February 28, 2005
Law Teaching Careers--PART I
I find it interesting how many people are interested in law teaching as a career, and how many law professors have espoused their views on this subject. I have contributed to this discussion in part with some thoughts already.
With some trepidation, I am going to say more about this subject. I am prompted to do so by an email interview I had for a story. I was asked five pointed questions that inspired me to put together some of my thoughts. A lot of this rehashes what others have said, but I do have some new perspectives to add (and, for those of you who are researching this issue from scratch, this will provide a basic overview as well). I will serialize my response over this week, starting today with the first question.
1) What are the pros and cons of becoming a law professor?
The pros of a law professor job
* I help students accomplish their goals
* I work with interesting colleagues
* I can set my own agenda. I have a lot of flexibility to choose how to allocate my time. If I want to take on a project, I can. If I'm not interested, I don't. If I want to delay some extra efforts because of other priorities (like a new child), I can lighten my workload substantially without needing anyone's permission (although I can't do this forever if I want to get tenure!).
* The things I work on are the things I did with my free time when I was in practice. In other words, my job now is what I used to consider my hobbies.
* I get the opportunity to say what's on my mind. I don't have to hold back for fear of alienating a client or my employer. Occasionally, people are even interested in what I have to say!
* I earn a lot less than I would in practice
* Getting a job is difficult, and it requires flexibility (for example, in my case, I had to move from California to the Midwest)
* There are relatively few clear metrics for measuring my success. In a law firm, associates are measured by billable hours and performance reviews. In a corporate environment, success is measured by profit. In the academic world, there are many possible dimensions to measure success. Thus, there's no natural boundary on when I've done "enough"--there is always something more to do, usually very interesting, and thus it is easy to take on too much.
* The job is not as much of a "lifestyle" job as people normally assume. To be an excellent teacher, scholar and community member takes a lot of time. I do get the summers and holidays "off," but I need to work on grading exams, preparing for the next semester, and writing papers. Some might complain that they get paid a 10 month salary for a 12 month job.
More on this topic tomorrow.
February 27, 2005
GQ Article on Google, and the Challenge of Boy Entrepreneurs
GQ article on Google by John Heilemann. This article has a ton of great behind-the-scenes stories about Google and the Silicon Valley VC community generally. My favorite dirt was the story about Larry sitting in a plate of crème fraîche during the IPO, and Schmidt’s response (“we’ve seen worse”).
The article explores a running theme about the interaction between boy entrepreneurs and adult CEOs. This theme really resonated with me based on my experience working with several boy entrepreneurs in my past, including the founders of theglobe.com and Epinions. I think the article neatly captures the tension of encouraging youthful brilliance while channeling the energy towards productive ends. There is a fine line to walk, and it takes a rare and unique talent to do it successfully. This is why I thought the article passed the spotlight too quickly over Bill Campbell, who “coached” us at Epinions and made a real difference with us as well.
February 26, 2005
Dzienkowski on VLG
John Dzienkowski has an interesting post about the former Silicon Valley law firm Venture Law Group. John ponders if the demise of VLG as a standalone firm has any lessons about the viability of its unique business model. I competed with VLG in their halcyon days and then was a VLG client when I was GC at Epinions, so I have some pretty strong opinions about this question. Rather than saying something I might later regret, let me only make 2 observations.
1) John puts a partially-flattering but perhaps unsupportable gloss on the VLG model. VLG was a law firm first and foremost, and their principal value to clients derived from providing legal services. They marketed themselves as being different from other Silicon Valley law firms by claiming to be both legal and business advisors (i.e., investment banker/strategic advisor/lawyer), but in reality their services were very comparable to what most other lawyers in the Silicon Valley did for their clients (i.e., many lawyers had VC contacts and tried to help promising new start-ups find money). The principal difference is that VLG charged more than the competition—they charged hourly rates at/above the market rates, plus took an equity kicker on top of that. (Only suckers took equity in lieu of fees). Other firms took equity kickers too, but VLG was more systematic and unrestrained in their practices. Nevertheless, many entrepreneurs were willing to pay VLG's premium rates because VLG did a very good marketing job.
2) Epinions switched law firms six months after I became GC.
February 24, 2005
Osgoode Hall (at York Univeristy) is offering a 4 year joint JD/LLB with NYU Law. For someone who wants to practice both US and Canadian law, this seems like an exceptional deal.
February 23, 2005
No Bribes for Textbook Adoptions
Virginia is adopting a law banning state college professors from accepting payment from textbook publishers for adopting textbooks. My first reaction: good idea. My second reaction: I don’t remember being offered any payment!
February 22, 2005
I'd Rather Be a Member of the Mile High Club
Stephanie Francis Ward wrote a provocative/disturbing article in the Feb. 2005 ABA Journal entitled “2,000+ Club Stays Open 24/7.” (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a web version, though you can get it on Westlaw at 91-FEB ABAJ 32).
The recommendations are truly chilling. The article starts off:
“WANT TO BILL MORE THAN 2,000 hours a year? It's not as hard as it seems--just be at your desk by 7 a.m., don't take a lunch and limit personal Internet usage to no more than 15 minutes a day. And if someone stops by to chat about a nonwork-related matter, tell the person that you're headed to a meeting, even if you're not.”
Sounds like a friendly environment. Another way to boost hours is to look for opportunities to churn a file:
“Nosing around for work also helps, says a New York City corporate associate who generally bills 2,400 hours a year. He frequently calls partners in a variety of different locations to check in and inquire how certain transactions are going. Often, that results in the partner assigning him work.”
The article continues by noting how his schedule also contributed to his divorce.
The article concludes with a quote from an attorney extolling the billable hour-potential of 405 gridlock and a cellphone:
“"You can do billable hours from the San Diego Freeway," he says. "It's a way to be productive in an otherwise unproductive time."”
Note: it is a productive use of time to drive safely...
Article on Professor Salaries
Good article on the role of shopping around at other schools on professors’ salaries.
February 21, 2005
Email lists for IP and Cyberlaw Professors
At the Michigan State Law School IP Works-in-Progress conference over the weekend, we discussed various email lists that we use as professors to keep up with the law. I offered up these as some of the top resources I rely upon (in addition to my RSS reader, blogs, etc., etc.):
Cyberprof. Closed list for cyberspace law professors. Contact Mark Lemley to be added.
IPProfs. A list for IP law professors.
JuniorIPProfs. A list for junior IP law professors. A surprisingly welcome complement to IPProfs.
CNI-Copyright. A mix of practitioners, academics, students and industry folks. Principally practice-focused.
TMTopics. Like CNI-Copyright, also practice-focused.
Michael Geist's Internet Law News. Essential daily reading for anyone in the Cyberlaw field.
February 18, 2005
I'm a Lover, Not a Fighter
Interesting new study on why left-handers have survived Darwinism. The article leads off:
“Statistics show left-handed people are more likely to be schizophrenic, alcoholic, delinquent, dyslexic, and have Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, as well as mental disabilities. They're also more likely to die young and get into accidents. So if evolutionary theory dictates survival of the fittest, why do lefties still exist?”
The article concludes: “The anomaly is left-handed people make up the extremely gifted and the extremely compromised…The rest of us make up the middle ground.”
February 16, 2005
ABA Grants Two Provisional Accreditations
Western State University College of Law and John Marshall Law School (Atlanta) received provisional ABA accreditation yesterday. Given that there are less than 200 ABA-accredited law schools, this is a pretty big deal—it grows the pool of ABA-accredited schools by over 1%. (Western State was already provisionally accredited, but they appeared to be in serious jeopardy of losing that status last summer).
February 15, 2005
Talk at Michigan State: "Lexicon Law"
I’m going to be speaking on Saturday at the Second Annual Intellectual Property & Communications Law & Policy Scholars Roundtable in East Lansing. I’m giving my first public debut of my next major paper topic. This is still in the early formative stage, so I’m looking forward to comments. If you have any, I welcome them.
McDonald's Hit With Second Large Settlement Over its French Fries
McDonald’s pays out $8.5M for failing to adequately disclose delays in switching the oils used to cook its french fries. Of course, vegetarians still remember McDonald’s past misrepresentations about its French fries being vegetarian.
February 13, 2005
"Most Popular General Student Law Reviews"
ExpressO put together a list of the “100 Most Popular General Student Law Reviews” based on the number of articles submitted through ExpressO’s system. This list struck me as very odd. Seeing Yale Law Journal at #10, Harvard Law Review at #26 and Stanford Law Review at #31 is rather jarring. The #80-100 positions are pretty interesting too. I know these numbers are skewed because of (a) ExpressO’s incompleteness as a delivery tool, and (b) the pricing difference between electronic and hard-copy deliveries. Nevertheless, should ExpressO take root as a major delivery tool, it should be interesting to see exactly who gets what.
More on Law Review Article Length
I recently posted on law review article length. On Saturday, I got the following spam from the Cornell Law Review:
Thank you for submitting work to Cornell Law Review in the past. We are excited to let you know about two developments in our article review process for Volume 91 and future volumes.
Second, you will also see a statement on our website from the top law reviews about our commitment to moderating the length of the articles we publish. You will also see Cornell Law Review’s statement expressing our preference for pieces that we believe can be published at under 30,000 words (including text and footnotes). We believe, like many of you, many of your colleagues, and many of our colleagues, that this effort will sharpen the quality of legal scholarship and the efficiency of the publishing process.
Thank you again for submitting your work to Cornell Law Review in the past and we look forward to receiving and reviewing your future work.
Board of Editors
Cornell Law Review
It appears that the journals are making a big push this submission season to enforce their announcement. But already ambiguities are beginning to crop up. Harvard is emphasizing articles under 25,000 words, with a putative cap of 35,000 words, although this leaves open how Harvard will deal with articles in the 25,000-35,000 word range. In partial contrast, Cornell is giving preference to 30,000 words or less. For authors caught by surprise, this submission period could be pretty bumpy. (As for me, I was targeting 30,000 words for my latest article, so I think I’m OK…?).
February 11, 2005
Red Herring Article on Ravikant v. Tolia
Good article recapping the lawsuit.
February 09, 2005
Presentation on Regulating Speech in Virtual Worlds
I’m giving a speech on Friday at Santa Clara University School of Law at the Rules & Borders: Regulating Digital Environments symposium. I was asked to speak about “regulating content” in virtual worlds. This is a pretty open-ended topic, so it gave me plenty of room to be a contrarian. You can read the draft. I welcome your comments.
Lawyers in Chat Rooms
The California State Bar recently issued an advisory ethics opinion that a lawyer may not post a message in a chat room for victims/families of a recent mass disaster where the lawyer announces herself as a lawyer and offers to answer questions. On the one hand, it’s hard to argue with this. Grieving victims and families need some space to work through their grief. On the other hand, a lawyer merely offering to answer questions in an Internet context, without more, seems fairly innocuous—and, indeed, may aid the grieving process by answering questions the participants may have. The opinion turns on the “intrusiveness” of the interaction, which is specific to California (the model rules refer to “coercion, duress or harassment”). Personally, this opinion strikes me as bumping up against First Amendment boundaries; perhaps it goes over the line.
Justice is Blind (and has hairy palms)
This item is a little indelicate but it’s so bizarre that I feel compelled to pass it along.
UPDATE: AP reports on a prosecution for indecent exposure.
UPDATE 2: The judge was convicted of four counts of indecent exposure.
February 08, 2005
Taking on One Law Firm's Culture
Judge orders entire 80-attorney law firm to take a refresher course in ethics.
Law Review Editors to Authors: "Too Many Words"
The blogosphere is abuzz with the announcement that law reviews are going to try to limit the length of law review articles. If true, this is excellent news for everyone, including authors like me. But I don’t believe it for a second. Law review articles editors are still going to need to be educated on very specialized topics to appreciate the import of the paper, and editors are still going to make decisions about a manuscript based on factors that have nothing to do with its content. After this year’s crop of editors turns over, it will be interesting to see how many editors remember this treaty.
February 07, 2005
Prime example of lawyer fraud through overbilling. I really don’t understand this—did he really think he would not be caught for billing 94 hours in a 24 hour day?
Ravikant v. Tolia
I have been thinking a lot about the Ravikant v. Tolia complaint filed January 19. This lawsuit arises out DealTime’s acquisition of Epinions in 2003. In that merger, all of the common stockholders got wiped out (including me). The plaintiffs are some of those common stockholders who feel wronged by the washout merger and would like to share in some of the post-merger success.
This lawsuit has already received some press in the New York Times and the San Jose Mercury News (quoting me). In part this press is attributable to the high expectations that people once had for Epinions and its unexpected rebound from the dot com crash.
While personally I’m fascinated by the legal duties that preferred stock (and a board controlled by the preferred) have to common stock when the company’s valuation is below the preferred stock’s liquidation preference, this lawsuit is getting some attention because venture capitalists rarely sue each other. Here, a couple of VCs (including Naval Ravikant and Kevin Laws) are suing other VCs. In particular, Naval used to work for August Capital but is now suing his old firm and John Johnston, one of his former August partners. The VC world is clubby and driven by personal relationships. Given the prospect of repeated interaction between VCs over a career, most VCs find a way to resolve disputes out of court. Already, Naval and Kevin are feeling some of the consequences from their decision to break ranks.
I will have more to say about this lawsuit as it develops. For now, I have to choose my words carefully because I was company counsel during some of the relevant time periods.
Welcome to my personal blog. In the future, I plan to launch a “professional” blog that will cover substantive legal topics related to search engines, Internet law and marketing law. This blog will cover everything else—postings about my papers and conferences, my observations about life as a law professor or the business of law schools, and announcements about family and friends.
Although I have long thought about doing a blog, the real impetus for this blog came when two of my students approached me last semester saying I should do a blog. I am dubious about the demand for my words and I am nervous about the possible time commitments of maintaining the blog, but we’ll have to see. Special thanks to Rex Holmes for his help getting me up and running on this technology.
Thanks for stopping by. I always welcome your comments.