Friday, December 14, 2012

Dear Godiva Chocolates: No, you're actually not passionate about customer service.

Dear Godiva:

Here's what your website says about customer service:

Customer Assistance

We are as passionate about customer satisfaction as we are about making chocolate. We hold ourselves to the highest standards…so you can, too. Your order is guaranteed to arrive in perfect condition, no matter the weather, containing the elegant packaging and quality chocolate customers expect from Godiva. If, for any reason, you are not completely satisfied, simply contact us to return your order for a prompt replacement, refund, or exchange.

Here's what your customer service reps have said in emails (yes, I'm paraphrasing, but I'm happy to show them to you) when I asked them to help me out by rushing some deliveries:
  1. No, we can't adjust your order.
  2. No, we can't really tell you when your order will arrive, other than it might arrive by 12/21.
  3. No, we don't actually give a flying flip about your reaction.
So, Godiva:  your customer assistance folks either need to read your website a little more closely or you need to rewrite it as follows:

Customer Assistance

We like to think of ourselves as a nice company.  After all, we make chocolate, and chocolate makes people happy.  But we're so very, very big that we can't actually give your order the personal attention that you want.  And, frankly, we're ok with that.  After all, what's your alternative?
Feel free to use my language in your next web rewrite.  No charge.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

OK, that expensive book might not be a "must-read," but this one's really intriguing...

See here.  The book'll be out on Amazon and Kindle in the not-too-distant-future.  I read it in one sitting and had a blast.

Expensive new book out (but I have an essay in it).

See here.  This book came out of a wonderful set of conferences at the University of Edinburgh, and I owe my participation in the conferences in large part to the marvelous Randy Gordon.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Dear Law Firms: This re-post is a must-read for you.

From's Corporate Counsel site, Susan Hackett's piece, Ending the Holiday Tradition of Outside Counsel Rate-Increase Letters (here) is a must-read.

The most important take-aways:
  1. Law is a service industry run by professionals who should understand what matters to their clients.  
  2. Just because you would love a rate increase doesn't mean that you have justified one.
  3. If lawyers and their clients can come up with ways of agreeing on fair compensation that doesn't revolve around hourly rates, everyone will (eventually) come out ahead.
Let's face it--hourly billing creates awful incentives, and law firms need to come up with something between the old "bottom line:  services rendered, $X" tradition and the current "piecework" way of billing.

There are a lot of smart people out there--both lawyers and clients--and I know that our profession will figure it out.  Sooner, though, is better than later.  The times aren't a'changin'--they've changed.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Yet more on Larry Mitchell's sunny op-ed on why law school is a good idea.

On another blog (Law School Survival Manual), I've spent a bit of time ruminating over just what in Larry Mitchell's op-ed rubbed me the wrong way.  (See here.)  Other folks are saying the same thing, often in better ways (take a gander at the updates to my post for two such examples, and to the postings on Inside the Law School Scam (starting here). 

I guess what frustrates me most is the sense that decanal groupthink is trying to wish away a lot of the problems that face legal education.  There were many, many kudos to the Mitchell op-ed on one of the deans' listservs.  If those kudos had been from the very top law schools, I'd have understood.  Law degrees from Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and other such schools are likely to be exceptionally good investments.  (After all, I benefit greatly from my degree from Stanford.*)

But when good, but not elite, schools are making their case for law school being a good investment, they can't just trot out the "we train you to think!" and "law is a lifetime career!" arguments.  I don't think that the first of those arguments applies just to law schools (pretty much any good education will train someone to think well).  And I don't think that the "law is a lifetime career" theory works when a law graduate can't get a first law job within a reasonable time.  The "you can use a law degree in other careers" argument is true, of course, but just because someone can use a legal education in other fields doesn't mean that spending six figures to get that degree is always a good idea.

I'm as proud of legal education as every other law dean is,** but I want students to enter law school with their eyes open.  (I also want law schools to provide applicants with accurate data so that they can make good choices about whether to attend law school.)

Data + realistic expectations = good choices.
Assertions + wishful thinking = a disaster in the making.

* Although, to be fair, my degree from Rice is nearer and dearer to my heart, but that's probably true of most folks' feelings about their undergraduate degrees.
** Even though I'm just an interim dean.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Some advice to our elected officials, now that the election's over.

First, some superb advice from Jack Ayer's niece (here).  Jack's one of the smartest people I know, and he's a heck of a good mentor, so I was delighted to see that his niece is equally smart and sensible.

Second, to all candidates:  I don't care if you're a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent, or anything else.  Now is not the time to say, "my side didn't win X position, so I'm going to make that winner's life a living hell until the next election."  From local politics on up, I want to see politicians reach across the aisle, make sensible compromises, and show that they're mature enough to care first about governing, not about grandstanding.  Our country needs serious, smart, dedicated people running it.  We don't need people who view politics as a game.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cool video of the space shuttle Endeavour reaching its display place in L.A.

See here.  But I'm still ticked off that Houston didn't get one of the shuttles.

Why the deanship at the Boyd School of Law is a plum deanship--and why I'm not a candidate.

We have just posted our ad inviting nominations and applications for the deanship here at Boyd Law (see here for ad).  I am having a marvelous time as Interim Dean, and here are some of the reasons why:
  1. We really are a collegial place.  I've worked at collegial places before (hello, Ohio State!), and I can still say that, of all of the places I've worked, none has been as overwhelmingly collegial as Boyd Law.  One of my favorite things about our school is that, when someone does something really good, that information gets on our listserv and is invariably seconded (and thirded) with "congratulations!"  That's the sign of a school with a "we're a team" mentality.
  2. We really are a productive place.  When I walk down the hallways, I see people working--and working hard.  Folks are excited about what they're doing, and they're happy to talk about their progress on their various projects.  We have a very engaged faculty and staff.
  3. The depth and breadth of the talent running the school is spectacular.  I've had the pleasure of working primarily with the administrative assistants in the faculty area for the first five years that I was here, and now I also get to work with the folks in the various administrative suites.  The only bad thing that I can say about them (both the folks in the faculty area and the folks in the administrative suites) is that they're workaholics.  (Getting emails early in the morning and late at night to follow up on things or share ideas is the dead giveaway that they're workaholics.)  They're smart.  They're talented.  They care deeply about the success of the school and of all the people in our school.  I'll miss working with them when I return to the faculty--but, luckily, I'll have the pleasure of still working directly with Nettie Mann and her team.
  4. There is laughter here, and it's the good kind of laughter, not the "we're making fun of you" kind of laughter.   When you work with very busy and creative people, there are moments in the day when you can share a good belly-laugh.  That's been true from the moment I arrived here in 2007.  We take our jobs seriously, but we're not stuffy people.
  5. Our program's in good shape.  We're fine financially; we enjoy a good reputation in the community; our curriculum is adapting to changing needs.  Whoever gets this deanship will be in the enviable position of working as part of a team on a school that's already very good and is ready to get even better.
So why am I not a candidate?  My not wanting to be a candidate has nothing to do with Boyd Law.  It has everything to do with what's going on with me personally.  I'm in that time of my career where some people who are not even related to me are reading my scholarship and asking me to serve on all sorts of interesting commissions and task forces.  I'm also behind on two books (sorry, Wolters Kluwer!), and I have a lot of projects that I want to undertake during that sweet spot where I'm senior enough to be taken seriously and not so senior that I'm done with my work.

I also want to spend more time with my family.  I know:  that's a hoary old saying, but it's true in this case.  I don't have nearly enough time with my husband and my dad.  I don't have nearly enough time to devote to my ballroom dancing addiction.  I find myself getting forgetful and misplacing more things than usual, and I'm pretty sure that I can attribute that forgetfulness to the stress of being in this office.  The stress is "good" stress, in that I'm happy to serve as interim dean, but it's stress just the same.

So, although it is an immense honor to be our interim dean ("iDean" to some), and although I am really enjoying my time in this office, I will look forward to helping our next "real" dean through a transition period and then returning to my colleagues on the 4th floor.  In the meantime, though, I'm happy to answer any questions that anyone might have about Boyd Law or about the deanship.

Smart, creative servant-leaders--please apply!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

It's not just anonymity that provides a cover for cowardice.

I thought that yesterday's WSJ piece, Why We Are So Rude Online, was particularly apt.  It's easy to treat online communications as something other than "real" writing, but what we put online (and in texts and emails) is just as real to those reading it as something that's hard-bound and on a shelf.  That's why we--especially those of us who are law-trained--need to be very careful about what we commit to paper, even if the "paper" is just a bunch of pixels.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A wonderful essay on why loving what you do makes work so easy.

It's by James B. Stewart, and it's in today's special Dealbook section in the New York Times (here).  Although I'm not a fan of eschewing one's hobbies (as my friends can attest), here's the passage that hit home:
. . . The one thing nearly all the partners had in common was they loved their work.

This came as a profound revelation. Of course they worked long hours, because it didn’t feel like work to them. They took great satisfaction in the services they rendered their clients.
That's the kind of job you want to have--one in which you look forward to walking in the door and getting down to business.  (By the way, that's the kind of job I have--and have had, ever since I became a law professor.)

UPDATE, thanks to a good point by one of my fave buddies:  for the first few years of work, you won't know if you love what you do, because you're still learning the ins and outs of your job.  Give it time.

FURTHER UPDATE:  as to that UPDATE point, see here.  My own philosophy, which may have no grounding in reality whatsoever, is that your choices, over time, reflect your psyche's understanding of what it is that you love.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

When funny videos on the billable hour pop up, the death of the billable hour approacheth.

See here.  Hat tip to The Legal Whiteboard blog.

The death of the billable hour may be far away, and--for some types of work--may never happen, but for a lot of legal work, I think that the death of the billable hour is approaching, slowly but steadily.

Still love it--every time.

Quad "Script Ohio" (here).  I just love seeing the alumni march in the band.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dear RNC and DNC:

STOP IT.  Stop calling us at home.  We mean it.  It does you no good to call us, because there is literally nothing that you will say in your phone calls that will influence us, and all that you're doing is ticking us off by disturbing us at home.

This morning, the DNC called:

DNC:  Hi, is this Nancy?
Me:  Yes.
DNC:  We're from the DNC, and we're calling you to . . .
Me.:  Here's the thing:  we're sick of these phone calls, and so we've made a rule that whichever party calls us last is the party against whom we're voting.
DNC:  Oh, you're so full of it.
Me:  [click]

Dear DNC:  Your person was rude by calling me "full of it," so you're now at "vote -1."  PLEASE DO NOT CALL ME TO APOLOGIZE.  It's OK, though, if you find out who spoke with me this morning and reprimand her.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Missing the point about out-of-control fees and expenses.

See this story about a court disallowing some over-the-top expenses (here), especially the last three paragraphs.  Hat tip to Prof. Jessica Gabel for sending me the link to that article.

My take:  orders to show cause can be embarrassing.  Being the focus of a story about one's out-of-control expenses is always embarrassing.

Maybe the speed of law practice is such that it makes it difficult for those lawyers submitting fee apps to a court from reading the line-by-line detail of each bill, but scrimping on time reading attachments that get filed with a court is probably not the best place to save that precious time.  I would hope that the same billing judgment that should operate when sending bills to a client would also apply when submitting fees and expenses to a court.

I wrote a couple of articles about fees and expenses:  see here and here. The latter piece includes a long discussion about the book Professional Fees in Corporate Bankruptcies, by Professors Lynn LoPucki & Joseph Doherty.  I agreed with a significant portion of what LoPucki & Doherty said in the book.  (I disagreed with some other parts, but then, no book's perfect.)  The book is a good read:  useful and clear, with some striking discussions about their data.

Bottom line about this news story that started my post:  not everything is billable.  Not by a long shot.  And until lawyers return to the days where they understand that concept, there will be more stories like the one in

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Very bad customer service.

Why I will never order from Premier Audio Video again:

What I received: 

Premier Audio Video - Amazon Marketplace
2:14 PM (16 hours ago)

to me
Order [snip]:
1 of Western Digital WD Elements 1 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive WDBAAU0010HBK-NESN [ASIN: B002QEBMB4]

------------- Begin message -------------

Please box it back up the same way you received and send to:

Returns Dept
ATTN: RMA 27152667
9997 Rose Hills Rd.
Whittier, CA 90601-1701

Does need to be returned complete in original box with all accessories, paperwork and packaging.
There is a 15% restocking fee charged on non-defective returns. Refunds issued on return. Thank you.

What I replied:

Thank you.  Please be advised that I will post my interactions with you--including the discussion of a 15% restocking fee for a product that does not work with the current Mac operating system--every possible place that I can post it, including but not limited to your seller review on Amazon, my blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

UPDATE:  The explanation that Premier Audio Video gave me when I sent my reply?  "We didn't say that it WOULD work w/Lion."  Sigh....

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Finally! "Twiqbal"!

Hat tip to my hubby, for showing me this post from PrawfsBlawg.

R.I.P. Nora Ephron.

Not only did she make the front page of the New York Times with her obituary (which she deserved), but she touched so many of us with her poignant and funny work.  Thank you, Nora Ephron.  We'll miss you.

"Call Me, Pay Fee" -- I wish I'd written it.

See here for a great column about the ├╝ber-annoying robo-calls we're all getting on our landlines and cell phones. I'm none too thrilled about all of the political calls we're getting as well.

Jeff and I are at the point of changing our outgoing message to "if you're calling us about a political campaign, a get-rich-quick scheme, or anything else that someone's paying you to convey to us, rest assured that whatever you're selling, we will not be buying."

An opinion piece that everyone should read.

This one, about Vincent Chin, by Frank Wu.

Friday, June 15, 2012

How bad is Boingo Wireless's customer support? Very, very bad.

I have been sitting in LaGuardia trying to add a third device to Boingo for 45 minutes. The good news is that ALL FIVE times that I called customer service, I spoke with nice people. The bad news is that, no matter how many times I try, I can't add a third device to my account. All that I've managed to do is get the other two deauthorized. (If you're keeping track, that leaves me with zero authorized devices.) Here's what Boingo says to do: 1. Login with the new device. 2. Go to the next screen to add a third device. Ah, but that's where Boingo's system breaks down. I never get to the next screen. I just get placed in infinite login loop hell. Can Boingo add the third device on its end? Nope. What can Boingo do? Well, its people are polite, which is good, but they can't help me, which is bad. Um, Boingo? Can't you figure out a way to get me to the screen where I promise to pay you more money? UPDATE NUMBER 1: I've sent this post to Boingo Customer Service. UPDATE NUMBER 2: the sixth guy at Boingo said to try the Boingo app. Now I can get connected, but I still can't add a third device.

UPDATE (6/20/12):  Boingo asked for my login and my email address.  I provided those.  Boingo responded by saying that my account didn't exist.  I provided a screen shot of my account.  Let's see what happens next.

UPDATE #2:  I've gotten a comment on this post (see comments) offering to help me with my problem.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Which women do you know, Mr. Kilcullen?

"Made my blood boil."  I'd heard that phrase, but I had yet to experience it fully.  Thank goodness for Stephen Kilcullen, who was able to provide that experience by writing this column about why women shouldn't serve in the Army Rangers (here).

He trotted out these hoary old saws:  "it's not about the individual, it's about the military" (as a reason why women shouldn't bother asking to serve in the Rangers as a way of increasing their experience and raising their odds of promotion); "women get to do almost everything else" (so they shouldn't be presumptuous enough to ask to do what their male colleagues do); "it's all about morale" (yep, that worked equally well when folks in the military said that it would wreck morale to have (a) minorities in the military, (b) gays in the military, and (c) women in the military); and "it's an all-volunteer force" (which means, I guess, that people who serve shouldn't feel bad if there's an unbreakable ceiling on their careers).

I don't know which women you know, Mr. Kilcullen.  The ones I know who choose a military career are perfectly capable of planning and executing missions.  They're not any more squeamish than their male counterparts are, and they understand that military careers include a lot of bloodshed, risk, and sacrifice. 

My sister-in-law, for example, was just as capable as any of her colleagues were in the Air Force and would (in fact, did) happily volunteer for some pretty scary missions during her military career.  My guess is that she's still working for the military, albeit now as a civilian, because the military recognizes her value.  With a Van Niel, pretty much all of them can be equally dedicated and aggressive against enemies, both foreign and domestic.

So, Mr. Kilcullen, look around you.  I'll bet that there are a lot of women out there who would do a better job as a Ranger than you would.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

It's actually not that much fun saying, "we told you so."

In 2009, Eric Van Horn and I suggested (here) that bankruptcy lawyers might want to pay some attention to the public perception that their fees might be unreasonable.  (I admit that I'm a little fee-obsessed these days:  see here,* here, here, here, and here.)

This morning, the New York Times weighed in on the issue of bankruptcy lawyers' fees (here).  The go-to quote?
By opposing these guidelines, the lawyers handling big bankruptcy cases show they are out of touch with economic realities. Worse, in resisting improvements in accountability, they undermine public confidence in the integrity of the bankruptcy process. 
Yep.  The right approach--demonstrated with particular skill by Cravath's Rich Levin and the National Bankruptcy Conference--is to work with the Office of the U.S. Trustee to reach a workable compromise.  Ultimately, it's the job of the bankruptcy court to determine whether an estate-paid professional's fees and expenses are reasonable.  The Office of the U.S. Trustee is trying to help bankruptcy courts do their job by giving estate-paid professionals a heads-up as to what the U.S. Trustee Program will consider presumptively unreasonable.  Those professionals who are willing to meet the government halfway by saying, "we are very uncomfortable giving you this information, and we don't think the information will help you, but we are comfortable giving you this other information instead, which will help you" are handling this issue the right way.

*  The way that this first link is set up will count this very post as the first in the list.  You'll want to skip that one, unless your brain likes infinite loops, to move to the others in the list.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Some thoughts on reasonable attorney fees.

The juxtaposition of two articles this morning caught my eye.  This morning's Wall Street Journal's article, The Law Firm Business Model Is Dying, reminded me of Big But Brittle, the must-read article by Bernie Burk & Dave McGowan.  (Bernie & Dave's article is much better at discussing the nuances of the changes affecting BigLaw; the WSJ piece is just about lawyer deregulation.)  The other is a New York Times Dealbook piece by Andrew Ross SorkinMadoff Case Is Paying Off for Trustee ($850 an Hour).  Here's the quote in that article that caught my eye:
In a particularly caustic exchange in court last year, Judge Rakoff, upon seeing a group of lawyers enter the courtroom on behalf of the trustee, said: “Can I ask a question, which is, since the trustee’s fees come out of the funds that otherwise would be available for other purposes, why are there four attorneys from the trustee here in court today?”

When the lead lawyer responded that he might need to consult with his colleagues during his argument, Judge Rakoff shot back sarcastically: “If it turns out you give your argument without needing to consult with them, of course, you and your firm won’t charge for their appearance today.”

The lawyer replied: “I, your Honor, am not going to make any promises.”
The fact that these two pieces came out today is just a coincidence, but the backstory on both is that lawyers who assume that their way of doing business will continue indefinitely are in for a shock.

In terms of the Madoff case, I'm a firm believer that Irving Pickard is doing a good job and is worth his hourly rate.  Not every legal theory will work when applied to a particular set of facts, but he's doing his best to get some significant recovery for Madoff's victims. 

But Judge Rakoff is right, too:  just because a law firm can bring several people to a hearing doesn't mean that it should.  The problem of "staffing balance" is the tension between representing a fiduciary (and the concomitant desire to leave no stone unturned, in order to fulfill the fiduciary's duties) and the question of who ends up paying the bills for that representation.  The more diffuse the responsibility is for paying those bills, the less opportunity there is for the client to say, "let's do this but no more than this."

The problem is particularly acute in large chapter 11 bankruptcies, but that's not the only situation in which the problem occurs.  (See here and here for some of my thoughts on staffing balance.)

We train lawyers to be risk-averse.  Risk-averse people are prone to making sure that all of their bases are covered.  That means that lawyers will want to bring everyone to a hearing who might possibly have something to contribute, "just in case."  But with new technologies around to let lawyers call in to hearings, or to be on cell-phone standby, there are ways to trim those bills.  If the lawyers would be willing to move to those technologies but for court rules that interfere (such as prohibiting cell phones in courtrooms), then courts need to rethink their rules.  And if the lawyers are behaving responsibly about who they bring to hearings, then I can see giving them the benefit of the doubt in close cases.

But the most important thing is for the lawyers to communicate their reasons for their staffing choices to the court.  Waiting until a court starts making comments in public about the staffing choices creates the risk that a court will find those staffing choices unreasonable per se

There are a couple of ways to communicate staffing choices to the court.  One is explicit:  "Your Honor, with me today is Attorney X (who will cover [single issue]), Attorney Y (who will cover [different issue]), and Attorney Z (who is responsible for helping me with today's overall hearing because [reason])."  Another is by setting benchmarks in advance, with rebuttable presumptions about how many attorneys should be billing for a given task.

Communication is key.  Without such communication, lawyers will be judged in hindsight about the reasonableness of their actions. Whether the client is paying close attention to the bills or is merely an amalgam of interests that--by definition--will not pay close attention to the bills, there are too many pressures on the practice of law to let law firms bill without explaining their staffing choices to someone (the client or the court).

Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering Ron Bliss.

On this Memorial Day, we all have particular people we remember.  Jeff and I remember Ron Bliss, as well as other friends who served. 

We still miss dinners with Ron and Charlene--great conversations, great wine, lots of laughter.

Charlene, our thoughts are with you today.

Friday, May 25, 2012

An important opinion piece for Memorial Day.

Tom Manion's piece in the Wall Street Journal (here) is exceptionally moving, and it's a must-read for Memorial Day.

We quite literally can never repay the debt that we owe our troops.  But we owe it to them to recognize their bravery and sacrifice, not just on Memorial Day, but every day.

A new chapter.

Yesterday afternoon, UNLV's President announced that John White, our law school's dean, would be UNLV's next provost.  We will be doing a dean search this coming year, but in the meantime, I'll be our school's Interim Dean, with the transition happening mid-summer.  Here's what I sent to our community: 
Dear Boyd Community,

I know that we all wish Dean White well in his new position as UNLV's next Executive Vice President and Provost.  He has done many wonderful things for our school:  preserving our financial stability during one of the worst recessions in history, adding talented faculty and staff members to our already strong ranks, and helping to guide us through a rethinking of our first-year curriculum. 

I'm happy to be serving as Interim Dean as we search for our next permanent dean.  We are at a pivotal point in legal education.  Legal practice has changed dramatically, and we are not likely to see a return to the old approaches to practicing law.  Our students will be looking to us to help them find a way to adapt to this "new normal."  We need to continue to provide our students with the right mix of analytical and communication skills, a deep understanding of substantive law, and an ability to use law as one way--but not the only way--to solve complicated problems.  We also need to think creatively about how to adapt our strengths in this changing environment.

This year will be busy for us.  In addition to the dean search, we'll have the ABA site inspection and will embark on our next strategic plan.  For us to be able to make informed decisions, we'll need to do a fair amount of research on legal education and the practice of law.  The good news is that we have a strong and growing alumni base and a significant amount of goodwill in the legal community.  I'm sure that we will be able to tap the knowledge of our friends near and far to help us in our decision-making.

It's an honor for me to serve our school in this capacity.  We have a remarkable school, filled with talented, engaged, and collegial people.  Here's to preserving the best of what we have and finding even more ways to be outstanding.
It is an honor, and I think of Boyd as a very special (strong school and collegial environment) place. 

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Grab-bag of great essays.

See Augusten Burroughs's WSJ piece, How to Live Unhappily Ever After (here); this one on When the Troops Were Very Young (here); and the book review of "If You Were Only White" (here). 

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Woof out for Kaitlin!

Our friends Tommy and Dee-Dee have a wonderful granddaughter named Kaitlin.  Kaitlin is facing a serious medical condition with grace and bravery.  If you'd like to send all three of them some good vibes, please click here to upload a picture of your pet "woofing" for Kaitlin.

Here are some of ours: 

If you look closely at the top one, you'll see how we bribed the girls to stay still for a little bit.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Do I really expect some law schools to close in the next few years? Yes. Yes, I do.

In this cross-post on our Law School Survival Manual blog, I attempt to clarify that--although the ability to discharge student loans in bankruptcy is bleak--it's not quite as bad as I glibly said it was on the Bloomberg Law podcastBut it is bad, and something has to give.  As I indicated in my most recent essay about legal education (here), some schools aren't going to be able to justify their continued existence.  Even some very good schools are tightening their belts (see here).

And the job market for most lawyers is shrinking, not expanding.  Check out this Dealbook Q&A (here) with Michael Trotter.  His predictions are sobering.

When you combine the trends in law jobs with the increasing cost of attending law school (check out one of my favorite blogs, The Legal Whiteboard)--and you combine those two things with the fact that most student loans are non-dischargeable--you get a lot of law deans who are facing a lot of sleepless nights.  Law professors should also be nervous, because tenure won't protect them from being laid off when their law schools close. 

It's time to rethink what we mean when we talk about legal education.  That's a complex subject, but it's crucial that law professors have honest, non-turfy, non-pointy-headed-academic discussions about what we're doing and what we should be doing.

Oh, and my Buck Rogers reference in the interview?  That's from one of my favorite movies, The Right Stuff.  Here's the quote (from the site):
Gordon Cooper: You boys know what makes this bird go up? FUNDING makes this bird go up.
Gus Grissom: He's right. No bucks, no Buck Rogers. 
Yep.  No tuition, no school.  No bucks, no Buck Rogers.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


It will be 100 years ago this coming weekend, and there are so many news stories about Titanic that I hardly know where to begin.  But we can start here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

R.I.P. Gary Hartman

I just heard about Gary Hartman's passing (here) and my heart goes out to Susan and the rest of his family and friends. 

Gary was one of the first people I met at UHLC, and what I loved most about him was his ability to tell me the truth, even when he knew I wasn't going to like hearing it.  He cared passionately about the school and his colleagues. 

He was especially good during emergencies.  In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Allison, when Houston was hard-hit and our law school was among the hardest-hit, he was there, on the ground, making sure that things were working and solving the problems that come with every natural disaster.  But for the work of Gary and a few others, not only would we not have had a physical site for the school but we would also not have had a way of communicating with each other.  Many people might have been discouraged to the point of giving up, but Gary used his creativity and his wicked sense of humor (the obituary says that better than I ever could) to keep up morale and give us perspective.

Deans have very few people whom they can trust, and few in whom they can confide.  Gary was a trusted confidante.  For those who knew him, their lives were the better for it.  R.I.P., Gary.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blaming the wrong person.

As I'm reading this story, I'm getting deja vu.  Some students at U Conn's law school somehow believe that the soon-to-be-former dean caused a drop in U Conn's rankings.  How, exactly, would he have done that?  Let's guess:

1.  He called up future employers and told them not to hire U Conn graduates.
2.  He told his dean of admissions to pick some applicants on the basis of things other than UGPA and LSAT.
3.  He conspired with the 779 other people receiving the academic reputation survey to make sure that U Conn was not rated as highly as, say, Yale.  He also made sure that everyone who received the USNWR survey actually returned it.
4.  Ditto with the judges, lawyers, and law firms ranking the schools.
5.  And he cratered the economy, which dried up budgets and donations as if they were so many plums in direct sun in Death Valley.

The problem with the rankings is that deans have horrible choices--and very little power.  They could lie about their statistics.  They could make choices solely designed to maximize their USNWR rankings, without regard to any other effect those choices could have on the school.   Or they can work with their team to run the best school possible with the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and budgets that they have or could reasonably be expected to get.

If reputation is 40% of the score, then deans also have to wrestle with the halo effect, which will give some schools more of a bump than they might otherwise deserve.  ("School X must be better than School Y, because School X has been ranked more highly than School Y for years.")  Deans also have to wrestle with the fact that the other 194 schools being ranked aren't staying static, either. 

So when I read about Dean Paul stepping down, I think that he's being scapegoated.  U Conn students, remember this:  at some point, each of you may be in a position with a lot of responsibility but not a lot of power to effect change.  You'll be blamed for things that are not your fault.  And you'll feel just as frustrated as Dean Paul feels now.

Friday, March 02, 2012

The news article that a lawyer does not want to see when she's having her morning coffee.

See here.  Shades of Arthur Andersen's shredding scandal.  Having a rogue manager (assuming that's what happened) shred documents, counter to attorney instructions, is one of a lawyer's worst nightmares.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kvelling about the review of Randy Gordon's book.

One of my buddies, Randy Gordon, has just gotten a really nice review of his really good book called Rehumanizing Law: A Theory of Law and Democracy.  The review in Harvard Law Review said, in part:
Not only does Rehumanizing Law provide an insightful analysis of narrative both within and without the law, but the book, which is peppered with discussions and excerpts of famous cases, poems, novels, and plays, also often proves amusing, enriching, and entertaining.
Not only is Randy a double-Ph.D., but he's an exceptionally good lawyer, too.  Now you know why I'm kvelling.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bloomberg Law on the 10 greatest legal movie lines.

See here.  I feel very self-actualized.  I use nine of these movies when I talk about lawyers in pop culture, and I use five of the same clips that Bloomberg Law used.  Enjoy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A hearty congrats to Omar Alaniz!

My buddy Eric Van Horn just sent me links to Omar's latest honor (see here and here).  Omar has just been given the ABA Young Lawyers Division National Outstanding Young Lawyer Award.

Totally deserving, Omar!  BRAVO!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

New York Times has a nice salute to John Glenn.

See here.  I'd love to see us return to that feeling of possibility that NASA inspired:  that we would work hard to place a human in a place so far away that it was just a ball of reflected light in the night sky.  Bravo, NASA, and thank you, John Glenn.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Dear Programmers of Customer Service Lines:

I have now spent a collective 47 minutes on two different companies' customer service lines, and I have some suggestions for you.

1.  Come up with a way to get me to a human in under five minutes.  If you do not, then rest assured that I will press the numerical equivalent of "unconscionably bad" on the customer service survey that you ask me to answer after the call.

2.  Get me to the right place on your menu with clear directions.  Don't send me into a cascading progression of people who have no idea what I need to do.  If you get this step wrong, rest assured that I will press the numerical equivalent of "unconscionably bad" on the customer service survey that you ask me to answer after the call.

3. Give me some way of reaching someone live before cycling into an endless loop of announcements.  If you do not, then rest assured that I will press the numerical equivalent of "unconscionably bad" on the customer service survey that you ask me to answer after the call.

4.  After I evaluate your customer service, do not call me back to find out what you did wrong and leave me a message with a general phone number and no extension to reach a specific person.  If you get this step wrong, rest assured that I will blog about how annoyed I am. And I will name names.

I'm talking to you, ING, and I'm also talking to you, Ohio State HR.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Brent Newton's newest article.

The always interesting Brent Newton has just posted this article (here) about legal education.  Although I don't agree with everything he's said, he sure has moved the discussion forward (and made it more fun to discuss).  It's a must-read.

In other news, Penn State's law review took my forthcoming piece on legal education, so as soon as it's published, I'll post a link to it.

UPDATE:  Bill Henderson's comments about the article are here, and Bill's always another "must read" of mine.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Funny correspondence.

My buddy Joey Maldonado clued me in to this response to a cease-and-desist letter (here).  Classic.

Lesson?  Sometimes asking nicely is a better idea than sending a "stop it" letter.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


My colleague Marketa Trimble just published her dissertation with Oxford University Press (here).  Not only does this book embody her accomplishment for her SECOND doctoral degree, it puts her at the forefront of transnational IP issues.  (And she's nice!) 

This book belongs in your office if you're an IP person.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 05, 2012