooter, he's gotten front-page coverage in the local paper, which may send prospective clients scooting his way.

August 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

2008 Shaping Up As a Disappointing Year for Law Firms

A few months ago, I posted that even as law firms celebrated record profits for 2007, they needed to brace themselves for an imminent downturn.   And with the first two quarters of law firm financial data for 2008 now available courtesy of Dan DiPietro for The American Lawyer, law firm profitability is officially on the decline.

Bruce MacEwen shares further details on the downward trends in this post.  He describes that:

    * Revenue growth has reversed, with demand the weakest since 2001

    * Since firms have continued to add lawyers, there's "profit margin compression" -- lower revenues hit higher expenses; and

      *The slowdown is hitting the most profitable firms the hardest. In the first half of 2008, demand dropped off even more dramatically and expenses increased at a more rapid pace at the top firms, resulting in even greater margin compression and a steeper drop in productivity than experienced by their less profitable rivals. The practice areas that normally provide a lift in a downturn -- restructuring, bankruptcy and litigation -- have not helped cushion the drop-off in transactional work.

MacEwen also highlights that "global" firms, with more than 25 percent of their lawyers abroad, have experienced the least profit margin compression.  For MacEwen, this isn't surprising:

Those geographies are experiencing a similar, though not as sharp, a slowdown as we here in the US. So their geographic diversity hasn't helped much. By contrast, if you think Citi's definition of "global" firm identifies firms farther down the globalization path, they're likely to have substantial presences in Asia and the MidEast--areas anything but suffering from the Western economies' downturn.

For MacEwen, these recent trends highlight the strategic importance of global diversification as a way to hedge against financial downturns.  Of course, a global strategy is long term.  In the short term, firms need to find ways to cut costs, which isn't an easy task either. 

August 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Will Technology Displace Lawyers in e-Discovery?

Remember the folk tale of John Henry, the railway worker who went head to head in a contest of efficiency with a steam-drill to prove that man was superior to machine?  Henry beat the machine, but worked himself to death to do it. 

I was reminded of John Henry in reading this Wall Street Journal article about law firms' efforts to stave off automation of the e-discovery process.  As WSJ reports, tech companies are developing tools that can perform many tasks previously handled by teams of attorneys -- such as weeding out duplicate or irrelevant material and identifying privileged documents.  Automation results in substantial cost savings since by culling documents, lawyers can review a smaller amount of material.  According to Hewlett-Packard, automated e-discovery tools could reduce the cost of review of 100 gigabytes of data from $180,000 to $25,000. 

But law firms aren't convinced that these new tools are effective and remain concerned that companies may wind up spending more money in the long run to fix mistakes.  For example, Robert Brownstone, a partner at Fenwick & West,  described a situation where a client declined to have attorneys oversee an e-mail archive search, relying on internal IT staff to handle the job for less.  The IT workers disposed of files that legally, needed to be preserved -- and while the documents were recovered, the client also wound up paying Fenwick more to fix the problem than it would have cost to retain the firm for oversight at the outset.

Are today's lawyers the new John Henrys of discovery, a last line in the sand to preserve a way of doing business that's fast fading into the sunset?  Like John Henry, lawyers correctly make the point that not everything can be automated and that by relying on machines, we lose some of the craftsmanship and judgment that individuals bring to a project.  On the other hand, John Henry worked himself to death to prove his point -- is that really what lawyers want?

H/T EDD Blog Online.

August 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 21, 2008

Two New Salvos in the Tort Debate

Is it broke and does it need fixing? That is the perpetual question about the tort system in the United States. This week brought two further contributions to the debate, one proposing a system of early offers in tort cases and the other debating whether the British rule could work in America.

First up, Insurance Journal reports on "A Recipe for Balanced Tort Reform," a new book in which two law professors propose an "early offers" program for quickly settling medical malpractice and product liability lawsuits. University of Virginia law professor Jeffrey O'Connell and Widener law professor Christopher J. Robinette propose that defendants be given the option of making an early offer within six months after a claim is filed. The defendant would guarantee periodic payments of medical expenses and lost wages, plus 10 percent for attorneys' fees, but pay no compensation for pain and suffering. For defendants, the plan would cut both the time and cost of litigation, they say. For plaintiffs, it would eliminate the waiting and uncertainty of a protracted lawsuit.

Next to the podium, NewTalk this week hosted a panel of 16 eminent lawyers and law professors to debate whether the United States should adopt a loser-pays rule for tort cases. Two early comments perhaps frame the discussion. The Manhattan Institute's Walter Olson says the loser-pays idea continues to have legs because it "polls very well with the public." But Sidley Austin partner James D. Zirin responds that loser pays "is simply un-American and is certainly in many cases unfair." While there is no consensus among the panelists, the prevailing sentiment seems to be that captured in a comment by National Journal columnist Stuart Taylor, "that a broad loser-pays regime might be a cure worse than the disease or be undermined by judicial reluctance to require losing plaintiffs .. to pay defendants' fees."

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, they say. In the case of the tort system, perhaps even if it's broke, attempts to fix it would be fruitless.

August 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Size Matters Not in Flashing Case

It is the perennial question: Does size matter? Two clever Houston lawyers argued that it does, at least when facing criminal charges for indecent exposure. Defending a local doctor on charges that he exposed himself to an undercover cop, high-profile criminal defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin and his associate Neal Davis argued that the doctor could not have exposed something that was too small to be seen.

As writer Rick Casey recounts in the Houston Chronicle, the doctor was arrested during an encounter in a Houston park with a plainclothes vice officer. After a jury found the doctor guilty, the doctor hired DeGuerin and Davis to file an appeal. They were the first to raise what Casey calls "the 2.8-inch issue," referring to the findings of a urologist DeGuerin called in as an expert witness. DeGuerin is known for defending such notable clients as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Waco cult leader David Koresh.

The size issue never came up at trial, but DeGuerin argued on appeal that it should have because it was a key piece of exculpatory evidence. The doctor is so embarrassed about this that he avoids undressing in front of anyone except his wife, they said. More to the point, the involvement of the doctor's hand would have made any alleged exposure improbable, the lawyers argued, given that one outsized the other. The Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals rejected these arguments, Casey writes, adding: "This is a case that could be described as de minimis."

You can read the opinion for yourself at the court's Web site. Among the issues addressed by the appellate court: Whether the original defense attorney had a duty to inquire into the size of his client's attributes.

August 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Porn Star, Hooker, Law Student

Law school is hard enough without having to hold down an outside job. Traci Bryant, a student at a Southern California law school, holds down several. Bitter Lawyer explains:

Traci, 38, manages to do more in one week than the average law student does in a semester. A typical week includes a few property and con law classes at the University of West Los Angeles School of Law, a girl-on-girl shoot for Wicked Pictures in a ranch house deep in the Valley, and a few editing sessions for the upcoming documentary she's producing, Porn Star Goes to Law School.

Oh, and this past winter break, instead of zoning out in front of the TV for a month, or going to Cabo or Vegas like most law students, she squeezed in a few weeks at one of the Nevada brothels -- and had her books shipped out so she could get a jump on next semester's basics in between working 'Two Girl Party' and 'Reversed Half and Half' gigs.

Yes, Bryant is not only a law student but also a porn star and a licensed Nevada prostitute who performs under the name Anita Cannibal. But law school is not such a leap, given that Bryant has been a vocal advocate for health, safety and legal protections for adult film performers. That is how she came to meet the author of this Bitter Lawyer piece, Maria de Cesare, an associate in the Los Angeles office of Latham & Watkins and former actor who wrote a law review article about health and safety issues in the adult film industry while a 3L at the University of Southern California Law School.

Bryant tells de Cesare that efforts to protect adult film workers through legislation have failed, so she is going to law school in the hope of addressing the issues through litigation. "I've got that kind of shystie brain like that. Right? Use it for good. It's thinking outside of the box in a positive way. Which is what I've gotta do."

Still to come: A second installment with more about Bryant's decision to attend law school and her hopes for how she'll use her law degree.

August 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (16)

Boston Libel Judge Resigns From Bench

Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Ernest B. Murphy gained national notoriety when he won a $2 million libel verdict against the Boston Herald in 2005. His notoriety later took a different turn when the state's Commission on Judicial Conduct (CJC) filed charges against him for writing threatening letters on court stationary to the Herald's publisher trying to collect that verdict. Now, Murphy says he is "permanently disabled from performing his judicial duties" and will step down from the bench.

It was revealed yesterday that the CJC in October filed a separate set of charges against Murphy alleging that he "suffers from physical and/or mental disabilities that affect his performance." Because of the nature of the charges, the Supreme Judicial Court impounded them. In a statement in support of the charges filed in June, CJC Acting Chairman Stephen E. Neel wrote that a combination of personality factors and cognitive defects impair Murphy's fitness to be a judge.

Specifically, neurocognitive, neuropsychiatric and personality factors constitute likely bases for inappropriate behavior and failure to make sound decisions on which to rest judicial rulings. In addition, Judge Murphy lacks the insight to recognize these deficits.

Murphy has claimed that his long legal battle against the Herald left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. He has been on paid leave of absence since July 30, 2007, collecting his full judicial salary of $129,694.

The judge sued the Herald over a series of stories in 2002 that portrayed him as insensitive to crime victims. One report alleged that he told a 14-year-old rape victim to "get over it." These stories led to a flood of hate mail and threats to his family, he said. During the Herald's appeal of the verdict, Murphy wrote to publisher Patrick Purcell demanding that the paper give him a check for $3.26 million. Murphy's letter told Purcell it would be a "BIG mistake" for him to share the letters with his lawyers.

Charges relating to those letters remain pending, according to the CJC announcement issued yesterday.  More on this story is available from the Boston Herald and The Boston Globe.

August 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 20, 2008

Is Law Review Selection Biased -- Or Do Fewer Women Submit?

Over at Volokh, conspirator Orin Kerr revisits the question of gender bias in article publication in top law journals. Kerr references a recent draft article by Professor Minna Kotkin which concludes that "a disproportionate number of selected articles were authored by men" and that journals must reexamine their selection processes to eliminate any bias when it comes to choosing articles for publication.

Kerr, however, believes that there's an innocent explanation for much of this: It's not that editors harbor bias against female-edited articles, but rather that fewer women than men submit articles to begin with. Kerr cites the submissions database from a top journal and notes that of 200 articles submitted, only 72 were by women.

Dan Markel raises similar views at Prawfs Blawg. He says that without consideration of the number of articles actually submitted by women, it is impossible to know whether law reviews are accepting articles at rates greater or lower than the numbers submitted by women. In short, while Markel acknowledges that there is a gap in submissions, he contends that it's difficult to say why, or to assume that the problem lies in selection.

I'm not sure if law professors have noticed it, but the "publication gap" extends to law professor blogs as well. Of the top law professor blogs as listed here, only one -- Professor Althouse -- is authored by a woman. Even marquis collective blogs like Volokh and Concurring Opinions are lead by and predominantly comprised of men. Does that mean that the entire blogosphere is discriminating against women prof law bloggers? Of course not. It's just that there are fewer female law professors blogging than men. Just as, most likely, there are fewer female professors writing and submitting journal articles than men. 

August 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

WhoCanISue Needs to Learn HowCanIAdvertise

I wasn't much impressed with the new lawyer directory, when I posted about it earlier this month. But my opinion has changed -- for the worse -- after reading Larry Bodine's scathing post about the company's marketing practices

According to Bodine, the company made its debut before the legal community at a recent ABA meeting in New York, using a booth with promotional materials, including three models in a skin-tight nurse outfits wearing red high heels and a sign urging visitors to "Energize Your Legal Practice." Another sign displayed an overflowing toilet, with a message to to "Stop throwing money down the toilet on other forms of legal marketing." 

In Bodine's view, these types of display cheapen the practice of law. But they're also not very smart marketing. Will lawyers really pay $1,000 a year to list themselves in a directory that promotes itself in such an oafish fashion? Maybe the real question that WhoCanISue needs to address is: HowCanIAdvertise this service in a way that's compelling, rather than repellent to most lawyers?

August 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Do Good Lawyers Just Sit on the Sidelines?

Dan Hull, who blogs over at "What About Clients?" "What About Paris?", asks whether good lawyers just sit on the sidelines rather than doing something bold to become a great man -- or woman. (As an aside, we know from Hull's previous post that good law bloggers emphatically don't sit on the sidelines.)  Hull writes:

Hard-driving lawyer friends (both in-house and in law firms) do articulate a feeling of being "sidelined"--yet they are very proud of what they do as lawyers.

You may think: Why merely advise--when you could lead, create and command? And do that every day? Lots of lawyers are Type-As. How many lawyers who advise great companies really end up as officers, CEOs, and COOs? Sure, lots of us run for office. But should more of us throw our golfing hat in the ring of life? Does law school and "the profession" make many of us so risk-averse, passive and routinely academic in our approach to life that it knocks the will and energy to lead out of us? Or were we just that way from the beginning?

Not sure about the answer to Hull's questions, but Los Angeles-based Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart, Oliver and Hedges is one firm that doesn't sit on the sidelines, at least as it's described in this Fast Company profile. (For more background, see The American Lawyer's 2006 profile of the firm.)  As the article reports:

Quinn Emmanuel has adopted the strategy, attitude, and accoutrements of a Red Bull-fueled startup. It focuses only on business litigation: no tax, real estate, or other common corporate practices. Even more galling to the tradition-bound large full-service firms that are its competitors, the firm takes some cases on contingency, meaning that it doesn't get paid if it doesn't win. That forces Quinn Emanuel to cast the wary eye of an investor on potential cases, in search of the ones that can strike gold, and it's unafraid to use litigation's nuclear option -- a jury trial -- to get outsize results.

So why aren't more firms adopting the Quinn Emanuel model?  Is the answer -- as Hull suggests -- that they've  become too risk averse?  Or is it that the Quinn model is unique to business litigation and more traditional types of law demands traditional lawyers who are willing to remain behind the scenes?

August 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Are Women Their Own Worst Enemies in the Workforce?

Via a tweet from Sui Generis' Nicole Black comes this Reuters piece on a recent international study that concludes: "Women are their own workplace enemies when it comes to cracking the glass ceiling."  The 2008 study, conducted by U.S. behavioral scientist Shannon Goodson, found that professional women in countries as diverse as the United States, China, Sweden and New Zealand, uniformly failed to do enough to advance their own careers.  Of those studied, women in New Zealand and Sweden were most timid about self-promotion, with American, British and Chinese women taking the most initiative to toot their own horns.

What's even more troubling about Goodson's research is that it found that women who succeeded in climbing the corporate ladder often "pulled the ladder up with them" and even tried to sabotage other women's success.  In my view, the phenomenon of women working against women is most damaging, because a woman's view of another woman's work carries the most weight with men.  For example, if a woman partner says that she doesn't think her female colleague has what it takes to make partner, men will accord the woman partner's views even more weight precisely because she's a woman.

Goodson didn't study law firms specifically, but to me, her conclusions would apply across the board.  What do you think about all of this?  Are women hurting other women? Do women have an obligation to help each other reach the top?  Send your comments below.

August 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The High Cost of a Protest

The next time New York City police decide to engage in mass arrests of peaceful protesters, they may want to engage in a cost-benefit analysis.  Today's New York Times reports that the 2003 arrest of 52 protesters demonstrating against the invasion of Iraq on charges of blocking pedestrians has cost the City a minimum of $2 million.  Following the acquittal of two protesters and dismissal of charges against the others, the protesters sued, alleging violations of First Amendment speech rights.  Now, the City has agreed to pay $2 million to settle the civil action -- with $1 million of that sum going to the protesters' lawyers.

But as the article notes, the $2 million payment comprises only a portion of the City's true costs.  For example, the protesters' attorneys deposed 55 police officers who each lost two days of work.  The City would have also incurred the costs of deposition transcripts -- over $100,000 -- according to one of the plaintiffs' lawyers.  Finally, the city staffed the case with five lawyers over the past four years and a special appellate team.  All told, a conservative estimate for the City's expenses to fight the lawsuit that it ultimately settled totaled around $1 million.

Of course, the plaintiffs didn't obtain a full victory.  The City did not admit liability and thus, avoids setting adverse precedent and retains the psychological satisfaction of being able to say that it wasn't wrong.

August 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 19, 2008

Corporate America's 'A' Team

Corporate Counsel magazine is out with its annual listing of the law firms that represent America's biggest companies.The usual suspects make the list -- the megafirms whose names alone are enough to make general counsel sleep better at night. As for those GC who are having trouble sleeping, the survey reveals what's keeping them up. This year, workplace issues are among companies' biggest concerns, the magazine reports.

The evidence? Morgan, Lewis & Bockius took the number one spot, with half of the matters captured in our survey related to employment and labor. Littler Mendelson, the largest U.S. law firm devoted exclusively to representing management in employment matters, tied for the silver.

The survey combs public records to find out which firms represent the Fortune 100 in five practice areas: corporate transactions, commercial law and contracts litigation, labor and employment litigation, torts/negligence litigation, and intellectual property. As already noted, Morgan Lewis has the most mentions overall, 31, followed by Jones Day and Littler Mendelson with 27 each. For corporate transactions, Skadden is the top-ranking go-to firm, followed by Davis Polk & Wardwell. In commercial law, Greenberg Traurig is top with six mentions followed by Day Pitney and Eichenbaum & Stylianou with five each. In labor and employment, Littler is the most frequently used firm with 24 mentions, followed by Ogletree Deakins with 20. For defense in torts litigation, companies most often turn to Shook, Hardy & Bacon with eight mentions and then either Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz or Reed Smith with seven mentions each. In IP, Baker Botts and Jones Day were the most-often used firms.

The one name that surprised me on this list is Eichenbaum & Stylianou. Frankly, I had never heard of it. Turns out Eichenbaum is no megafirm by any measure, but a five-lawyer New Jersey firm that exclusively handles collections. A sign of the times, perhaps, that one of the Fortune 100's top go-to firms would be one that handles collections.

August 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Former Lawyer Convicted in Art Case

A federal jury in Boston yesterday found former Massachusetts lawyer Robert M. Mardirosian guilty of possessing six Impressionist paintings that he knew had been stolen in the largest private art theft in Massachusetts history. As Jonathan Saltzman reports today in The Boston Globe, Mardirosian took the paintings, which had allegedly been stolen by one of his clients from a house in the Berkshires, and brought them to Europe for storage. The stolen paintings included a major Cezanne piece, "Bouilloire et Fruits."

Mardirosian's client, David Colvin, is alleged to have stolen them from their private owner, Michael Bakwin, but Colvin was shot to death in 1979. A year later, Mardirosian discovered them in an office loft he owned. Saltzman tells what happened then:

Mardirosian, who was allegedly told by Colvin that the paintings were stolen, did not try to return them, but instead stored them in Switzerland. In 1999, using a shell company and lawyers, Mardirosian returned the Cezanne to Bakwin in exchange for title to the six other paintings, which are much less valuable, according to records and testimony.

Bakwin later sold the Cezanne for $29.3 million. When Mardirosian began arrangements to sell the remaining six paintings in London, Bakwin went to court to block the sale. That led to the federal investigation that culminated in Mardirosian's conviction yesterday.

The ex-lawyer's defense was that he was only trying to collect a finder's fee for recovering the valuable Cezanne. Based on his agreement with Bakwin, he argued that his possession of the paintings was lawful. Now facing a maximum of 10 years in prison, he says he will appeal. "I think we've got a good appeal," he told Saltzman.

August 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

'First Amendment Guerrilla' Jack Landau Dies

Jacob "Jack" C. Landau, a lawyer and journalist who helped found the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in 1970 and was its executive director from 1974 to 1985, died this week at the age of 74. The 1961 New York University Law School graduate was a reporter for the Associated Press and The Washington Post before becoming the Supreme Court reporter for Newhouse Newspapers in the 1960s. Early in the Nixon administration, he served as a spokesman for Attorney General John Mitchell, helping to write new rules requiring the AG's approval for a news-media subpoena.

In 1970, in response to an increasing number of subpoenas seeking to compel reporters to name confidential sources, a group of journalists formed a committee to help provide legal assistance. Landau was a founding member of that group, along with Benjamin C. Bradlee of The Washington Post, Mike Wallace of CBS and Tom Wicker of The New York Times. Landau also started the First Amendment Hotline, the first free legal guidance service for journalists. In 1974, he became the RCFP's executive director, where he remained until 1985. After leaving that post, he wrote a syndicated column about law for Newhouse Newspapers until his retirement in 1992.

Landau once described himself as a First Amendment guerrilla. "Basically, the idea was to fight back, and if you couldn't do it nicely, you did it through warfare. ... I'm the guerrilla, and if you can't get it one way you can get it another. And that's what we did."

Here is the RCFP announcement and coverage from The Washington Post and the First Amendment Center.

August 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Strange But True, Legal Edition

These kinds of stories seem to travel in packs. Then again, it is a full moon. Some items from the week's news:

August 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 18, 2008

Is FindLaw Gaming Google?

Is FindLaw, one of the oldest online lawyer listing sites, gaming Google by buying and selling links to generate higher search rankings for customers? That's the question that Kevin O'Keefe examines at Lexblog. O'Keefe quotes from the story originally reported by Todd Friesen at that describes FindLaw's alleged practices:

* FindLaw sent unsolicited emails to lawyers and SEO experts selling a search engine marketing (SEM) program service.
* FindLaw's service sells a law firm up to 3 hard coded links to be placed on editorially relevant pages of content for $12,000 ($1,000 per month for a 12 month contract).
* FindLaw's service educates lawyers how to write the best text for their links (anchor text) so as to achieve higher search results for the lawyer's website.
* A law firm is 'allowed to submit up to 5 articles to be placed' in relevant areas of the FindLaw, with 5 additional links.

O'Keefe writes that Google will likely take action against FindLaw and worries that FindLaw's customers, some of whom paid as much as $1,000 per month for promises of higher search engine visibility, may be penalized unless FindLaw gives them a refund.

But at Lawsites, my colleague Bob Ambrogi has some concerns about some of the bloggers accusing FindLaw of scamming customers. Bob specifically mentions a post at Get Lawyer, which he describes as a company that "creates shell lawyer Web sites and then sells the leads that come in from those sites to lawyers."  As Bob describes:

For a consumer, the bottom line is this: It walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, but it's not a duck. A consumer visiting this site would have every reason to believe it is the site of a lawyer in Maryland who does criminal defense work -- especially with its first-person assurances, "I understand ... I can help." But a consumer who sends an e-mail or dials the number is instead sent through these companies to lawyers who have paid to receive these leads. The "I" who is providing these reassurances is not a single, real person, but bait to attract potential clients.

Bob concludes that the very company that is accusing FindLaw of running a scam is running a shell game of its own.

August 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Lasting Impressions

Once upon a time, a nasty tabloid story or unflattering newspaper profile would fade into practical obscurity.  But today, the concept of "practical obscurity" has been rendered practically obsolete by tools like Google and the Wayback Machine, which forever memorialize our past deeds in the Internet's easily accessible and often unforgiving cache.

Seattle lawyer Shakespear Feyissa is the latest, but by no means last, casualty of this development.  As reported by the Seattle Times, Feyissa wants a decade-old article that discusses his never-prosecuted arrest for attempted sexual assault and ensuing suspension removed from his college newspaper's online archives.  The college newspaper editors refused, claiming that compulsory removal was tantamount to censorship. 

Today, bloggers have been weighing in on this story, which after all, has implications for law bloggers as well.  At Above the Law, Kashmir Hill empathizes with Feyissa's plight, but questions whether going after his alma mater was the best approach -- or merely resulted in elevating Feyissa's past to the top of the search engine rankings.  Ultimately, Hill sides with the newspaper, writing that:

the online availability of archived articles can be unfortunate for some people, but it is perhaps an unavoidable consequence of living in the information age. It would not be feasible (or consistent with free speech values) to give people the right to force newspapers -- or, say, gossip blogs -- to erase non-defamatory content about themselves, simply because it paints them in a less-than-positive light..

For Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice the First Amendment "journalistic principles" aren't as clear-cut, particularly where a guy's reputation is ruined and the newspaper itself presented only part of the story by failing to note that all charges against Feyissa were dismissed.  Greenfield concludes that:

The public is not served by perpetuating undeserved harm.  Figure out a way that Feyissa won't have to suffer the taint of student ethical bravado for the rest of his life.

At the Industry Standard, Cyndy Aleo-Carreira notes that journalists are in fact reconsidering whether editors should pull online content, especially when a situation has changed or charges have been dropped.  She also notes that in Japan, for example, crime-related stories are removed within a year of publication.

Feyissa's situation is somewhat unique -- it involves a decade-old story that would have faded into obscurity but for the Internet.  The college paper gains nothing from keeping a stale story online, and indeed, loses some credibility by insisting on doing so without at least offering an update.  But at the same time, I can understand Hill's point -- that making an allowance for Feyissa could potentially make it easier for the next person (say a faculty member)  to demand immediate removal of an unflattering story in the student paper.

Ultimately, we're dealing with a huge a gray area when it comes to online archives. There aren't any simple solutions as far as I can tell.  All we can do is to proceed case by case until we develop some lasting rules about the best way to deal with these kinds of lasting impressions.

August 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Testing For Rainmakers

From law school finals to bar exams, lawyers routinely -- and in my view, foolishly -- place their faith in one-time test results rather than performance to judge merit.  But now an article in The Lawyers Weekly (Canada) reports on one exam that actually make sense:  a test for whether a lawyer has the talent to make it as a rainmaker.

According to the article, Dr. Larry Richard, a lawyer-psychologist and director of Hildebrandt International's Leadership and Organization Development program, has developed a test based on the Caliper Profile, a multiple-choice test that uses 18 base personality traits to assess a lawyer's rainmaking skills.  Richard explains the five key traits of successful rainmakers:

First, they have ego drive. "They like to persuade people," Dr. Richard says. They achieve ego gratification by convincing others to adopt their position or buy their product or services.

Second, they score high on empathy. Rainmakers can see other people's perspective on an issue. "They're good at understanding how the buyer is thinking," Dr. Richard says.

Third, they demonstrate resilience. Rainmakers don't get defensive or hurt when they're rejected. Rather they view rejection as a challenge.

Fourth, they tend to be service minded. Rainmakers are natural salespeople, with a desire to help others.

Fifth, they possess conscientiousness. Rainmakers are disciplined and methodical in their approach to selling. To illustrate this point, Dr. Richard says that when a rainmaker sets out to attract clients, they will commit to contacting a certain number of clients each day. They won't be deterred if only a handful of contacts produce leads or work. "They are disciplined about doing it, even if it can be unpleasant."

Though Richard cautions against using the Caliper test as a way to select lawyers for employment, he believes the test has other uses.  For example, firms might use the test to corroborate perceptions gleaned during the interview process or to identify and coach potential law firm rainmakers.

Because many lawyers either disdain rainmaking or aren't very good at it, using a test to cull the best prospects makes sense.  Instead of spending thousands of dollars on rainmaking programs for lawyers who aren't willing to learn or implement the lessons, firms could divert resources to those lawyers who enjoy rainmaking and hold the most potential for success. 

So are law firms using the Caliper test to identify rainmakers, and if not, why not?  What do you think?

August 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Blawg Review #173

In the spirit of the Olympics and Michael Phelps' record-breaking gold medal run, R. David Donoghue makes a huge splash with his swim-themed Blawg Review #173.

Diving into the Blawg Review event with gusto, Donoghue leads readers at breakneck speed through last week's best postings -- from start (a primer on opening statements from Illinois Trial Practice Blog) to finish (the Eastern District of Texas Law Blog's post on the de-acceleration of the Eastern District's "rocket docket").  You don't have to travel as far as Beijing to witness this medal-worthy coverage: Just click on over to Donoghue's Chicago IP Litigation Blog.

August 18, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 15, 2008

Oligarchs On Trial

Two fascinating stories published this month provide two very different perspectives on the clashes between once-powerful Russian oligarchs and a Russian legal system that many believe to be incurably corrupt.

In "Enemy of the State," Portfolio magazine writer Christopher S. Stewart tells the story of how Robert Amsterdam, an attorney from the Bronx, came to be defending Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once head of Russian oil company Yukos and one of the country's richest oligarchs, now confined to a Siberian prison. "Being around Robert Amsterdam is like living in a spy movie: You sense that you are being watched but can't exactly prove it," writes Stewart. "When I first contact him about the case, he responds that it's better not to talk details on the phone." Not that Amsterdam keeps his views to himself. Now based in London, he writes a blog in which he shares his views on global politics and business and can be heard discussing the Khodorkovsky case along with writer Stewart in this recent radio interview.

In "The Long Arm of the English Courts," Andrew Wigston of The Times of London details the recent British court decision to hear a lawsuit brought by former Russian oligarch Michael Cherney against his former protege Oleg Deripaska, now said to be the richest man in Russia. Cherney, who left Russia to live in Israel, contends that Deripaska seized a 20 percent stake in aluminum company Rusal that he was holding in trust for Cherney. In bringing the case in London, where its connection is tenuous at best, Cherney argued that he should not be forced to litigate in Russia because his personal safety would be at risk and the courts are corrupt. High Court Justice Christopher Clarke agreed on both counts, finding most notably that the case if brought in Russia would face a significant risk of "improper government influence." The ruling, as Wigston reports, has raised controversy in diplomatic and legal circles alike.

During my own trip to Russia last year to meet with judges, lawyers and journalists, the journalists spoke of corruption as common. But the judges and lawyers saw it as a problem more of perception than reality, suggesting that corruption was once far more common than it is today but that outsiders see it as continuing. Whether by virtue of geography or history, the Siberian courts we visited seemed at least partly removed from the Kremlin's influence. With President Medvedev's recent vow to ensure the independence of the judiciary, we can hope that both perception and reality eventually meet on the side of fairness.

August 15, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jurors Watch Four Hours of Porn

Eyes Jurors in the obscenity trial of a Virginia adult video store were required to sit through nearly four hours of "adult entertainment" in a Staunton courtroom yesterday. After showing the jury the videos, prosecutors rested their case against the owner and an employee of After Hours Video. The pair face misdemeanor charges of obscenity -- and up to two years in jail -- for two DVDs purchased at the store by undercover agents.

So how well did the jurors stand up to this ordeal? Some took notes, others stifled yawns. Staunton's local newspaper, The News Leader, provides this account:

The jury viewed two DVDs in their entirety Thursday -- nearly four hours of graphic images -- as the prosecution sought to portray the movies as obscene. With a movie screen facing the jury, courtroom observers essentially watched the jury watch the movies. Some on the jury chuckled at times, others took notes and many stifled yawns, but all remained attentive throughout the videos, which were filled with wall-to-wall sex scenes and scant dialogue.

Prosecutors also presented the testimony of an expert witness in human sexual psychopathology, who provided her opinion that the two films were without scientific value, one of the three elements of the obscenity case. Defense lawyers tried to discredit her testimony by pointing out that she had once referred to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue as pornography, but she said she had been merely quoting a news report. When prosecutors then sought to qualify the city's former police chief as an expert on community standards, the judge turned them down. "Based on the cases I've read, he isn't an expert," the judge said. The defense was to begin its case today.

August 15, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

An Interview with Gerry Spence

Spence If Gerry Spence didn't exist, Hollywood would have to invent him. From his home base in Jackson, Wyo., the legendary, buckskin-wearing lawyer has devoted more than 50 years to defending the underdog. He won $10.5 million for the estate of Karen Silkwood, the union activist whose suspicious death became the plot of a major motion picture. He won an acquittal for Randy Weaver after his deadly standoff with federal agents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. He won an acquittal for former Filipino First Lady Imelda Marcos on federal racketeering charges. And just last month, he won an acquittal for Detroit lawyer Geoffrey Fieger on federal charges of making unlawful campaign contributions.

In fact, Spence has never lost a criminal case and never lost a civil case since 1969. In an interview he gave us this week for our legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer, he said that the key to winning is preparation:

I see trial lawyers in the same way as I see fighters in the boxing ring. A fighter doesn't go into the boxing ring unprepared. ... When I walk into a courtroom, I become absolutely glued to the fight. I become focused on it. I become the fight. I become involved down to the toenails. And there isn't any room for thinking about loss, there is only room to think about the fight.

Spence is an absorbing interview subject. In our half-hour conversation, he talks about his career, his thoughts on legal education, his advice for lawyers, and why he recently launched his own blog. You can listen to or download the entire interview, which I conduct along with my cohost J. Craig Williams, from this page. You can keep up to date with all Lawyer2Lawyer programs by subscribing via RSS or using iTunes. A special thanks to the Legal Talk Network, which produces all of our programs.

August 15, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lawyer Publishes Her Own Legal Thriller

Reardon A decade ago, just out of Suffolk University Law School in Boston, Jeannine Reardon had some time on her hands and began to write her first book, a legal thriller. "The idea for the book just popped into my head one day. I remember sitting at my house and thinking that there were a lot of legal thrillers with male heroes. I thought that it would be interesting to read about a young female character who was just starting out and encountering good and evil people, conspiracies and danger." But a month and 80 pages later, Reardon's legal work picked up, so her manuscript she put down.

There it sat as her legal career grew and she became a partner in a Stoneham, Mass., law firm. Then in 2003, Reardon moved to Maryland, where her husband David had a new job, and she became pregnant, she tells the Stoneham Sun. Her husband encouraged her to take some time to enjoy her pregnancy and pick up the book again, and that's what she did, continuing after her daughter was born in 2004. By 2007, she had finished the manuscript. After looking into publishers, she ultimately decided to publish it herself through the self-publishing company Xlibris, where it recently came out.

The Web site for the book, Confidential Communications, gives this synopsis:

A young lawyer is thrown into a web of deceit and conspiracy when she accepts an offer to investigate a financial firm's suspicious employee. What she discovers are underhanded dealings that could put the nation's health and financial security in imminent danger.

Attorney Rebecca Lawson must find the mastermind and expose the truth before innocent people lose their money...

Or worse, their lives.

"All the work that I put into the book, with David's help to edit the manuscript, it was great to see that the book came out exactly as I envisioned it," she told the Sun. Meanwhile, she is already at work on her second legal thriller, which will keep many of the same characters.

August 15, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 14, 2008

Hardin Scores One for the Unfriendly Skies

Rusty Hardin, the high-profile Texas trial lawyer known for his work with Roger Clemens and Anna Nicole Smith, can add another notch to his belt. This time Hardin successfully defended Victoria Osteen, wife of television preacher Joel Osteen, against a civil claim filed by Continental Airlines flight attendant Sharon Brown.

Brown's assault claim alleges that Victoria grabbed her, pushed her into a restroom door and elbowed her in the chest because the flight attendant was remiss in cleaning up a spilled liquid from her first class seat, The Houston Chronicle reported shortly after closing arguments this morning.

In her testimony, Brown insisted Osteen attacked without cause and was headed for the pilot next. Hardin wasn't having it:

"I looked in her eyes and realized she was looking at the cockpit," Ms. Brown said. "I positioned myself in front of the cockpit. I still was trying to understand what was going on, because it happened so quick. My main concern was I wasn't going to let this lady in the cockpit."

Ms. Osteen's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, later asked Ms. Brown how she could have known by looking into Ms. Osteen's eyes that she intended to go into the cockpit.

"Can you look into my eyes and tell me where I am going to go?" Mr. Hardin said, to courtroom laughter.

Brown, who had asked for $405,000 in damages, received nothing when the jury unanimously agreed with Hardin's assessment that the story was concocted to land a courtroom payday.

August 14, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Gambling Capitals Show Their Discriminating Tastes

America's Playground may be getting more expensive -- but just for women. A ruling by the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, which found that the Las Vegas Athletic Club's discounted rates for women were discriminatory, could have an effect on business operations on The Strip, The New York Times reports.

The complaint against the health club was filed by California attorney Todd Phillips, who has filed dozens of similar complaints against bars and other businesses. The ruling wasn't quite enough for Philips, who also complained that women-only workout areas were discriminatory. But a law allowing sex-specific facilities "where body parts might be exposed" puts the gym in the clear (on that count, anyway). Still, Phillips wasn't pleased:

"It's utterly ridiculous," he said. "If you can conclude that there's enough of a privacy consideration for women, you should have an accompanying men's one. I've got body parts."

Meanwhile, in an ever-so-slightly less sinful city across the country, a judge ruled that preventing men from flaunting body parts is illegal: The Toga Bar at Caesars Atlantic City engaged in discrimination by hiring "goddesses" -- women wearing provocative togas -- and no "gods."

August 14, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Malaysian Blogger Ordered to Give Up Sources

Popular Malaysian political blogger Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin (known in the blogosphere as RPK) was ordered to reveal his sources for three articles alleging that attorney Muhammad Shafee Abdullah fabricated sodomy charges against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, the Associated Press reports. 

The order, secured Wednesday, requires RPK to remove the articles from his Web site, Malaysia Today, and give up the identities of all the visitors who commented on the stories. Following the advice of one commenter, who suggested the lawyer sue RPK "for libel or whatever," Shafee also filed a defamation suit (RPK's second). Using the ever-popular liar liar pants-on-fire defense, Shafee insists that RPK made the whole thing up.

According to RPK, the set-up comes from the top: Prime Minister "Abdullah is the hidden hand and Shafee is the henchman who was tasked with the job of implementing the evil deed." But that's not all -- the blogger also explains why someone who already has plenty of money and a healthy sex life would get so involved in a government frame-job: 

Okay, so we can rule out money and sex. But what about power? What if he is slated to be the next Attorney-General and whether he gets the job or not depends on how successfully he can neutralise Anwar and remove him as a threat to Umno?

It wasn't the articles alone that have Shafee up in arms. According to the AP, the lawyer intends to go after each and every commenter who defamed him in their responses to the articles -- not surprising, given the insults that were thrown around, like "crooks" and "maggot breath mouths."

RPK isn't the only blogger facing legal heat in the region this year. In early June we wrote about California-based lawyer Gopalan Nair, a Singapore native, who was arrested and "charged in a Singapore court over comments he made on his blog and in an e-mail that were critical of the judge presiding over a defamation case."

August 14, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 13, 2008

Remember the Rambler? Trademark Board Does

Rambler_american_1stgeneration_blue Remember the Rambler? In the 1950s, it was a popular and inexpensive small car made by the Nash-Kelvinator Corp. When Nash become American Motors Corporation in 1954 and George Romney became the company's chairman, the Rambler line was expanded and the name became a brand. In 1963, the Rambler was Motor Trend Car of the Year. But in 1969, AMC discontinued the Rambler, and by 1987, AMC itself was no more, its assets acquired by Chrysler Corp. In the years since, Chrysler appeared to have abandoned the Rambler trademark. So Anthony S. Pimpo probably thought the road was clear for him to register the name for use in a business pertaining to automobiles and parts. Chrysler, however, thought otherwise, and the case made its way to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (Chrysler v. Pimpo).

At The TTABlog, John L. Welch explains that, in opposing Pimpo's application, Chrysler pointed to the automobile industry's occasional use of "heritage brands" to introduce new models. But the TTAB found that there was no evidence that Chrysler had plans to reintroduce the Rambler line. Chrysler fared no better with its argument that the Rambler name enjoys "residual goodwill," given its nearly four decades without using the name. With two strikes and no one on base, Chrysler finally managed to hit a home run on the issue of merchandise licensing under the Rambler name.The board ruled that Chrysler "has priority of use, at the very least with respect to key rings, calendars, decals, specification sheets and owner's manuals, all relating to Rambler automobiles."

Welch appears to find some irony in this outcome. "So there is not enough residual goodwill to avoid abandonment of the Rambler mark for automobiles, but there apparently is enough to cause consumers to associate ancillary goods with the old automobile," he writes. "I guess one can eat his cake and have it too."

August 13, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Vault Rankings Are In

Which law firms are thought to be the creme de la creme in terms of prestige? If you consider the answer to that question important, then the 2009 Vault law firm rankings are for you. Earlier this year, Vault surveyed nearly 19,000 associates at more than 167 large U.S. law firms and asked them to rank firms in terms of how prestigious it would be to work for them. The top five, all based in New York, showed no change from last year. Ranked first is Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, followed by Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Sullivan & Cromwell; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and David Polk & Wardwell.

The Vault survey also ranks the 20 best law firms for quality of life, the 20 best for diversity, and the most prestigious firms as ranked by partners. For quality of life, Cleary Gottlieb and McKee Nelson are the top two, followed by Ropes & Gray, which was ranked 20th last year. For diversity, Cleary Gottlieb is again ranked first, moving up from the 13th spot last year, followed by Dickstein Shapiro and Hughes Hubbard & Reed. Of partners' prestige rankings, the top firm is Cravath, followed by Wachtell.

[Hat tip to Above the Law.]

August 13, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Lawyer With the Most Medals

Shannon_miller_large Swimmer Michael Phelps set a new record yesterday for career Olympic gold, but the athlete who holds the distinction of being the most decorated gymnast in U.S. history is also making nightly appearances in the television coverage from Beijing -- and this athlete is also a lawyer. She is Shannon Miller, and she is appearing not as a competitor but as an endorser, in this 30-second TV spot for allergy drug Claritin.

Miller calls herself "America's most decorated gymnast." She is a seven-time Olympic medalist -- including two gold medals in Atlanta in 1996 -- and nine-time world medalist. She has been inducted into seven halls of fame, including the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame, and is the only woman in any sport to be included twice in the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.

She also happens to be a 2007 graduate of Boston College Law School. Although a law school grad, Miller does not practice law. She spends her time as a motivational speaker, television host and sports broadcaster. She also oversees the Shannon Miller Foundation, dedicated to fighting childhood obesity. In an interview last year with LawCrossing, Miller said she never intended to practice law, but went to law school to equip herself with the knowledge of contracts and business that she needed to protect herself in her various other pursuits.

While Miller has no law office where you can book an appointment, you can schedule a cruise through the Caribbean with her. And that beats a deposition any day.

[Hat tip to Eagleionline.]

August 13, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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