Wednesday, April 23, 2008

fron legal watch blog

Blawg Review Gets a Second Life

Benjamin Duranske hosts Blawg Review #156 this week at his blog Virtually Blind. Duranske writes about the law and its relation to virtual worlds such as Second Life at his blog and in his new book, Virtual Law: Navigating the Legal Landscape of Virtual Worlds, published by the American Bar Association. And since not everyone has as firm a grasp as Duranske on all this virtual stuff, he structures this Blawg Review as a set of questions and answers about virtual law. Here is your chance to learn all about avatars, 3D networked environments and "swamps of sexual content," all while catching up on the best in the week's blog posts.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on April 21, 2008 at 11:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stickin' With My Suit, Goshdarnit!

The Internet Bubble and Casual Fridays were just the start of the slippery slope that led us to the wrinkled knit shirt of a mess we're in today. Not like the good ol' days, says Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice partner Pressly M. Millen, writing in The National Law Journal, when a suit was a suit and "colors ran the gamut from gray to blue." Today, he says, few law firms have the stomach to tell young lawyers that they should dress like lawyers. But Millen is bucking the trend and sticking to his suit:

Now, I often find myself the only one in the room -- and, sometimes, it's a big room -- who's dressed the way lawyers used to dress. But I've decided I don't care anymore. When I go to the doctor or dentist, he or she better be wearing a white lab coat. The meal tastes better somehow when the chef wears a white coat, apron and toque. I feel good when my auto mechanic is wearing a jumpsuit with his name stitched on the pocket.

My suit is my uniform. Like the robe and wig of the English barrister, it marks me off from the rest. I'm comfortable with that. And every morning I'll wake up and put on my uniform, just like that barrister's wig, with no complaints.

Of course, in those good ol' stuffed-shirt days, no respectable law firm would feature a bulldog and doghouse on the front page of its Web site, as Womble Carlyle does, let alone have a Web site. Yes, times have changed. But when it comes to meetings with clients or adversaries or other such occasions, I agree with Millen that lawyers should dress like lawyers.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on April 21, 2008 at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Metadata: Read at Your Own Risk

Mining for metadata in documents received from opposing counsel is unethical, says a new ethics opinion from the New York County Lawyers' Association. "A lawyer who receives from an adversary electronic documents that appear to contain inadvertently produced metadata is ethically obligated to avoid searching the metadata in those documents," the opinion concludes. The opinion is notable for its disagreement with a 2006 American Bar Association Ethics Committee opinion that reached the opposite conclusion, permitting review of metadata in documents opposing counsel sends electronically. Instead, the NYCLA ethics committee sides with the New York State Bar Association, which found that a lawyer may not ethically use technology to "surreptitiously examine" electronic documents.

This Committee finds that the NYSBA rule is a better interpretation of the Code's disciplinary rules and ethical considerations and New York precedents than the ABA's opinion on this issue. Thus, this Committee concludes that when a lawyer sends opposing counsel correspondence or other material with metadata, the receiving attorney may not ethically search the metadata in those electronic documents with the intent to find privileged material or if finding privileged material is likely to occur from the search.

The opinion adds two caveats. First, it does not apply to e-discovery, where documents may contain metadata "that by agreement may be viewed by attorneys in the course of litigation." Second, it does not prohibit a lawyer from investigating metadata for purposes other than "to uncover attorney work product or client confidences or secrets."

For example, if a lawyer is facing a pro se litigant and suspects that a lawyer is nonetheless drafting the pleadings for the pro se litigant, the lawyer who searches the properties to see whether a lawyer has drafted the material is not likely to uncover attorney work product or client confidences or secrets and may not be intending to uncover such material because a pro se litigant does not have the attorney work product protection.

The opinion emphasizes that attorneys who are sending electronic documents to their adversaries have the responsibility "to take due care in appropriately scrubbing documents prior to sending them." But when an attorney neglects to scrub a document, opposing counsel may not "take advantage of the sending attorney's mistake and hunt for the metadata."

[Hat tip to Legalethics.com.]

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on April 21, 2008 at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

For BigLaw, Change is Good

At his blog Adam Smith, Esq., Bruce MacEwen reports from Georgetown Law School's symposium on the future of the global law firm, where an international assemblage of academics and law firm leaders considered global competition, ownership and capital structure, ethics and professional values, cultural dynamics and related issues. If he were to boil down the theme of the two-day conference to just one word, MacEwen says, it would be "change."

Lawyers are notoriously poor at coping with change. ... Yet change is in our futures, like it or not. More than once the observation was made that from the invention of the Cravath System around the turn of the 20th Century through about 1985, the profession looked remarkably stable, but that the last 20 years have seen revolutionary changes and the next decade promises further departures at least as radical as those we've just experienced.

If change is the theme for global firms, it is also the mantra of firms here in the United States, according to an article by Leigh Jones in today's National Law Journal. "Change is a good thing," Dechert chairman Barton J. Winokur tells Jones. In this case, the change taking place is the reshuffling under way in large law firms "as they move lawyers out of faltering practice areas into those that are less vulnerable -- or even thriving -- during the economic slump." But if change is good, it can also cause "some jitters" among the lawyers going through it, as a Thacher Proffitt & Wood partner told the NLJ.

Where is all this change leading? MacEwen writes that he has never before attended a conference at which "so many readily admitted to so few answers." But he is not concerned by that, believing that experimentation is at the core of entrepreneurship. "As I said in a prior life as CEO of a dot-com, 'mid-course corrections are my middle name.'"

See also: The Future of the Global Law Firm, Installment #2.

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Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on April 21, 2008 at 10:

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