FROM LEGAL BLOG WATCH
Two Lawyers, Two Troubling Mysteries
Two tragic but unconnected stories of missing lawyers making the news.
In Plantation, Fla., the body of missing lawyer Melissa Britt Lewis was found floating in a canal Friday just a few miles from her house. Lewis, 39, a labor and employment partner with the Fort Lauderdale firm Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler, was last seen alive Wednesday evening, leaving a local supermarket. Her firm is offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved with her death. Speculation is that the attack resulted from a random robbery gone awry, but local blogger Bob Norman says that seems unlikely and believes the murder may have followed a planned abduction. "But that's just speculation," he adds.
Meanwhile, authorities remain baffled by the disappearance in South Carolina of Savannah, Ga., lawyer Elizabeth Calvert, a partner with the law firm Hunter Maclean. She and her husband disappeared a week ago from Hilton Head, where they live part-time on their yacht. On Friday, searchers found the couple's car and were searching it for clues. On Friday, her law partners spoke out about the mystery, with partner John Tatum telling a reporter, "Everyone is hoping and praying for a miraculously happy ending, but that would be a miracle." Calvert joined Hunter Maclean just five months ago, after 14 years in-house at UPS in Atlanta, where she rose to become a vice president.
Judge to Former Lawyer: Shovel Snow
When a former lawyer appeared last week before a Maine judge to explain why he had paid just $50 of $219,000 in court-ordered restitution, the judge told him to get a job, even if it is shoveling snow off roofs. The Sun Journal reports that the former lawyer, John Frankenfield, represented himself in the hearing over whether he had violated a condition of probation stemming from his conviction for skimming assets from the estate of his grandfather. Judge Thomas Delahanty II, after hearing that Frankenfield was jobless and had significant other debts, gave him a month to find work. "When you come back here ... I want you to have a proposal of payments," Judge Delahanty told him. "In the meantime, I expect you to find a job somewhere. There are a lot of roofs out there to be shoveled."
File under: Ways lawyers can use their shoveling skills.Sphere: Related Content
Lawyerly Lingo: Witnesseth Brevity
Blogger Mister Thorne at Set in Style points us to to an article in the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic, Pleaseth Updateth Thy Language, in which the newspaper's intrepid copy editor lives to tell about multiple encounters with archaic legalese in the deed books of the local county courthouse. Here is one example Daniel Kelley cites in his piece:
I, Karen Boehm, Clerk of the Scott Circuit Court, do hereby certify that the foregoing Deed of Conveyance from Carolyn Carroway, Master Commissioner of the Scott Circuit Court, to Federal National Mortgage Association, was this day produced and was by her acknowledged to be her act and deed, and this deed having been examined and endorsed by the judge of the Scott Circuit Court and ordered to be certified to the Clerk of the Scott County Court for record, same is now done accordingly.
Queries Kelley, why not just say, "I, Scott Circuit Court Clerk Karen Boehm, confirm that this deed was made today"? After stumbling over the word "witnesseth" at least 100 times in the deed books, Kelley wonders why the legal system persists "in using indecipherable language simply because it's the way Thurgood Marshall did, the way Oliver Wendell Holmes did, the way John Marshall did, the way John Jay did. Those men were all great legal minds, but they were not supposed to have set (and continue) a template for our legal language for all eternity."
When it comes to language, clinging to antiquity is hardly the legal profession's only vice: Witnesseth wordiness. U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl witnesses it daily. "Enough!" he declares in his essay, "The Virtue of Brevity," the most recent entry in the ABA Section of Litigation's "Tips from the Trenches" series. "Too many lawyers write too much too often. Some lawyers are even known to talk too much."
From where Koeltl sits in New York's southern district, the legal profession's wordiness is tangible, in the form of needless motions, unnecessarily lengthy motions, and briefs that circumvent page limits. Such verbal excesses are counterproductive, he writes, because they raise questions about the lawyer's credibility and convolute the lawyer's arguments.
The most effective lawyers know how to make the salient points and then sit down while maintaining the interest of the court. The truly impressive arguments are those in which it is plain that the lawyers thought about the issues, understood the truly critical points that make a difference, and are prepared to address those points succinctly.
The jurist concludes by offering the bar a bargain: "If they submit briefer and more focused motions, I will issue briefer opinions, neither too long nor too short -- opinions that are just long enough." Acknowledged, endorsed and certified as a fair deal, but one that begs the question, "Just long enough for what?"
Do GCs Use Legal Directories?
John Wallbillich at Wired GC and Kevin O'Keefe at Real Lawyers Have Blogs are among the bloggers commenting on the article in the U.K. periodical Legal Week, "Corporate Counsel: Information Overload?" In it, writer Michelle Madsen considers whether corporate counsel view legal directories as valuable sources of information or wastes of lawyers' time and money. The question is fair game, she notes, having been raised by the directories themselves, with publisher Chambers and Partners producing a report last year, "Do Clients Use Chambers?" laden with testimonials from U.S. general counsel. But Madsen finds less enthusiasm for directories among GC in the U.K. Shell London legal head Richard Wiseman tells her:
I use them very, very rarely. I have the luxury of being able to consult with colleagues on the question of which outside counsel to speak to. I am horrified by the amount of money that firms spend on preparing submissions to these directories. I cannot imagine who they think is naive enough to use a directory in any other way than they would use the Yellow Pages.
Their one value, other GC tell Madsen, is as a reference point for entering a new market or "if you are completely stuck."
Madsen's findings are at odds with a recent Martindale-Hubbell survey reported Feb. 25 on the company's blog by John Lipsey, vice president for corporate counsel services. When he asked corporate counsel to rank, in order of importance, the resources they leverage when hiring outside counsel, more than 90 percent ranked personal referrals as first. Next on the list was Martindale-Hubbell, ranked as important by 42 percent of corporate counsel. That speaks well of Martindale, Lipsey suggests, given that only 18 percent cited Google as a resource and even fewer listed Best Lawyers, Chambers, SuperLawyers, Law Dragon or Avvo.
Blogger O'Keefe suggests that the Martindale survey lacks credibility as self-serving "and done to argue that Martindale remains relevant in the age of the internet." From his perspective, the Wired GC's Wallbillich sees these various directories as having some purpose, "but their influence is more like a citation from a Louisiana state court in a legal brief. It's better than nothing, but in my experience only in limited cases (such as a foreign jurisdiction or a minor matter for local counsel)." From my own conversations with corporate counsel, my sense is that they rely heavily on word-of-mouth referrals and references, but that legal directories provide corroboration and affirmation, as do other sources -- including blogs.
What do you think? Do legal directories serve a useful role in hiring?Sphere: Related Content
Air Force Lawyers Fire Strike at YouTube
A Reed Smith lawyer, acting on behalf of the U.S. Air Force, has sent YouTube a DMCA take-down notice demanding the removal of a 30-second recruiting video produced to promote its new Cyber Command, an operation aimed at gaining military dominance in cyberspace. But the letter raises the question: Is there any legal basis for it?
Kevin Poulsen first reported the take-down letter (PDF) Friday at Wired's Threat Level blog, which covers online privacy, security and crime. It was Poulsen who originally posted the video in February, after it was sent to him by the Air Force's head of marketing Keith Lebling. Notwithstanding Lebling's marketing efforts, Reed Smith associate Meredith D. Pikser certifies "under penalty of perjury" in her letter to YouTube that posting the video "infringes the U.S. Air Force's copyrights in this work."
Even if the Air Force's DMCA claim is truthful, however, it's still a policy overreach. Wired posted the video in order to report on government recruiting efforts; the video's dissemination is part of that First-Amendment protected discussion, whether it happens on or off government websites. The DMCA makes it too easy to takedown first, think later.
So it appears that as the Air Force seeks military dominance in cyberspace, the question remains whether it will prevail in the virtual battlefield of the law. Copyright experts out there: What say you?Sphere: Related Content
Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 10, 2008 at 05:56 AM | Permalink
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