February 27, 2007
Burger Wars Are Back--Introducing the Beer Barrel Main Event Charity Burger
In 2005, I had a series of posts about noteworthy burgers, including the 12.5 pound Zeus burger, the 15 pound Beer Barrel Belly Buster (only 10.5 pounds of beef) from Denny's Beer Barrel Pub (see the photo), whale burgers and poodle burgers.
Denny's Beer Barrel Pub has reignited the burger wars with the Beer Barrel Main Event Charity Burger, a 123 pounder (only 80 pounds beef) that costs $379. See the photo--mmm mmm good. Don't ask about calories--as the owner says, "If you were worried about calories you would be at home eating Kellogg's." Sounds like it would be a little pointless to ask about the number of cows sacrificed for the cause, too.
In any case, the escalating burger wars may spark a new variant of Moore's law by doubling the poundage every 2 years. In 2036 we'll be talking about the Galaxy burger which weighs more than all of the matter in our galaxy.
February 20, 2007
Internet Hunting Update
The AP updates the status of laws banning Internet hunting, a topic I blogged about extensively in 2005 and even wrote an editorial about. Encouraged by the Humane Society (on a roll with their regressive perspectives about Internet law), 25 states have now passed anti-Internet hunting laws. A proposed law is pending before the Connecticut legislature, but this law looks especially silly now that the only website ever to offer Internet hunting stopped doing so some time ago. So what, exactly, are Connecticut legislators regulating--the hypothetical prospect that a new player will decide to create this "industry" despite 25 other state laws to the contrary? Glad to see that there are not more pressing problems in Connecticut than to regulate non-existent websites!!!
February 19, 2007
Ownership of Attorney Work Product
Copyright ownership of attorney work product is an under-discussed issues among attorneys. It raises a variety of complex issues, including who owns the copyright in the documents we prepare as attorneys and when do we infringe by recycling our work or "borrowing" from others. I think this is such an interesting issue that I tested my copyright students on it in 2002. See the exam and my sample answer. Ken Adams has also blogged on the topic (here and here, or the combined article here), and the topic routinely sparks flamewars on CNI-Copyright.
In the recent issue of Business Law News (the periodical for members of the Business Law Section of the CA State Bar), Greg Victoroff published Copyrights in Attorney Work Product: Panacea or Pandora's Box?, an admirable and thorough discussion of the topic. Although I haven't found a web-accessible version, it's worth tracking down if you're interested in the topic. I don't agree with his basic agenda (of promoting copyright interests in attorneys-qua-authors--for example, I think it's silly to put a CR notice on court submissions), but he'd get an A for issue-spotting on my exam!
February 16, 2007
Concurring Opinions Guest Blog Posts
I've concluded my guest blogging stint at Concurring Opinions. A list of my posts there:
* Best and Worst Internet Laws
* Suggestions for Conference Organizers
* Real Estate Appraisals and Copyrighting Facts
* MySpace Sued for Facilitating Offline Sexual Assaults
* Curriculum Proliferation
* Favorite Holiday-Themed Cases
* A Guest Blogger's "Meta" Post About Guest Blogging
February 14, 2007
The Destruction of Young Lawyers
Douglas Litowitz is issuing a second edition of the book The Destruction of Young Lawyers. I haven't read the book, but this interview with him lays out his basic thesis. He argues that 5 key attributes of the legal profession are contributing to widespread unhappiness among practicing lawyers:
* law school (among other critiques, "It is outrageously expensive, boring, and doesn’t teach concrete lawyering skills")
* the bar exam, "a totally pointless ritual of subjugation"
* "the big-firming of the profession," where (among other things) "equity partners are like a master-class while the young associates are like wage workers hired out by the partners"
* the billable hour method of charging
* new communication "technology which has transformed the practice of law into a 24-hour quickie-mart"
I'm not sure any of these critiques are new or even especially enlightening. However, who can resist such colorful rhetoric?
February 13, 2007
Blawgers Discussion Issues
I'm helping to organize a roundtable discussion for blawgers (scheduled for March 28, 6-8pm at SCU--please email me if you're interested in coming). This got me thinking about topics I'd like to explore with other blawgers. My list:
* why do you blog?
* who is your intended audience?
* what is your favorite/most memorable blogging experience?
* how did you get into blogging?
* who are your favorite bloggers?
* what would do with your blog if you had more time?
* how would you characterize your blog voice/style?
* how are you dealing with comment/referral spam?
* what do you do to promote your blog?
* what are you using as a stats package?
* any luck with tools like Feedburner or a service that converts blog posts into an email alert?
* what's your philosophy for building/managing your blogroll?
* are there better ways to generate revenue than Google AdSense? Are you concerned about generating revenues from the blog?
* what are your experiences with podcasting and video?
* do you have any special tricks to sourcing content for your blog?
* are you getting any good business/referrals from the blog? How do you respond to requests for legal input from blog readers?
* how are you dealing with emails from litigants in the cases you blog about? (many of these emails want to relitigate the case via the blog)
* what are you doing to manage legal risk for comments, guest bloggers, joint bloggers? (recognizing that 47 USC 230 and other legal doctrines may limit liability here)
* what is your policy about taking down user comments? Accepting trackbacks?
* are you registering your copyrights? Should you? Have you registered as an OSP under 17 USC 512? Should you?
* how much research do you do before blogging on a topic? How much should you do?
* do you have insurance that covers your blogging? Does your malpractice insurance carrier care if you're blogging?
* what are law firm policies about attorney blogging? How do clients feel about blogging? Has a blog post been cited against you?
* what are the rules for company employees blogging, and are the rules different for in-house counsel (and should they be?)?
* are you concerned that blawging will be regulated as legal marketing?
* what disclosures do you make about your allegiances? What disclosures should be made?
If you have any other thoughts of topics you'd like to discuss, please email me.
February 12, 2007
California Legislature's Nanny-ism and the Scientific Method of Legislating
There are brewing concerns about the intrusiveness of the proposals floating around in the California legislature, sparked most visibly by the proposal to ban parental spanking of children. Some critics are calling some of these proposals "Nanny Bills" because they reflect a legislative paternalism; like citizens need a legislative nanny looking over their shoulders. (Nanny-ism was also referenced in this NYT article about requiring walkers to remove their iPod earbuds before crossing the street.)
Not having walked in their shoes, I must confess that I just don't understand what goes through the mind of legislators. However, as an academic and affected citizen, I remain a little frustrated that legislators don't seem to appreciate their role as experimenters where each passed law becomes a social experiment--but unfortunately usually the experiment is conducted trial-by-error. (Cf. Brandeis' defense of federalism because states can act as laboratories of experimentation). As a "scientific" experimentation process, our current legislative system has at least 3 intrinsic but fatal problems:
1) There is often little or no scientific basis underlying the initiatives. Instead, the rhetoric usually relies on anecdotes, intuition and ulterior agendas. But on many questions that legislatures seek to address, there is a rich scientific literature on the question that legislators should consult before making proposals. For example, academics have studied the pros and cons of spanking children. What do they say?
2) There is usually no explicit mechanism to measure the effectiveness of the experiment. Occasionally, laws are passed that delegate efficacy oversight to an administrative agency (for example, Congress asked the FTC for a report on the efficacy of CAN-SPAM), but this is the exception rather than the rule, and we have little evidence that legislatures heed the feedback they get from their "scientific" monitoring mechanisms (as opposed to other mechanisms, like popularity with constituencies or lobbying mechanisms).
3) There are very weak mechanisms to end failed experiments. Legislatures do occasionally repeal laws and more frequently tinker with the laws, but a lot of laws get passed and then left alone forever.
I can offer one possible solution to correct the experimentation process used by legislators: we could require legislators to follow a more rigorous scientific method--form hypotheses, do the research, and then conduct tests to measure the efficacy of various solutions. Unfortunately, this isn't realistic. Legislators aren't trained scientists, and legislatures are lousy venues to debate scientific merits. Yet, knowing that legislators are experimenting without following accepted scientific methods, we should hold them more accountable when they ignore the available literature in preference for their own intuition.
February 08, 2007
Sullivan & Cromwell Partnership Agreement
It's relatively rare to get public access to a major law firm's partnership agreement. Courtesy of a plaintiff, here is a copy of the 1994 Sullivan & Cromwell partnership agreement (starting on page 27) [warning: 3MB file]. I didn't see anything really earth-shattering (especially because the most interesting decision-making is delegated to a partnership committee), but the payments on termination/retirement are interesting/complex, as are the restrictions on a departing partner's practice (see paragraph 5.6).
February 07, 2007
My Own Slinky Store
Using a fun little tool called Zlio, I quickly created my own store to sell slinkies (also called magic springs and coil spring toys). I only have 5 products in it so far, but I get a lot of questions from people about where to find "esoteric" slinkies, so I hope I can make that task a little easier in the future.
February 05, 2007
West/Kaplan Propose to Settle Bar/Bri Class Action
From Law.com: West and Kaplan are proposing to settling the antitrust lawsuit over Bar/Bri for a total of $49M, of which $37M would go to class members (the rest goes to attorneys), or about $125/class member. If class members really were overcharged $1,000 each, this is a pretty good deal for West and Kaplan!
UPDATE 2: WSJ Law Blog weighs in. Read the comments.
UPDATE 3: The NYT weighs in.
February 03, 2007
Dina Stacks Tupperware
I realize that I'm biased, but I just think this is too cute. Make sure your sound is loud enough to hear Dina.
February 02, 2007
Why is the National Pork Board, an extension of the US government, buying the trademark "the other white meat" for $60M? One economist speculates that it's because the seller, the National Pork Producers Council, is a private actor, which means the $60M wealth transfer can be used for lobbying purposes and other activities that aren't available to a government actor. I think it would be hard to find lots of comparable transactions where a trademark like this was valued so richly.
Whatever the case, I remain completely confused why the government is trying to encourage us to eat pork products. It reminds me of the dust-up over the California "Happy Cows" commercials, where the government propagandized (outside of judicial control) that California dairy cows are happy. Given all of the problems associated with the production, distribution and consumption of meat, I find it unfathomable that the government is trying to manipulate us to eat more of it.
UPDATE: Marty makes some other good points.