|Legal Blog Watch|
Weil's Big Deal: Women and Flex Time
Last week, law firm Weil Gotshal announced the election of 20 new partners. Not in itself a big deal, but the announcement included this:
Big news, or not? At Counsel to Counsel, Stephen Seckler suggests that Weil's announcement means "large firms are finally getting worried about retaining talent." But at Law Blog, Peter Lattman asks, "Is Weil touting something it should be proud of, or should its 'achievement' be a matter of course these days?" Lattman's question elicited a number of comments to his post, as well as one from Morra Aarons at blogher, who writes that the news is, indeed, a big deal:
Pepper Adds Spice With Podcasts
At his LawMarketing Blog, Larry Bodine opines that the recently launched Pod Center from the 450-lawyer firm Pepper Hamilton "sets a new standard in podcasting by law firms." The podcasts, he writes, are structured as interviews with attorneys who are experts in the subjects covered. Topics of recent podcasts included private-equity dividend recapitalizations, taxation of online software purchases, criminal background checks by employers and workplace smoking policies. Apart from the topics, Bodine is impressed by the setup:
The firm's marketing manager, Brian Dolan, tells Bodine: "We think the new Podcast Center is an innovative program that positions the firm as cutting edge and tech savvy."
'Second Life' Spawns First-Impression Issues
Real-world legal issues involving private property and IP piracy are beginning to arise from the virtual world known as Second Life, as two recent developments illustrate.
At the Fortune magazine blog Legal Pad, Roger Parloff tells of Anshe Chung, Second Life's first virtual millionaire. This is not Monopoly money, Parloff writes, explaining that Chung's Second Life holdings have made her real-world wealthy, "i.e., someone whose holdings in a make-believe world are legally convertible into genuine U.S. currency worth more than $1 million." (Read her announcement of how she parlayed $10 into $1 million.) How does her achievement raise legal issues? Parloff explains:
Meanwhile, in a Business Week article, The Dark Side of Second Life, Catherine Holahan discusses the increasingly vexing problem of piracy within Second Life, in which users copy others' characters, objects and buildings, "potentially eroding the value of people's virtual property." In fact, she writes, piracy is just one aspect of a larger "crime wave" sweeping the virtual world and causing many users to demand "an official system of law and order." The piracy problem, in particular, has Second Life users "plenty worried," she writes:
These virtual disputes may lead to real-world lawsuits, Holahan suggests. But there is also pressure on Second Life's developer, Linden Labs, to come up with its own procedures for dispute resolution. The site's creator, Philip Rosedale, told a recent "town meeting": "Longer term, Second Life is going to have to develop its own law or its own standards of behavior."
At ZDNet's IP Telephony blog, Russell Shaw explores this idea further. What if a clothing designer or a musician uses Second Life to demo creations for real-world clients? he asks. What if those creations are hacked or misappropriated "and my ability to use SL as a demo for real-world aspirations and real-world dollars is compromised?" Shouldn't that be actionable in a real court? he wonders. You can take Shaw's poll, or tell us what you think by adding a comment below.
For now, at least one real-world jurist is making himself available to residents in Second Life, if only as a lecturer -- 7th U.S. Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner.
Making Legal History, One Schuss at a Time
Call it one small step for lawyers, one giant slalom for legal podcasting. Evan Schaeffer has, in one fell schuss, made both legal and podcasting history by recording the world's first legal video-podcast made while downhill skiing. No one is likely to argue with Schaeffer's claim that he is the first-ever lawyer and poor skier to take a blue slope while recording a discussion of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. He makes the trip with the video camera in his right hand and his podcasting notes and ski poles in his left, narrating the whole time. "Don't watch it for the substance," he writes on his blog. "I was having a hard enough time just keeping myself in an upright position."
Later in the podcast, Shaeffer moves from the FRCP to diet tips. When he first started blogging, he explains, he gained weight, but he has since dropped several pounds through healthier eating and less beer drinking. It is good that Schaeffer told us that he had cut his beer drinking, because otherwise, as we watched this video, we might have wondered about that very question.
|Legal Blog Watch|
Nancy Grace Sued for Suicide
Controversy over CNN's Nancy Grace, which we've posted on previously here, continues. Now, as this AP story (11/21/) reports, relatives of Melinda Duckett have sued Grace, alleging that Grace's badgering of Duckett during a news interview about her son's disappearance, including accusations that Duckett was responsible, lead to Duckett's suicide the next day. The family's attorney argues that Grace misrepresented her intentions when inviting Duckett to appear on the show. Though Grace had suggested that Duckett's appearance would raise awareness about her son, Grace "took on the role of a law enforcement official" during the interview by grilling Duckett about her evasiveness regar ding her son's disappearance. The article notes, however, that law enforcement officials have since named Duckett as the prime suspect.
Though the suit against Grace may seem far-fetched, it's not the first time that a TV personality has been sued for allegedly playing a role in a death. Back in 1995, talk show host Jenny Jones faced a similar suit, after a gay man, Scott Amedure, confessed his love for a straight friend, Jonathan Schmitz, on the show. Three days after the show was taped (it never aired), Schmitz, humiliated by the incident, killed Amedure. Schmitz was sentenced to prison, but Amedure's family sued the show for failing to screen the mental stablity of guests. Amedure won at trial, but the verdict was vacated on appeal.
Get a Test Jury Online
Bob Ambrogi has good news for everyday litigants with this post: You don't have to be an Enron defendant to afford a mock jury. As Ambrogi writes, a new Web site, TrialJuries, "will allow lawyers to submit their cases and have them 'decided' by online jurors similar to those who would serve on an actual jury at trial." To use the site, a lawyer can submit a written statement of each side's case or an audio or video argument. Mock jurors review the submissions and answer the verdict and feedback questions. When their review is done, the lawyer receives the verdict and can review the comments and feedback.
The cost to submit a case to TrialJuries using text only is $1,500. For audio, the cost is $2,000, and for video it is $2,500.
Paralegal Dupes a Law Firm
This post from the Estrin Report blog highlights this recent article, Anderson Kill Discovers "Associate" Is Not A Lawyer (Law.com, 11/20/06). According to the article, Brian Valery had worked as a paralegal at Anderson since 1996 and told his employers that he was attending Fordham Law's night program to advance his career. In 2004, Valery told the firm that he'd passed the Bar, and apparently, he was hired on as an associate. It wasn't until 2005, when Valery moved for pro hac vice admission in Connecticut, representing that he was a member in good standing of the New York Bar, that grievance officials caught on to his deception and informed the firm.
Apparently, Anderson has policies in place to check the status of newly admitted attorneys. But Valery slipped under the radar because of his ongoing employment relationship with the firm. In that regard, it's not hard to feel sorry for Anderson Kill. The firm trusted a longtime employee and took him at his word. Now, the firm faces the embarrassment of informing clients that Valery wasn't really an attorney as well as potential repercussions (such as increased premiums) from its legal malpractice carrier. We read so much about the unreasonableness of large firms -- how they don't care about employee morale or act in their best interest. Here's a firm that apparently did care enough about an employee to support him in his effort to become an attorney -- and look at the outcome.
Thanksgiving Comes Early for Some New Orleans Defendants
Five hundred criminal defendants in New Orleans will have something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: the dismissal of their respective cases. As New York Times reporter Luanne White reports in this article, In New Orleans, Rust in the Wheels of Justice (11/21/06), in the aftermath of Katrina, "as many as 500 defendants, mostly in drug, theft and assault cases, have been freed because of problems with evidence, including difficulty in finding the witnesses who have moved away."
In many cases, evidence has been lost or contaminated through water damage or mold. DNA samples were held without refrigeration for several months, which may ruin their usefulness. One Tulane law professor, Pamela Metzger has urged public defense lawyers to challenge the condition of the evidence in their cases.
But the loss of evidence can cut both ways. As the article notes:
rodrigo gonzalez fernandez
October and, with luck, November in New York are the most beautiful months of the year here, as many of you know. Everything seems to come together: A new sense of purpose, the "new season" across the arts. social events, and even the climax of baseball and the kickoff of football, combined with spectacular weather, make it, year after year, the grandest season.
I'd like to believe it's been a fruitful period for "Adam Smith, Esq.," as well, but it is only in the eyes of you, Dear Reader, that that is or is not true.
So forthwith to some of the "greatest hits" of the past few weeks:
I'd also like to direct your attention to the "Adam Smith, Esq. Monthly Book Review," this month of James Buchan's The Authentic Adam Smith (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.: New York, 2006). Read about it here.
For our bonus, newsletter-only content, we have a look at the UK Magic Circle firm Slaughter & May, courtesy of last month's American Lawyer. This won't be an exhaustive examination of Slaughter & May, but, I hope, will leave you with some insights about a distinctive—dare I say unique?—firm.
The 117-year-old firm, with 522 lawyers including 126 partners, has not only a lockstep compensation structure, but a two-tier structure, with those in the top tier earning twice as much as those in the lower tier (it takes 10 years to move to the higher tier). Compared to this 2:1 ratio, 2005 AmLaw 100 firms that responded to the question reported an average spread of 10:1 from highest to lowest. But Slaughter & May's 2005 PPP was more than $2-million (more than double its 1998 results).
Slaughter & May has other remarkably distinctive characteristics:
"Slaughter has no hourly targets, for example, but there is tremendous peer pressure to work hard for the good of the firm, say Slaughter partners and associates interviewed for this story. "The overriding thing about the firm was that you felt you owed the firm more than the firm owed you," says Francis Neate, who spent 34 years at Slaughter and May and is now of counsel at Kirkland & Ellis (following a decade at Schroders plc., an asset management company) and president of the International Bar Association. "It had a living strength. You felt guilty if you didn't pull your weight." The unspoken pressure often leads to early burnout. "You do the same work at 55 as at 33," Clark says, and while "some partners are doing that with vigor and enthusiasm," the overwhelming majority of partners retire by age 60."
As for the network of "best friends," is it a high maintenance creature? Yes, of course; but its benefits are perceived to outweigh its maintenance costs, both financial and in terms of managerial overhead: "All [the members of the network] were under pressure to globalize, but didn't want to do so by merging with a large, international firm. "There is an advantage to being rooted in our own country," says Umberto Nicodano, Bonelli's managing partner. "We know the courts, we know the system. Rarely, if ever, are the global firms able to establish these relationships." Practically speaking, Slaughter's Frank says, staying small keeps overhead low, keeps the firm cohesive, and makes it easier to pursue common goals than if lawyers were spread around the world. Furthermore, the fact that other firms don't feel that Slaughter is encroaching on their space makes the British firm attractive to work with, Frank says. In the mid-1990s, several years after their first discussions, the group realized that to compete with the global firms, they needed to do a better job of articulating their vision. So the firms drew up a list of basic criteria to define the relationship: Members are independent law firms based primarily in one country. Relationships are nonexclusive; legally, nothing binds the firms together."
"All [the members of the network] were under pressure to globalize, but didn't want to do so by merging with a large, international firm. "There is an advantage to being rooted in our own country," says Umberto Nicodano, Bonelli's managing partner. "We know the courts, we know the system. Rarely, if ever, are the global firms able to establish these relationships." Practically speaking, Slaughter's Frank says, staying small keeps overhead low, keeps the firm cohesive, and makes it easier to pursue common goals than if lawyers were spread around the world. Furthermore, the fact that other firms don't feel that Slaughter is encroaching on their space makes the British firm attractive to work with, Frank says. In the mid-1990s, several years after their first discussions, the group realized that to compete with the global firms, they needed to do a better job of articulating their vision. So the firms drew up a list of basic criteria to define the relationship: Members are independent law firms based primarily in one country. Relationships are nonexclusive; legally, nothing binds the firms together."
So couldn't it all fly apart? Well, that's a risk you live with. My friend Tony Williams puts it in perspective: "Their business is sustainable as long as their best friends don't try and do something different," he says. But then he pauses. "So-called problems at Slaughter and May are problems that managing partners at other firms would die for," he adds.
Slaughter & May is not your firm, nor is it a model for all. But it has a voice, it has a distinction, it matters to our profession. You have permission to "think different."
As always, I invite thoughts, comments, and observations.
That wraps up the "Adam Smith, Esq." monthly newsletter for November 2006.
My parting wish is that you let me know how I can make it sharper, more useful, more helpful. "Adam Smith, Esq." is, in my mind, not a "blog," but a publication. More than one of you has compared my site to other prominent legal industry trade journals, and said that the advantage of the online medium is being able to publish as many times per month as seems warranted. I happen to agree, and I want you to know that the editor (that would be me) is always in, and always delighted to hear from my valued readers.
|Legal Blog Watch|
In-House Bloggers Slowly Step Out
One group of lawyers has remained largely absent from the blogosphere, reports Catherine Aman in Corporate Counsel magazine: the in-house bar. It is no wonder in-house lawyers are reluctant to blog, legal consultant Rees Morrison of Hildebrandt International tells Aman: "There are a lot of ways blogging by in-house counsel could go wrong." Even so, she writes, the number of in-house lawyers who blog is growing steadily -- some with the company's blessing, others anonymously.
In-house lawyers who blog share a "desire to participate in serious dialogue, whether it be about public policy or emerging technologies and related laws," Aman say. She quotes Microsoft Corporation lawyer David Rudin, who writes the blog Standards Law:
Other in-house lawyers who openly blog include Mike Dillon, GC of Sun Microsystems, and two of the 10 contributors to Cisco High Tech Policy Blog. But for some on the inside, such as The Wired GC, blogging is best done anonymously.
Microsoft's Rudin maintains that blogging is good for in-house lawyers and good for their employers. He tells Aman:
The Only Two Blawgers in Iowa
Could Rush Nigut and Brett Trout do for blawging in Iowa what Prof. Harold Hill did for marching bands? From Dennis M. Kennedy at Between Lawyers comes a pointer to The Gospel of Blawging, a Des Moines Business Record story about Iowa's only two lawyers with blogs and their newfound mission to spread the word among their peers. Nigut, a business and corporate lawyer with Sullivan & Ward in West Des Moines, writes the blog Rush on Business, and Trout, a solo patent attorney in Des Moines, writes Blawg IT.
The two lawyers will join forces to "spread the gospel" of blawging at a seminar for Iowa lawyers later this week. Trout tells the Business Record:
What do Iowa's only two legal bloggers see as its value? For one, says Nigut, blogging encourages the sharing of ideas.
As for the lack of other lawyers in their state with blogs, Nigut explains it this way: "Lawyers are very reluctant to be the first ones to do anything." But that is changing as more younger lawyers join the profession's ranks. "It's a generational thing," Nigut says.
Sounds like Trouble, with a capital T and that rhymes with B and that stands for Blawg.
For Women Lawyers: Good News, Bad News
Blogger Chuck Newton points us to the newly published study from the National Association of Women Lawyers, NAWL's First National Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms. The news is not good. The survey finds law firms have plenty of women at their lowest level but a paucity at the top. From the survey:
It gets worse. Even women who achieve the status of equity partner tend to earn less than their male counterparts and play a lesser role in firm governance. On average, women hold only 16 percent of the seats on their firms' governing committees and make up only 5 percent of managing partners.
But the good news for women lawyers, as Carolyn Elefant writes at MyShingle.com, is that they are finding it easier than ever before to build successful careers in solo and small-firm practice.
In fact, Elefant argues, these solo women are helping to improve working conditions for their peers at larger firms. Pointing to a Boston Globe article on greater part-time opportunities for women at larger firms, she says it is because solo and small-firm practice has become a viable option for women that larger firms are forced to better accommodate their need for flexible and part-time schedules. Call it, if you will, the "trickle-up" effect: broader options for women in smaller firms force larger firms to follow suit.
A Vote for Blawg Review #82
Word has it, there's an election of some kind tomorrow. That would explain why Blawg Review #82 is hosted by Edward Still at the blog Votelaw. Still, a lawyer in Birmingham, Ala., is an expert in the laws relating to elections, voting and campaign finance. Appropriately, he starts this week's review of legal blogs with "some election-related stuff." Thankfully, he also gathers a number of items "for those of you who don't give a damn about elections." Even those readers who place themselves in the second group will enjoy at least one of the items from the first group: Madeleine Begun Kane's limerick for Jack Abramoff, Chatty Jack. Head over to Still's blog and register your vote for Blawg Review #82.
RODRIGO GONZALEZ FERNADEZ
RENATO SANCHEZ 3586 DEP 10
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Washington, D.C., Oct. 20, 2006 - The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that thousands of individual investors who were victimized in the massive WorldCom financial fraud will soon receive up to $150 million from an SEC fund set up to help compensate investors for their losses. "The distribution," according to SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, "will begin immediately."
The SEC's ability to return penalty money directly to fraud victims is a new authority granted by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Under Section 308 of the Act, the entire $750 million penalty that the SEC obtained from WorldCom was paid into a "Fair Fund" when the reorganized company emerged from bankruptcy protection in April 2004. All of that money is earmarked for return to injured investors. The United States District Court overseeing the SEC litigation against WorldCom yesterday cleared the way for the first installment of distributions, now that a sufficient number of claims have been processed.
"This most recent success of the Fair Funds process will play an important role in encouraging investors to continue to place trust in America's capital markets," said Chairman Cox. "It shows that even when things go terribly wrong, there is a safety net for injured investors. Fair Funds are particularly useful when, as here, the investors who have lost money can be identified, and their financial losses can be calculated. And while tracking down WorldCom's investors in 110 countries isn't easy, the ultimate result will be that three quarters of a billion dollars will be returned to its rightful owners."
During the period covered by the fraud, WorldCom had 34 different publicly traded securities, and over 32 billion shares of its common stock were traded. Investors in 110 countries made nearly 450,000 claims to the Fair Fund — in 10 languages — related to approximately 9.4 million transactions in those securities. The initial $150 million distribution approved by the court covers claims processed to date, including most of those filed by individual investors. Subsequent distributions will be made as the remaining claims are processed.
"I am delighted that individual investors will soon begin receiving their checks," said Peter H. Bresnan, Deputy Director of Enforcement. "I would like to thank the Court, as well as the Distribution Agent, former SEC Chairman Richard Breeden, for the tremendous work that he and his team have done in implementing the distribution and assisting victims of WorldCom's massive fraud."
The Commission sued WorldCom on June 26, 2002, the day after the company disclosed it had made massive misstatements on its financial statements for the preceding five fiscal quarters. In July 2003, the District Court entered a final judgment ordering WorldCom to pay a civil penalty. Pursuant to the Commission's request, this penalty was placed in a Fair Fund for the benefit of WorldCom's investor victims.
The "Fair Funds for Investors" provision in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 made it possible for all fines obtained in SEC enforcement actions to be distributed to investor victims. By law prior to 2002, all civil penalties obtained by the SEC in securities enforcement actions were deposited in the general fund of the U.S. Treasury.
Questions regarding the WorldCom Fair Funds distribution may be directed to the Distribution Agent at the WorldCom Victim Trust, P.O. Box 6970, Syracuse, NY 13217, via telephone at (866) 894-8871 or on the web at www.worldcomvictimtrust.com.
Looking for a YouTube legal angle other than another analysis of the inscrutable Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998? We’ve got one! A company that shuttered its Web site because it was inundated by millions of people looking for YouTube has sued the video-sharing site.
Universal Tube & Rollform Equipment Corp., a Toledo, Ohio, company that sells, well, tubes and rollform equipment, said its Web site — utube.com – has had to change its domain names five times to evade the YouTube masses. The small company, with just 17 employees, got 68 million hits on its site in August.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Toledo, didn’t specify damages but asked that YouTube to stop using the youtube.com or pay Universal Tube’s cost for creating a new domain. Here’s the nub of it: “Due to the confusion in the minds of consumers, the spillover of nuisance traffic to Plaintiff’s neighboring Web site at utube.com has destroyed the value of Plaintiff’s trademark and Internet property, repeatedly caused the shutdown of Plaintiff’s Web site, increased Plaintiff’s Internet costs by thousands of dollars a month, and damaged the Plaintiff’s good reputation.”
YouTube hasn’t commented on the suit.
Law Blog YouTube Video of the Day: In our fifth installment of the Law Blog YouTube Video of the Day, here’s a short clip of a young John McEnroe, the Law Blog’s favorite athlete ever, telling an umpire how he really feels. Click here and enjoy.
According to my recent research, we have entered what experts call the "I-Cubed Economy" ... which stands for INTANGIBLES, INNOVATION, and INFORMATION. Knowledge assets (what people know and put into use), collaboration assets (who people interact with to create value), engagement assets (the level of commitment and energy of people) and time quality (how quickly value is created) are the four factors of production in this "Intangible Economy" according to Wikipedia. "They" also say this new era calls for new leadership ... "post heroic" leadership which is based on "bottom-up transformation fueled by shared power and community building." Organizations that apply this leadership approach are referred to as "leaderful" and assume that all of us have leadership qualities that can be pooled and drawn upon as needed.
Here's where this conversation gets juicy ... in a world that changes so rapidly, the gap between what we know and what we do has to close...leaders can't just know that command and control leadership doesn't work ... they actually have to DO a different kind of leadership ... NOW! The problem, as I see it, is that we lead from our rearview mirrors. We learn to lead from those who lead us, in an environment that supports old business practices and in cultures that reinforce old values and belief systems. If we learn from those before us ... are we not, in fact, followers? And, if we want to be great leaders, doesn't it make sense that we look to our "followers" to learn how to lead? Imagine a future and live into it, rather than trying to just improve upon or change the past? We spend a lot of energy trying to capture and apply best practices ... but, in a world with so much change ... what is the shelf life of a best practice anyway?
Law Technology News has published a great article by Ed Poll, 'Ten Ways Blogs Boost a Law Firm's Image.'
Ed's not only a great guy, but a talented law practice management consultant and lawyer coach. If you haven't listened to some of his podcasts and blog posts at LawBiz Blog, you're missing a real treat.
Ed's tips to making your blog experience a worthwhile one (much abbreviated - read the article):
I'm blessed that folks like Ed can eloquently explain how to publish an effective blog far better than I. As way of full disclosure, Ed is a client of LexBlog. And it's an honor to serve him.
Long weekend reading:
A Roundtable on Innovation in Billing, Client Relations, Management, Marketing, and Talent with:
And success stories of:
- Blank Rome
- Bowman & Brooke
- Bryan Cave
- Nicholas Critelli
- Halleland Lewis Niland & Johnson
- Holland & Hart
- Morrison & Foerster
- Pinsent Masons
- Simpson Grierson
- Sughrue Mion
- Wragge & Co.
Read it here: http://www.colpm.org/pdf/innovaction_emagazine.pdf
Leadership consultant Linda Pennington claims that "only about two or three of
The Philadelphia Business Journal last week interviewed Pennington and others about the growing trend to invest in law firm leaders:
"When law firms think of leadership, Pennington said, they automatically refer to serving as managing partners, chairmen, practice leaders and executive committee members. But her coaching focuses on informal leadership qualities such as social skills. She conducts a few sessions with a lawyer and cross references information gained with his or her co-workers to see if the self-perception jives with the view others have of the lawyer's leadership skills. She then offers a critique and asks the lawyers to implement behavioral changes and report back on progress. " - Philadelphia Business Journal.
The article lists Reed Smith, Blank Rome and Morgan Lewis were mentioned as having some sort of leadership development program. The article also refers to something close to my heart - community leadership programs:
"Krufka was surprised to see how many law firms had enrolled their lawyers in Leadership Philadelphia -- a nonprofit that works to improve leadership skills of private-sector executives through a series of seminars each year. Krufka predicts that firms will continue to develop more in-house programming. We just did a program with junior partners from a firm," she said. "And their response to it all was 'Boy, I wish our senior partners had this kind of training.'"
Here's the article. Frankly, I'm surprised that three Philly law firms have actually started leadership training. Not a bad start.