April 30, 2005
Yet More on AdSense Ads
AsSense has now gone 180 degrees with my ads. Having had hunting ads for several days (which did pretty well clickthrough-wise, FWIW), today I’m seeing the following ads on my site:
One-stop vegan shopping
Hundreds of cruelty-free products Shoes, food, cosmetics and more
LACTAID® Milk Products
LACTAID® Milk is Real Milk - Great tasting, farm-fresh, Lactose Free
Gluten & Dairy Free Foods
Looking for Wheat & Dairy Free Food Mom to Mom Support and Answers
I wish this meant that Google is getting better at understanding this site. Instead, with my next round of posts on Internet hunting or kitty-hunting, I’m sure to get more about bagging bears in Maine.
Kaplan and Bar/Bri Alleged to Illegally Divide Market--Rodriguez v. West Publishing Corporation
Rodriguez v. West Publishing Corporation, CV05-3222 (C.D. Cal. complaint filed April 28, 2005). Explosive class-action antitrust lawsuit brought by Van Etten Suzumoto & Beckett against Kaplan and Bar/Bri alleging an illegal market-division agreement where West agreed to stay out of the LSAT preparation market and Kaplan agreed to stay out of the bar exam preparation market. Press release here.
I’m a little surprised that this lawsuit hasn’t been brought earlier; Bar/Bri has had nearly 100% market share for years. On that front, I know very little about antitrust law, but I wonder about the applicable statute of limitations—the purported agreement took place in 1997, or nearly 8 years ago.
My experience was Bar/Bri was a good one (i.e., they did a good job preparing me for the bar exam), but the complete absence of meaningful competition in the bar exam preparation business has puzzled me for a long time. If the plaintiffs can prove the facts they allege in their complaint, then we’ll have an answer.
April 28, 2005
Law Firm Partner Recruitment and Turnover
Last month’s American Lawyer magazine ran an interesting in-depth article on partner mobility and retention. It discusses the difficulties some firms retaining lateral partners, including Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, which turned over an incredible 68% of the partners it recruited between 1999-2003. There are several dynamics going on here: poor diligence on the part of the recruiting firm, initial desire to build out a practice where the desire changes or never matures, a failure to properly integrate new hires, and partner wanderlust (serial moves due to restlessness, pursuit of bigger bucks, or repeated poor choices). Partner recruiting is very expensive, both in terms of out-of-pocket costs (including recruiting fees) and opportunity cost (the diligence and marriage phase is time-consuming), so this article should serve as a warning that law firms on the prowl need a plan for recruiting smartly and retaining expensive acquisitions.
April 27, 2005
Law Firm Compensation and Culture
Article on different law firm compensation schemes and their consequences on firm culture (registration required).
April 26, 2005
Don't Look in the Freezer
New Ads--This Time from PETA!
Why dairy products won't help you maintain healthy bones
I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian, so I’m not completely anti-milk. However, I’ve definitely scaled back my consumption of dairy products in the last couple of years (such as switching to soy milk for my breakfast cereal), so I’m a lot happier to have the PETA ads than the hunting ads!
(FWIW, Jacob doesn't seem to like dairy milk; we've offered it to him but he won't drink it. Plus, he has an allergy to eggs, so we don't give him eggs either. So he's a nearly vegan baby!).
April 25, 2005
Death by Poison or Hanging?
Wisconsin woman is convicted of felony theft. Judge gives her a choice: 90 days in jail or donate her Packers season tickets to charity for a year. Given the Packer obsession in Wisconsin, I honestly can’t predict which one she would prefer. The judge could, of course, make the decision easier for her by threatening to schedule the jailtime during football season…
UPDATE: In a mildly surprising development, the woman has forked over the Packer tickets. Meanwhile, something has really been bothering me about this case. How did the judge learn about the Packers tickets in the first place? They had nothing to do with the crime.
Joint Author Agreements
Copyright law has some potentially unexpected surprises for co-authors. Co-authors usually have a “duty to account” to each other for revenues generated from the jointly-authored work. Co-authors may also have a duty not to “waste” the jointly owned asset (the co-authored work). In theory, granting a non-exclusive license without generating revenues could be "waste."
To avoid the application of unexpected rules to co-authored papers, I enter into an agreement with my co-authors. I believe this is relatively unique; my understanding is that (perhaps not surprisingly) most professors don’t deal with this detail. My general goal: I want to be free to recycle the paper without obligation to the co-author, and I’m OK if the co-author does the same. I’m not vouching for the legal consequences of this document, so use it advisedly. I welcome your comments.
April 24, 2005
New Jacob Photos
I'm running behind on maintaining Jacob's photos, but I uploaded a bunch (with a video and some letters) to his website (new material under November 2004-January 2005).
April 22, 2005
De Novo Blog on Law Reviews
De Novo blog ran a “symposium” on law review membership (Should you apply? General or specialty? etc.). Days 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. My contribution, with my typical cynicism and a small dose of optimism, is here.
MacMillan on Internet Hunting
Robert MacMillan at the Washington Post weighs in on anti-Internet hunting laws. He reaches the sensible conclusion that “using a broadband connection to bag game isn't any better or worse than doing it in person.”
In the course of doing so, MacMillan references an LA Times editorial by Dale Jamieson, who made a jaw-droppingly asinine “slippery slope” argument: “you have people who enjoy killing animals over the Internet. But of course the next step in this is that people start killing people over the Internet. That's the worry.”
No, that’s not the worry, at least not among hunters, animal rights activists or anyone else whose logic I respect. Animal rights activists generally object to all hunting, so Internet hunting is just another objectionable variation. For hunters, Internet hunting denigrates the psychological dynamics of why hunting matters to them. Hunting is about bravado/ego and power, a way of measuring cojones and satisfying a god complex. Thus, I think hunters oppose Internet hunting because it reduces the impressiveness of in-person hunting and democratizes the power to dispense death.
Meanwhile, I’m not sure whether remote-controlled hunting or in-person hunting is more susceptible to the slippery slope argument. What is more troubling—killing an animal remotely or while watching the victim up-close-and-personal, close enough to sense any suffering, close enough smell the blood? It seems to me that a person who can kill "for fun" while experiencing these senses is at least as comfortable ignoring the collateral implications of their actions than someone engaged in point-and-click hunting.
My goal isn’t specifically to rail against hunting generally. I don’t hunt and I hope my children will never do so either, but I’m not advocating that we outlaw it either. Instead, I reject the hypocrisy of finding unique ethical challenges in Internet hunting. The fact that some hunters, animal rights activists and commentators have embraced, and tried to rationalize, this hypocrisy is analytically amusing and emotionally dispiriting.
April 21, 2005
Unhappy Cows Aren't Protected From Government Propaganda
The California Supreme Court denied certiorari in PETA’s lawsuit against the California Milk Producers Advisory Board over the marketing “Great cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California.” As a result, it appears that the case is dead. (You can find the appellate court ruling at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. California Milk Producers Advisory Bd., 125 Cal. App. 4th 871, 22 Cal. Rptr. 3d 900 (Cal. App. Ct. Jan 11, 2005)).
I’m not a member of PETA and I don’t always agree with them, but I think they are 100% right to have challenged this campaign. The case turned on a technical point about government immunity, but that immunity is the problem. I’m not sure we would all agree on what constitutes a “happy” cow, but I think the lives of most dairy cows (in California or elsewhere) would be considered “unhappy” by anyone’s standards. Thus, if cheese consumers fully understood the living conditions of dairy cows, I think the desire to consume cheese (or dairy products generally) would significantly decrease. Instead, a public entity is freely disseminating misinformation to create/prop up the demand for cheese. This is what I call propaganda; isn’t there any way to stop it?
Marshmallow Peep Art
A Marquette Law student, Gia Pionek, runs the “Peep Show,” an annual exhibition of art made out of Marshmallow Peeps. A different student gave me one of her entries, an homage to Mondrian with yellow and pink rectangles (made out of the fluorescent bunnies--it's the one on the right).
Unfortunately, I missed the exhibition this year but, if Gia will let me, I plan to exhibit some artwork next year.
Meanwhile, in my quest to learn more about Peeps, I came across the official Peeps website. This site has it all: pictures of various seasonal Peeps offerings (including some I don’t normally see, like Peeps snowmen and Peeps cocoa cats), a fan club (I’m now a member), a virtual tour, a store (although, surprisingly, no way to order Peeps “food” except through the fan club), and news about new products. As is often the case with cultural icons like Peeps, the proliferation of products under the Peeps brand is surprisingly vast. Can you sense another Slinky-like obsession coming on?
(FWIW, I don't actually eat Peeps--I think they are gross--but my wife does. My interest is far more academic than culinary).
UPDATE: The NY Times weighs in with a mixed review of Peeps.
April 20, 2005
Stealing Lawyer Gets 14 Years in Prison
Lawyer gets 14 year prison sentence for stealing $2M from clients, including low-income tenants suing a landlord over substandard living conditions and disabled infants whose parents filed medical malpractice suits.
In-House Lawyers in Cubicles
New York Law Journal (registration required) reports on in-house lawyers sitting in cubicles rather than offices, reporting on a survey finding that “7 percent of law departments use cubicles exclusively, another 16 percent have a mix of cubicles and offices and 18 percent don't have cubicles but may add them in a year.” For my experience with in-house seating arrangements (including an unfortunate encounter with a buzzsaw), see my write-up of my first three months at Epinions. You might also consider my notes about how to get employees to adhere to legal standards.
April 18, 2005
From Academia to Practice
Relatively rare event: law professor wants to return to practice after 15 years of full-time teaching. Some career advice for him/her (registration required).
April 14, 2005
Andrew Perlman on Law School Promotional Material
Over at Legal Ethics Forum, Andrew Perlman has challenged the prevailing standards for law school promotional materials. He calls on law schools to set an example for future lawyers by adhering to rigorous marketing standards akin to MR 7.1.
I had some difficulties with this argument. First, I think the argument relies on US News rankings as a useful proxy even though we all know better than that. For example, Andrew comments that “I know of one school that is not in the top 50 that promotes itself as one of America's most respected law schools.” I assume that this refers to top 50 of US News, but is the US News ranking a useful proxy for measuring “respect”? I think that line of thinking has been destroyed by Brian Leiter and others. Andrew also comments that a “school promotes itself as having among the very best job prospects in the country, although data supplied by U.S. News & World Report is clearly to the contrary.” Again, I think the data contained in US News has been thoroughly discredited.
Perhaps more importantly, the argument appears to assume that “one size fits all,” while law schools—and law students—are heterogeneous. For example, a lowly ranked school may indeed offer the “very best job prospects” for particular types of careers or particular geographic settings—it depends on what students want. It would be a mistake to measure the merits of job placement on a standard that, as an example, elevates a Cravath offer over a state DA job. For some students, the latter would be the best possible job they could imagine.
Finally, I think the most important flaw in the argument (also somewhat present in the comments by David Giacalone) is that it assumes more/better/more accurate data would change student decision-making. I am extremely skeptical on that front. Simply put, law school applicants do a fairly poor job obtaining credible information and making informed decisions. We know that students rely too heavily on US News despite its poor/misleading information and defective algorithms, but I think the problem is more pervasive than that. In my experience, students (consistent with bounded rationality) rely on a variety of heuristics, rumors and ill-formed impressions in their decision-making. As a result, many students simply would not consider more (or more accurate) information in their decision-making process; and if they did, they would not be influenced by that information.
I’m not saying that schools should be free to spew out bogus information; we still need behavior-conformance tools like the FTC Act and other consumer protection laws. Otherwise, given applicant heterogeneity and the complexity of selecting schools, I think law school puffery is no better—and no worse—than puffery in other equally-complex sales.
Congress Goes After Live-Shot.com
Rep. Davis has introduced an anti-Internet hunting bill to Congress.
Rep. Davis said “Why should someone be able to point, click and kill?” Clearly, hunters should be required to point, pull trigger and kill.
He continued “fair chase is a basic element of hunting.” I’m not sure how “fair” the chase is when hunters have high velocity projectiles that can kill an animal from hundreds of yards and when hunters camp out on stands well off the ground. It might be worth noting that Live-Shot.com conducted its first Internet hunt last weekend but the hunter came up empty. Too bad he had such an unfair advantage over the animals.
The president of the Humane Society criticized Internet hunting because it “would distance the hunter entirely from the act of killing.” And how does that differ from a meal at McDonalds....?
April 13, 2005
Gov. Doyle Threatens Veto of Cat-Hunting Proposal
Gov. Doyle has threatened to veto any proposal to legalize cat-hunting in Wisconsin, saying that the proposal “hold[s] us up as a state that everybody is kind of laughing at right now.” Some of us are still “laughing” at Wisconsin for wasting its time trying to ban Internet hunting as well, especially in light of Sen. Kedzie’s statement that the issue is “a distraction from the main tasks we have at hand.” Presumably, those main tasks include banning a type of hunting that a single website in Texas has proposed to offer. Perhaps some of us will stop laughing when the Wisconsin legislature demonstrates that it is serious about improving social welfare instead of spending an inordinate amount of time debating about how to regulate/deregulate hunting.
Gordon Smith on Law School Teaching Loads
Gordon Smith at Conglomerate has prepared an outstanding post listing the teaching loads at various law schools. His table shows overwhelmingly that the top-ranked law schools have moved to a new standard of 10 units/year as opposed to the more traditional 12 units/year.
He makes a number of insightful points about the chart, but the one that resonated the most was the chasm between the “have” and “have not” schools. It simply is not possible for a person teaching 12 units to match the scholarly output (quantitatively or qualitatively) of someone teaching 10 units. So long as the top-ranked schools are at the lower standard, they will continue to produce more scholarship that will improve their academic reputation under US News rankings, which will further cement their top ranking. I can’t see how lower-ranked schools can overcome this virtuous cycle without moving to the lower teaching load. A lower teaching load would not guarantee rankings improvements, but with higher teaching loads, it’s not even a fair fight.
As for me, I have mixed emotions about the lower teaching loads. On the one hand, one main reason to become a professor was because I love to teach, so I cherish my time in the classroom. On the other hand, I could be a better teacher and a better scholar with a lower teaching load.
April 12, 2005
Cat-Hunting in Wisconsin
I’ve already blogged about Wisconsin’s efforts to ban Internet hunting because it’s not “real” hunting. Now Wisconsin is considering allowing hunters to hunt kitties. Is bagging Fluffy more consistent with hunting norms than Internet hunting?
Emerging Social Norms About SSRN
Over the weekend, I socialized with a number of law professors. Naturally, the topic of SSRN came up. I noticed an interesting response to the recent attention to SSRN’s download count statistics. Many of us are so shy about blatant self-promotion that now we’re embarrassed to refer other law professors to our SSRN page, for fear that we will be perceived as trying to jack up our download counts.
As a result, the new SSRN download metrics may have a counterproductive effect. Instead of promoting SSRN to drive up our rankings, we could instead develop a norm that it is bad form to promote it, which would lead to less usage of SSRN. Our self-consciousness about SSRN may be just a short-term blip, but it also could be the beginning of a norm that will degrade SSRN as a major tool for law professors.
April 11, 2005
Taco Bell employee double-swipes the credit cards of irritating customers. It is a poorly-kept and dirty secret that some lawyers engage in “punitive billing,” where a lawyer grosses up his or her hours to penalize annoying/disrespectful clients. The Taco Bell employee is going to jail for double-swiping; punitive lawyers usually just get larger year-end bonuses.
April 06, 2005
More Fallout From Live-Shot.com
California is moving to pass a law against Internet hunting. According to Cal. Sen. Debra Bowen, “This isn't hunting; it's an inhumane, over the top, pay-per-view video game using live animals for target practice….Shooting live animals over the Internet takes absolutely zero hunting skills, and it ought to be offensive to every legitimate hunter.” Perhaps Sen. Bowen can clarify why “legitimate” hunting is both humane and something more than using live animals for target practice.
On that front, there are some weird bedfellows supporting anti-Internet hunting laws—hunting groups like the California Sportsmen's Association, Safari Club International and the Outdoor Sportsman's Coalition of California, but also the Humane Society of the US. Clearly these groups support the laws for very different reasons!
Meanwhile, Wisconsin had its hearing on AB 179 last week but I’ve not been able to find any information about what happened. Further, the bill’s history shows that yesterday “executve action” was taken on the bill—still trying to figure out what that means.
North Dakota Targets Professors With Foreign Accents
North Dakota is considering a law giving students certain rights if professors do not “speak English clearly and with good pronunciation”—and if enough students complain, stripping the professor of classroom duties. Two observations:
· This is the most jingoistic proposal I can recall since California’s English-only initiative. The referenced study, showing how listeners implicitly discriminate against minority lecturers, shows just how warped this proposal really is.
· I have a tough time understanding Wisconsin accents, let alone people with a strong Southern drawl!
April 04, 2005
Steele on the State of Legal Education
John Steele organizes his thoughts into a thought-provoking post about the state of legal education. He concludes “Two trends that bother me: the use of citation counts and download counts as a proxy for the quality of education, and the dominance of just a few schools (Harvard, Yale, Columbia & Chicago) as sources of new law professor hires.”
April 03, 2005
Cunningham on SSRN as a Metrics Source
Larry Cunningham posted “Scholarly Profit Margins and the Legal Scholarship Network: Reflections on the Web” to SSRN. This essay deconstructs various metrics of academic/scholarly performance, including SSRN download counts. He notes several limitations of SSRN as a metric, including first mover advantages and self-selection biases, and notes how the metrics are currently skewed by subject matter and gender. He also questions how a school’s counts will be affected when a professor moves from one school to another. Despite some of these issues, he holds out hope (as do I) that SSRN will provide some useful quantification of law professor performance. Personally, I find the real-time availability of download statistics particularly useful; but I remain skeptical if they are industrial-strength enough to rely upon them in any meaningful way.
His essay implicitly raises some more interesting and abstract questions, why do we try to measure academic performance at all, and what are the consequences of picking one metric over another. I’ll defer that issue for a later blog post.