: The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Cass Sunstein and Eugene Volokh on Information Cocoons in Blogosphere and Elsewhere

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Why Law Reviews Don’t Go Gently Into That Good Night

In a strange, to some infuriating, subversion of the typical law school social order (student is to prof as pawn is to queen) the venerable academic publication of any law school, the law review, is almost entirely student run. In this horrifying academic bizarro-world it’s a gaggle of toe-headed 2Ls who pass judgment on whether or not the esteemed professor will fill their journal with his or her intelligence and (*gasp!*) may even ask for revisions.

In Now Professors Get Their Star Rankings, Too, the NY Times Noam Cohen delves into the Web 2.0 version of scholarly publication, SSRN (Social Science Research Network) which presumably obviates the point of law reviews, allowing academics to self-publish to comparatively huge audiences… and yet law reviews lives on.

Sam Kamin ponders this inscrutable development in NYT Discovers SSRN — DEVELOPING!:

You post on SSRN before (often long, long before) your article sees print, but aren’t most people still seeking placements for their articles in old-fashioned journals? If so, why? I understand that untenured faculty still need the stamp of approval that comes with law journal acceptance. For those of us with tenure, though, what makes us continue to seek such acceptance?

to which Lawrence Solum offers several explanations in Kamin Asks Why SSRN Hasn’t Displaced Law Reviews all of which dwell on comparative advantage of law reviews as a platform.

I’ll hazard my own explanation as someone on the receiving end – the secret to law review’s longevity is simply the comparative advantage of conscripted labor. In return for the prestige of the activity, law students put in untold hours editing these works, some of which come in as, let’s put it diplomatically, diamonds in the rough. In what peer-reviewed journal’s office would a footnote that says the equivalent of “find something that says this” pass for substantiation? Students do the work in the mines, below the line, for free – work that would be prohibitively expensive to acquire on the market.

There are alternatives that try to take this into account, see Anthony Ciolli’s proposal Law Review Innovation: The Peer-Assist System, and the Criminal Law Conversations project at Penn, but until substantially similar leverage is found, law reviews will continue to be the primary avenue of publication.

Law School Exam Crapware

Every law school has it’s own preferred brand of final exam crapware which must be used if you plan to type the exam rather than scrawl it out longhand. The particular brand of exam crapware is generally a difference in search of a distinction, as the user interface designers (or lack thereof) of said companies all seem to be into the same sort of retro-chic, Lotus Notes circa ’94 vibe. As no international human rights tribunal has seen fit to recognize crimes of design, I had chalked this up as a petty annoyance. Even then I had, mistakenly as it turns out, assumed that like NASA, hideousness = security and reliability.

Luis Villa’s post, integrity in software and law school, strike 58104, puts it in more sinister light, pointing to Geek Plight’s How to Cheat and Bypass Examsoft…. post to demonstrate that the quote-unquote ‘security’ is easily defeated, and worse, no one seems overly concerned about it –

Last term (December 2007) I found a way to bypass the security in the program. I promptly reported this to the IT department at my school and nothing was done. This past month I reported this to Examsoft, and I did not get responses beyond a generic reply that they would look into the issue. I am writing this in hopes that by publishing this I am able to force Examsoft to address the security hole and to let them know how unsatisfied students are with their software. This “bypass”, really takes no real hacking skills, or security expertise.

What bothers me is not a fear of real or imagined cheating going on here – honestly I can’t see any significant advantage to looking through notes on many of the exams I’ve taken. Most are open book and don’t lend themselves to copying in ones outline – what really bothers me is my confirmed suspicion that law school exam crapware is security theater, onerous measures designed to make us think we’re safer when we’re not, and imposing expense, inconvenience and opportunities for catastrophic failure where it needn’t be.

Texas Lawyers are Ready for Their (Ethics Committee) Close Up

Mary Alice Robbins features the haute couture of lawyer schlock, the YouTube spot, in the Texas Lawyer’s Internet Video Solicitations Need Ad Committee Review, Bar Says. I was planning on taking the opportunity to post a few of my favorites but they’ve scattered like prairie dogs. As of this writing a query against the YouTube database for “texas lawyer” yielded zero hits.

Kim Davey, the State Bar’s spokeswoman, says the Advertising Review Committee began noticing lawyers’ ads on YouTube and similar Web sites within the past six months to a year.

Wow, I guess they’ll be discovering facebook any year now.

Houston’s own Mark Bennett has a cameo –

Houston criminal-defense attorney Mark W. Bennett has broadcast several videos on YouTube since August 2007. But Bennett, a partner in Bennett & Bennett and president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, says he has not submitted his videos to the Advertising Review Committee. Bennett also says he has not received a letter from the committee reminding him to do so.

Bennett says he considers his YouTube videos to be commentary and informative for the public rather than a solicitation.

“I’ve never put up anything that says, “Hey, if somebody sees this, they will want to hire me,’ ” Bennett says.

One of the Bennett & Bennett videos features Bennett discussing how to avoid being arrested for driving while intoxicated when stopped by a police officer. The toll-free number of Bennett’s firm and its Web site address appear on the screen throughout the video.

Bennett says that before Texas Lawyer called, he had never given any thought to whether he should have submitted the videos to the Advertising Review Committee. But Bennett says he will submit the videos to the committee for review.

“It’s better to be safe than sorry when dealing with the Texas State Bar,” Bennett says. “It’s better to pay.”

But Bennett says he considers the fees charged for such reviews to be just “another money-maker for the State Bar.”

Alas the rules are begrudgingly clear – 7.07 Filing Requirements for Public Advertisements and Written Solicitations requires that

(a) Except as provided in paragraphs (c) and (e) of this Rule, a lawyer shall file with the Advertising Review Committee of the State Bar of Texas, no later than the mailing or sending by any means, including electronic, of a written, audio, audio-visual, digital or other electronic solicitation communication…

While we at the Blawgraphy prefer our First Amendment sunny side up, prior restraint of lawyer speech is a small price to pay for the hallowed and unbesmirched reputation of attorneys in the community as pillars of……. tact.

Only one clause truly gives me pause… lawyers shall provide with their submissions:

(3) a check or money order payable to the State Bar of Texas for the fee set by the Board of Directors. Such fee shall be for the sole purpose of defraying the expense of enforcing the rules related to such solicitations.

Which leads me to the truly frightening apprehension that somewhere in the dark recesses of the state bar offices a person sits in a lonely cubicle (chained to the desk?) whose sole professional occupation is the serious evaluation of lawyer advertisements on YouTube.

… the horror…. the horror….

Living La Vida Large Firm

Jeanne Graham has a great article in Texas Lawyer on the current batch of summer associates, Fewer Summer Associates Spread Their Wings at Big-Tex Firms This Year, while some firms are cutting back on the number of positions offered it, it doesn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the summers she follows around for the article, but the statistics are the most interesting. Behold:

Summer Associates at Large Texas Firms

Firm No. of Summer Associates 2008 (1L/2L) No. of Summer Associates 2007 (1L/2L) Weekly Texas Salary 2008 Weekly Texas Salary 2007
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld 48 (9/39) 53 (14/39) $2,933 $2,600
Andrews Kurth 51 (16/35) 46 (13/33) $3,077 $2,700
Baker Botts 124 (14/110) 146 (28/118) $3,077 $2,700
Bracewell & Giuliani 55 (10/45) 70 (10/60) $2,700 $2,700
Clark, Thomas & Winters 6 (0/6) 6 (0/6) $2,000 $2,000
Cox Smith Matthews 19 (0/19) 11 (0/11) $2,300 $2,300
Fulbright & Jaworski 94 (39/55) 130 (55/75) $3,077 $2,700
Gardere Wynne Sewell 33 (2/31) 29 (7/22) $3,077 $2,100 1L/$2,600 2L
Haynes and Boone 71 (14/57) 68 (11/57) $3,077 $2,700
Hunton & Williams* 5 (0/5) 20 (0/20) $3,080 $2,800
Jackson Walker 22 (5/17) 25 (5/20) $3,000 $2,600
Jones Day* 47 (3/44) 49 (17/32) $3,077 $2,885
Kelly Hart & Hallman 9 (0/9) 10 (0/10) $2,300 $2,200
King & Spalding* 12 (4/8) 16 (2/14) $3,100 $2,700
Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis* 15 (2/13) 23 (4/19) $3,080 $2,600
Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell 68 (13/55) 79 (24/55) $3,076 $3,076
Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr 10 (0/10) 8 (0/8) $2,600 $2,600
Patton Boggs* 16 (3/13) 15 (3/12) $3,070 $2,600
Strasburger & Price 10 (0/10) 7 (0/7) $2,100 $2,100
Thompson & Knight 36 (0/36) 36 (0/36) $3,080 $2,700
Thompson, Coe, Cousins & Irons 10 (0/10) 10 (0/10) $1,650 $1,650
Vinson & Elkins 119 (45/74) 128 (28/100) $3,077 $3,077
Weil, Gotshal & Manges* 40 (2/38) 29 (5/24) $3,077 $3,077
Winstead 28 (2/26) 26 (7/19) $2,600 $2,600
Note: The largest 25 firms as listed on Texas Lawyer‘s 2008 The Texas 100 poster, published April 28, 2008, were invited to participate in the Summer Associates Survey. Brown McCarroll declined to participate. The chart includes only summer associates working in the firms’ Texas offices.

* Firm is not based in Texas.

Texas Lawyer, June 2008

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