April 27, 2006
I Know Nothing About Bar/Bri!
Regular readers may recall that I've occasionally blogged about the Bar/Bri antitrust lawsuits. See, e.g., here and here and here and here. (And, FWIW, there's now another one: Park v. Thomson Corp. in the SDNY). I was also quoted in an article on the lawsuit. And, a dozen years ago, I was a Bar/Bri customer.
That pretty much describes my total universe of interactions with Bar/Bri in my lifetime. So you can imagine my surprise when I got a call from the law firm of Shearman and Sterling, an old-line NY firm that is one of the biggest, most prestigious and most expensive law firms in the country. They also happen to defend Bar/Bri. They informed me that my name had appeared on a Rule 26 supplemental disclosure filed by the plaintiff, flagging me as a party that may have potentially discoverable evidence. They were calling to try to figure out why I was on the list.
I'm trying to figure out the same thing! I think it's a little odd to show up on a witness list like this without being contacted first. And I REALLY don't want to be a witness in this case. So now I'm in the awkward position of scrambling to proclaim my incompetence. All I did was blog a few posts and give a reporter some quotes; that doesn't actually mean that I know anything!
More generally, this incident suggests a new hazard of blogging about pending lawsuits--litigants may try to drag the blogger into the suit as a witness. Good to know...
April 26, 2006
Getting Scholarship Read and Cited
In January, we had a roundtable at Marquette to discuss the steps we can take to increase readership/awareness of the articles we publish. This blog post summarizes some of our discussions.
Traditionally, law professor authors marketed their articles rather passively. The principal effort was to publish with an impressive journal. Not only did those journals have a larger subscription base, but people were more likely to read an article in a big brand like Harvard Law Review than an article in the Northwest Podunk State University Law Review. Authors might also confirm that the journal's articles were uploaded to the electronic databases (like Westlaw and Lexis). Typically, this was the complete universe of marketing activities for most articles. If authors took any proactive steps, usually that consisted of sending out physical reprints to personal contacts or the list of law professors who teach in the area per the AALS directory.
However, there are many proactive ways to get people to read and cite to our articles. Some ideas:
* spin out alternative versions of an article, such as by publishing a redacted version in a different periodical with a different audience. This redacted version can encourage readers to check out the full version of the article.
* present the article at conferences. I often bring reprints with me to hand out to people who approach me after my talk, or I get a business card so I can mail them a reprint (or email a URL) after the event.
* send reprints to casebook authors. I recognize that this may be subsumed under the general reprint distribution approach, but casebook authors are a special class. First, they may choose to excerpt some of the article in their casebook. Second, they may add the article as a citation so that casebook readers may check it out.
* send the article to lawyers (and perhaps judges) who are litigating cases relevant to the article's topic. In the Cyberlaw arena, this is usually fairly easy to do. Major Cyberlaw cases get a lot of news coverage when they are filed, and it's easy to find the lawyers involved in the case (often they are referenced in the news reports, but if not, their names are on the pleadings in PACER). Often, the lawyers will welcome an article that may help their research or arguments, and the citations may end up in the brief or even the reported decision. In some cases, the email exchange can open up the possibility of getting involved in the case.
* when I see a draft article on a related topic, I call my article to the attention of the author. This gets my article read, and my article may get cited in the forthcoming work.
* promote the article through SSRN. With the download tournament on SSRN, this has become a popular sport. SSRN has some great in-house tools to increase readership, such as the topical email lists and a school's research paper series (for example, Marquette just created one). In addition to these promotions through SSRN's tools, I do some marketing work on my own. I contact some bloggers and media contacts who are writing in the area to let them know when an article has been posted to SSRN. My hope is that some of these people will find the article valuable enough to promote it to their readers. This has the effect of boosting download counts, but more importantly, it increases the number of readers of my article.
If you have any other tips about how you market or promote your scholarship to increase readership or citations, I would love to hear about it.
April 24, 2006
Co-Blogging Law Paper
If you're interested in blog law, you might check out my paper called "Co-Blogging Law." In it, I discuss the legal implications of joint/group blogging and guest blogging. I wrote this paper for the Bloggership Symposium at Harvard Law School; read more about that event here. The paper abstract:
Bloggers frequently combine their efforts through joint blogging and guest blogging arrangements. These combinations may be informal from a social networks perspective, but they can have significant and unexpected legal consequences. This Essay looks at some of the ownership and liability consequences of co-blogging and guest blogging. To do so, the Essay will consider different possible legal characterizations of co-blogging, such as partnership, employment and joint ownership. The Essay concludes with some recommendations to minimize the implications of unexpected legal characterizations, including encouraging bloggers to make private agreements, educating bloggers about their choices, and exercising judicial restraint
April 16, 2006
Marquette Drops From 100 to 101 in US News Ranking
There are many reasons why being a Dean must be frustrating. Among other reasons, the Dean is the guardian of the school's brand, but Deans have little control over brand perceptions in the short run. Instead, brand perceptions are largely shaped by exogenous influences such as third party rankings.
So an annual "rite of Spring" among law schools is to conduct post-mortems following each new US News & World Reports ranking. Each April, Deans around the country spend a lot of time answering for their latest rankings. The resulting news stories follow a predictable plot:
* law school drops in the rankings
* angry alumni and students demand to know why
* the Dean explains that the rankings are important but methodologically flawed
You could almost recycle the same story at every law school that isn't blessed by the USNWR gods.
The stories are flowing in at Marquette, where the school dropped from last year's three-way tie for 100 (at the very bottom of the second tier) to the third tier. This drop looks precipitous, but in fact the USNWR's data jockey says the school should have been ranked at 101. So, according to the USNWR methodology, the school dropped a single place from 100 to 101. This doesn't stop the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel from saying the school is "rattled" by the "tumble" in the rankings. See the Marquette Tribune's similar story.
(Note that because there was a three-way tie for 100 in last year's rankings, there were 102 schools ranked in the top 100. So, arguably, Marquette rose from 102 to 101 this year. Whatever.).
I won't recount the many, many reasons why the USNWR rankings are flawed. I will, however, offer an interpretive guide to the USNWR rankings that should be obvious but apparently isn't. Just like consumer surveys and political polls describe their margin of error (i.e., this poll is accurate within X% +/-), one should read each year's installation of the rankings as having a margin of error as well. (We could debate the size of that margin; personally, I think it's very large). So if a school changes from 100 to 101, does that reflect any real change? In my book, no. It is entirely consistent with the metric's margin of error.
Because of the metric's imprecision, USNWR rankings have some natural volatility from year to year. This means schools like Marquette will float up and down without any real intrinsic change. Because these changes are inevitable and not tied to reality, I can confidently make the following predictions:
1) Marquette Law will be back in the second tier in next year's rankings (or, at the latest, in 2008)
2) In the 5 years after that, Marquette Law will be back in the third tier at least once
3) Neither of those developments will accurately reflect any real changes at the school
Anyone planning to rely on this year's USNWR rankings should be advised accordingly.
April 10, 2006
Lawyer Gets Discipline for Humming "Twilight Zone" Theme
Steven H. Levy, a lawyer in Torrington, CT, received a public reprimand under Rule 4.4 (using "means that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person") for improper humming (registration required).
In a contentious divorce case, the spouses (and their lawyers), a family services worker and a guardian ad litem gathered to discuss the case. At some point, there was a discussion about the need for psychological testing. The wife asked why such a test would be needed, and allegedly Levy looked directly at her, said someone in the room had psychological problems, and then started humming the Twilight Zone theme.
Standing alone, this seems like a pretty trivial act to warrant State Bar discipline. However, the article also gives other examples that suggest Levy has a knack for getting himself into trouble. Nevertheless, lawyers may be well-advised to watch their humming (and probably their whistling as well)--no Twilight Zone theme, no theme from Jaws, no ominous music from Psycho. And definitely no barking like a pit bull!
April 09, 2006
Travel Schedules of Law Professors
When I was in private practice, I rarely traveled for business. In my eight years as a lawyer, I can recall 5 trips to Dallas (all for the same client), a client trip to San Diego and a few presentations out of the Bay Area (three trips come to mind). I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, but mostly the business trips stand out because of their exceptional nature.
Life is much different as a law professor. I travel constantly. I don’t think I fully appreciated how much travel the job would involve. As a law professor, travel takes me to new audiences; it also allows me to build and reinforce social relationships. So right now I travel a lot—-more than I expected, more than I would like, and way more than my wife and kids would like. In the 18 month period from January 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006, my business travels have taken/will take me to the following destinations:
Chapel Hill, NC
Chicago (6 times)
Lansing, MI (2 times)
Minneapolis (2 times)
New Haven, CT
New York (2 times)
Palo Alto (3 times)
San Francisco (2 times)
Santa Clara (3 times)
Washington DC (3 times)
My tally: 13 states and 13 different law schools in 18 months. More significantly, this amounts to 34 different business trips in 18 months, or almost two trips a month.
I’ve realized that this level of travel is not sustainable. I lose a lot of productive time on the road, but more importantly, each trip requires me to leave my wife to single-handedly take care of our two young kids, and that’s just not fair to her or them.
As a result, I’ve been looking for ways to cut back on travel. One cut was easy. For the past 4 years, I’ve been actively involved in the American Bar Association. I’ve enjoyed the experience, but the price of admission has been high—-right now, based on my various obligations, I am committed to 6 trips a year for the ABA. By dropping out of the ABA, I can save those 6 trips a year.
I will also probably say no more based on cost-benefit analysis. From Milwaukee, the travel time to participate in East Coast events is comparatively low—-most East Coast and Midwest destinations are a two-hour flight away, and in many cases I can get nonstop flights from Milwaukee. For example, in February I flew nonstop to Washington DC as a day trip. However, starting next academic year, when I’m based in California, trips to the East Coast will require almost 2 full travel days. Thus, going forward, the trip’s benefit will have to outweigh this significant transaction cost. This surely means that I’ll take a pass on trips I would have taken without hesitation from Milwaukee.
(Fortunately, with my new administrative duties, I can bring people to Santa Clara, so I will have a mechanism to continue my social relationships without my having to travel at all.)
I’m sure some of you are thinking that I must have racked up some major frequent flyer miles with all of these trips. Unfortunately, I’ve scattered my miles. I tend to pick flights based on price and schedule first and airline brand second. The result is that I have one free ticket on just about every airline, but most of those are effectively unusable given the stringent redemption requirements imposed by airlines. Despite my low brand loyalty, I did take enough trips on United Airlines last year to make premier status. With my resolve to cut my travel, we’ll see if I can earn the status again this year.
April 02, 2006
New Gig: Santa Clara University School of Law
Starting next academic year, I'll be an Assistant Professor at Santa Clara University School of Law and the Director of the school's High Technology Law Institute. In my administrative role, I will provide academic direction and leadership to the school's intellectual property and technology law programs, working in cooperation with the institute's executive director, Jenny Lynn Cox, and others. The school has been a long-time leader in intellectual property and technology law (including a #4 ranking in this year's US News & World Reports specialty ranking of IP programs, if such rankings matter), and I am looking forward to contributing to, and building on, that rich tradition.
Some FAQs about my change:
Why are you moving? Our #1 motivation was to be closer to our family, all of which lives in California. This move takes us within 5 miles of my sister and her family and driving distance of our parents. Being close to family has innumerable benefits--our kids will grow up close to their family, especially their cousins; my wife and I can leave the kids with the grandparents for short trips; we can spend mid-semester holidays like Passover and Thanksgiving with family; and we won't have to make convoluted plans to visit family in multiple locations during brief vacations. And, not incidentally, no more frozen airplanes traveling back to California.
Prior to Milwaukee, my wife and I lived in the Bay Area, so we are returning home in that sense. Among other benefits, we are looking forward to reconnecting with the professional and personal social networks that we left behind when we moved to Milwaukee.
As for the law school, I taught Cyberspace Law there as an adjunct for 6 years, which I've always considered one of my top professional experiences. The school has a lot of students, faculty members and alumni interested in my research areas, and the school's location (in the heart of the Silicon Valley) will have some benefits as well.
Finally, we are looking forward to resuming a Californian lifestyle, like choosing among a good variety of vegetarian restaurants and being able to enjoy outdoor activities all year round.
You must be excited! We are thrilled, but the decision is bittersweet. Marquette has been a wonderful environment for me, and both my wife and I formed a lot of great relationships in Milwaukee that are tough to leave.
When are you moving? Our move date depends on when we can sell our house in Milwaukee and find a house in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, the housing market is soft in Milwaukee and tight in our target areas in the Bay Area, so both ends of our move are complicated. As a result, our move date could be anywhere between May and August.
Where are you going to live? Right now, we're focusing on Palo Alto and Los Altos.
The Bay Area will be a very expensive place to live. There are many hidden costs to living in Milwaukee, so the overall cost of living between the Bay Area and Milwaukee is comparable with one major exception: the purchase price of houses. Currently we live in a 50+ year old house with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths and 2000 square feet in a great school district with a 15 mile commute. We expect to buy a home in California with very similar attributes, which we think will cost us quadruple the sales price of our Milwaukee house.
April 01, 2006
Real Firefighters Eat Tofu
A fire engine squad in Austin, TX has gone vegan. I think it's amazing that this news item makes the NY Times. It shows just how deeply meat is ingrained in many American subcultures (including firefighters). Kudos to the crew of Engine #2--I'd be proud to have them working on my tax dollars.