Saturday, February 3, 2007
My sister, Pamela Lipshaw, died last week. She was forty-seven years old, the same age as my wife. I just googled her name and got zero responses. That's not surprising. If I thought she would appear anywhere, it would be in some bureaucratic social welfare file. For over twenty-five years, she had been a client of the California mental health system, in and out of hospitals, halfway houses, and subsidized housing in the Berkeley-Oakland area. She moved into a place on International Avenue in Oakland a couple years ago, and within a few days, I was reading about riots along that street, I think just after the Raiders were in the Super Bowl. She knew the street people on Telegraph Avenue well. We still don't have a coroner's report back, but we think she had a heart attack in the midst of a manic episode.
I was thinking this morning about trusts and estates. The rule against perpetuities. The rule in Shelley's case. Per stirpes. The reason for a last will and testament. Several months ago, I found out my cousin (he, his sister, my two surviving siblings and I are the only survivors of my Nazi-fleeing, Holocaust-surviving, German-Jewish immigrant family on my mother's side) had somehow tapped into a fund for unpaid life insurance claims on a policy for a distant cousin for whom we were the only survivors. I opened an envelope and found checks for about $1,000 for each of us. I didn't know what to do with Pam's. The manic episode that preceded her death had begun and she was hospitalized. So I put it in the bank to give to her when she was stable. It turned out to be about a third of her estate, which will go primarily to paying her funeral expenses.
This is not the first time I have dealt with the death of a close relative. But, at least on my side of the family, I've yet to run into all that doctrine we learned in trusts and estates. When my mother died, her only asset was a house in tenancy by the entirety with my step-father. For what percentage of the people of the Anglo-American legal world is all that doctrine relevant? For whom was it relevant when it was developed? Shelley had to be able to afford a barrister. I was the only lawyer involved here, and not in an official capacity.
And there but for the grace of God go I. We want to make sense of a random world. The wrong place at the wrong time, or a miscoded gene that controls the difference between bi-polar and merely exuberant, and it's the difference between a good life and a terribly hard one.
Yet, I learned, it's hard ever to say it's a wasted one. I do not understand the mystery by which brain biochemistry and will interact, but I do know that nobody would choose a life as hard as the one Pamela lived. But it was good to learn, even if it does not make sense of the randomness, as I did at the small funeral in the beautiful cemetery on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais, standing in the rain with just a few people (her case manager of some seventeen years, my father, several friends, the rabbi who was the chaplain at the hospital, and Monique, the social worker), or looking at the cards from her fellow Napa Hospital clients that Monique delivered to us, that her life was about something more than her illness, and her needs, that in her communities she reached out to others, and in return was cared for and loved.
I hate the idea that we justify suffering for the supposed good that comes from it. Like the existentialists, I won't try to impose order on an absurd world (at least for now), but only appreciate for a moment the lights that shine from time to time even in the darkest parts of the world, and even if that appreciation itself is only a rationalization.
Link here to the Stein Center's upcoming symposium, co-sponsored with the Interdisciplinary Center for Family and Child Advocacy. It is called "Interdisciplinary Child Advocacy for the 21st Century," and will be held Thurs., Mar. 15, at Fordham. "The ethical and practical challenges posed by the unique feature of being a children’s attorney--that the client is a minor and part of a family--will be explored." This conference builds on the successful Jan. 2006 event it co-sponsored with UNLV, on which we posted here. [Alan Childress]
Views and links on MyShingle here, and Sui Generis here, as to possible defiance by big New York firms: they have websites that arguably violate the new NY bar regulations on advertising (e.g., the provisions requiring websites to be labeled as such). Update on the federal lawsuit challenging the NY rules, and helpful links to the complaint, are here. The latter has useful clarifications from a bar-run seminar. [Alan Childress]
The Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics at Fordham will hold a CLE program on Avoiding Conflicts of Interest in Transactional Practice. It will be in NYC at Fordham on Monday, March 19, 6:00-8:00 pm. The registration fee is affordable and the speaker is Ronald Minkoff, of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz. Credit: 2 ethics hours. [Alan Childress]
Friday, February 2, 2007
Cully Stimson's resignation reported here and here. NYTimes on-line has the [AP] story here. Our prior post here about his comments on pro bono representation by Biglaw of charged terrorists. Just speculating, but: Not likely to get a new job as GC for People for the American Way? [Alan Childress]
Posted by Alan Childress
David Hricik (Mercer) has posted to SSRN his classic 2006 study of blawging, which considers but goes beyond the emerging [now hotbed, in New York and previously Florida] issues of whether law blogs are "advertising." The title is "Ethics of Blawging," and the abstract is equally succinct:
Addresses the legal ethical issues that face lawyers who blog (or blawg), including the potential for disclosure of client confidences, inadvertent formation of attorney-client relationships, and the unauthorized practice of law.
[Update: The watchdog group Public Citizen filed suit yesterday to challenge the new NY bar rules.]
February 2, 2007 in Abstracts Highlights - Academic Articles on the Legal Profession | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Abraham Lincoln. That's it. For Patent #6,469 — [Method of] Buoying vessels over shoals. And he did not even attend a top-14 law school.
Now that Google introduced a patent search feature, the website Ironic Sans found it easy to compile a list and patent illustrations of Celebrity Patent Holders, including Prince, Zeppo Marx, Julie Newmar, Eddie Van Halen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Houdini, Mark Twain, Gary Burghoff [not for radar], Harry Connick Jr., and Marlon Brando. My count: the only lawyer is Abe, though Connick's dad was DA. (No professional credit for gelled cranberry sauce, but inventor Marcus Urann was no American Idol either, I concede.) Folks, we can do better!
Penn Jillette, too. For basically a hot tub sexual stimulator. In confirming that he does not happen to be a lawyer (so confirmed), I did find out that his daughter is named Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette. Hedy Lamarr (that's Hedly!) for a crypto device that has become the basis for modern CDMA cellphone technology. And Michael J. Jackson patented the moon walk; claim 1 begins: "A system for engaging shoes with a hitch means to permit a person standing on a stage surface to lean forwardly beyond his or her center of gravity...." Jackson is not a lawyer but has been amply supportive of the profession relevant to this blog.
I could not get some of the links to work, including Abe's (others worked intermittently--likely the beta aspect of Patent Search), so maybe Sans is putting us on. [Update: Abe works now, honest.] I don't think so, because the weirdest ones are definitely there. And many of the comments after, FWIW, confirm these achievements and add to them--e.g., "Dude, you totally missed Tom Scholz from the band Boston. He has patents for the Polaroid One-step camera and the Rockman guitar amp!" Whoa, Dude, take it easy, and don't look back so much. That's more than a feeling you're showing there.
[Alan Childress; Hat Tip to the Electronic Ephemera blog]
Speaking of congressional ethics, as in the previous post, the WSJ's political blog Washington Wire reports here that "[m]ost lawmakers from Illinois and Indiana, fearing adverse publicity and new rules, shun Bears-Colts clash in Miami. Politicians and aides can accept tickets from corporations for face-value price, but Chicago-area Reps. Emanuel and Kirk opt to remain home. 'Folks are real wary,' a Democratic aide says."
Good call, plus SAT quiz: Loch Ness Monster, UFOs Over Rural Mississippi, Sasquatch, Face-Value Super Bowl Tix. [Alan Childress]
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Posted by Alan Childress
This webcast audio CLE focuses on congressional ethics, gift-giving, and proposed reforms. It is called "Washington Briefing: The 110th Congress Tackles Ethics Reform--New Prohibitions and Requirements." It airs February 7, 12:30-2:00 pm EST, with information here.
One of today's posts is on the case of a Tampa woman in jail who was denied a second dose of emergency contraception after reporting a rape. A worker at the jail refused the treatment citing religious grounds. I'd add it's somewhat reminiscent of the 2003 story of Victoria W., jailed in Louisiana and forced to carry to term as the prison had a policy effectively disallowing abortion to certain inmates.
RRPB: Welcome to the blogosphere!, to coin a phrase. [Alan Childress]
Posted by Alan Childress
Felix Bronstein, an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell in NYC (who apparently found out January 23 he got a nice raise--see, it pays to be a scholar), has posted to SSRN his brief 2003 article, "The Lawyer as Director of the Corporate Client in the Wake of Sarbanes-Oxley." It is also in 23 Journal of Law and Commerce 53 (2003). Here is his abstract:
The phenomenon of lawyers serving on their clients' boards of directors has been around for many years, as has the debate on its ethical implications.
This practice has both a number of advantages and disadvantages, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and, regardless, the decision should be left to the parties involved. However, the rules regulating the legal profession promulgated under the Sarbanes-Oxley will make such dual service harder to perform in practice. Dual service should be neither discouraged nor prohibited, because of its many benefits and its widespread practice. It is a decision that should be left open to fully informed lawyers, law firms, and clients. Sarbanes-Oxley will make life more difficult for all securities lawyers and hamper the operations and productivity of corporate America, and it will make life especially difficult for lawyer-directors in their dual service. Nonetheless, with extra precautions and full disclosure, lawyer-directors should be able to continue to perform their valuable services in appropriate cases
Posted by Alan Childress
Nicole Porter (St. Louis Univ.--Law) has posted to SSRN her essay, "Re-Defining Superwoman: An Essay on Overcoming the Maternal Wall in the Legal Workplace." It is also published in 13 Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy 55 (2006). Its abstract:
In this Essay, I discuss the work/life balance challenges facing women lawyers who are mothers. Despite these challenges, I believe that mother-attorneys can successfully manage a career and a family. In reaching this conclusion, I attempt to dispel the myth that mother-attorneys need to be “Superwoman” in order to succeed in this profession. The essay first discusses the obstacles women face - from stereotypical views of their competence (both in the workplace and at home), to the difficulty of maintaining a successful and meaningful law practice while working a reduced-hours schedule, to managing the guilt that inevitably accompanies the fact that it is impossible to be everything to everyone, all at once.
While I examine the many possible legal and structural solutions to the problem of the “maternal wall,” I ultimately conclude that major change is unlikely to occur in the near future. Accordingly, in an effort to adopt an optimistic view of being a mother-attorney, I conclude this essay with my advice on changing what is in women's capacity to change immediately - their own actions and attitudes. In my opinion, the key to being successful is to focus on the goals and expectations that matter to you - rather than the goals perceived to be set by society. I do not advocate mediocrity; quite the contrary, I suggest women strive to do the highest quality work possible while focusing on the aspects of work and home that really matter to you, your family and your career. Feeling guilty that you cannot be both “mother of the year” and “superstar attorney” at the same time is a fruitless waste of energy, and will ultimately keep women from being both happy and successful as attorneys who have the joy of also being mothers.
In U.S. history, occasional Justices may have been perverted, but in the U.K., there is a serious crime of "perverting justice." An interesting explanation, with historical anecdotes, here in The Times on-line, on the meaning of "perverting the course of justice" and its relationship to Alice Through The Looking Glass. It is an article by Gary Slapper, right, a law professor at the Open University.
Its occasion is the recent re-arrest of Lord Levy on charges related to a "cash-for-honours" scandal involving Levy, a good friend and fundraising supporter of PM Tony Blair. The new charge is "suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice." As The Times reports in a related story, Tuesday saw "the arrest of the Prime Minister’s personal friend and fundraiser in Central London. He became the second person close to Tony Blair to be held under suspicion of perverting the course of justice." Documents went missing, it is said, and emails were deleted. A member of the opposing party focuses on the perverting-justice aspect of the scandal in saying, “Increasingly this sorry affair has the whiff of Watergate about it. For Nixon the crime was the cover-up, but we must await the result of the police investigation to see whether something similar is now happening in Downing Street." [Original story of the re-arrest here, and background on Lord Michael Levy here.]
The Levy travails ought to be a huge story in the U.S., but I have not seen much play of it. The analogy to U.S. political ethics scandals is obvious, but its long-term impact--beyond analogy--may be bigger and more directly affecting U.S. interests and the Bush Administration's friendly voice in the U.K. on Iraq and other important points of interest (and perhaps points of departure if any of this hastens Blair's leaving office or dogs his legacy in retirement). Imagine the further erosion of support and public perception, here and in the world, if there's no one to say Yo Blair to anymore. And even in the short run, keep in mind that Levy himself is Blair's envoy to the Middle East.
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Kudos to attorney Brian Privor who left his practice in D.C. for six months to help out in the difficult criminal defense and public defender situation in New Orleans, on which we had posted here. You can follow along with his eye-opening account -- including many interesting local observations beyond the criminal defense situation -- at his blog [great name!], Do Not Pass Geaux.
Recently Brian has linked to the funny Onion story on the final rebuilding of New Orleans, and has posted the harrowing true tale of a juvenile court judge briefly jailing defense attorney and clinical-prof hero Steve Singer of Loyola for, in essence, not having enough help to do all the work that needs to be done. At least Brian is there. He writes on that standoff, "As if the criminal justice system isn't under enough strain, here's an example of how not to solve the problem."
Speaking of law firm slogans and also "Boston Legal," as we did, the two subjects melded today in a trademark decision in the S.D.N.Y., as reported today in the New York Lawyer (and here). The U.S. District Judge found fair use and no TM violation in ABC's promoting the show with the fake slogan "What's Your Problem?" for the fake law firm headed by Denny Crane. The suit was brought by a NYC cable show creator who uses that catchphrase, for real, in interviewing people on the street. No word yet on a potential suit against both ABC and the cable show to be brought by Rocky and Bullwinkle's hometown university.
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog, and Peter Lattman, have the story here too.
The current issue of the ABA Lawyers' Manual on Professsional Conduct highlights some interesting recent decisions. The New Jersey Committee on Unauthorized Practice opines that a lawyer not admitted in New Jersey may represent a party in an arbitration proceeding when there is no pending related litigation before a New Jersey court, subject to conditions specified in Rule 5.5. Wisconsin suspended a lawyer for 60 days for, in addition to other misconduct, pressing litigation in the face of apparently overwhelming evidence that the claim was utterly meritless and that supporting documents had been forged. The Court viewed the matter not as a failure to uncover the forgeries but as incompetent representation. The Ohio Supreme Court, by a 5-2 vote, imposed a suspension of a year for the attorney's failure to pay court-ordered child support and to respond to the ensuing bar investigation. (Mike Frisch)
Cincy's Barbara Black (left) has started the Securities Law Prof Blog. In her first two days and seven hours of blogging she has posted 21 newsy posts. She has got to stop speeding up the assembly line (right) for the rest of us. This will of course cause the guys at Workplace Prof Blog to call for all the bees in our Law Professor Blogs Network hive to unionize, if only to be able to pressure Professor Black into work-pace conformity. And of course to influence local pols. I can already see Paul Secunda wearing a smock and standing on top of his computer, holding a magic-markered Union Now! sign while all the other network hard disks are whirring around him. His successful gadfly efforts will prompt him to say, "You like me, you really like me." The lone unionization holdouts are the Aviation Law Prof Blog editors, still smarting from Reagan's hiring of scabs who thought that traffic control radar was a new version of Space Invaders and kept wondering why people were so upset when they "won." And of course TaxProf.
Inevitably Pottersville's Paul Caron will threaten to outsource all the legal blog work. You'll know this has happened when various LPB blog postings are signed by people named "Skippy Smith" and "Abraham Lincoln" (or they are just more insightful). And the unionbusting outsource coup will be complete when one "Brian Lighter" reports that using a new set of more accurate criteria for rating U.S. law schools, it turns out, surprisingly, both that the Number 1 school is Amity Law School and that they don't know where your luggage is either are you sure you even checked any bags?
At the end of it all, as it completely unravels, Paul Caron is left pondering how it all began and what happened to his empire, indeed his very life. It did not help that the WSJ law blog forced an LBO of the network and reduced Paul to blogging about what he had for breakfast (oatmeal, 10.3 oz., and prune juice) and how he feels about the 2000 election. Law librarian Joe Hodnicki (who himself once excelled in his class on The Theory and Practice of Shhh) will find Paul nearly passed out in the stacks at the University of Cincinnati, whispering but one unintelligible word: Roseblawg.
To Sec Law Prof, Welcome! [Alan Childress]
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
“[T]he legal profession used not to be so entirely selfish, self-seeking. The profession has become very greedy and materialistic. The amount of money that some lawyers earn is obscene. There’s now a kind of ruthlessness in dealings between lawyers which is unpleasant, not good for the client or for justice.”
-- Sir Geoffrey Bindman, newly-knighted solicitor at age 74, on the state of the profession in the U.K. (from this interesting story on him today in The Times of London) [Alan Childress]
L.A. attorney Bret Fausett has analyzed as an issue-spotting "exam" the first episode of David E. Kelley's TV drama "Boston Legal." He originally published it in the legal newspapers of L.A. and S.F., but his blogged version here improves on that by providing links to some relevant rules (well, numbered for California and not Massachusetts, but the analysis seems universal). [Alan Childress]
I can't recall why this file is on my computer, or where it comes from, but my sneaking suspicion is that I wrote it at some point in my checkered past. It is a top ten list of social skill warnings of which law firms need to take note when interviewing law students (particularly those who are going to be making $150,000 or more to start).
10. Candidate appears to believe “finger food” means biting one’s nails.
9. Pulls out cell phone and sends text message to friend who is interviewing upstairs.
8. First ten minutes of interview is spent discussing the relative merits of Old Spice and Axe body sprays.
7. Candidate unbuttons suit jacket, revealing four inches of exposed Homer Simpson boxer shorts.
6. In response to “what can I tell you about us?” candidate inquires whether the firm has a policy on downloading internet porn.
5. “Most significant accomplishment” answer involves the phrases “college drunk” and “blow chunks.”
4. Concession to “business attire” is a backwards fitted baseball cap.
3. Candidate refers to contracts professor as a “law weenie.”
2. Seeing picture of family on male partner's desk, candidate asks “was your wife pregnant when they took this?”
1. On belching at lunch, instead of simple apology, chants: “Excuse me, please it was so rude, it was not me, it was my food, it got so lonely down below, it just popped up to say hello.”