January 21, 2012
Cameron Stracher's Comic Novel in Progress: The Socratic Method
Here's little entertainment for the academic law librarian who drew the short straw for today's reference desk duty -- Cameron Stracher's The Socratic Method. The first two installments are titled "Gunner Bingo" and "The Law School Trifecta." [JH]
January 20, 2012
Supreme Court Action: Texas Redistricting And The Voting Rights Act
The Supreme Court issued its opinion in the Texas redistricting case today. No one seemed to get what they wanted, depending on how one reads the headlines surrounding the decision. The case is Perry v. Perez (11-713). Texas is a covered jurisdiction under §5 of the Voting Rights Act. That statute calls for pre-clearance of redistricting plans by the District Court for the District of Columbia. Texas submitted the plan to that Court with trial pending. In the meantime, other plaintiffs sued Texas over the plan in the Western District of Texas claiming that the legislature’s plan discriminated against African-Americans and Latinos. The Texas population grew by four million residents since 2000 with three quarters of that growth from those groups.
As the pre-clearance mechanism was not going to result in a plan in place by the time of the Texas primary, the West Texas District Court redrew the map. The Court considered this map and redrew some of the boundaries. Texas appealed. The Supreme Court held that the Texas District Court redrawn map should have given more deference to the map drawn by the legislature. It did not accept the original map as that is still in process before the District for the District of Columbia. Even as an interim map, however, the Texas District Court should defer as best as possible to the legislature’s attempts provided they did not violate the Constitution. The Court provided specific examples of where the District Court fell short and remanded the case for another draw in light of today’s opinion. Magic 8 ball says try again.
The opinion was Per Curiam. Mr. Justice Thomas, citing himself in a separate opinion, would hold that §5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional, implement the Texas plan as is in the interim, and let the Texas District Court hear the Constitutional challenge. [MG]
Even West Is Shedding West: Sounds like TR Legal's law school publishing business "may" end up being for sale
Yesterday, West authors received the following message from Chris Parton, General Manager, Law School Publishing, and Pamela Siege Chandler, Senior Director, Law School Publishing:
A Message to our Authors about Changes at West
Earlier today, Thomson Reuters announced that it is exploring strategic options for its Law School Publishing (LSP) business consisting of the West Academic Publishing, Foundation Press and Gilbert imprints, including a potential sale. Although LSP is an outstanding business with a long history of serving law school faculty and students, the company has made the decision to focus on growing from its core of subscription-based research and reference products, workflow solutions, software and services.
We are just beginning the divestiture process and do not expect any potential sale to be completed until the second quarter of 2012 at the earliest. In the meantime, we will operate our business as usual. We will continue to deliver our products and honor our ongoing commitment to providing the quality and service you have come to expect throughout the business’s long and successful history.
Since 1908, our Law School Publishing business has been a successful part of what is now Thomson Reuters, Legal. It has market-leading brands, renowned authors and committed employees. Our course materials have played an important role in educating lawyers for over 100 years and our authors are a critical part of that mission. Should the company decide to move forward with the divestiture, Thomson Reuters will seek a buyer who values our author relationships, will be a good fit for the business and will position it for continued success for many years to come. To that end, the West imprint will transition with West-branded titles under a licensing agreement with the buyer. Also, be assured that the people in the business with whom you currently deal will continue to work with you and remain committed to our mutual success.
We understand that you, as our author, have a stake in a potential sale of our Law School Publishing business. We are committed to being as transparent with you as possible throughout this process and welcome the opportunity to answer any questions you might have.
Any coincidence that Thomson Reuters gives West authors a heads-up that it "may" try (read will damn well do its best) to divest its Law School Publishing assets just ahead of the Company's Feb. 9th year-end financial report announcement? New TRI CEO and newest member of TRI's Board of Directors Jim Smith will start making his mark at this presentation. It looks like one of Smith's first moves will be shedding some of West. Link to the Feb. 9th webcast (8:30 a.m. ET) is available here. Could be interesting. Smith can start putting his stamp on TRI by ending the happy talk (read denial) of the Company's prospects that was typical of past financial reporting sessions. [JH]
Friday Fun: Time for Contract Law Karaoke
Starting with Chicken in a Contract (Frigaliment Importing Co v BNS International Sales). For more songs from classic cases of first-year contract law, visit R.B. Craswell's Contract Songs. [JH]
Findings, Promising and Disappointing, from the 2011 Law School Survey of Student Engagement
Quoting from the 2011 LSSSE Report:
- The vast majority of students rated their overall law school experience favorably; 83% reported that their experience in law school was good or excellent.
- Eighty percent of students said that they definitely or probably would attend the same law school if they could start over again.
- Students with high levels of law school-related debt more often used and were satisfied with career support at their law school. Of students who expected to owe more than $80,000 in law school-related debt after graduating, 64% used and were satisfied with job search support, and
84% used and were satisfied with career counseling at their school.
- Nearly 80% of students discussed their career plans with faculty at some point during law school.
- Ninety-three percent of students have had serious conversations at some point during law school with students who are very different from themselves in terms of their religious beliefs, political opinions, or personal values, and 62% of students have had these conversations frequently.
- A large majority (91%) of students have had serious conversations during law school with students of a different race or ethnicity.
- Nearly four in five students (79%) reported that their law school placed a substantial emphasis on encouraging the ethical practice of law.
- Half of students (51%) rated their relationships with faculty very highly (6 or 7 on a 7-point scale) in terms of availability and helpfulness.
- Nearly nine in 10 students (88%) felt that their law school experience contributed substantially to the acquisition of a broad legal education.
- Forty percent of law students felt that their legal education had so far contributed only some or very little to their acquisition of job- or work-related knowledge and skills.
- Nearly half of all students (49%) never or only sometimes included diverse perspectives (in terms of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or political beliefs) in class discussions or writing assignments.
- Twenty-three percent of law students who expected to accrue more than $80,000 of law school-related debt reported that they would not or probably would not attend the same law school if given the opportunity to start over.
- Relatedly, though the majority of JD students who have incurred higher amounts of law school-related debt were satisfied with their overall law school experience, more of these students (18% of students who expect to graduate with law school-related debt greater than $80,000) rated
their experience as fair or poor. In comparison, only 14% of students with an expected law school-related debt of less than $40,000 rated their experience unfavorably.
- Twenty percent of students have not used any job search support from their institution and 14% have never used career counseling.
- Seventeen percent of students said that law school contributed very little to their development of clearer career goals.
- Female students were less likely than their male classmates to frequently ask questions in class (51% of female students frequently raised questions compared to 68% of male students).
- Forty-one percent of students reported that they never or only sometimes worked harder than they thought they could to meet a faculty member’s standards or expectations.
Reminder: LawLibCon's 2011/2012 Year in Review Set for This Afternoon
LawLibCon regulars, Rich Leiter, Roger Skalbeck and Marcia Dority Baker, along with today's guests, Ken Hirsh, Sarah Glassmeyer and Elizabeth Farrell, will be discussing last year's developments in legal bibliography and law librarianship as well as prognosticating about about what to expect in 2012. Always interesting, today's podcast is scheduled for 3:00 PM Eastern Time. [JH]
January 19, 2012
Megaupload Shut Down By DOJ For Piracy
Megalupload, send me a file, as the song goes. Well, no more as the United States Justice Department shut the site down and arrested several executives on various charges of criminal copyright infringement. The indictment, as reported, claims the company cost intellectual property rights holders a half a billion dollars while generating $175 million for themselves. That’s Powerball jackpot levels of cash without the bad odds of winning. I note that I use the word “reported” as the United States Department of Justice web site is under cyber-attack making the actual documents hard to get for now. The Anonymous hacking collective is miffed about the shut down and hyped up about the anti-SOPA web action from yesterday.
Ars Technica reports that other targets include the site for Universal Music Group (UMG), the White House, and several members of Congress who support SOPA and PIPA. The MPAA issued an angry statement yesterday calling the web blackout of Wikipedia and other sites a “stunt,” if getting the attention of people who simply use the web can be called a stunt. Maybe Barry Manilow could write a song about it: At the Copa we decried SOPA. The outpouring of anti-SOPA sentiment was visible enough to turn some congressional support for the bill into opposition. I feel a bit sorry for Apple, who announced their K-12 textbook initiative for the iPad today. Between the SOPA protest yesterday, and the Megaupload story and cyber-attacks today, the impact of the Apple announcement was quite diminished. Steve Jobs probably would not have been amused if he were still alive.
For the fun of it, as it is close to Friday enough for a Friday Fun, here is Jon Stewart’s take on the SOPA protests.
Doesn’t the action by the Justice Department suggest that the system works without SOPA? That existing statutes address the issue? I’m just asking. [MG]
CALI's New Booth Bunny
Sarah Glassmeyer reflects on representing an exhibitor instead of being a conference attendee. See A Booth Bunny’s Tale ("[T]o say I was dreading this duty was putting it mildly really. I don’t schmooze well. I’m pretty introverted. ... It is with much surprise and relief that I can report that I actually really like being a booth bunny. Really, really like it. ... I found that in many ways, booth bunny-ing is not that different from being a librarian.") [JH]
Congressional Lawmaking: A Perspective on Secrecy and Transparency
From the summary of the CRS Report, Congressional Lawmaking: A Perspective On Secrecy and Transparency, (R42108) (November 30, 2011):
Openness is fundamental to representative government. Yet the congressional process is replete with activities and actions that are private and not observable by the public. How to distinguish reasonable legislative secrecy from impractical transparency is a topic that produces disagreement on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Why? Because lawmaking is critical to the governance of the nation. Scores of people in the attentive public want to observe and learn about congressional proceedings. Yet secrecy is an ever-present part of much legislative policymaking; however, secrecy and transparency are not “either/or” constructs. They overlap constantly during the various policymaking stages. The objectives of this report are four-fold:
- first, to outline briefly the historical and inherent tension between secrecy and transparency in the congressional process;
- second, to review several common and recurring secrecy/transparency issues that emerged again with the 2011 formation of the Joint Select Deficit Reduction Committee;
- third, to identify various lawmaking stages typically imbued with closed door activities; and
- fourth, to close with several summary observations.
January 18, 2012
Supreme Court Action: Ineffective Assistance, Federal Question Jurisdiction, and the (Shrinking) Public Domain
The Supreme Court issued three opinions this morning. The first is Maples v. Thomas (10-63). Maples was convicted of murder in Alabama and sentenced to death. He sought post-conviction relief in Alabama state courts as represented by two pro bono attorneys associated with Sullivan & Cromwell. These two engaged an Alabama attorney to move their admission to the court pro hac vice, but the Alabama attorney would have no other role in Maples’ case. The two attorneys subsequently left Sullivan & Cromwell and their new employment effectively precluded them from representing Maples. They did not, however, tell anyone, let alone Maples or the court.
The Alabama court denied Maples’ petition and notice was sent to his attorneys of record at their Sullivan & Cromwell address. The notice was returned to the clerk unopened. The Alabama attorney also received a copy but did nothing. Maples consequently missed his filing period for a notice of appeal. The Alabama Attorney General’s office was kind enough to tell Maples that he had four weeks to file a federal habeas corpus petition. Petitions were filed to restart the state appellate process, which were denied. Maples then filed a federal habeas corpus petition which was also denied because of the procedural default in state court.
The Supreme Court held that under agency principles the omissions of an attorney can bind a client, but not when an attorney effectively abandons the client. The relationship is severed under these circumstances. Cause for procedural default exists when something external to the petitioner that cannot be attributed to him impedes his effort to comply with a state procedural rule. This is one of those situations. Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justice Alito wrote a concurring opinion. Justice Scalia wrote a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Thomas. They would hold no relief is available because there is no right to counsel at this stage of the proceedings.
The second case is Mims v. Arrow Financial Services LLC (10-1195). The case involves federal court jurisdiction under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA). The statute bans certain telemarketer practices. Mims received automated calls from Arrow concerned a debt and he sued in federal court under the Act. Its provisions give the states the ability to seek relief in federal court and allow individuals a private right of action in state courts. The question was whether the private right of action was exclusive to state court jurisdiction.
The Court said the statute did not strip federal courts under their §1331 federal question jurisdiction. Mims’ claim arises under the laws of the United States and despite the language allowing suit in state court, Congress could have been more explicit in limiting jurisdiction to state courts. There is some interesting language about legislative history near the end of the opinion. Arrow cited statements on the floor of the Senate from Senator Hollings, the bill’s sponsor praising the private right of action in state court. The Supreme Court dismissed this as the statement made no mention of federal jurisdiction. The Court stated:
First, the views of a single legislator, even a bill’s sponsor, are not controlling.
* * *
Second, Senator Hollings did not mention federal-court jurisdiction or otherwise suggest that 47 U. S. C. §227(b)(3) is intended to divest federal courts of authority to hear TCPA claims.
* * *
Third, even if we agreed with Arrow that Senator Hollings expected private TCPA actions to proceed solely in state courts, and even if other supporters shared his view, that expectation would not control our judgment on 28 U. S. C. §1331’s compass.
Let’s just say that the utility of legislative history is in the eye of the beholder with the Court squarely holding the power to behold. Justice Ginsburg wrote for a unanimous Court.
The third case, Golan v. Holder (10-545) answers the question as to whether Congress has the power to restore copyright protection to items that have fallen into the public domain. From the Court’s perspective it’s a big fat yes. Congress passed a law amending §514 of the Copyright Act to conform to requirements of the Berne Convention. These requirements necessitated reciprocal coverage of foreign works if they were still covered by copyright protection in their originating countries. Affected plaintiffs complained that Congress exceeded its authority under the Copyright Clause in passing the amendment.
The Court said no, that under Eldred v. Ashcroft, the Court said Congress has pretty much free reign to specify what is protected, when, and for how long. Congress has passed private bills, for example, that restored protection to specific intellectual property. The public domain is hardly untouchable by Congress under these circumstances. It is ironic that this decision was released on SOPA protest day. Justice Ginsburg wrote for the majority, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Sotomayor. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Alito. Justice Kagan did not participate. [MG]
Half-Empty, Half-Full: Each on Its Own Just One Side of the Reed Elsevier Financial Story
So .... whenever an investment house thinks share price for a company is trading too low, two types of reports are going to be produced. Type One will argue that the Company should divest itself of certain assets usually deemed by the investment house as a drag on the company's potential market capitalization. A Type Two report typically recommends that investors should buy the company's stock because the stock market is undervaluing the company based on a sum-of-the-parts evaluation. I guarantee you will see both types of reports from different investment houses for viable companies. Both will be based on the same trailing financial data. Where they will differ is on their internally produced forecasts grounded in financial and non-financial information-based evaluations and forward-looking financial assumptions.
I bring this up because each type of investment research report has been recently published about Reed Elsevier.
Bernstein published a Type One report on Jan. 11, 2012 which calls for selling off LexisNexis Legal and Professional (L&P) first, then Exhibitions, then LexisNexis Risk Solutions "soon", followed by Reed Business Information (RBI) when market conditions are ripe, while also warning that Elsevier's STM organic revenue growth "continues to look challenging." The text of the report, "Reed Elsevier: Voices Calling for Asset Divestutes Should Grow Louder, and Perhaps Fall on Less Deaf Ears," was uploaded with Bernstein's permission to AALL's Members Open Forum ("By default, all current AALL members will automatically be set to receive messages from this eGroup as a daily digest." See AALL's Biggest Blunder of 2011). See Jean O'Grady summary of the report with respect to Lexis L&P. More generally, see the London Evening Standard's drum beating story.
Exane BNP Paribas published a Type Two report on Jan. 9, 2012 which in a nushell views Reed Elsevier one of its "Top Picks in Media in 2012" because the Company's STM publishing line is "an underrated asset with best-in-class defensive growth." (On Jan. 16, 2012 another European investment house called attention to Elsevier being the most well-established S&T publisher in the growing Chinese academic information market and on that basis reiterated its opinion that Reed Elsevier remains that investment house's top defensive pick in Media.)
Interesting that while Bernstein calls for the sale of Read Business Information (RBI), Exane considers RBI "a transformation overlooked."
Since the failed attempt to dispose of RBI in 2008, we believe this asset has dimmed the allure of the Reed Elsevier equity story. Yet, the transformation of RBI (c.12% of group revenues 2012 and 8% of group EBITA12e) is progressing well, a factor which does not appear fully captured in the stock valuation.
RBI databases offer steadily growing and high margin revenues, deserving a better rating in our view. Most of RBI’s databases have seen consistent mid to high single digit organic revenue growth CAGR07–11e and are likely to continue to see good growth over the next three years.
While Bernstein calls for the sale of Lexis Legal & Professional and points to Bloomberg as a possible buyer, Exane takes the following view:
We do not expect Reed Elsevier to sell its Legal & Professional division ... As far as [Lexis Legal & Professional] is concerned, we see two hurdles to a disposal: the technological integration of Risk Solutions, Elsevier and LexisNexis, and Bloomberg’s recent acquisition of BNA (making it an unlikely buyer for the next two years).
Bernstein observes that TR Legal's WestlawNext has gained "greater recognition" (read but not adoption) from protential customers" than Lexis Advance. In this context the report characterizes the December 2011 launch of Lexis Advance R2 as a "supplementary launch." Bernstein references "Lexis Advance (Associates)" as if Lexis has continued its market segmented approach for Lexis Advance. That simply is not the case. See Evan Koblentz's Law Technology News article, Lexis, Westlaw Update Research Services (Dec. 6, 2011)("Originally called Advance for Associates, Lexis decided to simplify the name and combine it with Advance for Solos, distinguishing roles by pricing rather than brand. That decision was influenced by senior lawyers who didn't want an associates' product and by small firms that wanted large-firm features, [Clemens Ceipek, vice president and managing director, New Lexis division] added.)
Bernstein has a point in so far as WestlawNext has been around longer than Lexis Advance but Exane's perspective corrects Bernstein's myopia:
We note that since its creation the electronic US legal information research industry has gone through various investment cycles. Print publishers embraced computer-assisted legal research in the mid-70s (and probably saw a spike in their investments and a related fall in margins then). The move from dedicated terminals to a PC environment in the late 80s was another major technological change requiring increased investments. The move to the internet in the late 90s triggered a new wave of investments. The recent spike in investments at Westlaw and LexisNexis has to be seen in that historical context. Sometimes LexisNexis led the charge; at other points in time, Westlaw moved first. Historically, operating profit margins did improve following an investment peak (e.g., LexisNexis margins falling from 31% in 1989 to 20% in 2000 before rebounding to 23% in 2003).
So what does Exane have to say about Lexis. Quoting at length (text heading in bold as published) and with permission:
A better invested business
We ... argue that following increased investments at the US legal business (in product development, technology as well as sales and marketing) since 2009, the L&P division is a better invested asset than it was in 2008. In our view LexisNexis has passed the peak of its investment cycle in 2011 and should gradually be able to see its operating margin recover.
With a better invested product and a more aggressive pricing policy, we believe LexisNexis is in a better competitive position against Westlaw than in late 2008. We estimate that large US law firms spend on average 40% less with LexisNexis than with Westlaw as price points differ. While LexisNexis has halved the rate of annual price increases for its print products in recent years, Westlaw has maintained annual double digit price increases for its similar products.
We believe this more accommodative pricing policy may help LexisNexis gain some market share from Westlaw. We note that Westlaw core research revenues fell by 3% in Q3 11 while Reed Elsevier’s US Legal & Professional posted 1% growth (core research revenues account for an estimated 60% of US L&P revenues).
A better managed business
We also view the group to be better managed now than it was in 2008–2009. The management vacuum seen in 2009 has been filled and divisional heads are in place throughout the group. In particular, we would like to highlight the fact that one of the first internal personnel changes made by Erik Engstrom was to move the head of Elsevier Operations to LexisNexis in order to improve operating efficiency. This suggests there will likely be operating efficiency gains at LexisNexis.
In a discussion about how further cost efficiency gains support a margin growth forecast for Lexis L&P, Exane writes
[W]e believe that the L&P cost base is likely to benefit from greater offshoring and outsourcing of operations. We believe that up to 300 positions could be moved from the US to the Philippines next year in the LexisNexis Global Customer Services and Production departments. LexisNexis is in the process of building up its offshore centre in the Philippines (which currently has around 200 people) and is currently looking to recruit local legal editors (to create summaries of US case law opinions) as well as content operation specialists and possibly customer service representatives.
At an average labour cost savings of 50%, we estimate that moving 300 positions from the US to the Philippines could save L&P GBP10m pa, or add 60bp to margins. This project underpins our assumptions of adj. operating profit growth at L&P rising from 14.1% in FY11 to 14.6% in FY12.
Do note that Exane issues a cautionary note about Lexis L&P. In its "Where could we be wrong?" section Exane observes
LexisNexis faces challenges in the US legal information market, both structural (law firm billings) and competitive (long term impact of Bloomberg). This could put prices under pressure. An unexpected organic revenue decline in US L&P revenues (c.18% of group revenues, 8% of group EBITA12e) would probably hurt the performance of the stock.
Of couse, the challenges identified in the above statement for the US legal market are just as applicable to TR Legal and Wolters Kluwer as they are to Lexis L&P.
Bernstein calls for divestiture of assets like L&P sooner rather than later. But one has to ask, does the current economic climate make the timing ripe to do so? Why buy now when the collapse of the Euro in 2012 or 2013 and its recessionary consequences is a distinct possiblity?
In terms of market cap here and now, Thomson Reuters, Reed Elsevier and Wolters Kluwers have experienced similiar share price declines on a percent basis over the last five years. Buyers of TRI stock have been paying a premium but is it deserved? Based on relative performance of all three for the last 12 months TRI is the worst performing stock.
(Anyone have any doubt why David Thomson executed the management changes at TRI? But I digress... .)
Do note that Bernstein rates Thomson Reuters "market-perform" and Reed Elsevier "underperform" while Exane rates the former "neutral" and the latter "outperform." (Bernstein rates Wolters Kluwer "market-perform" and Exane rates the company "outperform.")
Finally, on one important point, selling Lexis L&P, both Exane and Bernstein agree. Quoting from the Bernstein report:
[W]e think that [Reed Elsevier] management is unlikely to pursue more than minor adjustments to the portfolio (such as continuing the divesture of RBI's assets and selling the Exhibitions business in the next year or two).
(Emphasis added; As noted above, Exane has a different opinion on the value of RBI.)
So why are we seeing both types of reports being issued now? Besides for the fact that one will always see both types of reports, all three major players will be releasing their year-end financial reports soon. Here's the calendar:
- Feb. 9, 2012: Thomson Reuters
- Feb. 16, 2012: Read Elsevier
- Feb. 22, 2012: Wolters Kluwer
Both investment houses are offering their best advice to their clients. At the same time both are identifying issues corporate executives may (or may not) address in their year-end financial report presentations (or in "investor call" sessions typically scheduled afterwards). What matters is the actions taken or not taken by large share block investors. They typically do not react solely on the basis of any one investment house analysis. Neither should law librarians.
While we tend to focus on all three companies' legal product lines, both Reed Elsevier and Wolters Kluwer have substantial assets outside of law and their asset mix is better balanced than Thomson Reuters. At the moment TRI's Markets is in trouble, TRI has taken the For Sale sign down for Health and TR Legal remains the company's cash cow, albeit not at the profit margins it "enjoyed" before the recession. (Remember the "buzz" back in October when TRI was listed as one of 12 at-risk stocks that "could tumble in a hurry," that TRI's balance sheet was deemed so weak to be verging on bankruptcy? It's kind of hard to go bankrupt when you have something like a $12 billion credit line.)
As law librarians, we should ask, during the US legal industry recession, which company, TR Legal or Lexis L&P, cut pricing to retain its subscription base and which did not? Which company experienced the greater loss of revenue from cancellations of high profit margin print, and which did not? Which company launched its new online legal search platform to stay competitive while trying to charge a premium to current license holders to acquire it and which did not. Based on those answers, which company (and its parent) is willing to respond to its customer base's current fiscal situation by taking a longer term perpective and which is not?
I certainly have no crystal ball but I will be surprised if any major player in the legal publishing industry does anything more than make bolt-on acquisitions in 2012. If anything is likely to happen, my hunch is Lexis L&P will bolt on ALM for its legal news properties and its specialist treatises. Why? Well, one reason might be L&P needs ALM's specialist treatises to compete in the enhanced eBook market with TR Legal's ProView-ing of its long neglected but now deemed valuable specialist treatises published by companies it acquired years ago.
Of course I may be dead wrong. Perhaps BLaw would acquire Lexis L&P if for sale. If BLaw really is a threat to WEXIS in the generalist market, perhaps TRI should seek to acquire Wolters Kluwer's US legal assets if for sale. The Company made an attempt to acquire BNA last year, but that's a story for another day.
We live in interesting times... . [JH]
Save the Date: Free Enhanced eBooks and Apps Best Practices Webcast on Jan. 19th
Presented by Digital Book World and sponsored by Constellation, "Enhanced Projects Best Practices" is a free one-hour webcast that will be broadcast on January 19th at 1 PM EST, 10 AM PST, and 6 PM GMT. From Digital Book World's announcement:
Enhanced ebook and app projects offer publishers new opportunities to present their titles in exciting and interactive ways. But with additional content come some fresh stumbling blocks bringing your titles to market. We’ve put together three experts with a wealth of experience creating, marketing, pricing, and testing enhanced projects to help you put together the best strategy for your content.
While intended for publishers in editorial, marketing, and production, I believe the webcast is well worth the time of librarians for acquiring insights into what, for enhanced eBooks at least, will eventually be a new form of electronic publication, one that will make the typical and commonplace unenhanced eBook not much more than a footnote in early 21st publishing history. If interested, you can register for the free webcast here. [JH]
January 17, 2012
Reforming Law Schools And The Job Market: What To Do, If Anything?
The discussion on what to do about law schools finds the Wall Street Journal on the dishing end with two articles. One is about how to reform legal education. The basic suggestion is to open up legal training by making it an undergraduate major teaching lawyer subjects and skills with eligibility for the bar, while the traditional law schools continue to provide the interdisciplinary training to those who want it. The authors say the model is tested as this is how it works in the United Kingdom.
It’s an interesting idea but there are logistics for a U.S. implementation, such as funding those law libraries at schools without one, wondering who would be the accrediting agency for such a program, and how would the state Supreme Courts react to the idea of undergraduate bar takers. The upside, in theory, would be a lot more lawyers trained at a lower cost and able to provide legal services to those of more limited means. I wouldn’t hold my breath for this to happen. For all of the criticism directed at them, I believe law schools like the current model. If only the dang market would cooperate and provide the requisite number of jobs.
Which leads to the second WSJ article, covering a new report by the Law School Transparency Project on how law schools still play hide the candy with job statistics (Winter 2012 Law School Transparency Report). Some stats from the Executive Summary show that 27% of schools do not provide any evaluable employment information on their websites for the class of 2010. 26% of law schools indicate how many graduates work in legal jobs, with 11% indicating how many were in full-time legal jobs, and only 1% indicating how many of those legal jobs were long term. Changes in the ABA required reporting of employment statistics may change some of this, but it appears from the report that schools will not be proactive before the requirements kick in. Even then, one wonders, how the stats will be presented.
In any event, law schools seem to be pushing back on the idea that law school needs to be reformed, if the comments by faculty in the National Law Journal are to be believed. The most recent article covers the reactions of faculty and others at the talk from the recent Association of American Law Schools meeting. It’s sort of a crises, but there is no consensus on how serious it is or if it really requires change. One point in the article is that responding to changes in the profession does not rank high with law faculties. My experience in several law schools is that getting an article published in a good law review is the greatest concern as that assists with promotion. I don’t think the lack of jobs is perceived by the faculty as a threat to the law school, at least not yet.
Some are quoted as saying that employment patterns don’t seem to be changing no matter how the student is trained. The implication is that the cachet of the law school is more important than a graduate’s individual skill. The further implication is why bother changing how law schools operate if that is the situation. I suppose if the inventory of law graduates saddled with significant debt continues to grow compared to the number of jobs available, the number of law applicants may actually drop as that reality continues to exist. That may motivate schools to change.
I still believe that William Robinson’s comments blaming law students for their plight are crass, but he may be proved right in the long run if the cost of law school and the job market do not change for the foreseeable future. There is a point in time, if it comes to that, where people should know better. [MG]
ALA's Quick Reference Guide to PIPA, SOPA and the OPEN Act
"Three copyright-related bills are currently in play at the start of 2012 – all of which take aim at any website beyond U.S. borders that distribute counterfeit or copyright infringing products. All three bills operate under the assumption that there is a problem that needs to be solved – and the best, or only, way to combat online infringement overseas is with more law targeted at foreign websites. These bills have the potential to negatively impact fundamental library principles. The following chart [link] is for quick reference (not meant to be comprehensive), and outlines the primary issues and concerns of interest to the library community and those who use the Internet." Corey Williams, American Library Association.
Hat tip to beSpacific. [JH]
Jerome Rubin, 1925 - 2012: Passing of a Pioneering Giant in Electronic Publishing History
At a 1989 gathering of publishing giants, Jerome Rubin made an unpopular forecast: Technology would render the book obsolete. He argued that the expansion of computerized databases would decrease the need for printed books, a pronouncement based on firsthand experience.
Quoting from the Los Angeles Times obituary for Jerome Rubin, who died on Jan. 9, 2012.
The firsthand experience referred to goes back to the early 1970s when Rubin, a practicing corporate lawyer, was asked for his advice on a new computerized legal research system under development. Rubin (image right) left his law practice and become part of the development team that launched Mead Data Center's Lexis database search system in 1973. The Washington Post reported that he once said:
The key was to ensure that the database was simple to use, Mr. Rubin said, because “lawyers can’t type, and only 15 percent can spell.”
I don't know about spelling proficiency, but back in those days, lawyers certainly didn't type even if they knew how to. At best, they dictated a tape recording. At worse, they dictated to a secretary.
After working for Mead Data Central for about a decade, Rubin was hired by Times Mirror Co. as a vice president of a specialized publishing division in 1982. He was promoted to chairman of professional information and book publishing in 1989. He served in that position until 1992. That's when Rubin joined MIT's Media Laboratory where he led a consortium called News in the Future.
By the early 1990's, automation was well established in the newspaper industry. Reporters and editors had a decade-plus experience in drafting content online via internal networked information systems. Union concerns with radiation emissions from CRTs had been resolved in the 1980s. Production had advanced to where some but not the entire industry had implemented in-house created automated pagination systems. A new normal in newspaper industr driven by information technology stimulated "what's next" questions in the industry. Content creation was electronic. Print production was electronic. Transmission of news content to Nexis, DIALOG, AOL and other e-vendors was generating at the time substantial additional profits as a by-product of what was initially viewed as a technology that improved newspaper industry labor productivity.
Rubin's News in the Future project at MIT's Media Laboratory examined future technologies in the news business. His work there led him to co-found E Ink at the age of 72(!). The company was devoted to developing what was then called "electronic paper" for publishing. If you own a Kindle, Nook or Sony Reader, you are reading an eBook on an eReader that uses E Ink's display technology.
Rubin was instrumental in bringing to the commercial marketplace both full-text online legal research and eReader display for eBooks and other electronic content. He was one of the giants in the electronic publishing industry.We take full-text legal searching for granted now and, by the end of this decade, we will be taking enhanced Law eBooks for granted. His legacy is the world of information options and opportunities we live in today. [JH]
Is the Great Legal Recession of 2008 Over?
"There are some encouraging signs in hiring, compensation and partner profits at the nation's biggest firms, but things may not be as good as they seem, Above the Law Editor-in-Chief David Lat tells Bloomberg Law's Lee Pacchia. David also gives his views on ABA President Bill Robinson's controversial remarks regarding the legal job market." Quoting from the Bloomberg Law YouTube summary. [JH]
January 16, 2012
JSTOR Opens Up A Little On Public Research And Congress Wants To Close It Down A Lot
Several stories are popping up on JSTOR’s Register and Read program which will allow non-affiliates to have limited free access to some of the content in JSTOR, with emphasis on the word “limited.” Signing up gives one access to a 70 journals, though that could be expanded once the beta of the program ends. Users can store up to 3 articles in a digital locker and view them over a 14 day period. No downloads will be allowed though there will be options to purchase some of the articles at the usual high prices. It’s likely that the content publishers see this less as a giveaway than another way to expand their market beyond academic subscribers. I don’t know if there will be any attempts to defeat screen captures or taking photographs of screens. I think if any goes to that effort to get content then they probably deserve it irrespective of the screams of piracy coming from wood paneled offices.
The article in the Chronicle of Higher Education notes that the 70 journals in in beta program represent about 18% of the annual turn-away traffic on JSTOR. The total annual turn-away is about 150 million attempts. Alexis Madrigal writes in The Atlantic that this represents 150 million lost chances to improve the Internet. Perhaps. One comment to his article takes the position that “Information doesn't want to be free. Cheapskates want information to be free.” Other comments point to the high prices charged to non-subscribers for individual articles as a barrier to access. I would agree that publishers see more worth in individual articles than the buying public. JSTOR has a short video presentation on the program at YouTube.
While we are on the subject, let’s not forget the latest attempt to restrict access to publicly funded research articles, the proposed Research Works Act (H.R. 3699). The legislation would end the requirement that research funded by any federal agency be made freely available without prior consent of the publisher. Elsevier is particularly fond of the legislation according to a post on the Scientific American web site.
The Act is a short one. Here is the text:
To ensure the continued publication and integrity of peer-reviewed research works by the private sector.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Research Works Act'.
SEC. 2. LIMITATION ON FEDERAL AGENCY ACTION.
No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in any policy, program, or other activity that--
(1) causes, permits, or authorizes network dissemination of any private-sector research work without the prior consent of the publisher of such work; or
(2) requires that any actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author, assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work.
SEC. 3. DEFINITIONS.
In this Act:
(1) AUTHOR- The term `author' means a person who writes a private-sector research work. Such term does not include an officer or employee of the United States Government acting in the regular course of his or her duties.
(2) NETWORK DISSEMINATION- The term `network dissemination' means distributing, making available, or otherwise offering or disseminating a private-sector research work through the Internet or by a closed, limited, or other digital or electronic network or arrangement.
(3) PRIVATE-SECTOR RESEARCH WORK- The term `private-sector research work' means an article intended to be published in a scholarly or scientific publication, or any version of such an article, that is not a work of the United States Government (as defined in section 101 of title 17, United States Code), describing or interpreting research funded in whole or in part by a Federal agency and to which a commercial or nonprofit publisher has made or has entered into an arrangement to make a value-added contribution, including peer review or editing. Such term does not include progress reports or raw data outputs routinely required to be created for and submitted directly to a funding agency in the course of research.
I like the part about ensuring the integrity of peer reviewed research works by the private sector. As if. It’s your government at work. [MG]
The Moral Leader of Our Nation: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Law of the Land
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968) would have been 83 on Jan. 15, 2012. Unfortunately his birthday has been turned into a three-day weekend by being recognized as a federal holiday observed on the third Monday of January each year. He deserves better. No person has has as much lasting impact on this long ago adolescent who was living in a 99.9% white suburban town outside of Chicago in the early 1960s as MLK did and still does.
King remains the moral leader of our country. If alive today, I believe he would be demanding equitable treatment of all people living in the US regardless of nationality, sexual orientation, color, economic status, physical or mental disability or legal status as defined by ICE. He would be insisting that hunger in America is a crime committed by our government, that heath care is a human right, that war crime charges against the US government be prosecuted to the fullest extent of international law including those international conventions the US conveniently does not recognition under an all too human notion of national sovereignty.
Dr. King would be preaching that Justice with a capital "J" can be realized in the American legal system. And, if alive today, he would still be arousing the conscience of the nation to achieve the dream by overcoming the obstacles of injustice to reach the mountain top. [JH]
"I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law. " -- Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"I Have a Dream" speech delivered at the March on Washington, DC on August 28, 1963.
"I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech delivered April 3, 1968 (the day before Dr. King was murdered).
January 15, 2012
Browsing On A Sunday: SOPA, E-book Loaning, and the Billable Hour
The White House released a statement yesterday in opposition to filtering the Domain Name System as a response to Internet piracy. Three of the administration’s top technology and IP officers issues a lengthy statement on the White House web server detailing the objections. Victoria Espinel, Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator at OMB, Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Howard Schmidt, Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator for National Security Staff wrote that removing sites from the DNS system wouldn’t remove the illegal content and would drive consumers to use alternative DNS systems that could be unreliable and weaken security policy. They recognized that piracy is a serious problem and solicit comments from the public as to how to combat it.
It didn’t take long for Rupert Murdoch to react negatively. He sent five different tweets including “So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery.” The Register pointed out the irony of this statement given the phone hacking scandal that closed News Corp property News of the World. Politicians sought Murdoch’s favor due to his ownership of significant media properties. His complaining about corporate meddling in politics is not very credible given some of the reports (here and here) out there. He might have saved some invective for Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the lead sponsor of SOPA. He said he will remove the DNS filtering provision from the bill after discussions with industry groups. One presumes technology companies such as Google gave Rep. Smith and others an earful to prompt the move.
The Washington Post (registration required) examines the tension between libraries as lenders of e-books and the publishing industry resisting that lending. The article covers the usual territory of publishers expressing their concern about piracy and libraries and their users frustrated at the lack of available content. What is interesting is some of the statistical material the article notes about demand for e-books in various Washington area library systems. Maryland’s entire library system has less than 10,000 copyrighted e-books with 266,000 checkouts in the last year. The trend over time is a rapidly increasing demand by a public expecting libraries to lend e-books with the same ease as physical books. Publishers would rather see sales rather than lending, and limiting what libraries can lend certainly helps the sales market. Perhaps the various government investigations into e-book pricing might make that sale alternative more palatable to the buyers.
Another article in the Post examines the pressure on the billable hour. It seems members of large firms who handle major clients start their own practices and taking some of those clients with them. The attraction is the trust in the attorney’s work and the attorney’s willingness to use alternative billing arrangements. These may include a lower hourly rate, capped or flat fees, and bonuses depending on the success of outcome in client matters. The article suggests that large firms are feeling the heat and are turning to similar arrangements to keep business. Law graduates take note: There will be less money coming in which means less compensation for jobs in the future. [MG]
Round-Up of Law Practitioner Blogs
Alabama Injury Attorneys Blog
Discusses personal injury cases, news, and opinions in Alabama. Published by Cross, Poole & Smith, LLC
South Florida Personal Injury Attorney Blog
Examines personal Injury cases, news, and related matters in Miami, Florida. Published by The Law Offices of Robert Rubenstein, P.A
Sarasota Injury Lawyers Blog
Examines injury cases, news, and opinions in Sarasota, Florida. Published by Morgan Dramis, Attorneys at Law
Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog
Examines criminal law cases, news, and related matters in Boston Massachusetts. Published by Patrick J. Murphy, Esq.
Mississippi Injury Lawyer Blog
Examines injury and accident matters including cases news, and opinions in Mississippi. Published by Robert N. Katz, Esq.