Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Things aren't looking great for Ave Maria these days....

Posted by Nancy Rapoport

I'm cross-posting a version of this at MoneyLaw (What's going on at Ave Maria Law?).  Jeff & Alan pointed me to this story:  Crisis at Ave Maria Law.  That post certainly looks awful for folks at that school, and my only caution here is that people on the outside of this controversy remember that they won't ever know the real story.  It's all too easy to take sides, but only those inside the school have first-hand knowledge.  (Even then, I doubt that any one person has complete knowledge of what's happening there.  Deans don't know the whole story of anything; nor does the faculty.  People know what they've seen and heard, but people also filter things through their own experiences.)

I'll never be able to put myself in the places of the UHLC faculty and staff members during that last year that I was dean.  I wish I could, but I can't.  Nor can any of them experience what that year was like for me, even though there are plenty of good-hearted people at UHLC who empathized with me.  I'm certainly too far removed from the life of law students to pretend to imagine what those last few months of the 2005-06 academic year were like for them.

If folks want to weigh in on the generalities of the issues raised by the Ave Maria post above, that's one thing, and that's completely appropriate.  But I just want to caution you that weighing in on specifics--unless you have first-hand knowledge--probably won't do much for anyone.  If you want to get a feel for what it was like to have complete strangers weigh in on UHLC's issues last year, see my blog, under "Preview of some Managing By Ambush material" (on the right-hand side of the blog).

May 2, 2007 in Lawyers & Popular Culture, Professional Responsibility, Rapoport, Teaching & Curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)

Monday, April 30, 2007

Sorry, Jeff--I've got the contest all sewn up already.

It's day 1 of our move.  Cats are locked in the bathroom downstairs, w/a picture of cats on the door and a "please don't open the door--cats inside" sign on the door.  I tell the movers not to open the door, the cats are our life, yadda, yadda, yadda.  I run an errand and, when I come back, I find that "someone" has let the cats out of the bathroom.  The garage door was open, and I spent an hour worrying that the cats had not just escaped inside the house but had actually made a break for it outside (and they're INDOOR cats).  An hour and a half after I came back home, we found Grace and Shadow.  At the risk of embarrassing myself worldwide, I have photographic evidence of what happened when I put Grace back into the downstairs bathroom. 

Beat that, Jeff!

Posted by a very sore Nancy Rapoport.

April 30, 2007 in Law & Society, Lawyers & Popular Culture, Rapoport | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 27, 2007

MoneyLaw cross-post

MoneyLaw's currently talking about creating a market in law professors, akin to other types of markets. Take a look at the posts: Paul Caron (MoneyLaw2.0: The Law Prof Exchange), Jeff Harrison (Is There Hope for MoneyLaw?), and mine (A new market: law professors?).

Posted by Nancy Rapoport.

April 27, 2007 in Rapoport, Teaching & Curriculum | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 9, 2007

Peeps are one thing, but nothing beats the Rice U. T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. experiments!

Posted by Nancy Rapoport.

Alan and I are on the same page when it comes to Peeps (and probably to our own peeps, as well).  On my blog, I've also included a post on experiments on Peeps and on Twinkies--the latter done by students at my beloved Rice University.  Little did I know that there's a whole subculture on Peeps Dioramas, including examples here, here, and here.  I'm sure that there's a law review article about all this somehow....

April 9, 2007 in Blogging, Lawyers & Popular Culture, Rapoport | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wall Street Journal's Law Blog on "thinking like a lawyer" teaching debate

Posted by Nancy Rapoport.

Over at MoneyLaw, I'm calling people's attention to today's WSJ Law Blog about whether we should be teaching students to think like lawyers (and what that might mean).  Please weigh in!

February 14, 2007 in Rapoport | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 5, 2007

Rapoport on Bankruptcy Ethics Issues, Including Advice for Solos & Small Firms

Posted by Alan Childress

Nancy Rapoport (U. Houston--Law), also an editor here at LPB and a blogger at her own very interesting and eclectic website, has posted to SSRN her book chapter, Bankruptcy Ethics Issues for Solos and Small Firms.  It is part of the book Attorney Liability in Bankruptcy, published in 2006 by 5150415_big the ABA (information and ordering here).  The chapter's detailed contents, including 211842_72225496 "the three C's" and a riff on the "Money" song, are reprinted at this post below the fold.  The book's entire table of contents is linked here.  Her abstract is:

This chapter, in Corinne Cooper & Catherine E. Vance's book, Attorney Liability in Bankruptcy, walks the reader through some of the traditional ethics issues triggered by representing consumers and small businesses. It also addresses some of the ethics issues that the recent Bankruptcy Amendments (BAPCPA) have created.

Continue reading

February 5, 2007 in Abstracts Highlights - Academic Articles on the Legal Profession, Ethics, Law & Business, Rapoport | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Judge Judy-fication of Legal Ethics - Part II

Posted by Nancy Rapoport

My tracking of the Judge Judy-fication of legal ethics continues with a Herronor ("Horronor"?) sighting on Ellen today.  Judge Judy argued that she's useful to the people appearing on her show because she has experience.  That statement reminds me of the famous quote, apparently attributed to Jim Horning, although I'd heard that the quote originally came from Mark Twain:  "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."  (Others attribute that quote to, among other folks, Rita Mae Brown and to Higdon's Law.) 

January 23, 2007 in Ethics, Lawyers & Popular Culture, Professional Responsibility, Rapoport | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Parsing things just a tad too closely

Posted by Nancy Rapoport.

On yesterday's The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert dissects the Attorney General's testimony before Congress in his regular segment called "The Word." This video could be useful in statutory analysis courses.

January 23, 2007 in Lawyers & Popular Culture, Rapoport, The Practice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Nancy Rapoport to Kevin Bacon in Four Steps

Posted by Alan Childress
Given Nancy Rapoport's credited role in the Enron movie, I proposed here that she be subjected to the degrees-of-Bacon analysis.  This cannot be done with your usual law professor, though I guess one could name a few other possibles (especially if relatives count, such as Elizabeth McGovern's dad  [and she starred in She's Having a Baby directly with Kevin Bacon]). 

My best solution for Nancy-Kevin was five links, and each actor portrayed a lawyer at least once in the chain.  She 'saw' my five and raised.

  • My five:  Nancy to narrator Peter Coyote in her movie; Coyote (as DA) to Glenn Close (as defense attorney) in Jagged Edge; Glenn Close to Michael Douglas (as attorney/cautionary tale) in Fatal Attraction; Michael Douglas to Demi Moore in Disclosure; and Demi Moore (as military attorney) to Kevin Bacon (as same) in A Few Good Men.
  • Her four:  start same but connect Glenn Close to John Lithgow in The World According toRibbon Garp; then Lithgow to Bacon in Footloose

Nancy wins.  In this particular game, however, second prize is more prestigious.

January 22, 2007 in Blogging, Lawyers & Popular Culture, Rapoport | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

If a non-lawyer lies in a forest of clients....

Posted by Nancy Rapoport.

In this morning's New York Times, Nathan Koppel wrote about an associate who wasn't a graduate of a law school or a member of the bar.  Case of the Paralegal Who Played a Lawyer Raises Many Questions.  Apparently, the associate was a decent actor, at least for a while.  In the article's "if a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it" moment, Koppel points out:

Connecticut authorities debated what Mr. Dubois [the Connecticut head of disciplinary proceedings] called the “metaphysical question” of whether they could even disbar someone who was never a lawyer and had only temporary privileges to practice in the state. They decided they could, and should, to keep other states from issuing privileges based on the faulty Connecticut credentials.

Good call.

January 22, 2007 in Associates, Bar Discipline & Process, Ethics, Law Firms, Professional Responsibility, Rapoport, The Practice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Real-time sighting of law professor reference in "That's So Raven"

Posted by Nancy Rapoport.

As I'm cleaning the public parts of our home today, I'm listening to whatever plays on ABC, since I started with the news this a.m. and never bothered to change the channel afterward.  I've been half-listening, but then I heard the words "law professor," and went back to watch the TV.  The current episode of "That's So Raven" involves a stereotypical absentminded law professor who has lost Raven's mother's assignment.  I may have seen this episode before, but then, I'm a bit absentminded myself.

January 13, 2007 in Lawyers & Popular Culture, Rapoport | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More on lawyers & CEOs

Posted by Nancy Rapoport.

Jeff Lipshaw hits the nail on the head (sorry about the Home Depot pun) in his post, More on Lawyers as Leaders.  In the Wall Street Journal article on lawyers & CEOs, I was happy about one particular omission.  I'm glad that Alan Murray, who wrote the column, didn't trot out the hoary old saw about how law schools teach law students to "think like lawyers," as if other professions didn't also teach ways to understand and dissect arguments, think logically, and argue convincingly.  I've written on this particular brand of arrogance before.  More below....

Continue reading

January 10, 2007 in General Counsel, Law & Business, Law & Society, Rapoport | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Lawyers and customer service

Posted by Nancy Rapoport.

Has our society changed its tolerance for the quality of customer service?  I've just spent the past month wrestling with customer service problems at Large Overnight Package Delivery Service and Small, Ineffective Garage Door Company, and it caused me to wonder if lackadaisical customer service is now the norm.  Grace_clip_2

Or it might be the norm outside the legal profession.  What I've seen recently, at least in large law firms, is the uber-customer-service model, where firms pull out all the stops to serve their clients.  Their lawyers and legal assistants are on call all the time, even on vacation, and -- in some places -- it's a point of honor to bill massively long yearly hour totals. 

There has to be a happy medium somewhere, right, between no customer service at all and such intense customer service that the burnout rate is excessively high? 

January 9, 2007 in Rapoport, The Practice | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Use of Lawyer in Sprint Commercial

Posted by Nancy Rapoport

I've just seen the new Sprint-Ron Livingston commercial, in which every time Ron Livingston makes a statement, he looks behind him to the lawyer, to see if the lawyer has OK'd the veracity of the statement.  Of course I like it--who couldn't like seeing one of the Office Space actors working with a lawyer on a "more truthful" ad (or testing the lawyer's abilities by stretching the truth with the line about meteors)? 

What made me smile is that, at least in this ad, the lawyer isn't seen as trying to facilitate lying about something.  That's a small step in the right direction.

January 7, 2007 in Lawyers & Popular Culture, Rapoport | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 5, 2007

Welcome Nancy Rapoport!

Nancyrapoport We are delighted to announce that Nancy Rapoport will be joining us on a regular basis.

I can put this formally and succinctly:  Nancy is the former dean of the University of Houston Law Center.  In July 2007, she will become the Gordon & Silver, Ltd. Professor of Law at the William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada Las Vegas.  But the following segment of her official biography over at the Houston Law Center web page demonstrates just how perfectly she fits here with us:

Her specialties are bankruptcy ethics, ethics in governance, and the depiction of lawyers in popular culture. She has taught Contracts, Sales (Article 2), Bankruptcy, Chapter 11 Reorganization, Legal Writing, Contract Drafting, and Professional Responsibility. Among her published works is ENRON: CORPORATE FIASCOS AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS (Foundation Press 2004) (co-edited with Professor Bala G. Dharan of Rice University). She has also appeared in the Academy Award®-nominated movie, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Magnolia Pictures 2005) (as herself). Although the movie garnered her a listing in, she still hasn't been able to join SAG.

If you have ever read anything Nancy has written, whether over at MoneyLaw in the blog format, or in the University of Toledo Law "dean" issues, or elsewhere, you know that she combines wisdom, insight, and a completely engaging writing style.  Plus, we think she may be the leading scholar working today on the lessons to be taken - positive and negative - from Judge Judy.

[Jeff Lipshaw] 

January 5, 2007 in Blogging, Rapoport | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 1, 2007

The Judge Judy-fication of Legal Ethics

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw

We are delighted to have this guest piece from Nancy Rapoport (right):Nancyrapoport_1

The North Carolina Bar Association has announced that it has filed ethics charges against Michael Nifong, the DA who has been in charge of the Duke University lacrosse case.  Based on what I’ve read in the news, those charges refer to various statements that Nifong made.  According to the New York Times, not only did he make “misleading and inflammatory statements” about the accused players, but he also knowingly made a misleading assertion that posited that the players might have used condoms, which might explain the lack of DNA evidence.  Nifong has recently dropped the rape charges against the players.

How fuzzy is the line about what prosecutors can and can’t say to the media?  North Carolina’s ethics rules include prohibitions against making statements that could “materially prejudice an adjudicative proceeding.”  (Rule 3.6(a).)  Rule 3.6(b) sets out a laundry list of “thou shalt nots,” including statements relating to

(1) the character, credibility, or reputation of a party, suspect in a criminal investigation or witness, or the identity of a witness, or the expected testimony of a party or witness; . . .
(4) any opinion as to the guilt or innocence of a defendant or suspect in a criminal case or proceeding that could result in incarceration; or
(5) information the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is likely to be inadmissible as evidence in a trial and would if disclosed create a substantial risk of prejudicing an impartial trial.

Attorneys are, of course, allowed to discuss basic facts about cases.  (Rule 3.6(c).)

That’s just the general rule.  Prosecutors, of course, have their own heightened responsibilities, set forth in Rule 3.8.  (This rule isn’t very difficult to find.  It’s called “Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor.)

The prosecutor in a criminal case shall:

(a) refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause; . . .
(d) make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense . . . ;
(e) exercise reasonable care to prevent investigators, law enforcement personnel, employees or other persons assisting or associated with the prosecutor in a criminal case from making an extrajudicial statement that the prosecutor would be prohibited from making under Rule 3.6; . . .
(g) except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor's action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.

Comment 6 to this Rule adds that “[a]lthough the announcement of an indictment, for example, will necessarily have severe consequences for the accused, a prosecutor can, and should, avoid comments which have no legitimate law enforcement purpose and have a substantial likelihood of increasing public opprobrium of the accused.”  So, for example, referring to the Duke players as “under investigation” would be OK, but referring to them as “a bunch of hooligans” would be a clear no-no.  (My colleague at Houston, Meredith Duncan, is working on an article talking about the rights of those who have been accused of rape.)

Why might a prosecutor make such statements, when the rules are certainly clear at the extremes, if not always clear in the middle?  I don’t pretend to know Nifong’s reasons for making the statements.  But I have a general hypothesis that lawyers have subconsciously allowed their understanding of ethics rules to slip because popular portrayals of lawyers rarely bear any relationship at all to real ethics rules. 

I love Denny Crane in Boston Legal.  When I was a law student, I enjoyed watching L.A. Law, too, even though the only accurate part of life at McKenzie, Brackman, CheneyVinny and Kuzak was that it would show associates working late at night.  I love My Cousin Vinny, The Devil’s Advocate, The Verdict, and even Legally Blonde.   But I know that much of what goes on in those shows and movies flies in the face of our ethics rules.  (Try making Adam’s Rib without running afoul of conflicts of interest in the first five Judgejudy minutes.) What does the public see?  It sees Judge Judy’s sarcasm and lack of respect for the people in her courtroom.  It sees lawyers who shape their clients’ testimony (Anatomy of a Murder), counsel their clients to commit crimes (Double Jeopardy), tell juries that they believe their own clients are guilty (…And Justice for All), and lie every chance they get (Liar Liar).  Non-lawyers who see these examples of “lawyering” aren’t likely to have a frame of reference to tell them what’s wrong with the behavior.  Lawyers have that frame of reference, if they stop and think about the rules that bind them.  There’s a risk, however, that the images that they see when they’re being entertained chip away at their brains’ link between real lawyer behavior and fictional behavior.  I’m not making an excuse for Nifong’s statements—just a warning that lawyers would do well to remember that “Vinny got away with it” won’t play well in front of a disciplinary panel.

Nancy B. Rapoport is a professor of law and the former dean of the University of Houston Law Center.  In July 2007, she will become the Gordon & Silver, Ltd. Professor of Law at the William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada Las Vegas.

January 1, 2007 in Ethics, Lawyers & Popular Culture, Professional Responsibility, Rapoport | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)