Monday, April 13, 2015

Fully Funded PhD Positions in Environmental Governance and Compliance

(thanks to esg)

My colleague, Suzanne Kingston, has just won a €1.5 million grant from the European Research Council for five years. Within it are three PhD positions and one post-doc.

Here's a brief description:

This is an exciting opportunity for talented students to play an important role in a cutting-edge project at the intersection of law, governance, psychology and economics, investigating the way that laws influence our decisions to engage (or not to engage) in environmentally compliant behaviour in Europe.

Non-compliance with the EU’s environmental rules is one of the key weaknesses of the EU’s environmental policy, and the EU has over the past decade brought in rules to encourage decentralised, society-led governance by local private actors, including environmental NGOs but also private individuals and companies, in an attempt to improve compliance levels.  Yet surprisingly little is known about the extent to which this major change in environmental governance rules has actually influenced compliance levels in practice, and why.  The central question of this project is therefore: Can the design of environmental governance rules influence us not only to comply with the letter of the law, but also to go further?

Funded by the European Research Council, you will form part of an interdisciplinary team of six people, comprising the Principal Investigator Dr. Suzanne Kingston, a postdoctoral researcher, the 3 Ph.D. students and a research assistant.  Specifically, we are looking for:
  • 1 Ph.D. candidate with a degree in Irish law or the law of another common law jurisdiction, or cognate discipline.  Where the application is for this position, the applicant should be proficient in English;
  • 1 Ph.D. candidate with a degree in French law, or cognate discipline.  Where the application is for this position, the applicant should be proficient in French and English;
  • 1 Ph.D candidate with a degree in Danish law, or cognate discipline.  Where the application is for this position, the applicant should be proficient in Danish and English.
You can find more information at the UCD page. They are for 4 years and funded at €18,000 per year.

This is a great opportunity.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What Happened to the Law School Class of 2010?


(With thanks to Legally Drawn)

Deborah Jones Merritt of Ohio State's Moritz College of Law has written a fascinating paper on what happened to the graduating class of 2010. Her study uses data from Ohio and compares it to the After the JD (AJD) study which used the national graduating class of 2000. Merritt's sample includes all those who passed the Ohio Bar examination in 2010. Another paper that treats some of these issues is The Economic Value of a Law Degree by Simkovic and McIntyre, which rates the lifetime value of a law degree at around $1 million.

 Merritt's use of Ohio appears to match national attributes (see Table II) but the single state approach means she can capture almost the entire population for 2010. She discloses her methodology fully and I won't discuss it here yet it's worth reading for both its successes and its limits.

The first key finding is how few lawyers got jobs that required a law licence (68%) and within that only a small proportion (40%) found jobs in law firms. And a year after graduating 10% remained unemployed. Four years later in 2014 the situation was little better. One per cent more had law firm jobs while the same proportion had jobs that required no licence (18%) and the unemployed came down to only 6.3%.

In contrast the AJD cohort showed more success. Nearly 80% had jobs requiring law licences and nearly 50% had jobs in law firms. Only 10% had jobs not requiring a licence and a mere 6.3% were unemployed.

The Ohio group changed jobs more frequently and their employment was episodic whereas the AJD group seemed to show continuing progress in the labour market. The AJD group worked in bigger law firms while the Ohio group appeared to gravitate to solo practice and small firm work. The economic pickup in the post-recession years didn't create jobs for the Ohio class in the bigger law firms. The consequence of this is that the Ohio class earned considerably less than the AJD group and didn't receive the same mentoring opportunities by virtue of working in small firms which engaged in less of these types of activities. Many of the Ohio cohort started their own, not very successful, solo practices. These tended to close down early on.

Government jobs showed equal numbers between the Ohio and AJD groups but after four years the Ohio group was disproportionately located in non-law government jobs. A similar process occurred with business jobs where Ohio ended up with a greater proportion of non-law posts in business than the AJD group.

Gender differences lived up/down to expectations as men were more likely to be in private practice while women were in state and local government and business jobs. In the AJD group the differences were never so marked.

Merritt points to the usual suspects or culprits for these results: disaggregation of legal work; disrupting technologies; deskilling of legal work, e.g. non-lawyer compliance officers; oversupply of lawyers; and global competition from,e.g. legal process outsourcers.

The consequences aren't good for law schools who are dealing with declining enrolments and squeezes on tuition levels with flat employment prospects for their graduates. Merritt argues that law schools will have to think creatively about future legal education. She asserts the changes occurring are not temporary but systemic and law schools will have to work out how to cater for law related jobs as well as those requiring law licences.

As a last thought I can't help but wonder if this is a particularly American phenomenon or whether we might see similar changes in Europe and Asia, for example. It doesn't appear so yet. Maybe the regulatory freedoms enjoyed by the legal services markets in the UK and Australia (and potentially other countries) are liberating the markets from old, hidebound, traditional ways of doing business that are generating new opportunities for law graduates. I see this in the UK. Perhaps then the US legal profession (and its regulators) is its own worst enemy.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Value of Uncertainty--Luciano Floridi at UCD CITO

The UCD Centre for Innovation, Technology and Organisation (CITO) hosted Luciano Floridi, an Oxford philosopher interested in information and the internet, to talk about the value of uncertainty. I, Donncha Kavanagh and Niamh O Riordan reflected on Luciano's talk afterwards from the perspectives of our own disciplines. I should add that the seminar was devised and organised by the indefatigable Gianluca Miscione, director of CITO.

[There are two videos here and the link to this blog post is]


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Slideshare on Lawyers' Lack of Business Insight?


Monday, January 19, 2015

Power, Practice and Privilege...New Conference


Friday, December 19, 2014

Relevance of Professionalism in a Post-Legal Services Act World

(thanks to

I've always admired "Duke" (or Hunter S Thompson as he's known in the mundane world). For anyone who could consume the amount of drugs he did and yet write as brilliantly as he could must be professional.

I have written a post for the legal profession section of Jotwell on Nick Robinson's paper, When Lawyers Don’t Get All the Profits: Non-Lawyer Ownership of Legal Services, Access, and Professionalism (Harvard Law School Program Legal Profession Research Paper No. 2014-20) available at SSRN.

He raises some serious questions during his comparison of non-lawyer ownership in three countries: UK, Australia, and the US. I've tried to give this a sociological gloss in my review. It's a good paper and should be read widely.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Sociology of the Professions: Lawyers, Doctors and Others...redux

(thanks to kardsunlimited)

Years ago, as a naive graduate student at Warwick, I was invited to a conference on lawyers, doctors and others at Oxford. Philip Lewis organised it. What I loved about the conference was that all my heroes in the sociology of the professions and lawyers were there--Eliot Freidson, Terry Johnson, Marc Galanter, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, and Maureen Cain, plus more. These were the people whose work I was reading and using to guide my own research.

The resulting book was published in 1983 and became an essential text for anybody researching in the field of professions. It still is an essential text, losing none of its force and acuity. Unfortunately the book went out of print.

But I'm glad to say that The Sociology of Professions: Lawyers, Doctors and Others, edited by Robert Dingwall and Philip Lewis has been reissued by Quid Pro Books. The publisher has commissioned a new foreword to this edition by Sida Liu of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Sida Liu writes:
“it is a rare effort to fully compare the two classic cases of doctors and lawyers in the professions literature. The contributors of the book include a number of prominent authors on the professions in Britain and the United States. Until today, it remains a vitally important volume for scholars and students interested in various aspects of professional life...Looking back one must be struck by the extent to which theorists of professions and empirical researchers on doctors and lawyers from both the UK and US fully engage with one another throughout the book.” 
I'm glad to see this book back. It has so much to tell us. I was thinking about it as I addressed a graduating class of law students today at UCD. It would have been great to have been able to give each of them a copy.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dress Casual....But for Lawyers?

I was asked to speak at a roundtable on lawyers and careers at StudentSlingshot. The event was arranged by the indefatigable Patrick Guiney of UCD Smurfit Business School. It brought students from all around Ireland to Dublin Castle to meet and talk with entrepreneurs, techies, business people and, of course, lawyers.

The invitation said clearly "Dress casual". So guess who were the only people wearing business suits? Yes, the lawyers. Both men and women.

Given that there were many tech people at the StudentSlingshot--after all both Google and Facebook have their European headquarters here--I thought it would be useful for the students to know something about the influence of technology in law and the role played by legal tech startups. (By the way I wasn't wearing a suit.) During my talk I said something about the use of boilerplate documents by law firms (implicitly referring to Gulati's work on pari passu).

A managing partner of a sizeable Dublin law firm, sitting next to me, exploded. They never used such things and it was tantamount to heresy to suggest otherwise. I referred to research on this saying that bespoke legal work is very expensive and not all clients need it. She refused to accept this.

A barrister then talked about becoming a barrister in Dublin. I was reminded of the UK situation years ago. He said it was normal for an aspiring barrister to wait years before earning any money, let alone a living wage.

I have been travelling in a time machine here and I can begin to understand why the Troika demanded changes to the profession and its regulation. It creates too many barriers. I hope the legal services reformation bill passes into law soon. The legal profession needs to come into the 21st century.

The evening was great fun though.


Monday, October 27, 2014

What is a lawyer?

(Thanks to

It's a hoary old question, tired and probably pointless today. Yet Jonathan Goldsmith has asked it again as he works the room at the International Bar Association's meetings in Tokyo. He tries to answer his question using what we call the "trait" theory of professions. Do you pass exams? Do you have ethical codes? Is the work exclusively yours?

The result is of course equivalent to how long is that string? As long or as short as you'd like. This type of approach doesn't get you anywhere.

What is particularly noticeable to anyone who studies lawyers, legal professions and professions in general is Goldsmith's singular lack mention of the types of conditions under which lawyers and professionals work. The organisation whether it be law firm or hospital is now crucial to understanding the nature of professional life and work.

Goldsmith talks about "the lawyer" in the abstract as a myth almost rather than someone engaged in expert labour within an organisational setting. Even that most singular of legal professions, the barrister, is really a creature of the organisation.

The Lawyer today published a report on the UK top 200 law firms with a special section on the top ten chambers. They are listed by chambers earnings and revenue per barristers within each chambers, not by single barristers.

Being a lawyer is another occupation like most. Goldsmith's thinking is indicative of a desire for a "golden age" of lawyering, which probably never existed--only in misty dreams. He alludes to but tries to avoid the idea that lawyers are no longer exclusive.

Machines, paralegals, technicians, accountants, consultants even are all engaged in the "practice" of law these days. They may not call themselves lawyers but they do law. The new legal services markets now emerging are signs that the distinctiveness of the lawyer is being eroded.

It might mean that lawyers' skills are redundant. I think this unlikely. Or it could mean that lawyers' skills are inadequate to the demands of today's business and legal markets. If they are inadequate then others invade your turf and take your work. So it's up to the profession(s) and the academy to (re)produce lawyers/professionals fit for the modern age. And don't worry about definitions. Hardly anyone cares.

(Thanks to
And on that last point, Law Without Walls is gearing up for its new session next January.