Monday, January 23, 2012

Messing Around on a Sunday.....

Sukhdev Sandhu is a writer for the Telegraph newspaper in the UK. In 2006, with the sponsorship of Artangel, he produced Night Haunts: A Nocturnal Journal through 2006.

It is a wonderfully evocative melange of visuals, sound, and words exploring those who inhabit the nights of London. There are African night cleaners, exorcists, minicab drivers, helicopter police, urban foxes (of which there are some in my neighbourhood), sewers and the Thames.

I like cities at night. Somehow they are more expressive and candid than during the day. You have a feeling of being apart while observing and yet inside a community of sorts.

The music for Night Haunts reminds me of Gavin Bryars, Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet, especially the final movement where Tom Waits accompanies the tramp's singing. It's terribly moving. (See bottom of post for a clip of this)

Here's a screenshot from the Urban Foxes section:

The meandering dots, like the River Thames, are the chapters in each section which blink when you need to move on.

Night Haunts (also published in book form) reminds of Craig Taylor's Londoners which chronicles the lives of ordinary Londoners. Both follow in the tradition of the late, but always great, Studs Terkel.



Wednesday, January 18, 2012

LWOW Kicks Off in Switzerland!

 (thanks to

One of my favourite questions for someone is "Do you open Finder/Explorer in icon or list view?" It tells you something about how you approach life, rationally, intuitively, or that you don't know how to change the way it opens.

Law Without Walls is primarily icon although you better have your list ready. LWOW exercises both hemispheres of the brain and for those in the program engagement means being ready to switch, add, multiply, synchronize and synergize.

Law Without Walls started its second year with a KickOff at St Gallen this last weekend (14-15 January). Michele De Stefano and Michael Bossone organized a program that brought together students from 12 universities straddling 19 time zones. LWOW has doubled in size and multiplied in richness.

I've written about LWOW's beginnings but then it was only 6 schools. But the beginning of the beginning is a story in itself and shows how LWOW works. When we arrive at the KickOff we may know some of the people involved but in fact we hardly know anyone. So we have two days in which to bond into a group such that we can work together over the following three months. It's a tough call.

This is where Michele and Michael (hitherto aka "M&M"s [which colour and flavour, you decide]) work their magic and also why we come away exhilarated yet exhausted. Before we arrived we had to complete a short survey based on DISC assessment to see how we placed on the Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance spectrum. Of course you need a range to build a good team.

Our first task at St Gallen was to conduct interviews of our group members with whom we were sitting. We had to form a football team so we had to identify whether our subject was a forward, midfielder, defender, or goalie. In addition we had to name our team and give each other a nickname. This was tied in with the DISC assessment results.

In the interests of disclosure and confidentiality I'll only talk about my own results. According to my interviewer I was definitely a forward and my nickname would be "GoGetter". I liked that. Next the DISC result said I was an influencer and that I worked best persuading others and this is the way I get results. I'm sociable and good at solving problems that deal with people, but maybe overly trusting.

Now I admit to some skepticism when I did the survey for DISC, but as I read the results I'm struck by just how uncanny the results were, almost frighteningly so. It definitely means I like to work with people who willingly participate. (God, I can think of a number who fall way outside that.)

At lunch M&M sat us by DISC results. Among the tables was one a little different from the others. It contained 8 people who scored a perfect 100% on the "I" (influence) range. This meant no one could get a word in edgeways, of course.

Throughout the weekend we heard from various entrepreneurs including Ajaz Ahmed who started Freeserve and now, Moray McLaren of the Iberian Legal Group, and Natalie Campbell who runs a social innovation agency, A Very Good Company, as well as Hugh Totten of the Valorem Law Group and James Peters of LegaZoom. This gives the students another perspective on how to do projects, one they typically don't receive at law school.

They were also inflicted with an unPanel on what was right or wrong with the law and practice which included me, Chris Kenny, Rob Rosen, Elizabeth Chambliss, Wu Fan, and Laurel Terry. We argued a lot.

I should say Sunday's lunch had a picaresque theme: we had to state two truths and one lie. You need a good poker face for this.

The finale was the students preparing presentations based around interviews of interesting people. Two hours max to interview, prepare and present. Startling, witty, intriguing and great fun. We went home satiated and ready for the next three months while the students begin their real projects of worth.

As the late, great Sherlock Holmes would say, "The game's afoot!"


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Future of Legal Education....?

(Thanks, with twist, New Yorker)


Monday, January 09, 2012

Is the Axis of Legal Education Shifting to the East?

(Singapore old and new)
I've been researching the global context of legal education recently and the competition is becoming intense. The usual suspects are UK and US law schools, which compete for overseas students especially at the graduate level. Carole Silver has studied this area extensively.

However, I suspect we shall see the competition take on a new dimension. One finding of my research is that US-style legal education is being adopted in more and more countries notably in Asia, eg, China, Japan, and Korea. This is not so much to do with the superior quality of American legal education but rather its perceived emphasis on practice not theory. This is why in China the Ministry of Justice promotes the JM degree while the Education Ministry hews to the LLB.

Even the increasing pursuit of dual degrees depends on a reliance on US law schools, eg, Osgoode Hall/NYU, Windsor/Detroit Mercy, Cornell/Sorbonne. However, there is a new move afoot.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has had a long term tie with NYU but is now branching out to make itself a legal education hub for Asia. NUS has started a collaboration with Yale for double degrees in law and environment so that candidates can graduate with either a bachelor's degree from NUS or a master's from Yale Law School.

However, it is NUS's latest tie-up that is most interesting. It has signed an MOU with Tsinghua University in China for a 3+1 degree where students graduate with both an LLB and an LLM. Let's add into the mix Peking University Law School's LLM in Chinese Law which is taught in English, Tsinghua University Law School's LLM also taught in English, the Peking University School of Transnational Law (a member of LWOW) which teaches joint JD and JM law programs and we have a developing maturity of legal education that stands in competition with the UK and the US.

These schools realize they are part of a global community, not a parochial one as most US, and UK, law schools remain.  What is intriguing is how explicit they are. NUS depicts itself as a global university which will
Ensure its position as one of the world's leading universities, whose faculty are committed to research with global impact, through focusing on issues of global import and through global collaborations
Secure recognition as a great university of the highest global standing and play a leadership role in the Asian region as the pre-eminent university in Asia.
India is developing along these lines with the Jindal Global Law School which shares a global vision much like that of NUS. How many western universities have such an overt and explicit global strategy?

It is hypothesized that as Asia becomes stronger and more powerful it will become the hub of financial markets and more. This is quite possible as there is nothing secure in being a financial hub. In the last 300 years that honour has been shared by Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, London and New York.

It now looks as though legal education's hub could be shifted from the west to the east as well. Asia is prepared to think big and strategically. Both the ABA and the UK Legal Education and Training Review need to consider this as they plan their revisions. The question is will they do so?


One more item can be thrown into the mix here. MIT's new initiative MITx. MIT says
MIT will make the MITx open learning software available free of cost, so that others — whether other universities or different educational institutions, such as K-12 school systems — can leverage the same software for their online education offerings.
True, you don't get an MIT degree but you will get a certificate from MIT that says you have completed the course. Imagine, if you will, law were to be offered the same way......


Friday, January 06, 2012

PI(I)GS Might Fly!


The Troika is upsetting big bar associations because it is demanding the liberalization of professions in countries it is bailing out. Key complainers are the American Bar Association and the CCBE. (Thanks to Peter Lederer for the H/T).

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported that the ABA and CCBE have written a letter to Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund and former head of the world's largest law firm, Baker & McKenzie, asking her to pass on their concerns at the end of independence of the bar to the heads of the European Union and the European Central Bank.

The WSJ Law Blog says:
The American Bar Association and the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe say measures in Ireland, Greece and Portugal threaten “one of the core principles of the legal profession: regulation independent from the executive branch of the state.” 
Although only three countries are listed we know it won't be long before Italy is included once it receives its subvention from the Troika.

I've analyzed some of this before and it's clear that the Troika isn't signalling the death of the legal profession. Far from it, it is demanding proper regulation and accountability which lawyers have avoided. Colin Scott, dean of UCD Law School, cogently argues:
It is not unprecedented for government to appoint independent regulators to oversee the legal is normal for independent regulators within our system of democratic governance to be subject to a variety of mechanisms of accountability to ministers, not least to provide reassurance that the regulator will not be captured by those it is set up to regulate. Few are wholly independent in a modern state better characterised as exhibiting characteristics of interdependence. As an example, the legal profession is dependent on the state for fees across much of the criminal justice system and in respect of many civil matters too. No one argues that the taking of instructions and fees from government compromises the professional independence of lawyers.
There are two strands to the Troika's thinking on the legal profession and professions more generally. The first is proper regulation as Colin Scott refers to above. (And, in the case of Ireland, for example, the Justice minister is being responsive to concerns.) The second is that in many countries the professions are closed off from many who would like to participate. Not because they are incapable but because they don't possess the social capital that enables them to enter and practice. (Ample cites on professional closure here.)

The Troika's moves are an attempt to open up the labour market so it is accessible to all not just a few. One only has to look at how many law firms in continental Europe are dynastic family organizations.

Unfortunately, when the ABA and CCBE says
Bars and Law Societies around the world have always been open to reform: they follow very closely societal, economic and any other changes within their own countries and worldwide, evaluate the impact of these changes on the profession and take the necessary steps to adapt.
 it is very hard to believe them. I don't think the IMF will budge and nor should it.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The ABS Race is On!...Almost...

(thanks to Rocking Horse Works)

Today's the day the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) belatedly began accepting applications from those who want to become Alternative Business Structures. It was meant to be last October 6, but the SRA hadn't quite got to the cantering stage then. Now it's trotting along.

According to Legal Week there have been 15 licence applications including Irwin Mitchell, which wants to take external investment, and Cooperative Legal Services which wants to integrate its legal practice under the Coop umbrella.

About 10 applicants are serious and although the process can take 6 months some applications will be processed earlier. The SRA says it will be rigorous
"For example, we'll be asking for the employment history of everyone going back five years - we need to have detailed information relating to those who want to be regulated by us."
Others for ABS conversion may be Claims Direct, a claims management firm on a no win-no fee basis, which is owned by Russell Jones & Walker.  And Solicitors Journal says
Other likely contenders include LEGAL365, the legal business set up by Freeserve founder Ajaz Ahmed with law firm Last Cawthra Feather, and In-Deed, the conveyancing service set up by Rightmove founder Harry Hill, who revealed last month that he would be buying up law firms.
Both LEGAL365 and In-Deed are online legal services providers and this form makes perfect sense. It will be interesting to see if other online providers, eg, Legal Zoom or Epoq Legal, move this way.

Well, it has been a slow start. Unlike the Big Bang of 1980s financial services, no equivalent explosion has occurred in legal services. In fact it has been rather a damp squib which has the potential to become a sparkler that might graduate to a firework bang in the future. 2012 should give us the picture.

What won't be clear is the effect on the delivery of legal services. Most analysis, for example that by Susskind, focuses on what lawyers will do or won't do. It doesn't say much about access to justice and whether we can look for an increase in legal services. One of the questions here is the carving out of the market with the potential that many might not get access to legal services, for example, those on benefits or unemployed.

I have not yet seen anything about say the pro bono commitments of ABS. Now there is a difference between corporate social responsibility and pro bono, although many lawyers confuse the two. But there is no reason why good CSR policies can't include commitments to pro bono. I hope so.

This is terrifically hard to do as the Kutak Commission on legal ethics in the US in the 1980s found when it proposed a mandatory 40 hour per year pro bono commitment. Outrage and uproar. It never happened.

Perhaps what we need is a pro bono index like a stock market index so we can track pro bono and share prices. Who knows, there could even be a healthy correlation, dare I even say causal link... OK, that's pushing it too far.