Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Elephant Sanctuary

In the midst of the credit crisis charities will need our help even more. I support a few, one of which is the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.

Here's an example of what they do. Ned was confiscated by the USDA from a circus trainer who put him into this emaciated condition. The sanctuary is gradually restoring Ned to health.


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Saturday, December 27, 2008

From John Flood to Post-Flood...

With the sales here in London crowding the streets, it's appropriate...




Again, thanks to the New Yorker
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas...Everyone!


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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And When You've Finally Written It This Is Your Fate...



Academics work so hard to produce their knowledge and then this is the result.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

Graduate Junction

Here's a new source for graduate students, www.graduatejunction.com, which is worth supporting. All graduate students should be urged to join.

Graduate Junction is the first website to bring together Masters, PhD and Postdoctoral researchers and scholars from any discipline across the globe. Graduate Junction provides an easy way of making contact and communicating with others who share common research interests. Graduate Junction also aims to provide comprehensive searchable listings of information relevant to the graduate research community.

  • Create a personal research profile page
  • Establish a network of researchers who share your research interests
  • Join or create online research groups
  • Initiate discussions and exchange useful tips
  • Search up to date conference and career information relevant to you
  • Share general research advice in our advice forum and much more

Graduate Junction has been designed by other graduate researchers to be simple and to provide only information and functionality that is relevant. Click here to find out more about the Graduate Junction Team and our vision.

Graduate Junction is very new so we need your help to build a global graduate research community. Even if you can’t find others who share your research interests yet, fill in some basic details on your profile so that as the news spreads others will be able to find you. Help us build the global research community by inviting other researchers and spreading the news at your university.



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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Socio-Legal Studies Association Conference 2009

The 2009 SLSA Conference is taking place at De Montfort University on April 7 to 9. All details of the conference can be found on its website.

My colleague Andy Boon and I are convening a stream on Lawyers and Legal Professions:

Lawyers and Legal Professions

This stream welcomes papers on any aspect of lawyers and legal professions, including their work, organisation, ethics and regulation. We welcome a wide range of methodologies and perspectives, including historical analysis, empirical fieldwork and theortical applicaion and development. We are interested in a wide range of questions, from 'what lawyers do' to the absence of strong professional organisation in some jurisdictions. We are also, therefore, keen on comparative issues and particularly welcome overseas contributors.

Paper presentations will typically be 20 minutes in length. Anyone wishing to offer a paper should send a title and abstract via the DME SLSA Abstract form;
http://www.dmu.ac.uk/faculties/business_and_law/conferences/slsa/slsa-abstract-submission.jsp

If you have any queries please feel free to contact Andy Boon or John Flood. Please submit your paper by February 1st 2009. Early submissions would be greatly appreciated.

University of Westminister
London UK

E a.boon@westminster.ac.uk

E johnaflood@gmail.com


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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Rise of the Bankruptcy Lawyer...Again


Some years ago I wrote a pair of articles about insolvency/bankruptcy lawyers and the evolution of the bankruptcy markets under the impact of globalization. (They are: Normative Bricolage: Informal Rule-Making by Accountants and Lawyers in Mega-Insolvencies and The Vultures Fly East: The Creation and Globalization of the Distressed Debt Market.) And I thought the bankruptcy/restructuring world would exist in a kind of middle-aged, generally uninspired fashion. Indeed, it would hide itself behind pre-packs and informal restructuring outside the public gaze. I was wrong.

Since 2007 this world has woken from its slumber and is creating havoc again. Bankruptcy lawyers are in vogue again as businesses desparately attempt to restructure themselves, or are told to do so by Congress as with the big 3 auto manufacturers in the US. I've posted on restructuring, the new London Approach, and subprime here, here, here, here, here, and here.

The one thing we can guarantee is that no one remembers how to handle a crisis because institutions never remember. They always dissipate their expertise, because expertise is cyclical. Each crisis is always dealt with as if it is occurring for the first time. Someone ought to write a crisis manual.

The role of bankruptcy lawyers becomes increasingly important as they are probably the only ones with any form of memory from one crisis to another. You can tell how important this crisis is by the fact that Harvey Miller quit his investment bank, Greenhill, to return to his old law firm, Weil Gotshal. Miller had been the dean of the bankruptcy bar for many years. This has been recognized by the firm's central role in many of the restructurings now taking place.

Weil has recently been a key player in the largest US bankruptcy: "Lehman Brothers entered bankruptcy with assets of $639 billion. This is more than the annual gross domestic product of all but the 17 wealthiest nations," according to Ben Hallman in the American Lawyer.

Hallman describes how the Feds--Treasury, Federal Reserve, SEC--were opposed to any form of rescue or restructuring for Lehmans. They were adamant that there would be no adverse consequences from teaching the market a lesson on moral hazard.

"But Miller says that rather than pushing for a Chapter 11, the Fed could have provided a financial backstop to the firm while it closed its positions and unwound from the rest of the market in an orderly way. Instead, he and the Weil crew were forced to organize, on a moment's notice, the largest and most complex bankruptcy in history. But their work didn't end there. Over the next five days, the lawyers drove a sale of Lehman Brothers Inc., the brokerage unit, through U.S. Bankruptcy Court. They worked knowing that every minute wasted was a minute that the value of the underlying business diminished, "like a melting ice cube on the dock," as Miller said in court. More than 100 Weil, Gotshal lawyers would take part-many of them working around the clock to finalize deals that would normally take months to complete."
Hallman tells us of the relationships between Weil and Lehman, and of Miller's status in the world of bankruptcy. As he details the hour by hour unravelling of Lehman, we can see how the apparent reality of "it's happening for the first time" comes up against "we've seen this before and this is not the way to handle it".

The result of this tension is a refusal to believe things could get worse with the added desire to make sure that someone is in the middle of it who knows what is happening. So Miller's involvement becomes a means of capitalizing on status and social capital thus signalling to the world at large things are serious but without letting him determine the overarching strategy.

As much as Miller may be characterized as an "eminence grise", one who could truly be said to counsel his clients, he is emblematic of a move towards the lawyer as the new underlabourer. Since most of his counsel was ignored, it became his technical expertise (and that of his firm), and his ability to tap into networks, that produced the "creative" solutions to Lehman's enforced demise. Miller may represent the last generation that could stake a claim to being counsellor.
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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Altogether now...Aaah...Knut...

On a cold and rainy day, it's good to go "Aaah..." occasionally.



Thanks to Juliet at Hell Yeah!
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Apres Comedy


This is me. The last two nights I've had little sleep. The first I was worrying about the countdown to my first ever standup gig. And for the second, I was happy it was over and so high on andrenalin.

The feedback I've received tells me the gig went well. The disparity between the way I looked (laid back and calm--of course I wasn't) and sounded (smooth and somewhat lugubrious) and what actually came out of my mouth caused a few gasps in the audience. There are no parentheses for the last part.

For the last 15 minutes before going onstage I went to the loo on average once every 3 minutes. Every gulp from my water bottle was followed a rapid exit. My main fear was: would everything in my mind exit the same way too?

Then there is the terrible realization the compere has said your name and it's time to take the tumbril to the stage. Thank god the lights were so bright I couldn't see the audience. Once I'd finished my wrestling match with the microphone stand I began to find my rhythm and the next thing I knew I was getting ready to wind up. I knew I was going to need a lot of rehydration, but not water this time.

Looking back and thinking about the last 10 weeks of the course and all the rehearsing we did, we all thought we knew the high spots of our acts. But once you are in front of the audience, it doesn't work that way anymore. Suddenly you hear laughs in places you considered, well, OK. And the high spots weren't quite so high. Strange creatures audiences and you have to think of them as an organic mass rather than individuals.

The eight of us who made it through out of the original 12 who started had a fantastic time. Chris Head created a great course. We arranged for the entire gig to be filmed and we think the DVD should be ready around mid-December.

Looking back you begin to see how that particular bit could have been done better, that bit could be shortened, and change that word. And then you start thinking about the next time...
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Countdown to Comedy


This is the countdown to my first ever (and last??) standup performance. It's on Wednesday 19 November and the details are below. If you click on the name of the pub you get a Google maps reference.

STAND UP SHOW
With graduates from Chris Head's stand up comedy course
Wednesday 19th November at:
Wilmington Arms pub
69 Rosebery Avenue
London, EC1R 4RL

Doors 7pm (show starts 7.30pm)

£4

Near Sadler's Wells.
Tubes: Angel/ Farringdon/ King's Cross
(15 min walk from each.)
And it's on the 38 Bus route.

Really good available in the pub pre-show


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Monday, November 10, 2008

More Writing


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Friday, November 07, 2008

Writing and More Writing


(serious image)

I agreed to do some research for the Bar Council on direct access to barristers. The report was due yesterday but I asked for an extension today. Avis Whyte, my colleague, and I eventually got it in. It was the result of poring over a huge pile of documents, interviewing various experts and users, and carrying out three web-based surveys. It was only a small project after all. But considering what the summer has been like, I enjoyed having this project around.

As with most writing projects the actual writing never occurs in a consistent stream. It comes instead in a mad burst as the deadline approaches and one optimistically says, "No sweat. We can do it." Hubris? Yes. It's surprising that one never really learns.

I was tempted to reflect on this after reading "How To Write Anything" on Tomorrow's Professor Blog. Actually I didn't want to reflect at all: I was hoping to get the answer.

It starts with a quotation from Peter De Vries: "I write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning." In my case it's more likely to be ten o'clock and only then after at least three espressos for rocket fuel.

The diagnosis is clear:

Here's the situation. You're working on a big writing project-a proposal, paper, book, dissertation, whatever-and in the last five weeks all you've managed to get done is one measly paragraph. You're long past the date when the project was supposed to be finished, and you just looked at your to-do list and reminded yourself that this is only one of several writing projects on your plate and you haven't even started most of the others. If you're frequently in that situation (and we've never met a faculty member who isn't) we've got a remedy for you.
That's me...often.

The answer is enticingly lucid. Don't say "I am going to spend the next 14 hours sitting here writing and nothing else." It's not true. You won't. And you will beat yourself up afterwards for not doing something you could never do in the first place.

The answer? "Dedicate short and frequent periods of time to your major writing projects."

Richard M Felder suggests,

A much more effective strategy is to make a commitment to regularly devote short periods of time to major writing projects. Thirty minutes a day is plenty, or maybe an hour three times a week.
The result will be,

These short writing interludes won't make much difference in how many fires you put out each day, but you'll be astounded when you look back after a week or two and see how much you've gotten done on the project.
It comes with one proviso: "Do your creating and editing sequentially, not simultaneously."

Because,

Here's another common scenario that might ring a bell. You sit down to write something and come up with the first sentence. You look at it, change some words, add a phrase, rewrite it three or four times, put in a comma here, take one out there҆and beat on the sentence for five minutes and finally get it where you want it. Then you draft the second sentence, and the first one is instantly obsolete and you have to rewrite it again...and you work on those two sentences until you're satisfied with them and go on to Sentence 3 and repeat the process...and an hour or two later you may have a paragraph to show for your efforts.
So there is an answer, of sorts. And I know that I can be productive when I write a little each day. Why we want to kid ourselves that we can easily do the mammoth writing periods, I don't know. Is it because we think it's macho? Do I imagine Hemingway writing that way? Is it sissy to write in short spells? Who knows?

OK, having learned my lesson, how shall I put it into practice? Well, it won't be next week because the editor of a journal has just emailed me with "friendly reminder" that I promised them an article by the end of next week. But this was long ago in the summer and there was so much time that I didn't have to worry about it. I was so unworried I forgot.

I think I'm for a couple more mammoths before I can take on board Felder's ideas. So it goes...



(not so serious image)




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Monday, November 03, 2008

What and What Not To Do With a Ganglion

I think I've got a small ganglion cyst on my wrist, which I can feel pressing on a nerve. It's an irritating little bugger. I read one way to get rid of them is to hit them with a big book. It makes them burst.

I tried that on myself last week. Even though I've got some big books--let me recommend the New Oxford Companion to Law in which I've written an entry on globalization and law and it runs to over 1300 pages--I couldn't swing it hard enough other than to cause me to jump out of my chair screaming blue murder.

So I enlisted the help of a friend who is very strong. He's a personal trainer. We put a cushion under my wrist and he hoisted my copy of the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe (prolific writer) over me.

"Turn away and take a deep breath," he said. Wham! God, it hurt.

It was still there. "Let's do it again," I suggested. Wham!! Missed the ganglion but hit the rest of me.

"Last try," I said. Wham!!! The hardest yet! "Shit!" I heard. My friend had hit both me and himself and was now bleeding profusely.

My wrist was numb and vaguely blue. I couldn't tell if the ganglion had burst or not. Sometimes I think it's OK, others it's the same as before.

I can't type very well today. And my friend took away several of my band aids for his injury.

Maybe there's a reason to leave it to the specialists. Wikepedia no longer recommends this way.
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Saturday, November 01, 2008

John Squared and the Time Doth Draw Near

There are two Johns in my class. About the only common feature we share is dimples. Aside from that we are completely different, especially our humour.

John T is lighter and more connected with what is happening around him. John F is darker with emerging anger. This has become clearer to him now that he recognizes that he was traumatized as a sperm. Freud missed a good one here.

Chris organized a show line up in the last class and we two Johns were first with me being the opener. After we did our sets Chris shook his head saying, "I meant to put you the other way round. John F is far too dark to open..." In other words, god help the punters.

The show is on soon, too soon for my liking but here are the details:

STAND UP SHOW
With graduates from Chris Head's stand up comedy course
Wednesday 19th November at:
Wilmington Arms pub
69 Rosebery Avenue
London, EC1R 4RL

Doors 7pm (show starts 7.30pm)

£4

Near Sadler's Wells.
Tubes: Angel/ Farringdon/ King's Cross
(15 min walk from each.)
And it's on the 38 Bus route.

Food available in the pub pre-show


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Piece...

I'm working through my material to construct my set. So far it includes murder, sex, colds, maybe getting visas (but not sure), Madge & Guy's divorce, and lawyers--all the sorts of things that beset us in our quotidian existence. Sounds cheerful too.

Trouble is, I can't really say what's in it...I'm trying to intimate.

Ah......
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ain't No Butterfly...

We constructed a show tonight with two halves and placed performers according to where they would fit the structure. It was a balance between almost soft and loud as well as other aspects.

There was also a feeling of inevitability about tonight's class because we are now concentrating on refining material we have already created. It is more or less there, done, waiting for revision.

Some of us are using news as a basis for our material, and so for me the impending divorce of Madge and Guy is a godsend. But it also means that I am sinking into the mire. Let me put it this way when I read that Guy was bummed out with his marriage, it was clear that this had no connection to boredom.

My persona therefore sinks lower and lower. Chris was nice enough to say that the contrast between my voice's smooth delivery and the "naughtiness" of what is actually said creates an obvious disjuncture. Anger, woe, and frustration all play their part. The last two weeks have opened my eyes to another me.

I'm happy I've begun to find my voice: it's not what I expected. So, up with the introspection and on with the rehearsing and writing. And it's still hard.
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

What the Hell's Your Persona?

Preparing new material to perform in front of one's peers week on week in the comedy class is bloody hard. Especially when there are other things going on like moving home, starting teaching new classes, and dealing with a big "mancold". (I have a friend in Oxford to thank for that.)

Somewhere along the line almost without thinking or even being aware of it, my persona has crept forth into an alien world and presented itself to me. As I've hinted before, it's not quite what I expected. I now understand the true meaning of the film Alien; I think I've got one inside me.

This week we were concentrating on persona. According to Chris there are essentially three types: high; audience's mate; and low. They aren't necessarily correlated to status or intelligence, but rather to one's relationship with the world--how one lives in the world. This is a far more subtle approach to studying social types than is conventionally found. Most indicators of status refer to external indicators such as education levels, income, and even class.

So, for example, someone like Jack Dee is a high status persona. He's in control, he's withering, and he looks down on the audience. Whereas Bill Bailey is jolly and buddies with the audience. And finally, Will Smith (the posh one), despite being posh is actually quite low status as the world does its worst to him.

As we went through our sets, we were focussing on what is his or her persona. And it's not always as easy as you might think. Some people's persona's were ambiguous and crossed over at times.

We have two definite lows in our group while the remainder are evenly divided between high and audience's mate. We have the intellectuals, the whingers, the City boys, cheeky chappies, the social commentators, and even a confused ethnic.

Chris, our teacher, has a method of selecting us to perform which is we put our names in his hat and he picks the first to go up to the microphone. The performer then selects the next and on. You have no idea of when your turn will come.

This being week 5 of our course we are getting a bit more experienced in what works and what flops. The acts are getting stronger, funnier, and leaner. But last week, for example, was a big flop for me. And after I got over the depression, I realized how it could be improved. So this time I was last on.

My set was angry, bemused, and gross. That's the only way I can describe it. And I'm not going into detail on this one. Those who were there will know why. When it came to analyzing the persona, everyone agreed that it was "low". I'm still pondering this as I thought it might be high, but I am now understanding what it at play here. And indeed, I agree my comic persona is low. What is not involved here is any kind of stigma but rather a type that works in performance. It isn't necessarily part of one's real everyday life.

We are now honing our material written over the last weeks as we zoom towards our debuts. There's still new material to write. And our anxiety levels are soaring as we realize that moment is no longer a distant galaxy in the future which will take a few light years to reach. I wish...
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Professionalism and Patronage and My Sinuses

Terry Johnson, in Professions and Power, remarked there were essentially two ways to resolve the inherent tension in the relationship between producer and consumer. All right he did have a third but that's not at issue here.

I had to visit a doctor which is why this came to mind. Every year I get a cold at this time of year. You can set your calendar by it. It has the exact same result each time. As I get to the end--that catarhhal stage when my sinuses awaken like the Kraken and pour forth their evil issue into the world (enough)--I always find my sinuses get infected. They just do and no matter what I do, they will. They truly have a life independent of me.

Because I'm in the middle of moving home, I'm away from my normal doctor. When I visit her, she listens sympathetically, prescribes the wide-spectrum antibiotics and I'm away and better in a week. All really quite simple.

This time I went to a walk-in clinic in Soho. This place is used to seeing every imaginable disease walk off the street. Mine doesn't even register on their scale. Even their form refers to triage--memories of "Mash" flash by.

When I saw my nurse, I told my story. She flicked through multiple screens and said, "The computer says 'No'." Well, almost: she said, "Antibiotics are contraindicated because you don't have a bacterial infection." This on the back of no tests and my prior experience.

"Go home and inhale steam," she said.

"That doesn't work anymore. I can't sleep and I can't work," I almost yelled but not quite.

She turned away from her screen and grimly looked at me. "What makes you think you know better than me?"

The killer question. I screwed myself up and announced, "It's my body and I know how it works. And it's done precisely the same thing for the last several years. One course of antibiotics will clear this up. Simple. That's how I know."

She glared at me. "Well I think it's contraindicated but I will give it to you anyway."

Oh thank bloody god for that.....

She did, but with bad grace. And when I said thank you and goodbye (without gloating), she only murmured a brief bye.

According to Johnson, in the 18th century medicine was one of those occupations where typically patients told their physicians what was wrong with them and what they expected to be done. Given the state of medical knowledge, that probably was a safe thing to do. It was a form of patronage where the client determined the resolution of this tension I referred to at the start.

The 20th century was characterized by the rise of professionalism where the producer became the dominant partner. Now of course external regulation has taken a firmer grip.

I felt rather chipper about reinvigorating some 18th century values for a change. And I can already feel my sinuses getting better. Did someone say placebo? Get out!
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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Weird Personas

The personas are coming to the fore now the more we perform in class. There's the City boy, the charmer, the self-deprecator, the mouth and more. None of them has been forced but you can see an element of inner struggle as the persona works its way through the layers of consciousness we overlay on everything. (Give it up for the superego!)

Mine is more mixed than I thought. Chris, our tutor, said something about a mixture of charm and harshness. The charm is in the delivery and the harshness appears in the words. There is a suppressed anger emerging. I like it: it's a new me. I'm still trying to come to terms with it.

We listened to Jerry Seinfeld riffing on New York cabs. If you've been in them, you'll empathize immediately. It was only two and a half minutes, but by the time we'd analyzed it, we were exhausted at seeing what he was doing--anthropomorphism, bathos, 3 part lists, inner monologues and much more. According to Chris, Seinfeld probably performed this material a hundred times before he considered right for recording.

Here is a YouTube clip of the piece, which is an earlier "draft". And there are many differences between this "unrefined" performance and the one I heard. So much to learn. It's fantastic!


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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A New Comedy Class Tonight...

As I thinking about tonight's comedy class I wrote to a friend.

I have my third class tonight. The fact that it takes place in a room above a pub seems most appropriate to me--no esteemed halls of academe--especially as I can pop down for a drink half way. God, I need it.

It's a feeling of exposing yourself in a way that I've never done before. Giving papers etc, is play acting. There's the audience and already you know how you are going to play them. It's pure Goffman (the cooling the mark out bit...). It is fun: I know for many giving papers may not fall into the category of fun, but there comes a time when you think sod it I refuse to be nervous and anxious every time I do this. That creates a space for improv and surprise. But in standup it's immediate even though it's prepared and the audience reaction is also immediate. The last thing you want is a thoughtful critique of your material and performance (otherwise known as heckling).

Back to the material. And one thing the writing of this stuff is just as hard as the other kind of writing!
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Comedy, Persona and Teaching

We had to present our own material to the class this week. It was based around situations we find ourselves in again and again. Trying to write material that's funny over a three-minute period is very hard work.

It's easy to tell a joke now and then, but sustaining it and giving it a narrative structure so that the jokes are carried is fiercesomely difficult. One of the tricks is to write the narrative then say it out loud. Does it flow? Does it sound funny? Was that meant to be a joke? You're kidding. Then rewrite and say it out loud again. It's remorseless.

I know all good academic writing is in truth a process of continuous rewriting, but with that I know I am working within accepted paradigms that essentially cosset and comfort me.

Comedy has exactly none of that. It exposes all of you to the awful truth. Are you any good or not? How do you know?

We analyzed a sketch by Jack Dee and we were all surprised to discover that we had identified between 15 and 20 different techniques being he deployed.




(This sketch does have a nice legal element by the way!)

Besides writing the material, one of the most difficult processes is identifying one's persona and being prepared to develop it. Now persona isn't just something you pluck out of the air and say that's me. No, it comes from within.

Through the process of writing and speaking, it emerges. It almost unfolds like a new flower. At first the colors are light and unformed, then it matures and takes on its true form. With persona you don't know quite what you are going to get. I am finding that mine is not quite what I thought it would be.

I naturally thought mine would be sophisticated with an urbane touch, but it isn't. It's different. One clue: it's rougher than that. In order for the persona to develop it has to be authentic, which is why you can't merely create it out of thin air. Peter Cook really was like his character in Derek & Clive, at times.

Your persona can surprise you.

I mentioned teaching because despite all the training that's around these days, most of it ignores these aspects. We hardly ever think about how we present ourselves to our students. Are we conscious of our persona in class? I doubt it. Or what's our persona when presenting a paper to your faculty? Again I have doubts.

Let me wrap up with an email I received from a former student who heard I was doing this class: "Are you seriously taking a comedy class? You used to scare us in class. I suppose that's an improvement." I leave you to deconstruct that as you like.
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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Comedy Class

I've just attended my first comedy class. It is truly fantastic! I wish I had done this long before now.

I mentioned earlier that I was to start this class. Up to now it has always been comfortably in the future so that if anyone asked about it, I could say, "Oh, it's a long way away..." Last night was my comeuppance. My moment of truth.

Appropriately, the class is held in a room above a pub. That's how it should be. And what better way of dealing with nerves than to pop downstairs for a quick one. Our tutor is Chris Head. He's already given me tips in my teaching. Chris is patient, explains well, and tells it like it is.

Our class runs over 10 sessions with the last one being a live show before a live audience (now I'm getting really nervous) appropriately in a pub. We will have to perform for 5 long minutes. (Another quick one, please.) We will learn about writing, using the microphone (a very versatile tool, by the way), and developing routines.

The most interesting features include what happens in the first 10 seconds from when the MC announces you. Apparently it can make or kill you. Others are the use of persona and status. To understand these is to take journey of self-discovery. One has to be honest about what kind of person one is because that is what the audience is going to get. Try faking it and they will tell and you will die...

Our class has 12 members including only one woman. (Chris says it's usually more balanced.) Some of them have performed before, but the majority of us are complete novices. We warmed up by discussing our favourite comics and then it was on to the hard stuff.

Chris showed us how to use the microphone, how to handle it, where to put it and how to make it work for you. One way was to get comfortable leaving it on the stand so that you could use your hands and the other was to remove it so that you can walk around the stage. But don't forget to move the stand out of the way or you'll trip. The mike must become our friend; it's our sole means of communication with the audience, so it's important.

Then Chris had us list topics--work, accents, family, music, sex, etc--so that we could each pick one and walk to the mike and talk about it for 3 minutes to our audience. We were introduced, applause, performed, applause, sit down, critique--ouch! It was our first feeling of what it would be like. Chris told us not to forget that feeling. It would be our guide.

Now we've got homework. We're learning how to write our script and it will be something from our lives. And we will be presenting it next week. Nerves again.

And I can't wait. I love it. There's something liberating about doing this which is so different from anything I've done before. I now keep my little book with me at all times so I can jot down eavesdrops, scenes, memories and the rest. Apparently it's a ratio of 10:1 rubbish to good. Sounds typical.
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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Direct Access by Clients to the Bar

I and my colleague, Avis Whyte, have been commissioned by the Bar Council to examine the issues surrounding direct access to barristers by clients. The Bar Council would like to see more such work being done. This is the background to the ongoing research.

In the past several years the Bar has moved towards becoming a direct access profession as well as traditionally being a referral access one. It has achieved this via two routes.

One is to license certain groups and institutions as capable of instructing barristers directly. This is where the consumer/client is sanctioned. The second is to certify barristers as being able to deal with clients direct rather than through the mediation of a solicitor. This entails the producer being sanctioned as capable.

Since the 19th century the Bar and the solicitors' profession have agreed on certain divisions of labour. Among them is that the Bar would normally receive its business from solicitors rather than lay clients directly. These arrangements meant the Bar could hold to specific values such as the cab-rank rule and being a sole practitioner. The result being that a small number of barristers could actually service a wide range of clients without coming into conflict.

For barristers there was always a tension in the lawyer-client relationship because it was essentially a three-way relationship not the normal dyadic one. To whom, then, is the barrister beholden? Solicitor or lay client? There are formal answers and less formal ones. But the issues are not clear. Moreover, as a referral profession it would be difficult to build up extensive, long-term, repeat player relationships in the way solicitors do.

With the changes making their way through the legal profession, especially those stimulated by the Clementi Report, all lawyers are having to revisit time-honoured conventions. For the Bar, a key one is how it should relate to clients.

Direct access is a way into the future for the Bar. Of course it raises a slew of questions about how it should be transacted, under what conditions, within what ethical constraints, and with an awareness that it would affect the Bar's relationship with solicitors.

For the Bar to remain strong and vibrant in the 21st century, it will need to face these issues directly. There is little room for compromise.
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Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Backlash: Clementi and the German Bar

The German Bar Association is threatening any UK law firm that has an office in Germany with severe sanctions if they take advantage of the Clementi proposals to take in external investment. Here's a link to an article in The Lawyer on this.

Does this mean the death of the unified law firm? Will they start to imitate Baker & McKenzie and adopt the Swiss Verein as their new corporate form? The accounting firms have found this structure useful.

We know the US legal profession already has its preventative measures in place. Will other countries follow the German lead? Is the backlash starting?
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Friday, August 22, 2008

Swordplay -- A New Blog

Hat tip to Tim Evans at (ex-) Barrister Blog for a new legal and corporate blog recently online called "Swordplay". It's published by Spada, a company that consults, among other things, for the legal profession, mostly UK. They produce interesting white papers and have a knowledge bank worth dipping into.

Declaration: I was recently interviewed by them in connection with research they are doing on contested elections in law firms. Interesting topic, which was why I agreed, and usually I do the interviewing so it was fun to be on the other end this time.
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What To Do When You're No Longer Senior Partner

The British legal profession doesn't like older lawyers. Recent anti-age discrimination legislation in the UK hasn't altered this mindset.

Legalweek.com reported that Tim Clark, the former senior partner of Slaughter and May, had moved to a position in Mint Partners, a trading firm (equities, metals, energy, CFD). He'd been a partner for 25 years and senior partner for seven. He was 57 when he quit.

That's not unusual. Most of the large law firms that have had senior and managing partner turnover in the last few years, eg. Linklaters, Allen & Overy, have ensured their exits were earlier than later.

I discussed last year how Freshfields cut its equity partnership by 20% by removing a large number of partners over 55. This resulted in a summer's litigation for the firm which made much of its private world public.

Given what we know about the demographic profiles of the UK and the US, there is something unusual about this. Both populations are aging as the baby boomers reach their "third age". Both countries are afraid of their impending pension crises. Both are considering raising pension access ages. Not law firms: they want to retire people younger.

The legal profession is simply agist. It discriminates on the grounds of age. Does it have good reasons for so doing?

Marc Galanter has discussed how the pressure on partners to be profitable within the context of the law firm has created huge stresses on lawyers in general. Associates who are good must be promoted. New partners squeeze the equity and so to retain the best and to ensure profits, pressure is applied to older partners to go.

This raises further questions about rainmaking and who is responsible for bringing in the valuable work that keeps the associates and junior partners busy. One argument says that individual lawyers are the key finders and are highly valued for that skill. Would then they be threatened?

Another argument suggests that the law firm itself is the responsible entity that brings in the business with partners merely facilitating something that already occurs. What then is needed are "client relationship partners" rather than finders. In this case the firm must constantly refresh itself by flushing out those who are no longer contemporary with firm needs and goals.

Galanter seems to think a move into legal services would be a good second-career strategy for successful, involuntary retired corporate lawyers. While this might be feasible in the US, it isn't going to happen in the UK. Most of these retired corporate lawyers have no clue about legal services. They probably blinked when it was mentioned.

No. It will be a case of finding something in the corporate sector. Trading in Clark's case, investment banking or rating agency work. The trick will be to ensure that you the lawyer actually get elected managing or senior partner in order to parlay that intangible asset into something marketable in the after-market. Law firm elections are destined to become more intense and more contested.

Gentlemen (and ladies), you are under starter's orders......
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Friday, August 01, 2008

End of Class and Ventures New?

I've just come to the end of my summer program class for Miami, "Global Lawyering". I now have the exams to grade and I'm done. My colleague, Michael Graham, made the mistake of asking me how I was going to relax over the summer. So I told him.

I have the paper on lawyer-client relationships I'm revising. Georgetown has asked me to contribute a paper I did for their "Future of the Global Law Firm", to their legal ethics journal. Moreover, they've asked me to write a review of the second edition of the Lerman-Schrag professional responsibility book. I have my research with Peter Lederer to write up for a journal. The Bar Council have asked to do some research on direct access to the Bar. And a request came from Australia yesterday to write an article on the changes to the English legal profession. Somewhere along the line I'm writing a research grant proposal. And I have the book on barristers' clerks to do now that the fieldwork is done. My colleague, Pablo Sosa, has agreed to collaborate on a book on cosmopolitan lawyers. It's all the usual academic stuff that I love. I just wish deadlines weren't so strict.

All in all, quite a relaxing time.

So amongst all this fun I thought I should do something serious to set my mind working. The first thing that came my way was through reading an article in the Guardian by someone at the Tate Gallery about giving lectures on a cruise liner. His problem was that the cruise company wanted him to do "laughs" not be serious, and as he said, he didn't do laughs. The solution? Enrol in a stand up comedy class. Bravo, maestro! This hit me somewhere; I don't know quite where, but it did. I contacted him and got the name of the comedy teacher, Chris Head. The upshot is that I am now enrolled on a stand up course that begins in September. Oh, shit! This ain't the end either...The course is ten sessions and the final one is to do a real performance in a club. That's in November. Why? oh, why? Because I like taking risks, I think.

But it wasn't serious enough. Various colleagues of mine were heading off on vacation while I would be relaxing with my articles and research. I needed more. I found it in a memory of a prior vacation in South Africa where I saw people paragliding. It's idyllic. Starting next Friday (August 8), I'm enrolled in a ten day course in paragliding where I shall be jumping off a hill with my gliding chute hoping to ride those thermals into the blue yonder. By the time I'd heard the list of all the possible nasty things that could happen up there from the instructor, I was ready to retrench.

But then what is life if risks aren't taken? I do feel the need to test myself mentally and physically and to know that I am alive and ready to think serious and not merely want to relax all the time...
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lawyers and Clients

I am revising a paper I submitted a while ago to the Journal of Law and Society on lawyer-client relationships. The argument is that while we conventionally view lawyer-client relationships as a dyads, they are in fact more complex. This is especially so in relation to lawyers' clients who are borrowing money from banks to finance projects. (This of course sounds funny right now in the present economic circumstances, but there was a time when banks did lend money.)

So a better way of perceiving these relationships is to think of them as at bottom triadic or more likely multipolar. Lawyers are often placed in conflictual settings by having to satisfy multiple constituencies, some of whom are bigger repeat players than others.

This paper follows on from one I published a long time ago on the management of uncertainly in lawyers' work which was interpreted through the lens of the lawyer-client relationship. For the sake of continuity I have just put this paper up on SSRN.
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Monday, July 28, 2008

Was Clementi the First?

The Clementi proposals in the Legal Services Act 2007 are radical. Alternative business structures will usher in "Tesco Law" and "Goldman Sachs Skadden". I've been doing some archival research lately and found that these ideas were first proposed 23 years ago in 1985 by Steven Brill in The American Lawyer.

In one of the most prescient articles ever written, Brill wrote:

Wall Street's Sullivan & Cromwell and Shearson Lehman/American Express have begun secret negotiations aimed at a deal in which S&C would become the first law firm to be acquired by a financial services conglomerate....Under terms of the proposed S&C buyout--which would be dependent on S&C successfully moving to overturn...Code of Professional Responsibility rules prohibiting nonlawyers from sharing in lawyers' fees--S&C would, as one source close to the deal puts it, "become an integrated part of the package of services Shearson Lehman/American Express can offer major corporations....when the deal is done, we're going to restructure S&C's fees so that in mergers and acquisitions they'll charge a percentage of the deal, the way investment bankers do."


It was fiction, as Brill said, but I wonder if he realized it could become true? He does say in the article, "Sure, the idea in its totality is off the wall for many reasons..." Not any more.
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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Globalization of Crime

I am teaching my Miami Law School summer class in London right now. And this year I decided to include in my Global Lawyering class a small section on the globalization of crime. I wanted to include David Cronenberg's excellent movie, Eastern Promises, with Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts, which shows the activities of the Russian Mafya in London engaged in prostitution, drug trafficking (working with the Afghans, Chechnyans, and Turks), and smuggling. It is also filmed close to where I live in east London.

Of course when one does something like this--and I did say small section--it inevitably balloons and everything one reads concerns global crime or violence, e.g., UBS being investigated by Congress for dodgy money transfers and tax evasion; BAE directors being arrested in transit for suspected bribery in Saudi arms deals. (We are having to depend on the US to take over this investigation after the UK government caved in to Saudi demands to halt it.) Although, I've had one student comment that he can't see how this is to do with globalization.

However, what really encapsulated the essence of my teaching popped up in an article in today's (19 July 2008) Financial Times, titled, "Bulgarians Ponder Impeaching Leader." In it was the glorious paragraph:
One Olaf [EU Commission anti-fraud office] inquiry involved the illegal import into Bulgaria of Chinese rabbit meat, which was resold to customers in the EU after being repacked using false Argentine health certificates.
Can't beat that!
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

If You've Been a Government Bigwig, What Do You Do Afterwards?

My question is prompted by Lord Falconer's recent hooking up with Gibson Dunn & Crutcher as "senior counsel". That means he isn't a partner but looks like one. Gibson's PEP is running at $1.9m. He is going to become a member of the firm's dispute resolution team.

He is one of a line that is growing. The former attorney general, Lord Goldsmith QC, joined Debevoise & Plimpton within the last year. And some years ago, Margaret Thatcher's cabinet colleague, Lord Howe, consorted with Jones Day.

There is a reluctance for these former barristers to return to the Bar. Some others have rejoined the Bar, eg. Michael Howard and some other lesser known Conservative ex-ministers.

If you have been in government for any length of time, then there is no organizational infrastructure to fall back on. In effect, one has to start over. That is stressful. Given that outlook, it is not unexpected to see these lawyer-politicians searching for a graceful, relatively easy re-entry to a profession that fails to reward public service in quite the same way as perhaps the US legal profession views its door revolvers.

Of course the big one is Tony Blair who last practised law so long ago, he wouldn't know where the courts were let alone know how to argue a case. (And given his highhanded attitude towards the law, he'd probably end up in the dock rather than being outside it.) His alternatives were Middle East envoy (but with no effective pay), the rubber chicken dinner talk circuit (profitable but not to the same extent as Bill Clinton), and now a senior advisory post with JP Morgan because of "his unique perspective on global political issues and emerging trends". He's reputed to be getting $1m for his part-time post.

There are more barristers in government than solicitors. Whether this is because those with political ambitions choose to become barristers or vice versa, I don't know. Whichever it is, barristers know that they can't necessarily return to the position they previously possessed before government.

One comment made to me in my research on barristers' clerks, is that no matter how eminent or senior or however highly remunerated, a barrister is always fretting about where the next case will come from. Some obviously love the insecurity of the star performer. Others prefer to cash out in a more secure and comfortable environment.

But one question I can't answer is why they are all joining US firms and not British ones? Do they know something the Americans don't?
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Saturday, June 28, 2008

From Budapest: 38th World Congress of IIS (edit: Santana)

I'm at the 38th World Congress of the International Institute of Sociology in Budapest. It's a glorious city and my hotel room overlooks the Danube and the Szechinyi Bridge (sorry no accents here) and I can see the castle in the distance.

My paper, with Peter Lederer, is "Becoming a Global Lawyer". I have discussed my research with Peter before. The argument of the paper, briefly, is that globalization has become a taken for granted concept that appears to have been inevitable. There has been an over-reliance on structural explanations. Even though Giddens and Held emphasize the contingent aspects of globalization, implicitly it appeared to follow a template because of economic forces.

I want to re-introduce ideas of agency. Who were those who created globalization? Peter Lederer was the 17th partner to join Baker & McKenzie, one of the largest law firms in the world. Being trained in US and German and Swiss law and directed to the law firm by Max Rheinstein of Chicago Law School, Peter was the ideal candidate to run the Zurich office for Baker.

At that time even the idea of an "international lawyer" was a highly contested concept with some saying that it was meaningless. But the vision of people like Peter and Russell Baker were able to overcome the doubters and develop entirely new fields of practice.

Edit: Although this is not to do with academia or lawyering, Santana played tonight in Heroes Square, Budapest. His free concert clashed with the conference dinner and a small group of us (3) decided Carlos was the more substantial fare. For me this was terrific as I had only seen him at the O2 (Millennium Dome as was) the week before. His London gig was one of the best concerts I've ever attended. Budapest made it that bit sweeter.

Turns out Carlos is two floors above me in my hotel. I've already had to complain about the bloody noise level. Can't he lay off that guitar for a bit and turn it down? It's all the same with these rock musicians....

At another time I will explain why Santana was actually one of the most formative experiences that convinced me law was a subject worth studying. I was in Morocco when I had this conversion.
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Friday, June 20, 2008

Persaud's Verdict is In

Raj Persaud's psychiatric career is in ruins after the General Medical Council ruled that his fitness to practise had been impaired because he plagiarised the work of other academics.
as reported by the Daily Telegraph.

The General Medical Council now has to decide the punishment for Persaud having ruled
that he was guilty of serious misconduct, which brought his profession into disrepute.
The GMC Fitness to Practise Panel chairman didn't hold back in criticizing Persaud:

"The panel has determined that your dishonest conduct and plagiarising other people's work on multiple occasions represents a serious breach of the principles that are central to good medical practice. The panel is in no doubt that this amounts to misconduct which is serious."

He added: "Your dishonest conduct brings the profession into disrepute and the panel has... concluded that your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of your misconduct."

STOP PRESS

Persaud has been suspended for 3 months for plagiarism. More details are in the comment below.
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Monday, June 16, 2008

Plagiarism, Persaud, and Perfidy

Over two years ago Persaud's lifting of Thomas Blass' work on Stanley Milgram landed him in trouble (see here also). Persaud is a media psychiatrist who presents a number of programs on British television. Since the demise of Anthony Clare, the doyen of this group, Persaud has tried to take over. Persaud's problem is that he spread himself too thinly and something had to give.

In Persaud's case it was originality with a move to plagiarism. Persaud is an academic as well and he well understands how academics deplore plagiarism. Today he faced charges of dishonesty before the General Medical Council which has the power to strike him off the medical register.

The BBC reported:
Three years ago an article was withdrawn from Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry after US professor Thomas Blass claimed that "over 50% was my work".

At the time, Dr Persaud apologised for the error and told the Guardian newspaper that it had been a cutting and pasting error which meant some references had been omitted.

A second article was retracted by the British Medical Journal "owing to unattributed use of text from other published sources".

"Cutting and pasting" is the usual excuse with forgetting to add the citation.

Furthermore:

Jeremy Donne QC, GMC counsel, accused Dr Persaud of enhancing his own reputation at the expense of the hard work and scholarship of other people.

"The articles, we say, speak for themselves and they all demonstrate the extent Dr Persaud has appropriated the work of others as his own."

Academics spend years studying and researching their ideas, usually without much thought for commercial gain. That's not the reason we are academics. So to have someone steal your ideas, is to have them steal your soul.

I have seen it happen to others and it's happened to me. It's theft. And so at first you don't believe it's really occurred. Then all the emotions associated with theft arise: anger, hurt, wonder. It damages one's feeling of trust. Persaud is a psychiatrist: he of all people ought to understand that.


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Thursday, May 22, 2008

MRI and House

I've decided I must stop watching "House" because it's too discombobulating. I went for an MRI of the head this morning because the doctor at Miami hospital who is examining my hearing thought I should have one.

They ask a huge number of questions, one of which is "are you claustrophobic?" To which I say "no". But then of course one starts to think about it. This is when the past episodes of "House" come back to haunt me since usually whosoever is in the MRI goes bonkers at some moment and they have to drag them out, screaming, puking or having a seizure.

Because they were looking inside my head I had these very tight headphones jammed on (still have sore ears!) to keep out the noise (god, the noises that machine makes--loud, long, and very discordant!), and then a cage put around my head. (At least I asked how long it was going to take--40 to 50 minutes and rushed to have a pee--otherwise I would have been gritting my teeth, etc.) The cage was to prevent me from moving.

Then I'm slid into the machine. A small tube, dark and confined. I close my eyes. And, oh yes, I have an IV in my arm (at least this guy found my vein first time) to inject me with dye. Then the noise starts, louder and louder, clangs, bongs, rattles and more. I'm trying not to think of "House", nor claustrophobia, and instead Edgar Allan Poe pops into my brain, "The Premature Burial"

To be buried while alive is, beyond question, the most terrific of these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality. That it has frequently, very frequently, so fallen will scarcely be denied by those who think. The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?

Fearful indeed the suspicion- but more fearful the doom! It may be asserted, without hesitation, that no event is so terribly well adapted to inspire the supremeness of bodily and of mental distress, as is burial before death. The unendurable oppression of the lungs- the stifling fumes from the damp earth- the clinging to the death garments- the rigid embrace of the narrow house- the blackness of the absolute Night- the silence like a sea that overwhelms- the unseen but palpable presence of the Conqueror Worm...

At this point, I'm ready to press the panic button to be released. I feel my breathing getting quicker and I can't or won't open my eyes. For a moment I almost believe I'm underground. (It's going to be bloody cremation, I say to myself.) I try to change my thoughts but it's difficult--holidays, people, animals, anything--but the dreadful noise brings me back to where I am.

Then a voice says, "Only 12 more minutes and you'll be out of there..." Good, I can't wait to get these wretched headphones off. Then it's over and I'm thinking what was all that fuss about?

I shall be watching "House: with a different (3rd) eye this time...

Oh, and here is the inside of my brain


But of course it kept mutating in the machine


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Summarizing Miami

During my time in Miami I've been living on South Beach--a great place to be. One of its pleasures to me is going for a run in the morning on the beach. I see the sun rising, the ships leaving port, and I have an opportunity to let my mind float free.

So I have been thinking what has my experience been at Miami? This is good thing to do as I am presently grading exams, so one must always accentuate the positive. Rather than just say I've had a great time, which is true, I want to list the points that have made being away from home so worthwhile.

First and foremost has been my good fortune to be part of an exciting and stimulating faculty. I have written about the quality of the faculty seminars. It was the best introduction to the intellectual life of the law school a newcomer could have. To benefit from a large number of people focusing on your work for more than two hours is a real boon. You get to know them and they get to know you. It is the "Big Bang" of introductions, and it's effective.

For me it put me into a good group of colleagues and as a result I formed some valuable friendships.

Subsequent seminars enabled me to learn more about my colleagues' work and of those outside the law school and the university. Each was conducted with same rigor and dedication that I experienced.

I was lucky to be asked to teach a new subject, Professional Responsibility. Ethics was one of those areas I tended to sideline. But since teaching this course, I've gained a new respect for this subject and now lament that it isn't taught, at least properly, in English law schools. Through my experience of this course, the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics has asked me to review the second edition of the casebook I used, Lerman and Schrag's Ethical Problems in the Practice of Law (disclosure time: it contains two pages of my comments on the future of the legal profession post-Clementi).

I felt for the students having a teacher from outside the US teaching them a subject that was mandatory and part of the bar exam. I was constantly thinking would my students pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE)? I saw my students after they had taken my exam and was overjoyed to hear them report that everyone who took the MPRE from my class had passed. A big relief.

I was also asked to participate in some other classes, talking about my research.

In addition to the classes I had about five students who elected to do independent writing projects with me. Unlike a class where one moves from topic to topic week by week, here there is one topic which is examined minutely and refined over the weeks. It is immensely satisfying to see a paper get better and better. The result is that one maybe two of the papers are potentially publishable. I hope we can get them into print: they deserve it.

My research received a boost while I was here. I expected to work on research in progress. I had an article that had been reviewed by a journal which needed revising and at least two research grant proposals to work on.

The Law School, however, had put together a seminar on the regulation of the legal profession in the EU and the UK and I was asked by Caroline Bradley if I would like to present a paper. I took this as an opportunity to plan out ideas that I could also use at the Georgetown Symposium on the Future of the Global Law Firm. Knowing one is to give a paper in a short time truly concentrates the mind. Nevertheless, it allowed me to experiment with some new approaches (one of which came out of work by my colleague, Rob Rosen). The result was that I was able to refine my ideas in time for the next presentation. The result of that being that the Georgetown ethics journal invited me to publish my paper with them.

Even though I was in Miami, the UK reached out to me. I am a member of the Peer Review College of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). And they seemed to have an unusually large number of law grant applications and I found myself reviewing six or seven of those over the semester, which was in addition to requests from journals to review articles and former students to write references. A friend at LSE has suggested I might like to be involved in a new research project and another colleague has proposed a new collection for us to edit.

One of the most pleasant and surprising aspects of my visit was a new research project I started. After my first presentation, I got talking to Peter Lederer, a Visiting Practitioner and member of the Law School's Visiting Committee. He had been a partner with Baker & McKenzie. We talked about the firm and his role in it and as we did so I realized here was someone whose career spanned the globalization of law. Why not capture this experience and tell the story of the globalization of law? Peter and I then began a joint project with me interviewing him. So far we have done about 15 hours of interviews with more to do. It's a new venture for both of us. We are booked to give two papers, one at the International Institute of Sociology's 38th World Congress in Budapest and the other at the Society of Legal Scholars meeting in London. To gain a new research project and a new friend together in this way is good fortune indeed.

There are about two weeks of my visit left. Most of it will be taken up with grading. I have also revised the Miami Summer Program course on Global Lawyering which will start not long after my return.

So, it has been a full semester full of new experiences, and surprises, that I have found quite revitalizing. I shall miss Miami, but I don't think it will be the last time I visit. Moreover, I hope it wasn't a one-sided visit and that I was able to contribute to Miami.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Clementi Paper on SSRN--Redux

There has been a software glitch at SSRN which made my Clementi paper appear to be there but be absent on download. My apologies for this: it has been rectified. So here goes once more:

I have put my Clementi paper from the Workshop on Law Practice in the EU and the US at Miami Law School and, later revised and reprised, at the Future of the Global Law Firm Symposium at Georgetown Law Center on SSRN for download.

The paper is currently published in the Jean Monnet/Robert Schuman Paper Series by the Miami-Florida European Union Center.

It is: "Will There Be Fallout from Clementi? The Global Repercussions for the Legal Profession after the UK Legal Services Act 2007"

And the abstract reads:

The paper presents the historical arguments that led to the Clementi review of the legal profession and its culmination in the Legal Services Act 2007. There were two strands: one based on consumerism (too many complaints about lawyers’ services); the other based on a sustained investigation by the competition authorities into professions’ restrictive practices (anti-competitive unless proved in the public interest). These led to the abandonment of traditional forms of organization for lawyers’ practices (alternative business structures) and the imposition of a new regulatory structure for the profession (oversight and frontline regulators).

In the second part of the paper I examine the trends in lawyers’ practices as currently pursued and as envisaged by the Act as aligned with our conceptions of professionalism. Using two hypotheticals: Tesco Law, and Goldman Sachs Skadden, I chart a move from professionalism to deskilling and proletarianization in the legal profession, not unlike that which existed in the 19th century.

This dystopian view, which is essentially a top down conception of the legal industry, is contrasted with a more optimistic view based on the changes in the idealization of careers and life as represented by Generation Y. This is augmented by the changing nature of work, ie, post-Fordist, within organizations which in a number of ways escapes control and measurement because the distinctions between production and consumption, work and leisure allied with distributed network forms of production blur the boundaries that we have taken for granted. In contrast to the socio-economic approaches, I argue that we must examine conceptions of career, inclusion and exclusion, vocation, and community in order to understand how the professions will adapt to the postmodern condition.
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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Another Thing of Beauty

It's just beautiful....



(with thanks to meine kleine fabrik)

Here is a link to the same ray flying in an exhibition hall.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Just Beautiful

Occasionally one sees something that is beautiful--just that.



(thanks to meine kleine fabrik and stumblng tumblr)
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Friday, May 02, 2008

Clementi Paper on SSRN

I have put my Clementi paper from the Workshop on Law Practice in the EU and the US at Miami Law School and, later revised and reprised, at the Future of the Global Law Firm Symposium at Georgetown Law Center on SSRN for download.

The paper is currently published in the Jean Monnet/Robert Schuman Paper Series by the Miami-Florida European Union Center.

It is: "Will There Be Fallout from Clementi? The Global Repercussions for the Legal Profession after the UK Legal Services Act 2007"

And the abstract reads:

The paper presents the historical arguments that led to the Clementi review of the legal profession and its culmination in the Legal Services Act 2007. There were two strands: one based on consumerism (too many complaints about lawyers’ services); the other based on a sustained investigation by the competition authorities into professions’ restrictive practices (anti-competitive unless proved in the public interest). These led to the abandonment of traditional forms of organization for lawyers’ practices (alternative business structures) and the imposition of a new regulatory structure for the profession (oversight and frontline regulators).

In the second part of the paper I examine the trends in lawyers’ practices as currently pursued and as envisaged by the Act as aligned with our conceptions of professionalism. Using two hypotheticals: Tesco Law, and Goldman Sachs Skadden, I chart a move from professionalism to deskilling and proletarianization in the legal profession, not unlike that which existed in the 19th century.

This dystopian view, which is essentially a top down conception of the legal industry, is contrasted with a more optimistic view based on the changes in the idealization of careers and life as represented by Generation Y. This is augmented by the changing nature of work, ie, post-Fordist, within organizations which in a number of ways escapes control and measurement because the distinctions between production and consumption, work and leisure allied with distributed network forms of production blur the boundaries that we have taken for granted. In contrast to the socio-economic approaches, I argue that we must examine conceptions of career, inclusion and exclusion, vocation, and community in order to understand how the professions will adapt to the postmodern condition.


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Sunday, April 20, 2008

After the Georgetown Symposium

The symposium was an outstanding success, and Mitt Regan and Jeff Bauman, the organizers, were terrific. Over 120 people turned up, with delegates and attendees from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany and more.

The mixture of academics and practitioners gelled superbly. Both learned from each other and there was a serious attempt to communicate without jargon and condescension.

What was absolutely clear during our time together was that the nature of law practice and the law firm has fundamentally changed in the last 10 years. Time after time, senior partners were saying that technical skills were no longer sufficient; they wanted to see more emphasis on right-brain activities in their lawyers. Empathy with clients and their needs was the buzzword.

There had been enormous consolidation in the practice of law. The top AmLaw 50 was now responsible for 25% of global legal revenues. And this was predicted to continue. Everpresent and continuing change for the legal profession. Roll on Tesco Law and Goldman Sachs Skadden (but watch out for Gen Y: they may not be that keen.)

The size of the organizations was raising new and profound risk management concerns which were leading to stricter intra-organizational regulation than is typically seen in national regulators. Global businesses have to be able to protect themselves from within as well as outwith.

All in all, Clementi and the Australian changes were perceived as opportunities rather than threats, but there are still 50 state courts and bars to convince as well as various federal agencies. The Americans will have to catch up fast.

More can be found at Adam Smith Esq, ideoblog and Conglomerate.
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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Future of the Global Law Firm

THE FUTURE OF THE GLOBAL LAW FIRM

GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER

CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION

APRIL 17-18, 2008

This symposium will bring together scholars from a range of disciplines, legal practitioners, regulators, and consultants and experts on professional service firms to discuss a variety of forces that are likely to shape the global market for law firm services in the years to come. Participants from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia will explore issues such as the financial, organizational, and cultural dynamics of law firms; management strategies and business models in the global legal services market; law firm access to various sources of capital; and the impact of market forces on professional ethics, values, and identity. Analysis of these issues will be informed in particular by discussion of legislation in the United Kingdom authorizing nonlawyer equity investment in law firms, and of the emergence of the publicly traded law firm in Australia. The goal of the symposium will be for scholars and practitioners to engage in a dialogue that illuminates the challenges that lie ahead for law firms that aim to operate and compete on the global stage.

There is no fee to attend the symposium, but we ask that you register beforehand. For information and registration, please contact Satrice Rigsby at 202-662-9890 or cle@law.georgetown.edu

I shall be presenting my paper on "Future Directions in the UK Legal Profession: Life After the Legal Services Act 2007"


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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Peter and Me: Long Term Interviewing

During my stay here in Miami I started a new research project. It's based on a man called Peter Lederer. Peter is a Visiting Practitioner at the Law School and he is also a member of the Visiting Committee of the school. His association with the school goes back to the days of Soia Mentschikoff's decanal period.

Peter was also the sixteenth partner, or thereabouts, hired at a fledgling law firm in Chicago, Baker & McKenzie. His practice has spanned the second half of the 20th century and beyond. For me he personified the globalization of law and lawyers. My idea was to tell the story of the emergence of globalization through his life story. (I have written about Baker & McKenzie in relation to other law firms--paper downloadable here.)

Peter agreed to this venture and we began a series of interviews that are still in progress. Thus far we have recorded about 15 hours. Fortunately, Peter is blessed with near total recall and wonderful descriptive powers. His career has taken him all over the world, helped build a pre-eminent global law firm, and brought him a range of interesting cases.

I am used to interviewing lawyers because I have been doing throughout most of my academic career. But those interviews are very different from what Peter and I have been doing. My usual style of interview last for around one, two or three hours in the lawyer's office, and done with a particular purpose in mind. I might be writing about solicitor-advocates or the globalization of the secondary distressed debt market.

With Peter it's not like that at all. It is an open-ended process that has no automatic closing. Moreover, in a short interview one needs to establish a minimum of trust but not much more, and there is also the implicit knowledge that we will have nothing to do with each other after the interview.

Because we are talking about Peter's life, career, law firm, and cases and more, the interaction between interviewer and interviewed becomes critically important. You have to like each other. You must respect each other. And you must both be prepared to take risks with each other. All of this takes time, and commitment. Peter and I would meet two or three times a week and the psychodynamics of our interaction would evolve. The longer we talked, the easier it became. There was no competition but instead as much cooperation as we could muster. The process, as much as one might want to fix it initially, eventually takes on a life course of its own.

The talk was varied. At times we would focus on particular details; at others we would be talking global context. The interview, because it's not fixed by "normal" time constraints, had a flexibility not usually encountered. A sense of play enters as we explore the different dimensions of our subject(s). We were not forced into a particular format of linearity or topic-based narrative. We could switch around as points and topics caught our imagination.

We could also go back since we were not committed solely to that particular occasion. There was time in between interviews for the conversation to percolate and stimulate new questions and identify gaps.

I'm now having the interviews transcribed so I can review them and analyze them, which in itself will raise new questions that we will have to tackle. There is no predictable closure to this process.

I am enjoying this immensely. It is new to me and I would like to do more of this type of interviewing. It is a luxury to indulge in this but it is so valuable in what emerges. It takes a commitment of time, of course, but most importantly, it commands a commitment to empathetic understanding (even Versterhen as Weber called it) that allows selves to interact in new and imaginative ways.
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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Workshop on Law Practice in the European Union and the United States

On Friday, April 4, 2008, the School of Law, University of Miami, in cooperation with the Miami-Florida European Center of Excellence is holding a workshop. Details can be downloaded here.

There are two speakers:

  • John Flood, University of Westminster, United Kingdom; Visiting Professor, University of Miami, "Will there be fallout from Clementi? The global repercussions for the legal profession after the Legal Services Act 2007"
  • Ramon Mullerat, KPMG Abogados/University of Barcelona Law School, “Different approaches of civil law and the common law lawyers in Europe and the United States, regarding litigation and arbitration”

Comments will be made by Robert Rosen, University of Miami School of Law, and the workshop will be chaired by Caroline Bradley, University of Miami School of Law.


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Monday, March 31, 2008

Who's the Lawyer, Who's the Client?

In one of those delicious quirks of fate, one of the first sociolegal scholars to write about the lawyer-client relationship found himself in the position of disgruntled client.

Douglas E. Rosenthal wrote a classic text in 1974 titled, Lawyer and Client: Who's in Charge? Rosenthal counterposes two models of lawyering, the traditional and the participatory. The former is where the lawyer takes control of the relationship and determines the outcome despite the client's desires. In the latter the client is engaged in the decisionmaking and is active in ensuring the outcome fits with the client's wants.

In a study of personal injury claims, Rosenthal shows that lawyers are rather more content with the traditional model than the participatory one. Because of the prevalence of the contingent fee in this kind of work, it works to lawyers' benefit to accelerate the case to settlement rather than wait for full trial or a later settlement. The lawyer manages the claim so that no conflict with the client is apparent. Moreover, even though active clients usually get better results, most clients are unable to cope. They are overwhelmed by the lawyer's reasoning and guile.

Rosenthal has just completed a two and a half year battle with his former law firm, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal (no relation), over his compensation. He claimed $8.2 million for his role in representing the families in the bombing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie and for origination credit in representing Sun Microsystems against Microsoft. (Sonnenschein earned $17m for Lockerbie and $20m for Sun.)

The jury, however, awarded him only a million dollars for his efforts. And, to make matters worse, it also gave $300,000 to Sonnenschein for Rosenthal's interference with clients when he left the firm.

Last word from Rosenthal who said he is just relieved the trial is over. “It’s much harder being a client than being a lawyer.”
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