Friday, June 22, 2007

fROM Legal Blog Watch

Avvo's Ratings 'a Crock'

Trust us, Avvo's ratings are a crock. So writes Scott Graham, editor-in-chief of The Recorder in San Francisco and Cal Law, at the blog Legal Pad. With all the controversy surrounding the new lawyer-rating service, Graham decided to see how some of California's most prestigious attorneys fared. He picked some of the top names from Chambers USA's guide to California's attorneys and found that Chambers and Avvo do not always agree. In the bankruptcy arena, for example, here is what Graham found:

"L.A. bankruptcy lawyer Kenneth Klee was one of the select few to score a perfect 10. Heller Ehrman bankruptcy partner Peter Benvenutti notched a nice 8.9. But Winston & Strawn bankruptcy sage Patrick Murphy -- identified by Chambers as a 'senior statesman' -- scored only 7.3. And Howard Rice's James Lopes was rated 6.5. What was PG&E thinking putting him in charge of its $12 billion bankruptcy?"

Corporate heavyweights met with similarly inconsistent results. For example, Graham writes:

"Cooley Godward M&W whiz Keith Flaum was rated 6.5, and O'Melveny heavyweight Warren Lazarow got two ratings, 6.7 and 6.4. Flaum and Lazarow were thus rated lower than ex-Hewlett Packard GC Ann Baskins (6.9), who resigned from the company last year after pleading the Fifth Amendment in regard to the pretexting scandal, and former Mercury Interactive Corp."

Graham walks through a number of examples, ending with The Recorder's own attorney, Levy Ram & Olson's Karl Olson, "who has rendered incomparable service to us for more than a decade." His Avvo rating: a "paltry 6.5." Leading Graham to conclude, "the ratings are a crock."

(Our legal-affairs podcast Lawyer2Lawyer earlier this week spoke with attorney John Henry Browne, a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against Avvo. Also on the program were bloggers Denise Howell and my Legal Blog Watch colleague Carolyn Elefant. Avvo representatives declined to participate.)

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 22, 2007 at 02:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

At Legal Tech, Whirlwinds and Shifting Winds

Law Technology News editor-in-chief Monica Bay attended Legal Tech West Coast this week, where  her technology barometer found both whirlwinds and shifting winds, as she relates at her blog The Common Scold.

The whirlwind, she reports, was the entire show. But she was particularly proud of one program near and dear to her heart: "Green Law: A Leadership Challenge." The program, which Monica moderated, featured presentations by Alvidas Jasin, director of business development at Thompson Hine, who offered a mini version of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth; Bruce Lymburn, partner with Wendel Rosen, Black & Dean, on "The Greening of a Law Firm"; Matthew Heartney, a partner with Arnold & Porter, on developing a green office initiative; and Tony Hoke, global technology purchasing and assets manager at Morrison & Foerster, on the leadership challenge of green law. For those of us who missed the panel, Monica's post includes links to download PowerPoints of the presentations.

As for shifting winds, Monica found them at Legal Tech in the way that e-discovery vendors are shifting their postures from defense to offense. She explains:

"I just wrote a mini-essay in LTN (p5, July) about a huge trend that I've noticed this spring -- that EDD vendors who are changing from a 'reactive' approach to e-discovery in favor of a 'consulting' approach. (That plus a definite power shift to GCs in determining technology tools.)

"Kroll is the latest EDD vendor to announce a new consulting arm -- Ontrack Consulting -- and I'm sure there will be more. Clearly, we're at 'EDD 2.0' -- or maybe 3.0 -- as the focus moves to 'litigation readiness' rather than reacting to a particular lawsuit."

This was not the only trend Monica found bubbling to the surface at Legal Tech. For the others, you will have to read her full post.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 22, 2007 at 02:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Report: Labor Laws Systemically Flaunted

Laws mean little if not enforced. That is the premise of a study published this week by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law that documents a pervasive workplace culture of noncompliance with basic wage, hour and safety laws. So extensive is this disregard of labor and employment law, argue the authors, that it threatens to become an established way of doing business in the United States.

Based on three years of research and more than 300 interviews, the report, Unregulated Work in the Global City, examines conditions in New York City. But the conditions they describe, the authors contend, exist throughout the U.S. economy.

"In this report, we describe a world of work that lies outside the experience and imagination of many Americans. It is a world where jobs pay less than the minimum wage, and sometimes nothing at all; where employers do not pay overtime for 60-hour weeks, and deny meal breaks that are required by law; where vital health and safety regulations are routinely ignored, even after injuries occur; and where workers are subject to blatant discrimination, and retaliated against for speaking up or trying to organize.

"Such conditions exist here in New York City, in occupations and industries that span the breadth of the city's economy. They are not isolated, short-lived cases of exploitation at the fringe of the city's economy. Instead, the systematic violation of our country's core employment and labor laws – what we call 'unregulated work' – is threatening to become a way of doing business for unscrupulous employers. And yet from the standpoint of public policy, these jobs (and the workers who hold them) are too often off the radar screen."

The report was written by Annette Bernhardt, deputy director of the Brennan Center's Justice Program; Siobhan McGrath, former Brennan Center research associate; and James De Filippis, assistant professor of black and Hispanic studies at Baruch College. Based on their findings, they call on federal and state governments to strengthen the labor laws and their enforcement of those laws and to provide equal protection to immigrants in the workplace.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 22, 2007 at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Filling the References Void

At Counsel to Counsel blog, Stephen Seckler points to two pieces -- one recent, one older -- that address an often vexing question for job seekers: What to do when you don't have a reference, either because you've had only one job or because you've left a job on unfavorable terms?

The first situation -- where the job seeker's current employer is his or her first -- is addressed this week by legal recruiter Ann Israel in her New York Law Journal column, Advice for the Lawlorn. Israel's advice turns on whether a recruiter is involved.

"If so, the recruiter should explain to the prospective employer that you will be more than happy to give references as soon as an offer has been extended, accepted and you have given notice. That is normal procedure and how 99.9 percent of the law firms operate."

If no recruiter is involved, the job seeker should directly ask the same of the firm. Rarely, a firm will say that it cannot extend an offer until it checks references, Israel says, but this is "utter nonsense." Still, a candidate can always dig deeper for references -- law school professors and internship supervisors, for example.

The second situation -- where one has been fired from a job or quit on shaky terms -- was addressed in an August 2006 CareerJournal.com column by Dana Mattioli. First off, writes Mattioli, don't assume that your firing necessarily means you can't get a good reference. "It isn't unusual for managers to put in a good word for employees whom they have dismissed." Second, contact former bosses and use them as references. Third, find other managers from within your former workplace who may be sympathetic to your situation and solicit references from them. Fourth, use former clients or vendors as references. Last, verify your former employment through the HR department, not through your former boss, lest the former boss say something negative.

As Ann Israel sums it up: "Not to worry -- every problem has a solution."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on June 22, 2007 at 02:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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