Friday, December 30, 2011

Shameless and greedy request.

If you have time and the inclination, could you please click here and "like" this picture?  It's not the most flattering for us, but if we get the most "likes," then I get five free entries in this year's comp.  Many thanks!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why I could be a good director of a public company.

Today's WSJ offers some thoughts on why there aren't more female directors (here).  As I say over at one of my other blogs (here), there are some frustrating implications of that issue.  But here's why I might be useful to some companies:
  1. I've actually run two organizations.  They were both educational institutions (I served as the dean of two law schools, the University of Nebraska College of Law and the University of Houston Law Center), not for-profit public companies, but I do have more than an inkling of the challenges facing companies that have to juggle changes in demand and tight workforce restrictions.)
  2. I study the behavior of organizations.  OK, I'm usually studying them because they're dysfunctional, but still, I am paying attention to how humans behave in organizations.
  3. I study ethics.
  4. I understand companies that have to operate in tough financial circumstances.  That doesn't mean that I'm interested only in companies that have filed or are considering filing for bankruptcy protection, but it's fair to say that I could be useful for those types of companies.*
So if you know a company that's looking for more women, and you're comfortable suggesting me as a candidate, I'm interested in talking.

* Of course, if Disney's board ever comes calling, I've loved that company since, well, I was a kid.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

R.I.P. Larry Ribstein.

Saw Brian Leiter's blog this morning (here) and was saddened to hear about Larry's passing.  Not only was he exceptionally smart and creative, but he seemed like a very nice person.  I'll miss reading his work, and my heart goes out to his friends and family.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Customer service feedback of the day.


How many of you have seen Matilda at the Algonquin?

Whether you have or haven't, check out this N.Y. Times story on Matilda's new limitations on roaming (here). 

I read the story to Shadow, who simply sniffed and wandered off.  Grace, on the other hand, didn't even pause to hear the news.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Newest guilty pleasure.

Courtesy of my buddy Turtle Brennen (here).

BRAVO TO SCOTT CHASE!!!

My buddy Scott Chase just received recognition for his dedicated community service.  Here's the announcement from the DAYL Foundation.  Scott's being awarded this year's DAYL Foundation and DAYL Foundation Fellows' Award of Excellence for his extensive volunteer service.  CONGRATULATIONS!

AMENDMENT:  Harriet Miers is the keynote speaker.  Scott's the sole recipient of the award.

WSJ's "Report on the Recent Piggybanking Crisis"

Here.  Classic.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Danny Sokol finds the best Chanukah songs this year.

See here.  CLASSIC.

We don't learn. Maybe we can't.

Today's WSJ article about the Olympus scandal (here) proves that we haven't learned anything, really, about avoiding corporate scandals.  Why?  Here are some possibilities:

__ People are inherently evil. 

Nah.  There are good people, and there are evil people.  But most of us fall somewhere in the middle, and it's the situations that we find ourselves in that will push us toward either good behavior or bad behavior.  So I have to reject that gloomy "people are just evil" explanation.

__ Smart people think that they can fix mistakes by covering them up.

Yep.  Ever since Watergate, we've known that the mistakes aren't nearly as bad for us as the cover-ups are, but we keep making the same "let's cover things up" mistake.  Heck, Vegas and other gaming centers are based on the idea that folks will chase their losses until they win again (and they usually don't win again).  But smart people keep thinking that they can outsmart the system, and that they won't get caught.  Will we learn from our mistakes? 

Based on the empirical data, I'm thinking that we won't.  (But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try.)

Monday, December 05, 2011

My bucket list, or why I want to win $250,000 in a lottery.

Everyone has a bucket list.   On mine?
__ Swimming with sharks?  Yep.  (Thanks to the Georgia Aquarium.)
__ Seeing a great white shark?  Missed it by two weeks, and still enjoyed our trip to the Monterey Aquarium.
__ Going down to Titanic in a submersible?  Doesn't look likely.  Today's New York Times story (here) prices the final year of trips at almost $60,000 each.  Nevada doesn't have a lottery; I'm no good at video poker or any other type of gaming; and no one's volunteering to sponsor a trip for me, so I have a feeling that this bucket-list trip is out of my league.  Well, at least there's the Big Piece in Luxor's Titanic exhibit.  That'll have to do.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Shameless groveling for free dance competition entries.

The folks who own the Vegas Open Dance Challenge are having a photo contest, and the pic with the most likes on it gets some free entries.

So I'm shamelessly asking all of my friends (and their friends) to please click on this link here and "like" my picture.  Thanks so much!

Enron in retrospective.

BBC Radio 5 Live's Wake Up To Money asked me a bit about Enron, 10 years later (interview starts around minute 27:30), or click here.

My Dad and my buddy Gus Schill pointed me to the Houston Chronicle's Enron retrospective:  see here, here, and Fuel Fix's compilation, here.  Some of my takes are here, here (Colin Marks and I wrote this one), here, and here.  And the books that Bala Dharan, Jeff (yep, my Jeff) Van Niel, and I did:  here and here.

Short version of my take on things, 10 years later?  Two things:  those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and humans don't seem to be able to learn from history, at least where their own cognition is concerned.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why giving up my Droid X was worth over a thousand dollars to me.

I thought I was smart. I thought I was a rebel. I thought that I could avoid going all-in on Apple products. I thought that having a phone that linked to my Gmail account and all of its contacts would be cool and convenient.


Nope.


I had a Droid X for all of six months before I had a hissy fit yesterday. The Droid had just gotten on my last nerve.


Oh, there were signs. Like any bad relationship, there were signs. Lotus Notes didn't like Droids. Installing Lotus Notes took over an hour, and after I updated my Droid OS, Lotus Notes went on the fritz. Not even the best minds at UNLV's Office of Information Technology (and trust me, there are very smart people working at OIT) could figure out what was wrong. I almost gave up right there, but I stuck with my Droid.


I stuck with my Droid even though its autocorrect feature would go haywire from time to time. I stuck with my Droid even though its browser was slow. I stuck with my Droid even though Android Market didn't have as many cool apps.


I was stubborn.  So what changed my mind? Sheer, boundless stupidity.


I don't know why the Droid X stopped getting Gmail (its raison d'ĂȘtre, after all, right?) and started giving me messages telling me that Google (yes, Google) didn't have a trusted security certificate. I did a Google search (on my iMac) to find out what the various Gmail errors meant, and I saw page after page listing the newest Gmail/Droid X errors. 


Strike one.


When I called Verizon Wireless, the tech rep told me that there were no such problems.


Strike two.


Then he told me that I'd have to do a hard reset, which would mean having to reinstall everything, including Lotus Notes.


Strike three.


So I called around and found one Apple store that had a few iPhone 4s models remaining. I hightailed it over there and got the phone. 


Because I'd had the Droid for under a year, I had to pay full price (gasp!) for a 64GB iPhone 4s, but here's the thing:  the in-store setup, including a humongous contact list transfer, took around 15 minutes, and the OIT Lotus Notes setup (including downloading the Lotus Notes app) took around 10 minutes. Canceling my second phone line at Verizon took about 10 minutes and cost me $280, but I'll save $40/month by not having a second phone line.


And let's face it: the iPhone's just better. Its keyboard is easier to use. Its autocorrect feature is pretty smart. The phone feels better in my hand. And Siri? Ah, Siri has the right amount of competence and whimsy.



So what will I do with the Droid X now? Let's just say that there's a 230-gr. hollow-point with the Droid's name on it, and one happy husband who's been trying to find a way to lure me to the shooting range.

We found it. Wait for the video.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Newest "guilty pleasure" blog--update.

See hereHat tip to Brian Leiter.

UPDATE:  From my buddy George Connelly:  In my humble opinion, the "feel good" aspects of lower and higher education have created at least 2 generations of students who do not know how to spell, punctuate, or write.  And so long as grade inflation exists in the schools, that will continue.

From the sharp eyes of my buddy Bruce Quinn.

Bruce forwarded this article on cat agility (here) to me today. Am now reading the article to Grace and Shadow, who don't seem to have any competitive bones in their bodies.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Happy birthday to my beloved Marine Corps!

What can I say?  I have friends in pretty much every branch of the service (although I have no Coast Guard friends yet), and I'm in awe of how they put themselves on the line every single day, without even asking us for simple thanks.

And I love, absolutely love, the Marine Corps.  The Corps was founded on 10 November 1775.  My husband's a former Marine.  My father-in-law is a former Marine.  My brother-in-law is a former Marine.*

Every single day, I read about someone who's fairly young and who has stepped up to the plate, either on foreign soil or here at home.  I marvel at their ability to lead by example.  So:


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARINES! 


* My sister-in-law retired not terribly long ago from the Air Force, and Jeff's late mother was in the Army.  I married into a wonderful military family.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Giving kudos (and buying ice cream) for 'fessing up to mistakes.

I've been meaning to post a link to this New York Times story about how to encourage learning from mistakes (here) for a while.  The gist is that it's better to bring mistakes out into the open and treat them as a learning opportunity (by having the mistake-maker buy ice cream for everyone) than it is to yell at the mistake-maker in private.  I love that idea.  It lessens the angst from having made a mistake and acknowledges the mistake in a positive way.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dear Ulta.com:

If you're going to send me a $15 gift card to make up for messing up a prior order, perhaps that gift card should actually work on a subsequent order.  Epic (mini)fail.

Here's to contractions.

Loved John Kang's post over at The Faculty Lounge (here).  I've been known to yank (invited) pieces from journals when they mess too much with my writing style.  We seem to have been giving law students the notion that only stuffy writing is good writing.  We need to remind them that clear writing is good writing, and that one doesn't have to be overly formal to be a good writer.  My point when I yank an article is that the editors' names aren't going on the author byline, and that I've earned the right to write in my own voice.*

So here's to John Kang's piece!

* Am I a diva?  Yes.  Yes, I am.  But at least I'm a self-aware diva.

Let's keep watching the Gupta insider trading case.

Today's Wall Street Journal describes the nuanced issues in this case (here).

My take?  As long as boards are composed of people who frequently work with each other and who have more similarities than differences, there's no one there equipped to ask "why are we doing this?"  Without someone asking the questions, there's no reason for boards to change behavior.

Welcome back, Jack the Norwegian Forest Cat!

See here.

Enron rap--a new classic.

Hat tip to Jackie Benson (who happens to be exceptionally smart, talented, and fun to know) and Above the Law.  You can listen to it here.  Click on Daniel Sokol's blog (here) for the text of the full rap.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Thank you, LexisNexis (and voters)!


Here's the full announcement and list of honorees.  I love a lot of the blogs on this list (and on the original list), and I'm very grateful to be included.

To vote for the Top Business Law Blog of the Year, click here.  You've got to be registered to vote.  If you haven't previously registered, follow this link to create a new registration or use your sign in credentials from your favorite social media site.   Once you are logged in, you can then VOTE by checking the box next to your favorite Business Law blog then submitting the results. Voting ends on November 5, 2011.

Thanks again!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A don't-miss read over at The Faculty Lounge.

My buddy Bernie Burk's take (here) on the latest job news in yesterday's WSJ (here).  Given that I've just filed a court document bemoaning law firms' decisions to try to bill summer associate time in bankruptcy cases w/o a good explanation, and given that I'm going to talk about fees in bankruptcy this coming Thursday, this topic is near and dear to my heart.

Joe Nocera, Starbucks, Kickstarter, and us.

This morning's New York Times brought another great Joe Nocera column (here).  Starbucks's chairman is trying to develop a microfinance option for Starbucks customers, much like the Kickstarter site does for artists.  It's a great idea.  Count me in.

Great way to start the morning.

Hilarious.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Protests only make sense when they stand for something specific.

The current "occupy" protests remind me a lot of that great line in Network"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this any more!"  But I find myself increasingly frustrated by the tenor of the protests, and not just because some of them have an anti-Semitic tenor.  (Financial protests that blame the Jews?  Shocker.) 

Of course, we're frustrated about the current economic climate.  We have friends and neighbors who are suffering from unemployment or, if they have jobs, they're facing reduced benefits and the risk of layoffs.  We have friends and neighbors who have lost homes or who are at risk of losing their homes.  We have friends and neighbors who can't afford their prescription medicines.  We see the pain in their eyes.

But where are the specific solutions in those "occupy" protests?  The great protests of the past involved specifics:  desegregation, an end to discrimination, equal rights. 

One of my favorite movies (yep, written by Aaron Sorkin) has this line:  "We've got serious problems, and we need serious people."  Hanging out in a group without having some notion of what action that group wants to take (or whether any of the proposals make sense) isn't a serious solution to a serious problem.  I'm with David Brooks on this one:  oversimplying the problem as 99 vs. 1 gets us nowhere (here).

Story of (former) lawyer's chutzpah.

See here.  I couldn't make up behavior like this if I tried.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

As if there weren't already a million reasons to read The Faculty Lounge.

Here's another one--Bernie Burk's going to blog there!

Shameless plug.

Each year, LexisNexis honors a select group of blogs that set the online standard for a given industry. I’ve just been told that this blog is one of the nominated candidates for the Top 25 Business Law Blogs of 2011, featured on the LexisNexis Corporate & Securities Community. (YAY!) If you're comfortable commenting about my blog (and there are TONS of great blogs on the site, so you could comment on a lot of 'em), then please click hereThanks! 

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Good job, Marines!

Today's New York Times reports that the Marines are now actively recruiting gays and lesbians (here).  My favorite paragraph of the story:
The Marines were the service most opposed to ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, but they were the only one of five invited branches of the military to turn up with their recruiting table and chin-up bar at the center Tuesday morning. Although Marines pride themselves on being the most testosterone-fueled of the services, they also ferociously promote their view of themselves as the best. With the law now changed, the Marines appear determined to prove that they will be better than the Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard in recruiting gay, lesbian and bisexual service members. 
Way to go, USMC!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Noble-Martello family ROCKS.

See here.  We've been lucky enough to know them for a long time (but refuse to say how MANY years), and each of them is talent personified--and nice.  Yay in particular to Amelia!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I figured out this picture on Target's website.

The "(wink)" is for
  • We don't have anything in stock.
  • We've lost one of your orders.
  • We're not going to send you your other order.
  • Our customer service won't help.
  • We don't freaking care if you're angry.


Seriously, what were the odds?

So I'm reading the Sunday paper (having gotten up early to drop a friend off at the airport), and I see this title in the local paper's Business section:  Deep in the Heart of Nevada.  (Online, the title is Jobs, weather have some Texans coming to Las Vegas--see here.)

I read this paragraph and then mopped up my spit-take:
"The town where we're from has a Walmart, a McDonald's and a couple of Mexican restaurants. It has a little shopping center with a Big Lots and a Dollar General. That's it," said Shannon Fleming, 28, who moved here with husband, Kevin, 33, and 7-year-old daughter, Amaya, from Orange, Texas, in early 2010.
Orange, Texas?  Um, that's where I'm from.  Hey, Flemings?  Welcome to Las Vegas!  We totally understand your point.

But just to be fair:  Houston is still a wonderful city.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The perfect juxtaposition of two articles today on the death penalty.

See here and here.  There are few things in life of which I'm unshakably sure.  The love of certain family members and friends is one such thing; the belief that there is such a thing as right and wrong (although I'm not always sure that it's possible to figure out which is which) is another; and the concept that humans make mistakes in judgment is a third.  So the idea that no one has ever been wrongfully executed is just plain foreign to me.

Personally, I like my leaders with a little more self-doubt and humility.

I've started a second blog (well, a third one, really).

Jeff and I have a blog for our Law School Survival Manual (here), and today, I started a blog called Corporate Scandal Watch (here).  (We've also reserved a blog for Law Firm Survival Manual for when it comes out, but that's a while away.)

Corporate Scandal Watch has a whopping single post for now, but thanks to our economy and human nature, there will be more.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

On this day in 1962.

When and where did JFK say this?  "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." 

Rice University, 9/12/62.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

What I want in a President (or a Senator, or a Congressperson).

One of the op-eds that I read this morning (here) got me thinking about what I want in a candidate for national office.*  I'm part of that vast center, neither too liberal nor too conservative.  I've toyed with both parties over the years, but the parties I knew growing up bear no relationship to the acrimonious and sanctimonious parties of today.  If politicians were still in kindergarten, they'd all be given "doesn't play well with others" grades.  But at least if they were in kindergarten, we could hope that they'd grow out of that problem.

So what do I want?  Here are the markers for my ideal candidate:
  1. They're smart.  Smart people can learn things, and they're open to questioning their assumptions.  People with high IQs who aren't open to questioning their assumptions aren't smart.
  2. They know their limitations.  Dirty Harry was right:  "A man's got to know his limitations."**  Not only should they know their limitations, they should surround themselves with people whose strengths fit precisely where the candidate's limitations are.  I worked for a Republican 9th Circuit judge.  We had very few things in common.  (Let's see:  we both went to law school.  We were both carbon-based life forms.  Later in life, I was a dean; he'd been a dean before working for the federal government.  That's about it.)  He liked choosing at least one law clerk whose ideas differed markedly from his, so that, as he put it, he could make sure that his decisions made sense.  He wanted me to poke holes in his analysis, and he rewarded me for doing so.  He was willing to buck his own predilections to get the law right.  Given that many of the more liberal judges back then weren't nearly as intellectually honest as he was, I was impressed by his dedication to justice.  
  3. They don't believe their own hype.  People in power are surrounded by lackeys.  The level of kissing-up to which they're subjected is almost unlimited.  Being told that one is brilliant, handsome/beautiful, and wise every minute will tend to affect one's self-image.  It takes strength to realize that, like everyone else, they're humans with no superpowers.  I want my public servants to have some humility.
  4. They're willing to walk away from the job rather than pander.  This one's tough.  I know that it's impossible to govern without being elected.  But with the extremists in both parties pushing for candidates and politicians to move farther left or farther right, as the case may be, at some point, the candidate or politician has to say, "enough."  Spending too much time campaigning at the cost of investing that time in governing doesn't impress me.
I don't know if we'll get candidates that meet my criteria.  I'd love to see them, but I doubt that the people who really could fit even this list of four qualities are going to take time from their productive lives to run.  We sure could use them, though.
_______________
* Of course, I'd like to see these same things in candidates for state and local offices, too.
**http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070355/quotes. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Want good reporting on bankruptcy news? You want Bill Rochelle.

Here's a perfect example (today's column, here).  Full disclosure:  I've known Bill for several years now and have enjoyed talking with him about developing news, and I've gotten to know other great Bloomberg folks as well.

Update:  to get the podcasts, click here.

David Brooks and "haimishness."

In today's New York Times (here).  Nice.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rice's 100th entering class.

See here.  Go, Owls! 

My dad was ahead of his time when he taught me math.

Today's op-ed in the New York Times, "How to Fix Our Math Education" (here), argues that students should learn math in context--that teaching them practical applications of math will make the concepts of math stick.  I'm proof of that. 

When I was in high school, my dad realized that, even though I was getting all As, I knew nothing about algebra.  (I went to high school in Texas.  Aside from a very few wonderful teachers, the only real education that I received was the education that Mom and Dad gave me at home.  I still have only the concept of geography that I learned in school:  "Texas" and "other"--and "other" meant "Dallas on up.")  He gave me homework in algebra and more advanced math subjects, as well as science homework.  That homework, which I'm sure frustrated the heck out of Dad, got me into Rice, and Rice got me into my various careers.

So the op-ed is smart.  As is Dad.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The older I get, the more I like straightforward things, like the West Point Honor Code.

See here for a good discussion about the difference between codes that force community members to turn in their colleagues and those that don't.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I would say this even if I didn't hang out with Bloomberg folks.

People who think that they can have it all (a wonderful, engaging job; full participation in family life; time for themselves) are too optimistic.  It's totally possible to have all of these things, but not all of them 100% of the time.  Priorities have to shift; things have to give.  So I wasn't surprised by this story (here) in the New York Times.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Monday, August 08, 2011

Rest in peace, Bernadine Healy.

Just saw the news about her death (here).  We overlapped at The Ohio State University, and I remember her as being quite gracious.  She never seemed to shy away from tough decisions. 

A class act.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

(update) WONDERFUL column on Enron's former directors.

See the Deal Professor's column in today's New York Times (here).

UPDATE (or why I shouldn't monitor my blog before 6:15 a.m.)--my buddy George posted a great comment, which I accidentally deleted, so here it is:
While I do not think all of the folks mentioned in the article are as pure as the driven snow, there is a thinly veiled assumption that they knew what was going on when bad things were happening and turned a blind eye. I think it is premature to indict them in the media when they were probably lied to like the unlucky investors in those companies (or would any of you like some of our Lehman Brothers stock?).
Me:  George, I'm sure that they were lied to.  There's no way that they weren't.  The question that I have (and one that I don't know how to answer) is how boards can pierce through any lies that their managers throw their way, especially when they assume that their managers are the good guys.  If you post another comment, I promise to have had coffee and won't accidentally delete it!

I didn't think that Elizabeth Warren could get any cooler. I was wrong.

See today's Doonesbury strip here.  Based on this strip, her appearances on The Daily Show, and Joe Nocera's columns about her (like this one, here), she has officially become the coolest law professor ever.  If I were a Massachusetts resident, I would be delighted to campaign for her Senate run (should she choose to run).

Best prep for becoming a first-year law student.

See here.  One of our new first-years has been helping people who can't afford lawyers to understand the system.  Here's what the story says about him:
Berchtold is particularly enthusiastic about a staff assistant designated to handle customers who have received home mortgage default notices and are thinking about opting for the Foreclosure Mediation Program run by the Nevada Supreme Court. That position is filled by Adam Tully, who will enter UNLV’s Boyd Law School this fall.
 Welcome, Adam--I can't wait to see the kind of good you'll do when you get your J.D., pass the bar, and can help people parse the system in your role as a lawyer.  BRAVO!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Welcome home, STS-135!

Here's the landing.  Thank you, NASA, for all you've done.  Here's to giving you the funding and the vision to continue letting us explore and discover.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

And speaking of Apollo....

Happy Moon Landing Day (see here).  And yes, we did TOO land on the moon.  Here's to our nation coming up with more ways of getting kids excited about math and science....

Kickstarter's Apollo film--let's get it funded.

I'm captivated by Kickstarter, a micro-finance engine for a variety of projects, and I particularly care about this project:  Last of the Apollo Astronauts (here).  There are 12 days left to fund this project.  Let's do it!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Happy birthday to John Glenn!

My buddy Scott Unger reminded me that it's John Glenn's birthday today.  Wishing a happy birthday to a very, very brave person.  Want to see how brave?  See here.  Godspeed, John Glenn.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Elton John and the space shuttle

Watch here.  Hat tip to Ed Fein, my IP guru at NASA.  Also a hat tip to our friend Randy, who is a rocket scientist--for real.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

In memoriam: David Getches.

Brian Leiter posted the news here.  I'd known David Getches from our intersecting times as dean, and more recently on a personal level.  My heart goes out to his family.  He was a very nice, very kind person.  I'll miss him.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A salute to Robert Gates and a diatribe against the U.S. Postal Service--and why the two are linked.

Kevin Ferris wrote a lovely piece about departing defense secretary Robert Gates (here), who has served honorably in his position, putting the troops' needs first.

And speaking of our troops, I was hoping to be able to send paperbacks to them via Operation Paperback, but our postal service decided to send them back to me instead.

I'm starting to wonder why we still have a United States Postal Service, when it's staffed by too many people with too little initiative.  Yes, there are many good workers at the USPS.  But there are also too many who don't seem to want to do a good job.  Is there a way to repurpose the USPS people who are good (maybe ask them to get the TSA's house in order?), and give up on the idea that we still need a government run postal service?

In any event, thank you, Dr. Gates, for watching over our troops so well, and thanks, Operation Paperback, for trying.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fun with professional responsibility.

One of my favorite students at Boyd, Jason Lather, has alerted me to this story about a newbie lawyer who took on way, way too much:  here.  Fascinating.  Thanks, Jason!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sports trivia question.

Can you name any of the 17 schools with ZERO major NCAA violations in any sport since 1953, when the NCAA started keeping track?

Any of them?

Here's a hint (here), courtesy of yesterday's WSJ.

Stanford's one.
Air Force is one.
Penn State is one.
So's Northwestern.

and...

Rice University is one.

GO, OWLS!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

For those of you who want some LexisNexis materials....

LexisNexis has graciously offered to give my readers a 20% discount if they order by clicking through my blog.  I don't get a dime for this--I traded "not getting a dime" for "my readers get a discount," which I liked a lot better.  Just scroll down the right-hand side of my blog to look for the link.  Enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

USNWR likely to change its rankings methodology for placement.

Hat tip to TaxProf Blog, with this post (here).

I'm obviously no fan of the rankings or how law schools use them as a measure of quality, but I'm even more disappointed in schools that "manage" their employment numbers by, well, lying about them.  What else could USNWR do but find a workaround for the gaming that's been going on?

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Watching STS-134 still brings tears to my eyes.

See here and here, with the links provided by our buddy Randy Morgan (that'd be our friend who is a real rocket scientist).

Watching the end of the shuttle program makes me grateful for all of the hard work and sacrifice that the good folks at NASA have provided, decade after decade.  I think about the last few lines in the movie Apollo 13,* spoken by Tom Hanks, who played Capt. Lovell:
Gene Kranz retired as Director of Flight Operations just not long ago.  And many other members of Mission Control have gone on to other things, but some are still there.  And as for me, the seven extraordinary days of Apollo 13 ... were my last in space.  I watched other men walk on the moon and return safely ... all from the confines of Mission Control and our house in Houston.  I sometimes catch myself looking up at the moon ... remembering the changes of fortune in our long voyage thinking of the thousands of people who worked to bring the three of us home.  I look up at the moon and wonder, when will we be going back?  And who will that be?
With NASA's budget in jeopardy, I wonder where that great unifying cry for scientists will come from, and whether it will be loud enough for the next generation to hear it.

Thank you, NASA, for all you've done for us--and all that you continue to do.


* Ron Howard directed Apollo 13, based on the book Lost Moon (written by Capt. Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger), and with a script written by Bill Broyles and Al Reinert.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Few things in life are as satisfying as watching a former student soar.

Scott Unger (former student and a long-time friend) just published this (here).  Scott's a wonderful litigator and, just as important, a person who cares deeply about ethics and professionalism.

Way to go, Scott!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I love NASA.

I still remember when we went to see the shuttle liftoff with our friends Randy and Cathleen.  So when I read this essay (here) in the Wall Street Journal, it triggered those memories. 

Friday, May 06, 2011

Chicken, meet egg.

The ABA Journal is reporting (here) USNWR's reaction to being blamed, at least in part, for the frenzy to buy high UGPA and LSAT scores with merit scholarships.  Last Sunday, the New York Times reported (here) that many of the students who received merit scholarships didn't retain those scholarships after the first year.  The consequences of losing a merit scholarship at an expensive school can be dire

It's true that the USNWR rankings don't cause students to lose their scholarships.  (The cause is a combination of a scholarship's requirements, the grading curve, and the individual student's abilities--as well as any particular personal crisis that the student might be having during the first year.) 

It's equally true that schools are buying "high-numbers" students as a way to improve their rankings, given how much UGPA and LSAT figures can drive the rankings (here) and how few other ways there are to game the system.   It's really difficult to affect the peer and lawyers/judges rankings (notwithstanding all of the glossy brochures that we all get in the fall); in this economic environment, placing students in real jobs at graduation is also really difficult.  Bar passage isn't a large enough factor in the rankings.  What does that leave?  Ah, yes:  "the numbers."

I can't remember a time before the rankings.  (I can't remember a lot of things, though, so I'm not worried about this particular lapse in my memory.)  At some earlier point, didn't we select our students based on our predictions of the applicants' success in our schools?  We used UGPAs and LSATs for those predictions, but we also used non-numerical predictors of academic success.  Schools may still use those, but they sure do pay attention to how "the numbers" are going to look at matriculation.

No matter how we admitted students before, "the numbers" and the USNWR rankings are now officially a chicken-egg problem.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Seriously?

I'm always disappointed when law students go ballistic over a downward move in the USNWR rankings (see, e.g., here, discussing Emory's brouhaha).  I know, I know:  the higher-ranked the school, the easier it is to get a foot in the door at BigLaw firms.  I get that, and the fact that the USNWR rankings matter so much to BigLaw is a big flaw in the BigLaw recruiting process.  So shame on those BigLaw firms that only look at GPA cutoffs and rankings.  They're missing out on some stellar people who don't fit the traditional BigLaw profile but who would do wonderful work for them.

But let's face it:  USNWR is a magazine.  It sends out surveys to a very small sample size (for you non-statistics geeks, that means that the surveys aren't providing very reliable information), and those surveys count for way too much of the final scores.  The rest of the scores are based on criteria that are too easily manipulated.

So basing one's view of one's law school on the scoring system that a magazine uses to sell issues is a bit like caring that one's speakers go to 11.

If the dean at Emory resigned just because of the rankings, that's a sad commentary on the misplaced importance that people place on this single way of viewing the array of ABA-accredited law schools.  On the other hand, I know from first-hand experience how much fun it is to transition back to a faculty after having been a dean.  So, welcome back to the life of a law professor, David.  You'll enjoy it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Welcome back to Stanford, Bob Gordon!

Brian Leiter breaks the news here.  Bob was one of my professors, and it's nice to hear that he's coming home.

I sure wish I could go to this conference.

See here and here.  Hat tip to TaxProf Blog.

What bothers me about law students (and lawyers) who post anonymously on blogs.

When I take breaks from my work, I often check out blogs.  There's a relatively new blog that covers law in Las Vegas.  It frequently has stories about Boyd Law School and the people who work there.

It's not the stories I mind.*  It's some of the comments that people post that bother me--and not because of the text of the comments.  What bothers me is that the comments are posted anonymously.   Some of those comments are posted by people who appear to have a connection to Boyd. 

Here's what I don't get:  no one forces anyone to post anything on a blog.  Posting on a blog isn't a course requirement.  One doesn't have to write blog posts to get admitted to the bar, or to stay in good standing with the bar.  Blog posts are voluntary acts. 

Because posting is voluntary, I consider anonymous posting to be mobbing behavior.  I consider anonymous posting by law-trained people to be particularly repugnant.

Lawyers have to sign their names to their work.  They sign pleadings.  (And, in federal court, they're signing those pleadings with an understanding that Rule 11 applies to them.)  Even transactional lawyers create drafts that they forward to the other side under their own names.  For better or worse, what a lawyer does is inextricably linked to his or her reputation.

What of those lawyers who are posting their thoughts about judges, and doing so anonymously?  I suppose that they're posting anonymously because they're afraid of running afoul of ethics rules like this one (Nevada Rule of Professional Conduct 8.2):
    Judicial and Legal Officials.
      (a) A lawyer shall not make a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge, adjudicatory officer or public legal officer, or of a candidate for election or appointment to judicial or legal office.
If a lawyer posts that a judge is biased or incompetent, he or she had better be able to back that allegation up with facts

There are mechanisms for communicating to the public that a judge is biased or incompetent.  There are surveys about judges' abilities.  There are disciplinary proceedings that someone can initiate.  (Whether those disciplinary proceedings actually work is another matter.)  Some of these mechanisms even allow anonymity to provide protection for those trying to seek change (e.g., voting an elected judge out of office).  So, for lawyers who are worried about retaliation for complaining about judges, there are legitimate outlets for their complaints.  (There are also mechanisms that lawyers can use when they have serious problems with other lawyers, such as rules requiring reporting of known and serious misconduct.  For example, there's Rule 8.3.  Again, I'm not convinced that this particular mechanism is effective, but it does exist.)

Most law students are lawyers in training.  If they have problems with something occurring in law school, they have their own mechanisms for communicating those problems--even some mechanisms that can protect them from any feared retaliation.  If they have a problem with someone's teaching, they can fill out course evaluations, which are anonymous.  (I know, I know:  students evaluating tenured professors often believe that their evaluations fall on deaf ears, because the administration may have little power to correct the problems raised by those evaluations.**)  If they have problems with an administration's policies, they have ways of communicating those problems in a group, or through a representative.

But I believe that most fears of retaliation are overblown, and I also believe that people who resort to anonymous posting on blogs to express their concerns are cowards.  Again, posting a comment is a voluntary act.  If someone feels so strongly about something that he's compelled to post a comment, he should have the courage to sign his name to that posting.  If he's a law student preparing to become a lawyer, he had better get used to signing his name to his work.

Anonymous postings also lack credibility.  It's hard for me to take seriously an anonymous comment, precisely because I don't have the opportunity to consider the source of the comment.

How strongly do I feel about anonymous posts?  Well, after I publish this post, I'll be posting links to it on this other blog.  And, of course, those links will identify me.  I have no problem with that.

* OK, I'm bothered by the fact that the authors of the blog prefer to remain anonymous themselves, but that's their choice as the blog's creators.  They're acting as aggregators of information, and perhaps they fear those types of unjustified lawsuits that confuse the aggregators of information with the actual information that others post on their site.

** In fact, administrations do have the ability to deal with egregious misbehavior by even the most senior, tenured professor.  The administration will have to run through more hoops, but it's possible to discipline such misbehavior.  First, though, the administration needs to know about the behavior, which means that people have to come forward with credible complaints.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

In the "good news" category....

Jeff & I heard that our Law School Survival Manual will be available on Kindle soon (here).

It's all about the incentives.

See this morning's New York Times story in the Dealbook section (here).  The easy part is realizing that incentives will almost always dictate behavior.  The hard part is figuring out how to put the right incentives in place.  That's why I liked Steven Davidoff's story so much.

Glenn Reynolds is absolutely right about lowering the drinking age.

See his op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (here). 

Of all the places to display one of the retired space shuttles . . . .

Houston would seem to be the no-brainer, obvious choice, right?  After all, the Johnson Space Center is where all of the action in the space program began.

But no:  LA is getting one.  New York City is getting one.  DC is getting one.  The Kennedy Space Center down in Florida is getting one.  But not Houston (here).

It makes sense for the Kennedy Space Center to get one.  And DC has the Smithsonian, so that decision makes sense.  But LA and NYC?  Not so much.

Seems like politics at its worst to me.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Seriously???

I fear for our profession when we allow behavior like this (here) to occur and we don't call "shenanigans" when we see it.

To me, it's simple.  We shouldn't let our egos get in the way of behaving like professionals.  Sure, lawyers and financial advisors work hard.  But so do people who get paid only a fraction of what lawyers and financial advisors make, and we don't read too many articles about them puffing up their chests over pizza.

We can behave better than this Wall Street Journal article indicates, and we should.

Friday, April 08, 2011

An open letter to Nevada's governor and legislature and to the Board of Regents.

I was hoping to be able to speak at today's special meeting of the Board of Regents, during the public comment session, but I had to leave to teach my class later this morning. Here's what I would have said:

You have a very difficult task in front of you, with Nevada's budget situation getting worse every day, and I don't envy you. I did want to give you a feel for how some of the research done at the Boyd School of Law contributes directly to Nevadans and to the country as a whole.

First, some bragging about our students. I'm one of the faculty advisors to the Gaming Law Journal and the Nevada Law Journal (lexis.com). Those two magazines publish both faculty research (not just our faculty's research, but the research done by scholars elsewhere as well) and student research. The GLJ is still rather young, but the NLJ's research has been cited by courts here in Nevada, including the Nevada Supreme Court, and by other courts. One of the country's most famous and well-regarded judges, the Hon. Richard Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, has cited the NLJ more than once. By publishing useful and high quality research, our students are providing courts with the means to make good decisions.

Second, the research that I'm doing in terms of bankruptcy ethics (the behavior of bankruptcy lawyers) is part of my overall research agenda, which is geared to supporting the behavior of good lawyers and to getting bad lawyers out of the legal system. It's not every day that I see, on the front page of the Review-Journal, an article on the reasonableness of attorney fees in bankruptcy cases (here). Part of my own research involves developing ways to help bankruptcy courts determine whether attorneys fees are reasonable. Reasonableness is a balancing act. The fees must compensate good lawyers and other professionals for their work in helping a debtor reorganize, but they can't carry a lot of redundancies and inefficiency. Dollars saved by reviewing fees for reasonableness can inure to the benefit of unsecured creditors, who get paid after the professionals are compensated for their work. (Distribution of payments in bankruptcy is more complicated than this description, but this one will suffice here.) Based on my work in this area, I've been asked twice to assist a bankruptcy court in Fort Worth in reviewing fees of two large chapter 11 cases, and I'm currently assisting the bankruptcy court here in Nevada in a similar capacity. The Boyd students and graduates who help me in this work are learning about how large chapter 11 cases work, and about how lawyers and other professionals fit into that process. It's good hands-on learning that will serve them well in their careers.

My research in bankruptcy ethics has also enabled me to help out the Office of the U.S. Trustee (which is part of the Department of Justice) in ferreting out lawyers who may be violating the ethics rules about the unauthorized practice of law. My ability to be useful in such matters is directly tied to my research. In my view, teaching, research, and service are inextricably linked.

My research about legal education has also informed my teaching. I've been hearing for some time that law students are trained to write memoranda--not to advise clients. (Our clinic students, of course, get the training that comes with dealing with live clients.) That's one of the reasons that my upper-level Professional Responsibility students are doing presentations in class. It's also why those presentations require teamwork. Teaching students legal ethics in a way that forces them to construe statutes (the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and figure out how to convey information to people who don't already know it is part of their legal training. Again, it's a mix of teaching and research that lets me give students the opportunity to practice some of the skills that they'll need after graduation.

While I was waiting in line to speak this morning, I heard numerous examples of what the budget cuts will do to the educational system in Nevada. I couldn't help thinking about what a success story Boyd is. We're a young law school, and yet we're able to turn law students into skilled and ethical lawyers. We're doing a very good job on what amounts to a shoestring budget: we're understaffed, our students' tuition dollars are stretched to the breaking point, and we still do everything that a good law school must do in order to be relevant to legal education and to the public.

Several of us have had many opportunities to go elsewhere. I'm choosing to stay because I believe in the strength of our school, even in the face of this budget crisis, and because I value what my colleagues are doing to keep our school's trajectory moving in the right direction.

As you consider how to deal with the budget crisis, I would urge you to focus not just on how (and how much) we at UNLV teach but also on how our research benefits the state and the country (and, for some of my colleagues, the international community). Investing in education here in Nevada is crucial if our state is to survive. We can and should invest wisely--with all that "investing wisely" means-- but we have to invest.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

'Nuff said.

See Nicholas Kristof's column in today's New York Times (here), explaining why Congress will still get paid if the federal government shuts down. 

Let me get this straight:  military personnel may not get paid on time (here) unless Congress passes a special bill to exempt them, but members of Congress--who have failed to do their jobs by reaching some sort of budget consensus--will get paid?

For shame, Congress.  For shame.

ABA Journal's "Peeps(tm) in Law diorama" contest.

See here.  Go to the lower right-hand side to scroll through the entries.  Hat tip to Lowering the Bar for pointing the contest out (here).

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Great post by Katie Porter at Credit Slips.

See here.

This just in: Skilling loses his appeal.

See here.

What do you get when you cross...

Twombly and Iqbal?

Wait for it....

Twiqbal.  I'm hoping that my combination word catches on.  If not, at least I can send you to this cartoon (here).

Lawyer humor.

Newest guilty pleasure (here).  Hat tip to Boyd School of Law student Jason Lather.

Wish I could be there!

Check out Paul Paton's conference at McGeorge this coming Friday:  Ethics 20/20 – Globalization, Technology and Transforming the Practice of Law (here).  Also, you might want to check out this paper on alternative business structures (here).  Hat tip to Legal Ethics Forum.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Best thing about the Georgia Aquarium.

Whale sharks.

Thanks, SBLI & Georgia State University College of Law!

Having finished this week's visit to Georgia State's law school, courtesy of the Southeastern Bankruptcy Law Institute, I just want to say thanks:  thanks to SBLI for funding this program and for choosing me as this year's visiting professor; thanks to the great folks at Georgia State who made me feel so at home; and thanks to the Boyd School of Law for being so nice about my taking a week away during the semester.  My own spring semester Professional Responsibility students get my special thanks for being willing to do class via Skype.  They did a superb job yesterday.

A tale of two bank experiences in today's New York Times

How do I know when the weekend has truly arrived?  For years, the weekend arrived at the moment that I sat down to a leisurely breakfast while reading Joe Nocera's column (and I guess, after today, I'll just have to enjoy reading his op-eds instead).  This morning's column discusses the fate of someone who went along with the "everyone's doing it" ethos of liar loans (stated income loans--where the borrower doesn't have to substantiate his income).  That person's serving time in prison.  See here

Same page, farther down on the left-hand side:  Paul Sullivan's column on banks imposing insurance on borrowers, even when (1) there's no demonstrated need for that particular type of insurance (e.g., flood insurance outside the flood zone) and (2) the property is covered by that insurance already.  See here.

If I were a cynical person (stop laughing!), I'd marvel at how many different ways banks manage to game the system with impunity.  Let's see:  only borrowers, not lenders,* punished for liar loans; one department of a bank demanding insurance while another department assures the borrower that he's already covered by his own insurance; and my current favorite--banks refusing to credit mortgage payments to the loans for all sorts of untenable reasons. 

How do we get the system to change?  People won't change if there's no incentive to do so.  Financial penalties easily become costs of doing business, passed along to consumers as not even a speed bump in the company's business model.  We've got to get incentives to the right people, and I'm starting to think that we have to be much more aggressive with the officers and directors who tolerate these bad practices.  By "more aggressive," I mean the type of financial penalties that aren't paid by O&D insurance (and penalties that include prison time for the most egregious offenders).  We need to figure out an enforceable system of personal responsibility for people who don't fix systemic problems.  Start with the line folks who bounce their problems from department to department, infinite-loop style.  Move up the chain to managers who can't seem to see those systemic problems despite scads of customer complaints.  Keep moving up to department heads all the way to C-level officers and the board.  Everyone who routinely tolerates behavior that isn't a fluke needs accountability.  Until we come up with a way that links behavior with real consequences, we're going to keep seeing news reports like the ones in today's paper.


* Don't get me wrong:  borrowers who lie on their loans shouldn't get a free pass.  The rest of us didn't lie on our loans, and we're suffering from the fallout of other people's bad loans.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A salute to Pam Burns.

Because I have Google alerts about a lot of things, including one on the late John O'Quinn, I learned this week that John's exceptional right-hand person, Pam Burns, had passed away.  I was very fond of Pam:  she was unfailingly good-humored, very kind to me, and loyal to John in the extreme.

Pam, I'll miss you.  Rest in peace.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Greetings from a non-mediocre institution.

It's no secret that Nevada's budget is in horrible shape, and that problem is not likely to improve in the near future.  We are living in interesting times, with all that that phrase entails.

But I took umbrage when I read this piece in the National Law Journal (here) about what the budget cuts might do to our school.  (Thanks, though, to all of my buddies who passed along the article to me.)  I haven't seen the summary to which the article referred ("A summary accompanying Smatresk's letter notes that the plan would require significant tuition increases. 'These additional increases will undermine the law school's successful formula and render it a mediocre institution,' the summary reads.")  Whoever wrote that summary was, I'm guessing, trying to communicate that the burden for keeping us from drastic cuts will fall on our students, who will have to pay significantly more in tuition if the state can't figure out a way to help subsidize their education.  "Mediocre," though, doesn't describe us now and won't describe us later.

So far this year, we've hired:

Linda Berger, Mercer School of Law.  Seven edited volumes on legal writing, rhetoric, and the burgeoning field of metaphor & narrative. 11 articles.  Founding editor of J. ALWD.

Ruben Garcia, Cal Western.  Labor law expert, former Hastie Fellow, VAP at UC Davis.  16 articles, one book in progress (NYU Press).

Ian Bartrum, Drake University Law School.  Ribicoff Fellow in Law at Yale Law School, VAP at Vermont Law School.  12 publications on constitutional interpretation and theory.

Michael Kagan, entry-level hire.  Experienced refugee expert in the Middle East and North Africa with stints at Asylum Access, Africa Middle East Refugee Assistance (AMERA), Negotiations Support Unit, Frontiers Association, Musa'adeen Refugee Project, and Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Amnesty International.  13 articles and book chapters.  Teaching experience at American University in Cairo and Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law.

Year-long visitor:
Lisa Bingham, Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs.  Visitor at Berkeley, Hastings, Maxwell School of Syracuse, and Aberdeen School of Law.  Fulbright fellow in Sweden.  Industrial relations, ADR, and Labor Law expert with over 60 articles in peer-reviewed and law journals, over 25 book chapters, and 5 book reviews.  Expert in labor negotiations and mediation.

That's on top of the folks we've hired over the last few years, each of them gems.  Take a gander at our faculty home page (here).

Ultimately, Nevada has to decide if having an educated workforce is important and, if so, how it might help to encourage and maintain such a workforce.  Not even 12 years ago (we're not even old enough to have a bar mitzvah yet), Boyd was a baby law school, formed out of Nevada's desire to keep its budding law students from having to leave the state to get a law degree.  There has to be some happy medium between the low/no taxes stance we have now and the too-burdensome taxes that too many states have.  In a competitive world, where employers can outsource almost anything to very smart people in other countries, we have to have smart, innovative people on the ground here in Nevada.  That takes education, for starters. 

Mediocre law school?  Nope.  We have a good law school, with engaged faculty and staff members and dedicated students.  It's a warm community--one of the best I've ever enjoyed.  I have confidence that we'll be able to figure out a way to go forward without losing our momentum.  Whether the state is able to figure out a way to get its momentum back is another issue entirely.