Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas...

(thanks to bearskinrug)


Merry Christmas to all courtesy of bearskinrug's Christmas deposition. I'm taking a short break till the New Year.

Next year is going to be the big one. For the legal profession especially it will be make or break. It's going to be fun watching.

But do remember...

They're not just for Christmas, but for life!
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Research Does Have Impact


The Legal Services Board has today published a paper published a consultation paper on its diversity priorities. The paper sets out its case thus:
This paper discusses our policy proposals in relation to increasing diversity and social mobility at all levels of the legal services workforce. It focuses on the role of providers (firms and chambers) and approved regulators in this process, and does not  directly address the separate but related issues of:
ensuring access to legal services for diverse groups of consumers the potential for reforms to the existing framework for legal education and training, which could create additional opportunities to open a career in legal services to the widest possible pool of talent.
What I find cheering about this is that it is based on the recommendations made by my colleagues' recent research on diversity. It's great to see a regulator taking care to make evidence-based decisions.

The consultation is open to 9 March 2011 and all responses are welcomed.
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Monday, December 06, 2010

Keep Track of Your Time, Buddy...

(thanks to treehugger.com)

A friend of mine once told me that up to 40% of his firm's billings were collected in the final days of the financial year which of course made the firm's revolving credit facility with its bank essential for survival.

So timeliness is a virtue.

If you are Steven Pesner, big partner at Akin Gump, you make certain that virtue is its own reward by sending an email to everyone in the firm just so it can be leaked to the press to show what a good sport you are.

Above the Law recounts this wise email to us in full. (H/T to Steven Harper) Not much in the way of comment is needed for this. Here are a few of the salient points made by Mr Pesner (out of the 11 bullet points he drafted--query: did he bill this to the firm?)
9. For those of you who think you are exempt from doing time sheets on a daily basis, I’d suggest that you re-evaluate your importance and get ready to prove that (a) you are busier than I am on legal work, (b) you are busier than I am on client development work, (c) you are busier than I am on firm work and (d) [redacted] and I do not have better things to do with our time than beg you to be responsible;
All right, I admit, he has a way with words--a real sweet talker.
10. Candidly, I’d put every future material violator’s name in a hat, randomly pick out a name, and publicly fire the person on the spot—to demonstrate that time sheet compliance is serious business. And incidentally, it is my understanding that the job market is not so good right now in case you did not know;
And he shows respect for those whom he enslaves.
11. Also, please remember that I have a long and excellent memory.
If you have any questions, think long and hard before asking them—this simply is not very complicated.
Look at his picture--elephantine? Perhaps. That would explain the memory.
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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Take Note....Please...

(thanks to New Yorker)

I've said it before but it is worth reiterating.
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Representing Judges


(thanks to reuters)

Last night and this morning I've been to two fascinating seminars on visual and media representation of judges. For those of you who don't know who is the picture above, it's Jan Moors, a judge picked to oversee the trial of Geert Wilders, a right wing member of the Dutch parliament, for hate speech against Muslims. Moors commented on Wilders claim to remain silent and so was ejected from the case.

The first was a lecture by David Sugarman on "The Law Lords, Amnesty International and the Pinochet Case: What Happened and Why?"

Because of Lord Hoffman's failure to recuse himself in the appeal against Pinochet's extradition to Spain, as he was associated with the intervenor, Amnesty International, the House of Lords' decision to extradite was vacated and the appeal reheard. This was the first and last time the court took this decision.

The consequences for the judge, the court, Amnesty, the politicians, and the lawyers were profound. The House of Lords was converted into the Supreme Court some years later. Lord Hoffman resigned before the Supreme Court was formed.

Amnesty International had to account for its apparent move away from impartiality into the political scene.

Perhaps the greatest damage was to the use of law to hold to account former heads of state who commit crimes in their countries for which they believe they have immunity.

This morning it was Researching the Visual Culture of Law. How do we analyze visual data? What is the appropriate methodology?

There were a number of papers on judges that caught my attention, so let me focus on one.

Les Moran has been researching portraits of judges and how diversity is represented in them. (See also Images of Justice.) Taking two judges, Michael Kirby of Australia and Sir Terence Etherton of the UK, both of whom are gay, Moran shows how the ambiguity and ambivalence surrounding the personification of being gay is illustrated in the portraits and photographs of these two judges.

For example, Etherton has no official photograph on on the courts' website, but there is one of him on Birkbeck's website where he is a visiting professor. In the latter on the desk is a photograph (images within images) of him with his partner. It's discreet.

Michael Kirby, however, is a well-illustrated judge as his website demonstrates and doesn't hide the fact that he's gay. But he has inspired some interesting paintings. Take the one below:

(thanks to national portrait gallery, canberra)

Moran points out a number of interesting features: it's a group portrait not a single person; it's in landscape not portrait; most of the judges' faces are hidden except for Kirby (facing us) and two others in wigs.

When asked for permission to be included in the picture by the artist, Ralph Hiemans, the other High Court judges refused. The two others one sees are dead. Draw your own conclusions on that.
 
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Alter Ego


(thanks to unc.edu)

Few know about the other life I lead. After all in Confucian terms--and Bruce Lee was a bit Confucian, wasn't he?--a wise man should be modest. I do read the I Ching. (And if you think this has nothing to do with law, then let me point you to Jack Balkin's [law, Yale] version.

I'm not claiming to be Bruce's reincarnation or anything like that. But I was in one movie with him. Unfortunately, it wasn't one of the originals, it was made in 1980 after the great man's death.

Fist of Fear, Touch of Death (or The Dragon and the Cobra) is about finding Bruce Lee's successor. It contains lots of early footage of Bruce plus other stuff.

If you go down the cast list at IMDb, you'll notice a character:

Annett Bronson   ...   ... The Jogger

John Flood   ...   ...   ...   Cyclone

Ron Harvey   ...   ...   .. Jasper Milktoast

You see, I'm not making it up. I'm neither at the bottom, nor is the company I'm keeping offensive.

The film, despite what you may think, received rave reviews, although my central role seems to have been inadvertently overlooked. Here's what Watch Kung Fu had to say
This “Brucesploitation” classic was billed as starring the “3 Greatest Masters! Bruce Lee, Fred Williamson, Ron Van Clief”. This is Brucesploitation at its finest (cheesiest) moment and unabashedly pure exploitation schlock. Oh, and yes, it is hysterically, unintentionally funny. Despite what many purists would consider a “disgrace” to the name of Bruce Lee, this film serves as more of a campy action packed tribute, with footage of Bruce artfully spliced into the mix.
They fill some blanks so the reader is not left in the dark
Clips from an old Chinese soap opera are re-dubbed to make Bruce’s “biography,” which then introduce a flashback-IN-a-flashback (got that?) about Bruce’s great-grandfather, who was apparently a samurai. The footage for this segment is taken from the “Invincible Super Chan” (a cult classic in its own right – wire tricks, a midget, and some guy with an abacus – yes, a true classic). Who knows what the writer was smoking when he wrote this, but if I had to guess, I would venture some of that golden triangle sticky icky icky (Thai Stick maybe?). No matter, the guy’s a B Movie genius.
You might pick up the implicit reference to Kurosowa's Rashimon, with the flashbacks within flashbacks and samurai in China.

Not all of us are equally gifted, but talent will out...somewhere. Needless to say I'm open to offers although Hollywood can be a drag at times.....
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Changing Face of Legal Process Outsourcing

(thanks to xsquare2)

The biggest media company in the world, Thomson Reuters, has bought the legal process outsourcer, Pangea3.

Jordan Furlong analyses the deal very carefully and demonstrates that this deal has the capability of changing the nature of the legal services market. (H/T to Peter Lederer) Is this to be the law firm of the future?

What astonished me is the list of firms contained within the Thomson Reuters stable. Jordan lays them out as follows:

  • WestLaw: Legal research, legislative and case law resources
  • West KM: Knowledge management services for lawyers
  • ProLaw: Law practice management software
  • Serengeti: Legal task management and workflow systems
  • Elite: Financial and practice management systems
  • FindLaw: Website development and online marketing
  • Hubbard One: Business development technology and solutions
  • Hildebrandt Baker Robbins: Law firm management and technology consulting
  • GRC Division: Governance, risk and compliance services
  • IP Services: Patent research and analysis, trademark research and protection
  • TrustLaw: Global hub for pro bono legal work
  • BAR-BRI: Bar training course
  • Pangea3: Legal process outsourcing services
No law firm can match the range of services on offer here, especially if they are combined in synergistic ways. And it comes close to my idea of Google becoming a law firm...sorry supplier of legal services. Who is going to match it?

One interesting aspect is that this could be the end of legal process outsourcing. Does that sound a little bizarre? Yes but what I mean is that LPOs have shown the way. Now they will become become components in the giant consulting firms--part of the service delivery chain, rather than being the service deliverer. Pure LPOs have served their purpose. A short but sweet life. It's their processes that are valuable not necessarily the companies themselves.

This then puts the new mega-LPOs on a different level and on a global level firms like Thomson Reuters are going to be hard to beat on price and quality. Watch out law firms....

PS. Disclaimer: I recently gave a talk for Hildebrandt Baker Robbins in London. Number 8 in the list.

PPS. The ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 has now issued a discussion document on outsourcing.
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More on the Proposed Legal Education Review



Look what happens when you google legal education--Tony Soprano pops up! What are we coming to?

Following on from my previous post, there have been some interesting contributions around the blogosphere worth reading.

Richard Moorhead at Lawyer Watch warns us that there is very little evidence around and we are going to need proper research for this review to work. Amen to that.

Stephen Mayson in his paper--with which I agree in part--argues for removing the training contract. Why not? It's really a form of indentured servitude that lets the legal profession get recruits on the cheap and erects a barrier to entry.

And Charon QC has more links on this. It's going to run and run. And I have a feeling that it's not going to turn out the way the legal profession thinks it will. At some point the Law Society and the Bar Council will have to wake up to the fact they are not the only players in the game now--bit of a rude shock though.
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Legal Regulators To Investigate Legal Education and Training--So What?


(thanks to starpulse.com)
Legal Futures reports that the three main legal regulators--Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board, ILEX Professional Standards--are to "review" legal education and training. The aim is to calibrate legal education against the objectives in the Legal Services Act.

All in all, a laudable initiative.

I just wish that was all there was to it. I recently went to a symposium on the teaching of legal ethics in the UK where a disturbing subtext ran throughout. It is that law schools are producing too many law graduates for the legal services market. Both the Law Society and the Bar Council have been assiduously promoting this view.

Let me state my position: it's pernicious. The reasoning isn't difficult. In a variety of ways the legal profession has desperately clung to the idea of enforced closure as a way of maintaining its privileges. These having come under attack, rightly so, through the LSA and the enlightened oversight of the Legal Services Board, are no longer sustainable.

So, who else can be assigned the blame for the woes of the profession? The law schools are next on the list.

Law schools are on the whole part of the university system and have a range of values and ideals to pursue. But they aren't the servants of the legal profession. That is only one of their stakeholders.

In fact if the legal profession and its bodies engaged more fully with the academy we could have a real dialogue instead of one based on "evidence-lite soundbites" by profession leaders. The UK legal profession falls behind the US in this regard.

The academy doesn't produce too many graduates: the market isn't sufficiently liberalized to take them. Despite that, I think the regulators' review has the potential to engage all those concerned in legal education and the profession in a serious, thoroughgoing, rational investigation and debate.

At least I hope so.
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Looks Like Norton Rose is Going to Colonize the Rest of the World as well

(thanks to fullhalloween.com)

This is not to say that all law firms outside the Big Bang are zombies waiting to be slaughtered. (Although George Romero's movies are good!)

But after commenting on Norton Rose's "Noah's Ark" three-way merger betwixt UK, Canada, and South Africa, its imperial ambitions are running amok. This is clearly where the benefits of external investment will come into play next year.

LegalWeek reports that Norton Rose has a masterplan for world domination that includes, first, a US merger to be followed by takeovers in Turkey, Qatar, and South Korea, as well as Brazil and Latin America.

This is ambitious. Norton Rose wants to be in the top 25 global law firms. (See also the comments here on their strategy.)

Last week I gave a series of talks about the changes in the UK legal services market in New York. To say that a number of the lawyers who listened to me were sceptical is to underrate their reactions.

"Why would a law firm want external investment? What would they do with it?" were typical questions. One answer I gave was that it would ease international expansion. This is a costly enterprise and law firms are notoriously under-capitalized. With bank lending being difficult, alternative sources will be tapped.

Norton Rose is indicating to these lawyers how this will play out. You've been warned. This is no time for complacency.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Canada is Recolonized by Rapacious Brits


(thanks to ccer.ca)

Jordan Furlong at Law21.ca reports on how Canadian law firms are feeling a chill wind as UK law firms are seeking their prey to merge with (or take over, more likely).

He refers in particular to "the bombshell announcement by UK-based global law firm Norton Rose that it was merging with South Africa’s Deneys Reitz and Canada’s Ogilvy Renault." The pertinent figures here are Norton Rose has nearly 2,000 lawyers and other two have a combined total of 600 lawyers. This is take over.

Furlong's point is that with the UK legal "Big Bang" happening October 2011, there will be a lot more of these takeovers. External investment will give the UK law firms lots of clout, which will be irresistible in lots of ways.

One other point worth noting here is the sudden fascination with Swiss verein structures that law firms like to use--eg. DLA Piper, Norton Rose+DR/OR, Baker & McKenzie, SNR Denton, Squires Sanders + Hammonds. It's something the accounting firms have used for a while. While it's flexible, some think it is a means of avoiding merging fully.

The chairman of K&L Gates, Peter Kalis, refers to these as "Noah's Ark" mergers where they go in two by two or three by three. That is they are cop outs.

We can give this view some credence as Linklaters is about to put its German partners on an equal footing with the UK lockstep partners. Until now they've been capped at 90% of the UK remuneration. And given they are billing more than the Brits, they may be in for some reparations, but I doubt it. And it seems Freshfields has only just done the same.

This makes one wonder to what extent global law firms and mergers are realities or more cases of colonization by UK or US law firms. Who ever has the most cash....
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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Law WithOut Walls


The University of Miami School of Law is starting a new program--Law WithOut Walls (LWOW).

It will be holding its kick-off event in London in mid-January.

Disclaimer: I'm part of the team.

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Friday, November 05, 2010

We Don't Need Legal Ethics in the UK!

(thanks to joelp.com)
Yesterday I went to a symposium on whether legal ethics should be part of the curriculum. It was organized by Tony King of Clifford Chance. To American readers this will seem a strange event as legal ethics is compulsory in US legal education.

I've lamented before about this gap. A year ago Kim Economides and Justine Rogers were asked by the Law Society to report what ethics training there should be. They concluded that it was an essential part but how it should be implemented was left open.

My colleague, Andy Boon, was asked to come up with ideas on how to take this next step. His draft report lays out some clear directions. He tackles the challenges of undergraduate legal education, issues of morality and law, and the profession's role in regulating the content of a "qualifying" law degree.

Support came from Chris Perrin, general counsel of Clifford Chance, and the City of London Law Society.

How or even whether anything will come of this is an open question. The Law Society, which is sponsoring this, isn't the most forward-thinking of professional organizations. For example, it does or sponsors very little research on the profession, unlike the Bar or the accountants. It's in danger of implementing ideas with little in the way  of evidence to back up what it proposes.

The Law Society supports a Joint Statement by the Bar Council and the Law Society on something they grandly call "The Foundations of Legal Knowledge". These foundations include:
i. Public Law, including Constitutional Law, Administrative Law and Human Rights; 
ii. Law of the European Union; 
iii. Criminal Law; 
iv. Obligations including Contract, Restitution and Tort; 
v. Property Law; and 
vi. Equity and the Law of Trusts. 
If you were to enquire what research underpins this selection, you would find there is none. Most of it was put together by lawyers sitting around a table and dreaming up a list. Is it the right list? I've no idea.

Now that they are considering ethics as another foundation, the question is what gets dropped or abbreviated. I've argued they should thoroughly research this, especially in the light of the Legal Services Act changes coming through, and start from a blank slate. So far this has been met with utter incomprehension.

The most dismal aspect of this is that the legal profession hasn't come to terms with the fact that the academy controls the entry to the profession. Instead of being antagonistic they need to work with us. Ultimately they will be the losers, and in fact they don't have to be.

The answer is simple. Talk. Fortunately, some in the legal profession understand this and are willing to engage. Maybe we can convince the others....
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Monday, November 01, 2010

Corporate Law....

Look, this is a really important distinction...

(Thanks to New Yorker)
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Difference Between Men and Women

(thanks to susonna)
Following our workshop on diversity recently, I've been introduced to interesting research on women and medicine which has tremendous utility for law.

Paul Coombes and Helena Cronin were members of the oversight steering group for the Royal College of Physicians on its project on the future of women in medicine. The project analyzed data from NHS workforce statistics as well as various forms of entry statistics. The full report is available here.

In a short summary article Paul Coombes drew out some the significant findings. Rather like law, the numbers of women entering now form the majority of entrants and by 2017 women will constitute the majority of the medical profession. Yet there are dramatic differences in the selection of specialties by men and women which can be explained by work characteristics and patterns.

Coombes notes
Two areas of systematic difference stand out from the latest research:
1. Women doctors’ comparative preference, on average, for working in specialties that offer a relatively greater amount of patient interaction and/or more ‘plan-able’ working hours.
2. The far greater preference of women doctors, compared with men, for part-time or other forms of flexible working.
For example, as the internal characteristics of the specialties change so does their attractiveness to women. Hence, as anaesthetics has become more shift-based and less open-ended with more predictable working patterns, there has been a rise in women trainees.

The differences are also found across other health systems and is not merely a function of the NHS funding model.

It is now possible to predict how women's working practices are formed and will change. It will be interesting to see how analogous predictions play out in the legal profession.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bankruptcy Pays!

(Thanks to Business Insider)

The American Lawyer reported today that billings for professional services in the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy broke the $1 billion mark. You can see the filings here. And to think that bankruptcy practice was once considered a legal backwater by most mainstream law firms.

I've been following this because some years ago I interviewed Harvey Miller (the lead lawyer on Lehman) for a research project and he always impressed me. Rather like some other lawyers of his generation I know, his career shows no sign of stopping. And he is ready to take on new challenges at any stage. I also secretly enjoy the war stories told about Harvey and I know I wouldn't like to be on his wrong side.

I am currently reading Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System---and Themselves. He cleverly details how the interlocking systems of banking and regulation could not but intensify the problems inherent in the financial world. In many ways Lehman was a symptom not a cause but the ramifications are still being felt.

We know this  in the UK as we've just had our government's Comprehensive Spending Review that will cut government spending by anywhere between 25% to 40%. Mind you the banking sector seems to be doing well now.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So You Want to Go to Law School



(h/t to Legal Blog Watch)

It's American but it applies elsewhere....

I especially like the statement by the lawyer to the woman (at 3.38), 
"I do not like my Blackberry. I would like to torture it until it begs me to kill it. Do you know I am required to check my Blackberry every 6 hours 24 hours a day...."

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Solicitors Regulation Authority Balks at Separate City Regulator

Top-hatted city gents in discussion outside the Westminster Bank in the City of London, 1931 
(FoxPhotos/Getty Images)

The Smedley Report last year recommended to the Solicitors Regulation Authority that it needed a specialist division to regulate large corporate law firms. The SRA gave every appearance of agreeing. Then the Hunt Review stepped in and endorsed the idea.

Unfortunately the SRA has balked at this and instead appointed an ex-Linklaters lawyer as Solicitors Regulation Authority's Chief Adviser on City law firms. The SRA news release describes the role
It is planned for Eastwell to act as a "bridgehead" between the SRA and City law firms, something that takes on added importance with the approach of multidisciplinary practices (MDPs) and alternative business structures (ABSs).
Quite why the SRA has wimped out this way is unclear. Maybe it couldn't stomach the idea that it wasn't fully competent to regulate large law firms. I doubt this half-way house will satisfy the City firms.

It does leave it open now for the large law firms to think about forming their own regulator. There is nothing to prevent them from doing so. Three years ago the City of London Solicitors Law Society hived itself off from the livery company. And the CLLS now engages in much regulatory activity. This could be the moment.

Time will tell.

The City Today

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Will There Be Diversity in the Legal Profession?



The Westminster-Legal Services Board workshop on diversity was a great success. Around 100 people attended the presentation of the new research commissioned by the Legal Services Board. The workshop was organized by the Law School's Centre for the Legal Profession and Legal Services. You can download the full report and summary from here.

Researchers Liz Duff and Lisa Webley from Westminster, Daniel Muzio and Jennifer Tomlinson from Leeds, Hilary Sommerlad from Leicester, and Anna Zimdars from Manchester presented in-depth, qualitative research that illustrated people's feelings about discrimination and diversity in the legal profession. It wasn't too depressing as Chris Kenny, CEO of the LSB, showed that trends were improving--it's just that we need to know more why the profession hasn't fully come to terms with the problems.

The presentation was followed by a discussion panel composed of David Pittaway QC of the Bar Council, Stephen Ward of the Law Society, Crispin Passmore of the LSB, and Andy Boon of the Law School.

Neil Rose reported on the research and conference at Legal Futures. He noted:
Launching the London conference, LSB chief executive Chris Kenny said diversity was a key LSB objective. “We believe passionately that unless you’ve got a diverse profession, a profession that looks like the society which it serves, actually you probably won’t have a fully effective profession either.”
Crispin Passmore, strategy director for the LSB, also wrote in the Guardian:
The LSB is working to increase transparency about the makeup of the legal workforce. We're considering requiring law firms and chambers to publish and report the findings of regular surveys of their workforces in order to shine a light on the diversity of the profession. Some law businesses will already reflect their local community. Others will rightly take credit for improving diversity.
 It's clear more work needs to be done in this area.
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

So What Does It All Mean? Living in an Age of Complexity...



(Thanks to Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod, Jeff Brenman who have created this series of videos. To see other iterations of their research go to the shifthappens wiki.)

I'm working on a paper for a conference where I'm talking about risk management and technology in law firms and practice. The shifthappens videos are an excellent distillation of the issues. Plus in keeping with my push to clearer and better presentations of data, they are high on the list.

(NB. Can't be as high as Napoleon's invasion of Moscow--so far nothing beats that.)

(PS. The music in the video is Fatboy Slim's Right Here, Right Now.
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Diversity Workshop at Westminster on October 13

(Thanks to New Yorker)

I am sure we won't have this problem on Wednesday at the Diversity Workshop. Find the details here. You are all welcome.
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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Diversity Workshop at Westminster 13 October--You Are Invited


A while back I wrote about my colleagues' research project on diversity in the legal profession for the Legal Services Board (LSB). At last that research is completed. A multi-faceted team from the Universities of Westminster, Leeds, and Leicester have submitted their report to the LSB.

We, at Westminster, are holding a seminar/workshop for the launch of the report. Here's a brief clip of what to expect:
The seminar is being held to launch a new research report commissioned by the Legal Services Board on diversity in the legal profession. There have been dramatic changes in the legal profession in the last 20 years. In 2008-09 women made up 46% of practising solicitors and 60% of entrants to the profession. For the Bar the figures were 34% (women barristers) and 50% (women entrants). In the case of black and minority ethnic lawyers there has been a 244% increase in their numbers in the ten years between 1996 and 2006. Despite these increases the legal profession is still dominated by white males. There is a greater division with white lawyers being over-represented in City law firms and at the Bar, while BME lawyers are found in greater numbers in smaller High Street law firms.

The research examines the causes for these differences, their persistence and what strategies are available to change cultures and expectations. Despite the implementation of procedures meant to neutralize discrimination, they are easily bypassed. Interviewers raise inappropriate questions about ethnicity, gender, and background. For those in the profession work was allocated unfairly and to question this was deprecated.

The biggest obstacle was the culture of informality that made it difficult for people to raise problems or question established ways of working. Moreover, racial stereotyping was pervasive.

Even though many law firms are trying hard to counter these inequities, the majority still abide by them.
(thanks to idsgn.org)

On October 13 the University of Westminster and the Legal Services Board are hosting a workshop/seminar to launch the report and discuss it.

The research team--Liz Duff (Westminster), Daniel Muzio (Leeds), Hilary Sommerlad (Leicester), Jenny Tomlinson (Leeds), Lisa Webley (Westminster), along with Anna Zimdars (Manchester)--will present their findings.

This will be followed by a panel discussion and questions with David Pittaway QC (Bar Council), Pat Corcoran and Stephen Ward (Law Society), Crispin Passmore (Legal Services Board) and Andy Boon (Westminster). I will be moderating.

It should be a lively and intriguing time. You are all invited.

DATE: October 13
TIME: 1500--1800
PLACE: Fyvie Hall, University of Westminster, 309 Regent St, London W1B 2UW (Streetmap link)

(thanks to chrisjfry)

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Future of Rights?


My friend, Conor Gearty at the LSE, has started an intriguing and fascinating new project called The Rights' Future. Here's Conor's opening gambit:

THE RIGHTs’ FUTURE explores the history, development and current success of the human rights ideal, with all the dangers and compromises that such success has brought.  It argues for a particular human rights story, one that rescues the radical activists and the egalitarians from the footnotes to which they are often relegated in the standard accounts.
Conor has his own take on human rights and intends to tell the story over a period of 20 weeks. Each Monday he will put up an essay on therightsfuture.com. He is inviting anyone (and he means anyone) to comment, add, substract, or even disagree. At the end of this period, he will have told not only his story but those of others whose narratives will become interwoven with his.

You can hear more about this venture in Conor's own words here:


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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Messing around on a Sunday....

Looks like Van Gogh missed a trick here....

(thanks to artcyclopedia.com)
This is Arles: View from the Wheat Fields (1888) and it's what happens when you apply tilt-shift techniques to Van Gogh. His landscapes are good for this. This is the original:

Let's have some more fun with Van Gogh...

The Starry Night
 
Pont de Langlois
 
Starry Night Over the Rhone

It could have been worse....
(thanks to aberrantart.com)

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Revolution or Evolution? The Future of Legal Services


(thanks to toonpool.com)

Legal Support Network has just published its fourth briefing on legal services reform. The thrust of the issue is to prefigure what will happen in a year's time when Alternative Business Structures start running.

There is an interview with Stephen Mayson about the future of the legal sector and Neil Rose (of Legal Futures) writes about the shape of the new regulatory landscape. Outcomes-focused regulation will be "regulation for grown-ups" according to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. What will be the outcomes for clients? The entity/firm not the individual lawyer will be responsible, and that goes wider than lawyers.

Finally, there's an article on "Welcome to the Revolution" which says it's already happening. Disclosure: I'm one of the people interviewed for this piece. Despite that it's good.

Happy reading and you can download the Briefing here. And remember, at the best of times, revolutions can be unsettling....

(thanks to hubpages.com)

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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Things That Make You Go Aaahhh On A Sunday (Heavy on Saccherine!)

These are thanks to zooborns.com and b3ta.com

A baby Langur...aahhh....

A baby otter...aahhh....sweet....

A baby lemur...aahhh....oh those eyes.....

Panda cubs...darling...aaahhhhh.....I want to take them home with me.....

Baby flamingo...uuggghhhh....ugly!...who let that thing in....
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Friday, September 24, 2010

So, What Kind of Stuff Do You Write?


(thanks to deep-focus.com)

This summer has been one of writing and most of all, rewriting. Draft after draft, constantly seeking constructive praise--who wants criticism? But constructive criticism is what I got, which is more than the faux-Blair above and his writer received.

Given that I'm still alive and the criticism was good, I have put the final drafts of two papers on SSRN for download.

The first is "Transnational Lawyering: Clients, Ethics and Regulation" in Lawyers in Practice: Ethical Decision Making in Context, Lynn Mather and Leslie Levin, eds., University of Chicago Press, 2011.

The second is "The Re-Landscaping of the Legal Profession: Large Law Firms and Professional Re-Regulation" Current Sociology, vol 59 (4) 2011.

Amongst other things, I am now in the throes of revising my PhD dissertation from some time ago for Alan Childress' new series of Classic Dissertations for Quid Pro Books. For more on this venture see here.

Summer is turning into a busy Fall.

PS. I'm reading a certain politician's memoir--see above again--and it's not very good, rather gushing and over-earnest. If you can find a remaindered copy it might be worth buying.
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What To Do When the EU Services Directive Comes Knocking on Your Door


 (thanks to florent-molinard.fr)

The EU's consultation period on the implementation of the Services Directive closed on 13 September. And the effects are being felt.

As I said in my earlier post countries like Greece and Italy have a long way to go in liberalizing services, including legal services.

The Greek government has now decided that restrictions on multiple offices and tariffs should go. Lawyers are particularly upset. According to Greece.GreekReporter.com (ht to John Steele at Legal Ethics Forum) 15 Greek bar associations have complained that Greek lawyers will suffer through these reforms. Other statements include:
Nikolaos Pagidas heads the bar association on the island of Syros which covers several other Cycladic islands.  He notes that lawyers are struggling to survive. “Do we want lawyers who are independent and battle-ready or lawyers in the employ of multinationals? With the memorandum, with regulations that do not exist anywhere else in Europe, the government is harming lawyers,” Pagidas told Kathimerini. “Why does the financial crimes squad not go after the big-shot lawyers who don’t pay taxes and make an example of them? The squad is raiding the offices of bar associations preparing protest action, in a bid to cow them, but it leaves alone those who never pay taxes…It’s obvious that they have chosen to blacken the image of the whole profession to serve their communication needs.”
Of course Pagidas is wrong, many of the restrictions on practice that the Greek government are removing have long gone elsewhere in Europe. And even perhaps lawyers elsewhere in Europe are paying their taxes.

I'm also trying to picture "battle-ready" Greek lawyers.

(thanks to pfangirl)

But then then he would say that.
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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wondering What to Do on a Sunday?


Here's a potentially addictive past time. Go to the YouTube Time Machine and input your year of birth and see what was playing in the movies and on TV. You will either be shocked or pleasantly surprised.

The range goes from 1860 to 2010, so all ages are catered for.

A friend of mine was born in 1973 and her year produces some real shockers....starting with a movie trailer for The Student Teachers (I really don't need to say any more, do I?). But in fact it does improve; Bruce Lee made Enter the Dragon and they don't get better. Well perhaps, Serpico came out then. And so did The Young Nurses (lord help us...I swear it's the same cast as the teachers...). The 70s have an awful lot to answer for, including this....


Need I say more!

(HT to b3ta.com)
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Friday, September 10, 2010

Law Publishing is Changing and Moving into the 21st Century



(Thanks to David Restorick)



The Ark Booktower above was part of an exhibition of small spaces at the Victoria and Albert Museum this summer. I especially liked this one which was a booktower, enclosed by books with occasional seats at different levels, so one could stop and browse. If I had one I would never leave it.

I mention this because I have juist been reading an interview with Alan Childress of Tulane Law School in Law Librarian Blog: Part One and Part Two. (And HT to Legal Blog Watch.)

Alan has started a new publishing venture that I've mentioned before, called Quid Pro Books. It's based on publishing primarily in eBook formats (many of them) as well as print when needed. As a long time user of Kindle, Alan could see the benefits for scholars and students in using these formats over print.

Two main lines to his venture are republishing lost classics and bringing PhD dissertations to market quickly. The discussion of Holmes' The Common Law illustrates what Alan is doing:
Joe Hodnicki: That brings us back to your just released corrected and annotated edition of Holmes' The Common Law, which, to remind readers, can be acquired directly from Quid Pro Books and on Amazon in print and Kindle editions.
Alan Childress: I am actually proud of what I did there, and not just did for others. The Annotated Common Law is a new book that I believe will become a standard in every library or prelaw-student’s gift basket. I took a great book and decoded it with some 200 notes. All Holmes’ historians remark what a “difficult” read it is. Not really, if you just explain some basics to readers as they go, like “case” is a writ and what a writ is, or translate Latin and Greek. Some of his speech patterns are quite old but sound like my Southern uncles—in fact my ancestors may have shot Holmes. I think I deciphered him well and I explain legal terms, like chattels and bailments, for nonlawyers. I’m surprised no one did this before. Plus again with the proper footnoting, nice presentation on the page, true page numbers, etc.  Its value in digital is simpler: every previous digital form of the book traced back to a poor scan which left out words from the margins and had him saying modem and docs. Holmes is hard enough without guessing his every eighth word.
And most recently, Alan has published my colleague's, Lisa Webley, book, Adversarialism and Consensus? The Profession's Construction of Solicitor and Family Mediator Identity and Role. I will write about this more anon.

But do read the interview. It's full of interesting titbits as well as informing us about the future of legal publishing.
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Monday, September 06, 2010

Are Partners Any Good at Running Law Firms?


I was interviewed today by a legal journalist on the future of law firms once alternative business structures (ABS) enter the market in October 2011. The focus was on how partners and business managers/investors would work together.

This pre-supposed an image of integration and colleagueship within a new order. I am not optimistic. As my interlocutor remarked law firms have virtually shed whatever thin layer of management they had to maintain profits per partner (PEP). PEP is that mythical measure that signals to lawyers (and to suspicious corporate counsel) that I'm doing better than you. In the last year we have seen how the maintenance of PEP has stripped any sense of collegiality out of many firms as they have laid off associates, professional support staff, salaried partners, and even equity partners.

Yes, we've seen the final demise of another myth: that there is a tournament to partnership. I doubt there is even an "elastic" one anymore, or it's stretched beyond its limits.

There's a great film that's been re-visioned many times. Punishment Park was a typical 70s Nixon-era film, done in cinéma-vérité style, that follows a group of "convicted" hippies across a desert as they attempt to out run National Guardsmen. If they reach the flag location they will be freed. Of course when they reach the flag, there are the guardsmen and police waiting for them. I leave the rest to your imagination. This is a closer representation of the tournament today.

Once ABS arrive many partners are going to find themselves in the same situation as the hippies in Punishment Park. Investors and managers of the new law enterprises--law firm won't be a relevant term--will have definite ideas about what they want their human resources to do, what targets to achieve, and how decisions will be taken. Partnership, being notoriously inefficient in their eyes, will die out and self-governance will wither.

Why would this happen? Lawyers under the new regimes will find the managerial burden lifted and taken on by others. This will allow them to focus on--the law, what they like. But that is not where the power will lie. Lawyers will let this happen because they dislike management, but having ceded control, well they won't be able to get it back.

So the answer to my question is not very good. And it won't matter how many managing partners are sent to Harvard Business School, we are going to see a dramatic change in the business of law. The profession of law will still be there but much smaller than it once was.

And, finally, if you haven't seen Punishment Park, it's very worth catching if only to ponder its relevance now.


PS. Stephen Harper over at The Belly of the Beast has an interesting post on Biglaw and the Black Swan which picks up on analogous themes to the above post. It's worth reading.
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Friday, September 03, 2010

Diversity in the Legal Profession?

(Thanks to Karishma Daswani)

Neil Rose at Legal Futures reports that the Legal Services Board (LSB) is to compel law firms and barristers' chambers to disclose information on diversity, which would encompass:
  • age
  • disability
  • gender
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sexual orientation
  • working patterns
  • social mobility
This should come into effect in February 2011. And not before time.

My colleagues Lisa Webley and Liz Duff have been doing research on this, in conjunction with scholars from Leeds, for the LSB. Their report is due shortly and at Westminster we will be holding a seminar on this on 13 October. My guess is that their findings will not make happy reading for the profession.

This is an aspect of the legal profession which has remained under-researched and misunderstood for a long time. Both solicitors and the Bar have been reluctant to provide figures, except in aggregate, on gender and ethnicity. We do know that there are severe distortions in numbers between entry to law school and those in practice.

Lawyers and the legal profession have been good at portraying themselves as meritocratic and having removed the last traces of noblesse oblige. Yet without the statistics how do we know?

Discussion groups on Linked In have been grumbling about "heavy-handed" regulation from the LSB over having to collect and disclose this information. But they have only themselves to blame for not taking the lead and actively seeking to resolve the problems endemic in the profession.

Unfortunately when it comes to change the legal profession is snail-like. And this is one of the reasons the Legal Services Board exists--to overcome the inertia of the profession. Maybe it will begin to get the message, if it's prepared to listen. But....
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Do We Know How to Present Information/Data?

I recently adopted a new wallpaper for my computer. Here it is:

(Edward Tufte gets real)

Edward Tufte is a hero of mine. I know that I will be soon seeing endless PowerPoint presentations being screened in the lecture rooms of the university. For what purpose, I wonder? That's why I'm with Edward on this. We aren't very good at this.

Tufte's book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information ought to be required reading for every graduate student. It contains what I am certain is the best graphic display of complex information I have ever seen--Minard's map of Napoleon's march on Moscow in 1812


Napoleon started with over 440,000 men on the left; at Moscow he had 100,000; and by the time he arrived back he had only 10,000. The map plots numbers, the course of the invasion, rivers, cities, temperature and time. (You can find out more here.) If Minard could produce such an elegant and fascinating visualization in 1869, we have to wonder why the kitten population isn't thriving instead of being decimated.

 (gratuitous picture of kittens)

Every time I read a draft of a PhD dissertation I come across graphics that float alone on the page, disconnected from text, idea or analysis. What the hell are they doing? Very, very rarely are these things self-explanatory. My response is automatic: read Tufte and don't come back until you have. It sometimes works.

I think I have found a worthy accompanist to Tufte in the guise of David McCandless, a British journalist, turned data visualizer. McCandless believes passionately that information is beautiful if you present it in the right way. He spoke at TED this year. And I am going to show his talk to my research methods students. McCandless has a way of taking vast amounts of information from sources such as Facebook and military budgets and putting them into a visual context that makes immediate and intuitive sense.

Watch....


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