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

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H.A.C. Brummett


Inspiration can come from odd places. This photo hung in the commons of the University of Houston Law Center for several years. I suppose one could take it any number of ways – inspiration to study a few more hours lest the same fate befall you? – I choose to see it as the practice of law at its most elemental. After a little internet research I discovered that H.A.C. Brummett was a prominent and apparently colorful lawyer and judge in Dickens County, Texas (“the unofficial wild boar capital of Texas”), a rural area on the outskirts of Lubbock on the Llano Estacado mesa.

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60 Minutes on Eyewitness Testimony and the Case of Ronald Cotton

Leslie Stall had a great piece on Ronald Cotton case in 60 Minutes, following the path of his wrongful conviction and the steps it took for a woman to identify the wrong man as her rapist. Elizabeth Loftus, who is well known for her research on memory, particularly as it applies to criminal law, appears in the second half. The full episode is embedded below.

60 Minutes, Part 1

Watch CBS Videos Online

Part II

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Law School Briefs…

The Shark asks is law school a more formative experience than undergrad? – kegs vs. more kegs. I disagree; law school is far more formative.

Patrick at Nuts and Boalts accused of a smartphone faux-pas, defends his Crackberry agaisnt the iPhone-igentsia

Prof. Orin Kerr interprets the tea leaves in Thoughts on First-Year Law School Grades at Volokh Conspiracy.

Recent grad Peanut Butter Burrito had her first trial (an asylum hearing) and won.

Red Shoe Ramblings posts Law School Lessons. Looks about right.

Luis Villa’s hypothetical grandchild asks him “grandpa, where were you when Obama was sworn in?” – jury duty, it turns out; I’m oddly jealous. They never pick me.

The War of All Against All remarks on the Doe Eyed Enthusiasm of 1Ls.

No. 634 is excited about a fifth-year associate in the D.C. office of Jenner & Block, who just had her very first oral argument in the U.S. Supreme Court; I would be more excited if I had my first oral argument (in any court) before my fifth year as an associate.

The Pantomime of Performance Evaluation, illustrated by an Employment Lawyer’s Suit Against Former Firm

For many employees, performance evaluations are a periodic decent into the surreal, a formalized pantomime of management clothed in the language of euphemism, fraught with subtext. Which, would you predict, is the failing grade among the following descriptors – outstanding, excellent, satisfactory, good, very good, competent? In the world of performance evaluations, competence is the kiss of death, because it is merely competence in a world where excellence is average. As the Dodo said, ‘everybody has won, and all must have prizes.’

The standard advice, summarized by Fred Steingold and Alayna Schroeder’s in The Employer’s Legal Handbook is that:

By putting your evaluations in writing and saving them in the employee’s file, you have a credible history of documented problems you can use if an employee claims the termination was for an illegal reason…. You want to stand ready to rebut any possible claim that you fired an employee for an illegal reason. The best way to do this is to preserve, in written evaluations and other documents, the good reasons you relied on to fire the employee.

Often the reality, as some research has noted

is that most [managers and employees] either hate or ignore the [performance evaluation system] but live with it, breeding a kind of highly destructive organizational cynicism.

Consider the battle of the performance evaluations revealed in the complaint in a suit filed by Gary Green, a former associate in the Los Angeles office of Skadden Arps against his former firm. Green, who cites his own seemingly glowing evaluations in the filing, was fired after writing a negative evaluation of another associate. His own boss considered the evaluation he wrote to be intemperate and to demonstrate poor judgment, justifying his dismissal. Even more interestingly, Green was told his negative evaluation would expose the firm to liability by providing documentation of alleged incompetence that could be used by the client in the matter should they sue the firm for legal malpractice.

So we have a picture of a workplace (practicing employment law no less) where for fear of liability everyone gets good or at least ‘competent’ performance evaluations, including an associate gives a negative evaluation, whereupon he is fired. This does not sound like an effective way to limit liability me, but we’ll see how it shakes out.

Housekeeping: Intense Debate Comment Manager Added to the Blawgraphy

I’m trying a new commenting system called IntenseDebate which purports to “improve the dialogue” etc etc. If it’s terrible, please tell me so… in the comments, bwah hah hah hah… Read the rest of this entry »

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