Saturday, December 27, 2008

Can someone please help me find a link to this really funny Cinemax promo?

I just saw a "happy holidays" promo on Cinemax that was a spoof of former Soviet propaganda about the West, but I can't find a link to it anywhere. If you know of the link, can you please let me know? Thanks!

Monday, December 08, 2008

A shout-out to the Association of Media and Entertainment Counsel (AMEC)

AMEC (here) is the Association of Media and Entertainment Counsel, which was created to advance the professional development and to recognize the achievements of in-house legal counsel within the media and entertainment industry. It's a marvelous organization for networking and education, and I'm looking forward to attending the 2008 Counsel of the Year Awards out in LA this coming January. Here is the list of nominees (and, yes, I really am tickled to death that I'm among 'em):


David C. Friedman
Executive Vice President & General Counsel
Summit Entertainment

Andrea R. Hartman,
Executive Vice President and Deputy General Counsel
NBC Universal, Inc.

Claudia Teran
Senior Vice President
Fox Cable Networks


Neil Klasky
Vice President
Fox Networks Group

Kristin McQueen
Senior Vice President, Worldwide Business and Legal Affairs
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Frank H. Smith
Senior Vice President Business & Legal Affairs
AFG / Walden Media


Relani Belous
Vice President, Business & Legal Affairs WW Television Distribution

Jeff Friedman
Vice President, Business & Legal Affairs

Caroline Jasmine Vranca
Executive Director, Business & Legal Affairs
Yari Film Group, LLC


David Cohen
Executive Vice President & General Counsel
Sterling Mets, L.P. (New York Mets)

Ethan Orlinsky
Senior Vice President & General Counsel
Major League Baseball Properties

Bobby Sharma
Vice President & General Counsel, NBA Development League
National Basketball Association


Linda Bagley
Managing Vice President and Counsel
The Walt Disney Company

Elizabeth Matthews
Executive Vice President & Deputy General Counsel
MTV Networks

Clarissa Weirick
Senior Vice President and General Counsel
Warner Bros. Digital Distribution


Sheldon Kasdan
Vice President and Senior Labor Counsel
NBC Universal

Robert D. Manfred, Jr.
Executive Vice President
Major League Baseball

Stuart Tenzer
Senior Vice President
William Morris Agency


Danielle Bernthal
Assistant General Counsel, Six Flags, Inc.

Scott McLester
Executive Vice President & General Counsel
Wyndham Worldwide Corporation


Nancy B. Rapoport
Gordon & Silver, Ltd. Professor, William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

David Sherwyn
Associate Professor of Law, Cornell School of Hotel Administration & Academic Director, Center for Hospitality Research, Cornell University


David Matlin
Vice President, Legal Affairs
Home & Garden Television (HGTV)

David B. Stern
EVP, General Counsel & Head of Business Affairs
Key Brand Entertainment, Inc. (dba Broadway Across America)


Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
Loeb & Loeb LLP

Thanks, AMEC! It's an honor to be included in this list!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

OK, Chantix spammers--you asked for it.

Links to some of the stories about how dangerous Chantix is alleged to be: See here and here, for example.

Click here for some info on the FDA warning about Chantix.

So, Chantix spammers, do you still want to keep making me remove your comments on my blog, or will you cut it out?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dear Chantix and all other annoying spam commenters

CUT IT OUT. I don't want you posting your ads on my blog. Had I wanted ads, I would've put them on my blog. I don't want advertising in general, and I don't want YOUR advertising in particular.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I like BOTH Pete Wentzes (Petes Wentz?)

Here's a recent post from Pete Wentz (here), of Fall Out Boy -- and son of Pete Wentz of Apco Worldwide (here). I'm really impressed with Pete Wentz (the dad)'s abilities in terms of strategic planning, and I really love the music of Pete Wentz (the son) and Fall Out Boy. Check both of them out....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thomas Sowell's op-ed about the gay marriage bans

After reading Thomas Sowell's op-ed about the recent election and the success of such measures as Proposition 8 in California (see here for his op-ed), I thought for a while about why I disagreed with him on this issue (see here).

For one thing, marriage can't just be about protecting the ability of a man and a woman to have children. My marriage doesn't include children, so either my husband and I don't deserve to have the protections afforded to married people, or something else must be going on in the institution of marriage to justify protecting people like us (childless by choice) as well as protecting people who want to have children, but can't. I suppose that one could argue that we could always decide to have children, so marriage is there to protect our "children potential" or that we could adopt children--but then, unless a state chooses to ban adoption by lesbians and gay men, the "children potential" of gay marriages is just as possible as our own "children potential" in my marriage.

The other argument--that banning gay marriage is different from banning inter-racial marriage--rests on the assumption, I think, that being a member of a particular race is immutable but that being gay or lesbian (or transgendered) isn't immutable. That argument doesn't work for me, either, based on what I've read about being homosexual and based on my own experiences with my lesbian and gay friends. The whole "where do you draw the line" argument--that allowing gay marriage will lead inexorably to allowing, say, person-canine marriage (yep, I've heard that one) ignores the fact that states limit man-woman marriages on line-drawing reasons all the time. For example, there are limits on marrying under-age opposite-sex people.

My hope is that, in a few short years, this debate will go the way of the debate on inter-racial marriage. In the meantime, though, a whole lot of people whom I love are going through some serious hurt as they listen to some of the rhetoric being lobbed their way. Their hurt is my hurt, too.

Why I love the Financial Times, part 2:

A great article about Pete Wentz, of Fall Out Boy (here).

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I'll bite--what IS it about other people's marriages that so bother the "Yes on Prop. 8" people?

I just found out that Prop. 8 passed in California. That's the proposition banning same-sex marriages.

I don't get it. Just what is so hard about letting two people in love get the same civil rights that I've had for the past 12 years? Does a same-sex marriage threaten my marriage in any way? Is giving same-sex couples certain legal rights going to somehow threaten opposite-sex couples (including, BTW, those who have taken their marriage vows and then gotten divorced--which is, of course, legal and "doesn't" threaten the sanctity of marriage)?

I hear that the SF City Attorney is going to file suit, claiming that Prop. 8 is unconstitutional (see here). Good.

I understand that a lot of people are uncomfortable with same-sex marriage, for a variety of reasons, and I don't want to marginalize any good-hearted opposition to my own views. But I believe that denying same-sex couples these civil rights smacks of the same popular hesitation that accompanied mixed-race marriage not that long ago. Too many of my friends have had to resort to a variety of legal machinations just to get the right to visit their partners in hospitals, or to have survivorship rights, or to enjoy any of the myriad rights that I get to take for granted as a married woman. I know that times will change, and I foresee a time when this hot-button issue will be of only historical interest, but I sure wish that times were changing a bit faster.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

In memory of Deanna Redder

It's always so sad when good people die, especially when they die so young. Here is the obituary of Deanna Redder, one of my former students at The Ohio State University College of Law (here). One of her friends from that time, Kathleen Lyon, let me know of this tragedy. Deanna will be greatly missed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Top five reasons that the Disney Board could use me

As I was reading John Schnatter's op-ed in Saturday's Wall Street Journal, "Where Were the Boards?" (here) -- an opinion with which I wholeheartedly agree -- and ruminating about our family's recent visit to Disney World, I couldn't help thinking that some large public companies could really use an infusion of new blood. I've been interviewed for two boards but didn't make the cut, so I think it's time to be more aggressive. If any of you out there want to propose me for Disney's board, here are five good reasons:

1. I've been studying board behavior ever since Enron imploded, and I think that I could add a lot to a board's ability to cut through "groupthink."

2. Although I'm not a candidate for any board's audit committee, I'm enough of an outsider to be useful to, for example, a board's compensation committee (although, to be fair, I'm not in favor of huge payouts to C-level officers who haven't performed well).

3. I believe in taking the long-term view, rather than tying decisions to the short-term (quarter by quarter) view.

4. I love Disney--ever since a friend and I went to Disneyland after the California bar, I've associated Disney with a very happy state of mind. I collect Disneyana, I watch Disney movies, I go to Disney parks, and I read about Disney whenever there are articles on it. My ever-patient husband puts up with this obsession to a magnificent degree.

5. I'm (obviously) not already loaded up on public boards.

So--how about it, Disney? Think outside the box!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Twenty-five years ago in Beirut

Our hearts go out to the families of those brave Marines lost in the Beirut bombing 25 years ago today. See, e.g., here and here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

We've gotten permission to post this ad for lateral candidates:

UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, LAS VEGASWILLIAM S. BOYD SCHOOL OF LAW invites applications for at least one tenure-track Associate Professor or tenured Full Professor of Law position, with appointment to begin with the 2009-2010 academic year. We have substantial flexibility in subject matter interests, with special interest in clinical teaching. We seek candidates with excellent academic records and experience and who have a strong commitment to scholarship and teaching. Candidates must have earned a JD from an ABA-accredited law school or an equivalent degree. Applicants for Full Professor must have records of substantial accomplishment and qualifications sufficient to be awarded tenure. Salary will be commensurate with the labor market. This position, like all faculty positions, is contingent on funding. Application review will begin immediately.

The Boyd School of Law is a fully-accredited public law school in state-of-the-art facilities at the center of the UNLV campus. We have a diverse faculty of new and experienced legal educators drawn from top institutions. The Boyd School of Law has 488 students enrolled (372 full-time,116 part-time) and 41 full-time faculty. For more information on the Boyd School of Law, see our website at UNLV is a premier metropolitan research university located in the nation’s fastest growing city. It is the state’s largest comprehensive doctoral degree granting institution, with more than 28,000 students and more than 850 full-time faculty. UNLV provides traditional and professional academic programs for a diverse student body and encourages innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching, learning, and scholarship. For more information on the University, see the UNLV website at Applicants should submit a letter of interest, along with a detailed resume, three professional references, and off-prints of your published works.

Contact: Professor Nancy Rapoport, Chair, Appointments Committee, UNLV—Boyd School of Law, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway – Box 451003, Las Vegas, NV 89154-1003.

UNLV is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity educator and employer committed to excellence through diversity.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Update on that letter to the Dallas lawyer

After I wrote about the letter questioning the collegiality of a particular lawyer (here), the lawyer who received the letter wrote back to me and asked me to publish his response. Here it is:

Here is my response relative to Jeff Murphrey’s letter of September 26, 2008 about hurricane related sewage in his yard in which he slams me and seems to slam the lawyers from the great city of Dallas, Texas. His letter has received a lot of play on legal blog sites. Please publish this on your blog site.

I am glad I am from Dallas, I am proud of the fine group of lawyers who practice in this great city, and I am proud of my actions related to Mr. Murphrey’s late cancellation of the deposition. Dallas, like Houston, has thousands of very professional and capable attorneys, like myself, who represent their clients in a very professional, competent and ethical way. Mr. Murphrey’s implied slam on Dallas attorneys and his slam on me are totally off base and unjustified. Click here for the real story behind Jeff Murphrey’s letter:

Dale Markland

Markland Hanley LLP

2200 Ross Avenue, Suite 4100W

Dallas, TX 75201

469.341.3633 (main)

469.341.3634 (direct)

469.341.3640 (fax)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why proofreading is so very important for lawyers....

Reason #1 (here). Reason #2 (here).

In memory of David Young

Texas lawyers lost a talented writer and gentle person this past week, and I wanted you to know a little bit about him. Here's his obituary:
David Bruce Young of Austin, Texas, passed away suddenly Sunday evening, October 5 at his home.

He was born in Columbia, Missouri on November 1, 1945, to Raymond Arthur and Virginia Garton Young. He was preceded in death by both of his parents. He is survived by his wife Flossie, son Michael and wife Mistie, four grandchildren, and son Jay.

Dave attended Williams College and graduated Magna Cum Laude. From there he went on to Oxford University to earn a Bachelor of Philosophy, followed by Masters and Doctoral degrees from Columbia University. He later attended law school at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, graduating with highest honors.

Dave published an annotated translation of Beccaria’s Crimes and Punishment. He was a brilliant, prolific writer, and took great pride in the published (and often cited) legal articles and other works too numerous to mention.

Since moving to Austin in 1992, where he was employed at McGinnis, Lochridge and Kilgore, he has been involved at Bethany United Methodist Church, the C.S. Lewis Society, and judging debates in moot court.

He married Flossie Corder in 1973. His sons, Michael and Jay, were the pride of Dave’s life, and he delighted in all of their accomplishments. His joy was complete when Michael married Mistie Shelton, who brought four wonderful grandchildren into the family.

Those who knew him will always remember his intelligence, quick wit, and humor. He will be greatly missed as a colleague, friend, grandfather, father, and husband.

A Memorial Service will be held at 1 P.M. on Friday, October 10, 2008 at the Bethany United Methodist Church, 10010 Anderson Mill Road, Austin, Texas.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial contributions may be made to the Hill Country Institute for Contemporary Christianity (online donations preferred), the Bethany Foundation, or to the charity of your choice.

Please join us in honoring David by visiting our Memorial at Through this site we invite you to share your thoughts and fond memories with our family.
I will miss David--what a remarkable person he was, and what a loyal friend. May his memory be as a blessing.

Someone should hire this soon-to-be-graduate!

I've known Stephen Chen, who will be receiving a J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center and an M.P.H. from the University of Texas School of Public Health this coming May, for over three years. He was my research assistant while he was still an undergrad at UT, and he proved himself to be diligent, creative, and intelligent--and an extremely nice guy, to boot.

He's everything that I think a law firm should want, but in part because he was pursuing dual degrees, his GPA isn't as high as some law firms might wish. I don't think that a high GPA is the sole predictive factor for becoming a good lawyer. I do think that emotional intelligence, coupled with academic intelligence, can predict a budding lawyer's success much better than just a GPA.

You can click on Stephen's resume here. PLEASE think about interviewing him. You won't be disappointed.

"Hello Skinnyjeans" and its particular brand of "customer service"

After reading about how wonderful "Hello Skinnyjeans" were, I ordered a pair on August 3. I waited and waited -- and waited and waited -- for the jeans to be delivered. I emailed the company on August 24, and Catherine Hart told me then that the jeans would be ready "in another 1-2 weeks." After not hearing anything again for a month, I emailed the company again on September 25, and Celine at the company told me that I'd get the jeans in a week.

Today, I emailed the company to say that I wanted my jeans by Tuesday, or I wanted a refund.

Catherine Hart sent me this email in response:
We are finally in stock and I can transmit your order to the warehouse now. Conversely, I am happy to cancel your order and refund you as no one wants pissy customers. You paid by paypal which forces immediate payment and I’m thinking of canceling it for that reason. Let us know asap.

Catherine Hart
My response to her was as follows:
Yes. This particular pissy customer is tired of dealing with a company that promises one thing and never delivers. Please refund my money today.
I'm sure that the jeans are great. The customer service, however, is not. With all of the good brands of jeans out there, why spend money on brands that don't care enough to (1) notify customers when there's a delay or (2) follow through on their promises?

Let's see if Hello Skinnyjeans is better at fulfilling its promise of a refund than it was at actually delivering the jeans.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's ok to stop sending me law school publications that describe a bunch of achievements now--I've voted already.

As chair of this year's appointments committee here at Boyd, I've been getting all of those glossy publications touting various law schools' achievements. You can stop sending me the "law porn" now. I've sent in my USNWR votes.

This year, of course, USNWR asked voters to pick up to 15 schools that we thought of as having "top" part-time programs. I used the highly unscientific method of asking my colleagues which part-time programs had impressed them, and then I added my own experience teaching in two part-time programs.

I'm a fan of the program here at Boyd School of Law. It's small (heck, the whole school is small!), and we tend to consider the part-time students when we're thinking about such things as clinic experiences and externships. I know that, at a lot of part-time programs, issues like clinic and externship opportunities slide under the radar.

Thinking about 15 good programs is probably about par for having some collective knowledge about the quality of offerings out there. As I've said before, trying to evaluate 190+ schools' overall programs is impossible.

It'll be interesting to see what USNWR does with all of this new information.

Oh, and sending me the "law porn"? Didn't help at all. I didn't read a single one of the glossies that I received. I didn't have the time, and I did have a healthy skepticism about the likelihood that the glossies bore any resemblance to the truth. Of course, that's why I'm looking forward to the Green Bag's project (for more on that project, see here).

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Most interesting Civ Pro rap video I've seen

OK, it's the only one I've seen (see here), but it IS interesting . . . . Can a bankruptcy law rap be far behind?

Hat tip to Kathleen Lyon for letting me know about this one.

If you're looking to place a child with loving parents, I know two people who'd be great

My friends Tori & Jennifer are looking to open their loving home to a child (see here).

And a shout-out to Ann Ryan Robertson

Ann's a buddy of mine who was highlighted recently in Texas Lawyer (here). Brava, Ann--I'm kvelling!

Want to be listed as a follower of my blog?

Just click here. Thanks!

A shout-out about an intriguing idea in criminal law

Geoff Mousseau pointed me to his company's website (here), which helps white collar defendants with the process of going through the criminal justice system. Geoff himself has personal experience with the criminal justice system, and he believes that he can help to translate the experiences of defendants accused of committing white-collar crimes for the lawyers representing those defendants. My guess is that Geoff's right, and that he will be able to help.

Why we never learn from economic crises

I've posted some thoughts over at JURIST (here), and the second edition of our Enron text (Enron and Other Corporate Fiascos: The Corporate Scandal Reader (Nancy B. Rapoport, Jeffrey D. Van Niel, and Bala G. Dharan, eds.) (Foundation Press 2008) is slated to come out this December. The second edition tries to answer the question of why we never seem to learn from our mistakes, and it takes a look at cognitive errors that humans are hard-wired to make (among other things). We think (the three editors) that this book will be useful in law schools, business schools, and undergraduate courses--and we hope that you'll agree.

For those law professors who are going to the AALS annual meeting in San Diego, you should be able to look at the book at Foundation Press's booth.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

And, over at the Legal Profession Blog . . . .

I've reproduced a letter that a friend sent to me (see post here) to illustrate how obstreperous some attorneys can be. I'm not so sure that the reference to Dallas is gratuitous--you might want to watch this clip (here) from the song "Dallas, Texas," on the Austin Lounge Lizards' Highway Cafe of the Damned CD.

This reminds me of Judge Markell's opinion in In re Martinez, 393 B.R. 27 (Bankr. D. Nev. 2008), in which the court sanctioned the attorneys for Wells Fargo (and Wells Fargo itself) for refusing to correct a stipulation allowing relief from the automatic stay ON THE WRONG HOUSE. As the opinion explains,
This court is concerned that Cooper Castle and its lawyers sacrificed their professional independence to the demands of a large institutional client. They should have counseled Wells Fargo to agree to vacate the mistaken stipulation, and informed them that any other course of conduct was unreasonable and one in which they could not participate. Instead, they followed Wells Fargo's instructions without apparent regard to their professional obligations. In short, rather than remain as independent professionals counseling Wells Fargo, Cooper Castle and its lawyers instead chose to become unthinking agents for Wells Fargo's ends.
Failing to cooperate when the circumstances clearly call for it is a Very Bad Idea.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

UNLV (Boyd School of Law) is hiring....

And I'm the appointments chair. Also on our committee are Chris Blakesley, Keith Rowley, Jay Mootz, and Leticia Saucedo. So far, the University has approved our search for a Director of Academic Support, and we may also be looking for visitors and for laterals (depending on funding and University approval).

Here's our ad for the Director of Academic Support position:
Position # 4497
Search # 9063


The William S. Boyd School of Law of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) invites applicants interested in joining our faculty as an Assistant Professor in Residence – Academic Support. The qualifications for the Director of Academic Support position include a record of academic success in law school and experience suggesting the aptitude to direct a creative and ambitious academic support program. The faculty also expects that the Academic Support Director will be a resource for the faculty to increase teaching effectiveness. The existing program is administered by the Director, with the assistance of an Associate Director, and includes workshops, tutoring, special classes, orientation programs, bar preparation classes, counseling, and other strategies to enhance the learning environment at our law school. The Director may teach substantive, non-bar, non-ASP related classes. The position is a 12-month, non-tenure track, renewable contract position.

The Boyd School of Law, a state-supported law school, is the only law school in Nevada. Located at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in one of the fastest growing cities in the country, the law school commenced classes in August 1998. It has a faculty of 42 new and experienced legal educators drawn from law schools around the country, and is located in a state-of-the-art facility in the center of the University campus. With nearly 500 students, the law school offers a full-time day program, a part-time day program, and a part-time evening program.

The Boyd School of Law is a diverse community of faculty, students, and staff who work together, collegially and respectfully, to maximize the potential of its students and to help the law school fulfill its aspirations. We welcome applications from those who wish to participate in this sort of community, and we strongly encourage women and people of color to apply. For more information on the Boyd School of Law, see our website at Please contact Professor Nancy B. Rapoport at (702) 895-5831 or if you have questions about the position.

APPLICATION DEADLINE: Review of credentials will begin immediately and the search is to remain open until the position is filled. If you are interested in applying for this position please apply on-line at: and submit a letter of interest, a detailed resume that highlights relevant professional experience and qualifications, salary history, and the names, addresses and telephone numbers of three professional references who may be contacted.

For assistance with UNLV's on-line applicant portal, contact Jenn Martens at (702) 895-3886 or UNLV is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action educator and employer committed to excellence through diversity.
If you have any nominees for this position, we'd sure like to hear their names. Many thanks!

Friday, September 26, 2008

More on LSAT-free admissions and the rankings

There are lots of good posts on this issue (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here), and I'm guest-blogging about it at Race to the Bottom (see here).

Looking forward to reading your comments on all of this.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thinking of all those who suffered damage during Hurricane Ike

See here for some pictures of the disaster and here for a news report of one of the local landmarks (near where Jeff & I used to live) burning to the ground. Although our family was lucky (only a few days of no power for my dad, back in Houston), so many others are still suffering.

Suggestion for the Green Bag's proposed rankings system

Al Brophy's latest article, on the correlation between the citation rankings of law reviews and the school's overall rankings, is a new must-read (see here).

Welcome to Race to the Top!

I want to welcome to the rankings conversation a new blog: Race to the Top (see here). I'm on the advisory board of this group, and I'm excited about the mission:
[W]ith no information on educational quality, research shows that respondents simply replicate the previous year's U.S. News rankings, and the scores remain fairly static over time.

Given the question U.S. News asks, we need to think more about evaluating schools based on the quality of education that they provide for students, or the "value added" by the institution, in filling out the survey.
Similar to the Green Bag's survey, which is going to check to see if law schools' publications bear any relationship at all to the reality of their faculty productivity (see here), Race to the Top will try to measure those intangibles that go into a school's real educational quality. Please consider completing Race to the Top's survey.

Bravo to the co-founders (David Fagundes of Southwestern and Jason Solomon at Georgia)!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Enron's back in the news....

This morning's Wall Street Journal gives the update (here). For me, this news couldn't happen at a more apropos time: I just turned in the draft of our second edition of the Enron book for Foundation Press. It'll be called Enron and Other Corporate Fiascos: A Corporate Scandal Reader. There'll be both a print book and a website (so that we can continue to update analysis of the scandals that just keep a'comin'.)

Foundation Press has been patient (thank you, FP!), and I'm hoping that the book will come out in early 2009.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Roger Lowenstein got it exactly right.

In today's New York Times, Roger Lowenstein discusses why we didn't learn from the Long-Term Capital bailout (here). Marvelous essay.

Ann Bartow's meme

Ann Bartow has tagged me (see here) to get my five favorite non-legal blogs (thanks, Ann!), so here they are. And I'm not embarrassed to admit them. Well, not very embarrassed, anyway....

  1. GraphJam.
  2. I Can Has Cheezburger.
  3. Fail Blog.
  4. Funny or Die.
  5. (for God, Inc.).
OK, now I'm tagging Glenn Reynolds, Jack Ayer, John Steinberg, and Jim Chen.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Welcome to the blogosphere, Marquette!

Paul Secunda has just told me that Marquette is entering the blogosphere w/a faculty blog (here). Should be a lot of fun to read. Congrats, Marquette!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lipshaw & Henderson's post related to this morning's WSJ article on the USNWR rankings

Bill Henderson & Jeff Lipshaw have done a masterful job over at Legal Profession Blog (here) taking the implications of Amir Efrati's story (see my post here) to their logical conclusions.

Amir Efrati's WSJ article about the USNWR rankings--and a couple of points

Amir Efrati's article on how USNWR might redo the rankings to prevent some of the gaming that's been going on (see here; for the WSJ blog take on the article, see here) does a great job of pointing out how the gaming has occurred and the ramifications of the change. (For the TaxProf Blog take on Amir's article, see here; for Jeff Lipshaw's take at Legal Profession Blog, see here; and for the story behind my story, see here.)

Here are some take-aways that I can see from Amir's article: Phil Closius's approach (as described in the article)--there's nothing malum in se in gaming the rankings, because the rankings are a set of rules w/o moral content--is an attractive argument, not least because it allowed his schools to admit people into the part-time program who likely would have been forced out had his schools "counted" their quantitative stats in the numbers that they turned into USNWR. If you accept that USNWR drives admissions decisions (and it does), then gaming USNWR does minimal harm to the school's ranking while maintaining a valid educational program.

But that's a bit of a slippery slope, isn't it? It's the same argument that justifies hiring graduates in time to make the May 15 deadline for "graduates employed at graduation"--OK in my mind if they're doing real work, not so much OK if they're doing make-work or no work at all. And, of course, just a few more steps down that slope takes us to the urban legend of schools that call grads to find out if they're working, only to mark them as "employed" if they fail to return three calls in a row.

We scream bloody murder when companies fake their numbers to meet analysts' expectations, because the fake numbers give the market bad information for investors. But we've been winking when we game the system in terms of rankings.

In one sense, we shouldn't be too surprised. After all, we're teaching our students to parse the law very carefully so that they can come right up to the edge of the line while representing their clients. (Take a look at Larry Ribstein's post at Ideoblog (here) and John Steele's post at Legal Ethics Forum (here). But should we be doing the same thing, or should we be setting an example by rejecting the presumption that any rankings system should drive our admissions, or our placement, or our educational program?

Deans have enormous pressure to make the numbers. Alumni pressure them, university administrators pressure them, the faculty pressures them, and the students pressure them. I'm not saying that it's easy to resist the temptation to game the system--or that some gaming might not serve other purposes (such as preserving a hotly controversial part-time program). But let's not fool ourselves by using "gaming" to describe this behavior. This is serious business.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A short history lesson

Because I think that there will be yet another article this week on the rankings and my relationship to it, here's a brief recap of what happened at my last job during my final year as dean. In September of that academic year, one of the senior faculty members who was unhappy with me sent in a colleague of his to meet with me. He told her to tell me that, if I didn't resign, he'd find a way to embarrass me publicly and ruin my career (his words, through her). I told the provost and some key alumni, and we all agreed that I wasn't going to be bullied out of office.

Sure enough, when the rankings came out, in March of that same academic year, the school had slipped by a few points. It's my understanding that the same faculty member, along with a few others on the faculty, worked with some law students to use the rankings as a pressure point to get me to resign. The law students, who were certainly worried about the effect of the rankings on their employment options, allowed themselves to get worked into a dither by a few manipulative people, and I don't really blame them for getting involved in the fray (although I worry about their gullibility).

I resigned because I was tired of working at a place that was so dysfunctional that it would permit that kind of behavior from colleagues on the faculty. It's fair to say that the rankings were part of the reason that I resigned, because the rankings were used as a rallying cry; it's not, however, fair to say that I resigned because of the rankings.

Now let's talk about the good results that came from that resignation: I'm much less stressed and much happier, and I'm at a place that is one of the most collegial law schools in the country. The Boyd School of Law at UNLV proves that it's possible for people to be actively engaged in scholarship and to be good teachers--and to encourage each other on a regular basis. When I look down the hallway, I see people writing, talking to each other without jealousy, and mentoring students. It's pretty hard to beat this environment (although 115 degrees in the summer can get onerous).

And at my old post? People seem happy with the new dean, and I wish the school well. There are many talented, nice people at that school, and the school has many resources that UNLV doesn't yet have.

What was an awful time for me (and, I'm sure, not very pleasant for anyone back then) has turned into a blessing (although I miss living in the same city as my dad). I know that I'll get to rehash my relationship to the rankings for a while to come, and as long as people realize that the negative effects of the rankings can be disastrous for legal education, I guess that--on balance--I can live with that.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Newsflash from JetBlue: JFK Airport is filled with microclimates

Having stayed at this year's ABA annual meeting long enough to watch my friend Sarah Weddington win a special Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award today (BRAVA, SARAH!), I headed out to JFK to catch an early evening JetBlue flight home to Las Vegas.  

When I arrived, I discovered that JetBlue had canceled tonight's flight to Las Vegas due to inclement weather.  The next available flight into which JetBlue would have been able to slot me was tomorrow afternoon--not nearly good enough, since I have to be back in Las Vegas to practice for this week's Nevada Star Ball competition (among other things).  Apparently, though, the microclimate over at JFK Terminal 6 was far too wretched to contemplate flying westward.

Luckily for me, the microclimate over at Terminal 3--Delta Airline's terminal--was more hospitable, and I'm typing this post while waiting for a flight that will, technically, get me home tomorrow (as JetBlue had offered to do).  But Delta will get me home at 12:30 a.m., not 5:30 p.m., on August 11th.

Do I blame JetBlue for weather delays?  Not at all.  Do I want JetBlue to be prudent about flying in bad weather?  Of course I do.  But something's up when flights to Vegas are leaving out of the same airport, to the same destination, on the same day--just three hours later.  And I would have been a lot happier with JetBlue had the person answering the customer service line offered to get me closer to Las Vegas today, so that I could have had a chance to get home from another city--say, one to which JetBlue also flies, or one that links to Las Vegas on my favorite airline (Southwest).   A little creativity on the customer service agent's part would have gone a long way towards making me happier.

I know that New York is a big city.  And maybe, just maybe, JFK is a bigger airport than I think it is.  But two different microclimates--one in which it's safe to fly to Las Vegas and one in which it's not?  Hmmmmmmmmmm....

Friday, August 01, 2008

Please help me give credit where credit is due!

Can anyone help me with the attribution for this wonderful PowerPoint (here)? Thanks!

The most important paragraph in a very important post

From this morning's post in The Race to the Bottom's discussion on the change in USNWR's methodology regarding PT students' LSATs and UGPAs (here):

Whatever a law school does in the short term [about the change in methodology], it is clear that this change will result in continued homogenization of entering classes, with law schools having an incentive to ensure that the part time and full time divisions have comparable numbers. In other words, while some law schools may game the numbers, by throwing weaker students into the part time division, other law schools likely take a more untraditional student body in the part time division, perhaps those working (in other words those likely to be older) and, particularly with schools in urban areas, perhaps more diverse. Lumping the two programs together will make it harder for the untraditional student to find a spot in law school.

(Emphasis added.) Although I might quarrel with the use of the phrase "weaker student"--the use of LSAT and UGPA, after all, only captures part of a student's ability to perform in law school--I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A little bit of Enron justice

According to this morning's news (see here), Lou Pai will pay $31.5 million to settle alleged insider trading charges.  Considering the size of the profits that Pai made from his sale of Enron stock, $31.5 million is a drop in the bucket; nonetheless, the $25.5 million that he'll actually pony up (the SEC is giving him a $6 million credit for the corporate insurance policy payout that he forfeited earlier) will be a welcome infusion for the fund for Enron shareholders.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Another "must read" by Bill Henderson

Cross-posted over at Legal Profession Blog (here) and at Empirical Legal Studies Blog (here), on how most law firms misapply the "Cravath system."  It's a follow-up to Bill's first post (here) on how the "Cravath system" created the bimodal distribution in starting salaries.

Why is this post, along with Bill's first post, a must-read?  For all of those law students choosing law schools because of the USNWR rankings (and incurring debt), one thing that they may not focus on is the starting salaries of most of any school's graduates.  USNWR doesn't report the average salary any more.  Most law grads don't make the astronomical starting salaries that the megafirms pay.  Most megafirms don't interview at most law schools, and most megafirms don't go very deep into the classes at most of the law schools at which they do interview.  Therefore, students may be making choices about law schools--and incurring (nondischargeable) debt--based on a misunderstanding of their likely earning power after law school.  See Andy Morriss and Bill Henderson's op-ed piece in the National Law Journal (here).  

As for employers, I've been very frustrated at their use of the USNWR rankings as a measure of quality of potential associates.  It's bad enough that schools are using grade cutoffs, rather than looking at students' full resumes, before deciding whom to interview.   (I've yet to see a client ask an associate to take an exam, but I have seen clients want students who can communicate well, research well, use emotional intelligence, and work in teams.)  But when employers use USNWR rankings to decide from which schools to select recruits, they're ignoring other relevant evidence that might help them choose valuable associates.  Why not take a look at where the firm's more valued current associates hail from?  Why not take a look at the regional law schools and the training that those schools give their graduates?  Why not spend a little more time interviewing the students on the front end, rather than hiring stellar resumes who won't fit in (and then bemoaning the costs of recruiting)?

Bravo to Andy and Bill for their continuing research in this area!

In memoriam: Randy Pausch

Never met him, of course, but his last lecture (here) and his book, The Last Lecture (with Jeffrey Zaslow) (here) really touched me.  May his memory be as a blessing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fun visuals for the weekend

Some fun visuals for the weekend:

1. As the time for fall semester marches inexorably closer: here.

2. Proving that I'm right about Spinal Tap and the rankings: here.

3. As I finish up a summer of traveling, talks, and PowerPoints: here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Thank you, Dean Gary Simson of Case Western!

According to this morning's WSJ Law Blog (here), Dean Gary J. Simson of Case Western's law school has suggested that deans say "dayenu" to the USNWR rankings.  Recognizing the insanity of tailoring an educational program to the whims of a news magazine, Dean Simson believes that law schools instead should use their own good judgment about how to allocate resources.  (After all, the race to the top of the rankings isn't a race that most law schools will win.)

Seems to me that any school with decent self-esteem doesn't need to be told where it ranks.  Take a look, for example, at Case Western itself (here).  Bravo, Dean Simson!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday, July 07, 2008

Tail wags dog so furiously that dog falls off, leaving only tail

I was reading today's TaxProf Blog, as I do every morning, when I came across this post (here), in which Paul Caron pointed to a NLJ article (Deans dislike rankings proposals, here) about the proposed changes in the USNWR rankings.  Paul highlighted the following very, very scary quote:
The proposal is strongly opposed by deans at schools with part-time programs designed for students who are years past college graduation and often well into careers outside the law.  They warn that a school's place on the U.S. News list is so important that some schools would drop the part-time programs rather than list lower in the national rankings.
(Hat-tip to Paul for focusing us on this quote.)  But there's more.  In the very next paragraph of the article, Bill Treanor, the dean of Fordham Law School, clarifies how this change to the USNWR rankings would affect schools with part-time programs:
"If U.S. News starts combining the [LSAT and UGPA] scores of full-time and part-time students, the pressure to end evening schools will become overwhelming . . . ."
HOLY COW.  Has it come to this?  Have we really ceded educational policy to a weekly news magazine?  I completely understand Bill Treanor's point (oh, how I know!), because every single school with an evening program will face additional pressure to close that program unless its full-time students' median LSATs and UGPAs and its part-time students' median LSATs and UGPAs are identical.  (And the fact that they're often not identical is exactly why USNWR wants to factor the part-time scores in--schools have been gaming the rankings this way for years.)  Alumni, students, faculty members, and university administrators will be pressuring deans of schools with part-time programs to find work-arounds for the potential drop in the rankings.  

There are plenty of good reasons to have a part-time program, even though part-time programs are incredibly expensive to support.  Several urban schools have them as a way to help those people who can't afford to quit their jobs still pursue their dreams of becoming lawyers.  There are also good reasons for discontinuing part-time programs--declining enrollment, the disproportionate expense, a demographic shift.  Each faculty that's contemplating starting or stopping a part-time program must wrestle with these valid issues.  

But geez--the one reason that's not pedagogically valid is whether a news magazine is going to bump some school up five places or down five places due to the inclusion of the part-time students' median LSATs and UGPAs.  Are we so desperate for some sort of numerical validation of our place in this world that we are willing to cede our own sense of what type of educational program is appropriate for our mix of students?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again (see, e.g., here, esp. at p.361):  unless a school is in the tippety-top of the USNWR rankings (or in the very bottom, with a pass rate on the bar that is abysmal), there is precious little difference in even twenty or thirty places in the rankings.  The differences aren't significant.  The rankings just artificially spread out some insignificant differences among groups of tightly packed schools.  

If schools didn't take the USNWR rankings so damnably seriously, I could just point you to one of my two favorite scenes in This Is Spinal Tap (1984) (the other scene is the Stonehenge scene):
Nigel Tufnel:  The numbers all go to eleven.  Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven, and . . . .
Marty DiBergi:  Oh, I see.  And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel:  Exactly.
Marty DiBergi:  Does that mean it's louder?  Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel:  Well, it's one louder, isn't it?  It's not ten.  You see, most blokes will be playing at ten.  You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar.  Where can you go from there?  Where?
Marty DiBergi:  I don't know.
Nigel Tufnel:  Nowhere.  Exactly.  What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi:  Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel:  Eleven.  Exactly.  One louder.
Marty DiBergi:  Why don't you make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel:  [pause]  These go to eleven.
(Thanks to for that quote.)  

My point is that we've fallen for the same trick:  USNWR has made us think that it's legitimate to let a news magazine dictate to us how we admit our students (by placing such a high premium on the inputs of LSATs and UGPAs) and how much we spend on publicizing our various accomplishments (because of those reputation surveys).  Even if the rankings "go to eleven," they don't make the quality of any single school any louder than it was before.  

Time to stop letting the tail wag the dog.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Also in this month's ABA Journal, more on flat fees for legal work

I'm telling you (again):  billable hours aren't going to be the future of the legal world forever.  See here.

Arnold Peter is featured in this month's ABA Journal

Arnold Peter, one of my all-time favorite lawyers, is featured in this month's ABA Journal (here).  Arnold's a founding partner of Raskin Peter Rubin & Simon (here) and one of the founding members of AMEC, the Association of Media and Entertainment Counsel (here).  He and I first met years ago, when we did some programs for ACCA (now ACC), the Association of Corporate Counsel (here).  I've found him to be a true visionary--very creative, and a ton of fun, to boot.  Enjoy!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

More on how to study for the bar exam

Ilya Somin's updated his post (here), and I agree with some of his points: (1) figure out your own, best way of studying and key your bar prep to that, (2) try not to overstress, (3) be disciplined in your studying, and (4) remember that failing the bar exam is not the end of the world. (Ilya, did I summarize these points fairly?)

Where he and I disagree is on how risk-averse the average law graduate should be when preparing for the bar. And, of course, everyone should determine his own level of risk-tolerance. When I took the California bar, a year after law school (after my clerkship ended), I took Bar/BRI, made flash cards, commiserated with my friends, and made it through the test relatively unscathed. Twenty years later, when I sat for the Nevada bar, I looked a lot more like Kevin Costner in Tin Cup. (Remember the scene where he's wearing every golf-swing gadget ever made?) I took Bar/BRI again, bought flash cards and old bar review books off eBay, did the computer-generated review tests, made outlines of my outlines of my outlines (I'm not kidding!), and basically worried myself into a tizzy, because I know how awful I am at memorizing things and how bad I am at taking multiple-choice tests.

The stakes were much higher for me the first time around. I had a law firm job and, even though the firm would have kept me around if I'd needed to take the bar exam a second time, my career would have been stalled for a bit during the extra time, and my stress level would have shot through the roof. I was a tenured full professor when I took the Nevada Bar and my life wouldn't have changed one whit had I not passed (although I probably would have lost some credibility with my students had I failed).

Here's what I think that Ilya and Jim Chen (his post here) and I are all saying (Jim, let me know if you agree): like Robin Williams's character in the movie Dead Again, it's important to know what you are.

In the movie, Williams plays a disbarred (or whatever you call a de-licensed doctor) shrink. Kenneth Branagh plays a detective who, among other things, may be trying to quit smoking. Williams tells Branagh that "[s]omeone is either a smoker or a nonsmoker. There's no in-between. The trick is to find out which one you are, and be that. If you're a nonsmoker, you'll know."

So, when it comes to studying for the bar, you're either risk-averse or risk-taking. The trick is to find out which one you are, and be that.

Good luck on this summer's bar exams--in every jurisdiction.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Volokh Conspiracy's Post on Reducing the Pain of Taking the Bar Exam

One of our own law students directed me to Ilya Somin's post (here) on the Volokh Conspiracy blog, never a boring blog. Prof. Somin's advice is to study less for the bar exam: read the review books, take some practice tests, memorize the rules, and relax.

Hoo, boy. I disagree heartily. Maybe his advice is true for a few brave and risk-taking souls, but I can't imagine wanting to take that type of risk with the one barrier to entry to practice that's given only twice a year that would stand between me and my ability to practice my choice of career.

Full disclosure here: I am a lecturer for a bar review course, which may taint my perspective, but I also sat for a state bar a year ago. In order to prepare for the Nevada bar, I took a bar review course (not, BTW, the one for which I'm now a lecturer). Let me say right now that I was extremely grateful that I had taken that course, could not possibly have passed the bar without having had that level of review, would not have had the stamina or sitzfleisch to have studied that intensely on my own, did not have the knowledge base in at least six of the Nevada subject areas being tested, and could not have imagined having the chutzpah to have risked my results with LESS study than I had given any of my law school courses. Moreover, I did not need to pass the bar to keep my job. I'm a law professor, not a lawyer. I took the bar because my husband and I had an understanding that, if he had to take the Nevada bar when we moved here, I had to take the Nevada bar as well.

And the Nevada bar is HARD. Hard as in H-A-R-D. Hard as in "I sweated out waiting for my results" hard. (We both passed, but we both worried about passing.)

So, Prof. Somin, I respectfully disagree with your post. (So, by the way, does Jim Chen--see his post here.) THIS law professor wants to send out a different message about studying for the bar. DON'T slack off. Embrace the pain of studying. Suck it up. Work your butt off. Face it: you'd rather have three months of pain now than three months of pain now and then three more months of pain later, when you have to retake the bar. Maybe you'll have wasted your effort and, looking back, you could have worked less hard. But is it so bad that you worked hard to achieve a goal?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thomas Sowell on college rankings

Loved Thomas Sowell's take on the rankings, including his reasons for disparaging USNWR's rankings (here).  In his column, Dr. Sowell quotes Professor Thomas Vedder, who observes that USNWR's use of inputs to measure quality "'is roughly equivalent to evaluating a chef based on the ingredients that he or she uses.'"  Bravo, Prof. Vedder, and Bravo, Dr. Sowell!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Dave Van Zandt does it again--Northwestern Law to offer the option of an accelerated two-year law degree

Dave Van Zandt, one of the true visionary law deans, has announced that Northwestern Law will  offer an option for a two-year law degree (see here).  The degree will be available for students with at least two years of prior work experience (which most Northwestern Law students already have--another Van Zandt trademark).  I've been watching this law school for years, because I already like how it mixes law students and MBA students.  (About the only thing on which Van Zandt and I disagree is the use of the USNWR rankings as a metric for measuring progress.)  Keep an eye on this school.  It continues to impress.

More about the local lawyer who did the right thing

When I blogged about Louis Schneider (here), I didn't know he was a graduate of the William S. Boyd School of Law. Now our law school has one more reason to brag.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I can't remember which comedian has a routine about this....

It may be Patton Oswalt.  But a real-life version of someone's bit happened to me over the last few days.  I've been getting text messages on my cell phone from an 808 number (Hawai'i, apparently), and they've been in Spanish.  I wish I could speak Spanish, but I am seriously other-language-deficient.  After a few days of these very long texts, I finally texted back that I don't speak Spanish ("no habla espanol"), drawing on one of the very few phrases that I could recall.  

The anonymous texter texted me back with, "Excuse me."  Thinking that I was being polite, I texted back, "De nada.  Sorry!"  I figured that my response text would be the end of this exchange.  I was wrong.

Anonymous texter then replied, "De nada means your [sic] welcome....lo siento means sorry."  As glad as I was to learn this new phrase, I think that the texter missed my original point.  So I replied, "Ah.  I guess this proves that I don't speak Spanish."  

Isn't technology wonderful?????

Update on capital case involving alleged judge/prosecutor affair

Yesterday's scheduled execution was stayed (see here, with some great commentary by my friend Larry Fox), but the fight to do the right thing is far from over.  Keep an eye on Legal Profession Blog for more updates--the folks there have been doing a great job watching this case.

I don't know anything about the underlying crimes of which Mr. Hood is accused.  That's a separate issue from whether his original trial was conducted under outrageously biased conditions.  It would be difficult to imagine a more biased set of circumstances than a judge sleeping with the prosecutor in the case.  Each ruling--each judgment call--in the case is inherently suspect.  

Here's a new question:  if any attorney in the case had actual knowledge of the relationship between the judge and the prosecutor, didn't that attorney have a duty to report the judge and the prosecutor for ethics violations?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Outrageous! In what world is it ok for a judge and a prosecutor to sleep together while working on the same case?

Charles Hood is scheduled to be executed tonight at 6pm Texas time. According to the New York Times (here) and ABC-TV (here), Hood has alleged that the judge in his case was sleeping with the prosecutor in his case. Late yesterday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Mr. Hood's appeals on procedural grounds, declaring that the claim of judicial bias was raised too late. The court chose to dismiss the claim, despite the fact that (according to an email that I've just received), "only days ago, on June 3, 2008, a former assistant district attorney in the Collin County District Attorney's Office submitted an affidavit testifying that '[i]t was common knowledge' that Judge Holland and District Attorney O'Connell 'had a romantic relationship' for several years, including at the time of Mr. Hood's trial and death sentence."

Outraged? You might want to contact Governor Perry's office at 512-463-2000 and ask to speak to counsel handling the Charles Dean Hood case.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Local lawyer does the right thing

After a lawyer misappropriated more than $200K from her firm's client trust account (an act for which she was later suspended from the practice of law), an associate in her firm compensated all of her clients by working for free for roughly three months on those files. For the full story about this case, see here. Here's the part I loved:
[Attorney Louis] Schneider said he relied on the teachings of his father, a retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, in deciding to come forward [and report his boss to the state bar].

"He has always told me you do the right thing, even if you stand alone," Schneider said.

"On flat-fee cases I completed their cases, and on hourly cases I gave them credit for the missing money, because it was the right thing to do," he said. "So I essentially worked for free for three months cleaning up those cases."

. . . ["] I was was not going to risk losing my license to practice law, or embarrass my son or my father," Schneider said.
Compare that behavior to Bill Lerach's behavior, reported in a recent Joe Nocera column (here). Nocera reports that, in an essay on (see here), "Lerach expresses zero remorse, positions his crimes as having hurt no one while serving a greater good and makes the absurd claim that he was railroaded by his political opponents." Nocera has it completely right when he calls Lerach's essay "a brazen, shameful piece of work."

So we have, on the one hand, an honorable lawyer who worked for free for three months to restore his clients' faith in the justice system and, on the other hand, a dishonorable felon who has cost honest plaintiffs' lawyers so much in terms of credibility. Unfortunately for all of us, the honorable lawyer didn't make national news. I'd love to think that the reason that Schneider's actions didn't make national news is that most lawyers would do exactly what he did: fix the problem, repay the clients--do the right thing. I'll bet that a lot of them would do that. But the Lerachs of this world aren't exactly few and far between, either, and his ilk tap into the stereotype of the lawyer as leech. Shame on you, Bill Lerach--if you can still feel shame.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Brian Leiter is becoming one of my go-to bloggers for problems w/the USNWR rankings

As I sit in the Phoenix airport, grateful for the free wireless, I've been browsing my favorite blogs, and I always read Brian's posts on the rankings.  On June 3 (hey, I have some catching up to do....), Brian names names about the schools that take the most transfer students (see here).  Paired with Brian's post are two important follow-ups from Bill Henderson (see here and here), with the second post being Bill's response to another interesting post by Larry Ribstein (see here).  

Personally, I like the idea of taking transfer students, who have proven themselves to be good law students.  The LSAT is a decent predictor of first-year grades, but it just isn't the same thing as first-year grades.  I also love the idea of finding a way to make the LSAT less important in the USNWR rankings.  I've just never been a fan of using LSAT or UGPA as the sole measures of "student quality."  Nor have I been a fan of cheating on the rankings.  I think there's a role for intent in answering the damnable thing.  But then again, I also think that managing earnings to lie to investors about how much money a corporation really has is also a bad thing to do.

And now, for something completely different:  in another one of his posts, Brian has captured my favorite PowerPoint on the subprime mess (here).  

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

VINDICATED! Dell's marketing, warranties problems show up in court

In today's New York Times about Dell's failure to follow through on its "next-day" warranties:  see here.  NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had accused Dell of "false and deceptive advertising":  "For too long at Dell the promise of customer service was a bait and switch that left thousands of people paying for essentially no service at all."  I was one of those people.  I am still enjoying my Mac, bought with my refund from my Dell computer purchase.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

And a great post from the Legal Profession Blog about depressed lawyers

For those of us who struggle with depression, the Legal Profession Blog has a great post today (here) about depression, lawyers, and job satisfaction issues. Hat-tip to Alan Childress.

Urban myth or chilling commentary on law firm life?

This post (here) from Above the Law is making the rounds today. A hat-tip to my buddy Kathleen Lyon for telling me about it.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

American Bankruptcy Institute/University of Illinois College of Law's Interdisciplinary Academic Symposium on Debt

I'm sitting in the session that Elizabeth Warren & Bruce Markell are doing in the Debt symposium, marveling at how well this whole interdisciplinary symposium is going.  (For some play-by-play blogging of the conference, see Mechele Dickerson's posts over at Credit Slips.)

What really strikes me about this session is how finely sliced the private data are that credit card companies have gathered about consumers and how easily those data can be used to tailor credit card products to capture particular consumers' proclivities to make certain types of errors in incurring debt.  The large-scale use of private interdisciplinary research enables credit card companies to garner ever-increasing profits.

Are these profits bad?  Certainly not from the shareholders' point of view.  Credit card companies are in the business of making money.  But there's something about the act of using research to capitalize on human weakness that makes me a bit queasy.  

Now, I don't know for a fact that credit card companies (1) have the research that shows how to capitalize on individual consumers' proclivities for particular types of human error or (2) intend to use the research in a way that in fact capitalizes on that error.  But for a moment, let's assume that the companies have the research and intend to use it for that purpose.

Is such a use so different from how Enron manipulated the deregulated energy markets to make enormous profits, with, e.g., round-tripping energy out of California and then back in at a much higher price?  In other words, an act may be technically legal to do but still not moral to do.  At the end of the movie Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, one energy trader blames himself for not asking more questions about why he was making some of the trading decisions that he had chosen to do and why his colleagues were behaving in certain ways.  He looks directly at the camera and admits that, unlike Enron's famous ad tagline ("Ask Why"), he was afraid to ask "why," because he was afraid to know the answer.  I wonder if the private researchers for the credit card companies are asking themselves about the uses to which their experiments are being put.

One of the issues in this morning's session was why the credit card companies didn't use academics to do the research on the various credit card products.  Maybe academics would refuse; maybe not.  For many of us, there's a hunger to pursue all sorts of research without regard to the implications for the findings of our research.  Or maybe there's a simple explanation:  maybe the companies didn't want to go through all of the extra steps that doing research on human subjects would require in a university environment.  

I've been arguing for true interdisciplinary research at universities for many years, and this morning's session only confirms that we need to continue to break down the silos in higher education that prevent such collaborative work.  Private industry does interdisciplinary work all the time, and it provides incentives for collaboration.  Within higher education, virtually all of the incentives are intradisciplinary.   If we are going to have our own data to compare to any private data trotted out in public policy debates, we're going to need to rethink the incentives within higher education to produce our own studies.  And, just as I'd hope private researchers do, we need to think about the implications of our own research--not necessarily to chill that work, but to be aware that relevant work can be used for more purposes than those we originally intended.