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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