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

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Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

Profits v Partner, Is Law a Business or a Profession?

From David Lat’s article in the New York Observer Profits vs. Partners

One can argue over whether it’s a good or bad thing, and one can also argue about how long it has been going on. But most observers agree that large law firms are becoming more business-oriented, more focused on efficiency and profits—in short, more like investment banks, hedge funds and other money-making machines.

“We’re supposed to care about Aristotle and Plato, and they’re supposed to care about Mammon,” he said, comparing lawyers to finance types. “But now we lawyers care about money.”

Wait… only now do lawyers care about money? Where the hell has that guy been practicing…

The Law Firms Working Group, Empirical Analysis of Law Practice

Bill Henderson, law professor and blogger extraordinaire at The Empirical Legal Studies Blog has launched The Law Firms Working Group Website at the University of Indiana Law Center. The goal of the project is to “advance our knowledge and understanding of law firms, and private practice generally, through systematic and collaborative empirical research.”

The Working Group is a collaborative research network of scholars who focus on law firms and the legal profession. We currently have 38 members drawn from a wide array of universities and disciplines, including law, sociology, economics, business, and political science. Our institutional sponsors are Indiana Law and the American Bar Foundation (ABF), which is the leading independent research institute for the empirical study of law and legal institutions.

A quick look at the projects page has made me very excited about the prospects for the Group, as does Henderson’s involvement. His previous works on legal education are must reads for anyone interested in the subject.

  • Law Firms and Pro Bono
  • The Professionalization of Large Firm Management
  • Lawyer Mobility
  • The Changing Geography of Global Law Firms
  • Interaction Between Law Firm Structure, Hiring, and Partner Promotion
  • Race and Gender in Large Law Firms
  • Globalization Strategies of U.S. Law Firms
  • The Career Trajectories of Young Laywers
  • How Do Corporate Lawyers Add Value: Reducing Transaction Costs or Avoiding Regulation?
  • How Do Markets for Lawyers Influence the Production of Law?
  • Patent Lawyers: Exploring a Community of Practice

Career Services – are you paying attention to this? This stuff is what inquiring minds want to know.

Part-time Lawyer, Full-time Mother

Big law firms are not known as great places to work for women in general, particularly so for women who are trying to balance work and family. The arguments for why this is the case oscillate from the questions of why Big Law Los[es] Women Lawyers to Other Jobs and Why Do So Few Women Reach the Top of Big Law Firms?

There are some exceptions which may give us hope for a change in the legal environment that is more compatible with family life for both women and men. Legal Times profiles Sidley Austin partner Virginia Seitz in How One Part-Time Lawyer Leads a Very Full Life.

Although Seitz defines herself as part time, this is the reality: She’s in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office every day at 6 a.m. and leaves by 2:55 p.m. to pick up her children, 12-year-old Roy and 15-year-old Miranda, from school. That’s a nine-hour day and a 45-hour week. Only a big law firm would call that “part time.”

Sietz’s unique way of balancing motherhood and life in a law firm seemed to come about unexpectedly. She was at first surprised at the intensity of her desire to be with her children and provide the kind of engaged parenting she experienced. At the same time she loved her job. While Sietz cites sacrifices and compromises that must be made, all in all, it signals a positive direction among some firms toward a more family-friendly work environment.

Volokh et al on working Appellate Practice

The ever-resourceful Eugene Volokh has recently had a number of posts on how to break into appellate practice – Breaking into Appellate Law and More on Breaking into Appellate Law, from a Sole Practitioner Appellate Lawyer Friend of Mine. Be sure to peruse the comments for some excellent insight as well.

Allow me to distill an overly-simplistic summary of the advice -

  1. Clerk, clerk, clerk.
  2. Write, write, write.
  3. Then beg, beg, beg your way onto appellate cases wherever you land right out of school.

If it’s not on your list of RSS reads by now, it really should be. No idea what I’m talking about? Here’s a primer on using RSS feeds for lawyers.

Deliberations Blog takes on Issues of Jurors who Blog

Anne Reed’s Deliberations Blog has a fascinating account of the Bad Blogging Juror in People v. McNeely. Apparently Juror No. 8 in a 2006 California burglary trial lied about being an attorney in voir dire and then proceeded to blog about his rather heavy-handed attempts to manipulate his fellow-jurors into a quick conviction.

[F]or the next hour-and-a-half, the jury in the People v. Donald the Duck slowly congealed into a rational, investigative body of folks who ultimately realized that stealing was wrong, and that we ought to act responsibly. All, that is, except for Brad, the confident, muscular skinhead character with a carefully shaven goatee sitting directly at the head of the table, to my right. This cocky young fellow I had unease about since seeing him lope down the hallway on day one. He had stared at me for just a second or two too long when he first saw me, expecting some sort of acknowledgment to his presence from another white guy.

Anne Reed’s Deliberations: Blogging Jurors, Part I: The Bad (Or, The Burglary Trial As Legal Thriller), Blogging Jurors, Part II: Some Relevant Law

The Black Box of the Law

I’m utterly fascinated by the decision-making process of juries. I witnessed for a mock trial of the summer associates at Baker Botts last year. By far the best part was watching the jurors deliberate through closed circuit television at the close of the case. It was tried by five different groups in front of five different juries – 3 went for defendant, 2 for plaintiff. As we watched the deliberations in our case, the first words uttered were “So, how much do we want to give him?”

Last fall, I participated in a great program through the Houston Bar Association that has 8th graders from schools all over Houston participate put on a mock trial held in the actual Harris County Civil Courtroom. One of my duties was to escort the jury (all 8th graders as well) to the deliberation room and wait for them to reach a verdict. I watched an 11-1 “guilty” vote gradually turn to a unanimous “not guilty” as the lone holdout gave his rationale and won the rest of the jurors over to his side.

Black box indeed.

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