Monday, July 13, 2015

The Blog Goes on Vacation

The blog is taking a brief break for the summer, but it will return! There may be periodic posts now and again, so feel free to check back. Anticipate regular posts again in the fall, and thank you for your readership.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Fashion Law - Classes to Consider and Ohio Ties*

Fashion is huge business, and if you are remotely interested in it and still looking for a practice area to focus on, consider fashion law. Loyola Law School in Los Angeles has a fashion law center, and Fordham has just launched an LL.M. in fashion. But you don't have to travel to LA or NYC to pick up the legal skills you need to succeed in this field. (And why should you when Columbus was recently ranked third in the nation in fashion design?)

Here are some of the classes Loyola offers:
  • Introduction to Fashion Law
  • Fashion Law Business Transactions
  • Fashion Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Fashion Modeling Law
  • Fashion Law Clinic
  • Retail Law and Fashion
While Moritz doesn't offer these courses specifically, consider the following skills to build a solid foundation for work in this industry:
If your interest is piqued, or you just plain like clothes and want to see some really cool stuff Ohio State has in its Historic Costume and Textiles Collection, take a look at Clothes Line, the blog that showcases pieces in the collection and explains their historical significance.

*Yes...that was an intentional pun in the blog post title.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Judicious Close Reading

Last week brought us an example of close reading from the United States Supreme Court.  In King v. Burwell, the Affordable Care Act case, the justices explicated one key phrase:  "an Exchange established by the State."

Close reading matters at all levels of court, however, as demonstrated a recent Ohio Court of Appeals opinion. The Dispatch reports on this municipal ordinance case.  The ordinance at issue forbids daylong parking for“any motor vehicle camper, trailer, farm implement and/or non-motorized vehicle."

Andrea Cammelleri was cited for parking her pickup truck.  While the truck may be a "motor vehicle," it is not a "motor vehicle camper."  The Court refused to read in a comma between "motor vehicle" and "camper," as the trial court had.  In short:  "By utilizing rules of grammar and employing the common meaning of terms, 'motor vehicle camper' has a clear definition that does not produce an absurd result."

All the more reason to brush up on your grammar, punctuation, and close reading skills!

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Victory for Thorough Research

An NPR librarian, Barbara Van Woerkom, did a little digging and located 1,200 more veterans exposed to mustard gas than the Veterans Administration located . . . and it took her a mere two months!

Two months may seem like an eternity to research something, but don't forget most attorneys get paid by the hour and attorneys spend quite a lot of their time engaged in research and writing. In other words, if it seems like it's taking you "forever" to research something, don't worry---that's in part how you earn your keep. Considering that in 2013 the median hourly billing rate in Ohio was $207, if we estimate Ms. Van Woerkom spent 30 hours per week for 8 weeks (this became her primary research project), she spent approximately 240 hours, which would total $49,680 in billing.

Ms. Van Woerkom's work highlights several foundational research principles any attorney should learn:
  1. Where possible, use free resources. "Van Woerkom says she had success right away, largely due to a free online database maintained by the National Archives that allows users to look up Army veterans by serial number."
  2. Use information you find in one location as a breadcrumb trail to lead you to the information you ultimately hope to find. "Th[e National Archives] database provided many of those key narrowing statistics — such as birth year, enlistment date and location. She used those details in other databases to hone in on individuals."
  3. Find corroborating information for your research. "Van Woerkom required verification with two or more sources before determining someone had been successfully located."
  4. When you can't find the answer, consider whether you need to change your search strategy rather than assuming the information does not exist. "When she ran into road blocks, she often turned to obituaries and other newspaper clippings for clues."
  5. Look for patterns that can tell you how the information you are looking for is organized. This is particularly helpful for those times when you are researching an unfamiliar area of law. "She also picked up on patterns that helped her along the way. For example, the first two numbers of a veteran's serial number identify the region where he enlisted. The place of enlistment was particularly useful in locating World War II veterans, most of whom were born in the 1920s or earlier, Van Woerkom says."
Ms. Van Woerkom's work highlights the need for really thoughtful, thorough research as well as the impact this kind of research can have on veterans' lives. If you're interested in helping veterans with your legal skills, consider registering for an Advanced Legal Research class and volunteering for the Captain Jonathan D. Grassbaugh Veterans Project at Moritz College of Law.

Friday, June 26, 2015

More on Software and Your Confidentiality Obligations

Anyone love Siri? How about Alexa ("the brain behind [Amazon's] Echo")?

These digital personal assistants make your life easier, but have you considered whether their use affects client confidentiality? Check out one blogger's analysis here: What All Law Firms Need to Know About Siri. The gist?
[A] Reddit user discussed having access to voice recordings from random Apple and Samsung customers that were generated through text-to-speech technologies, such as Siri, while working for a data mining company. The user, FallenMyst, shared this experience to serve as a warning to mobile users that their data may not be as private or personal as they might assume.
It's easy to say "Oh Grandpa, it's not big deal---it's just an app. Get over it." And I'm not writing that these apps (or Gmail if you read the last blog post here) are inherently not to be used lest you violate any professional ethics violations.

But if you do love new technology, it's time to get used to the idea that you should (1) read Terms of Use for these tools . . . even when you get the notice that says the terms may have changed and your continued use constitutes acceptance of the new terms; (2) understand how the technology works from a technical point of view; and (3) do your research.

Helpfully, you have at least two options for your research. Check out some of the Tech Overviews & Charts at the ABA's Legal Technology Resource Center. Or, consider requesting an Advisory Opinion from the Ohio Board of Conduct.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How to UNSEND! Emails Sent via Gmail

Based on my e-mail correspondence with law students, I'd say 70 percent of you use Gmail for law-related e-mails.

Setting aside the question of whether using an e-mail service with a company that trolls e-mails for keywords in order to target you for advertising could violate client confidentiality, you might consider whether a now non-beta feature is exactly the tool you've been waiting for.

Per Gizmodo, Gmail has officially added a way for you to unsend emails that were perhaps poorly worded, had confidential information attached, or otherwise need to be deleted promptly (as though you can really delete electronic files . . . ha!).

So how do you enable Gmail’s undo feature? Go to the little cog icon in the upper righthand corner and select “Settings.” About a third of the way down the page you’ll see the “Undo Send” section. You can choose between 5, 10, 20 and 30 second windows of unsendability. Make sure you hit “Save Changes” at the bottom and you’re all set.
For those of you wondering about the professional ethics implications of using Gmail for confidential business, check out these articles:

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Yes, Wikipedia is Still Being Printed

"For the past three years, [Michael Mandiberg] has been fully engaged in a project that might make even the most intrepid digital adventurer blush: transforming the English-language Wikipedia into an old-fashioned print reference set running to 7,600 volumes."

Moving Wikipedia From Computer to Many, Many Bookshelves

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Columbus Bar Association - Marijuana Law Update

For those looking for concrete input from local counsel on how to practice in areas that may be impacted by marijuana use, check out the Columbus Bar Association's upcoming CLE, MARIJUANA! Current Trends in Drug Awareness.

CBA membership is free to law students, so take advantage now of all the networking opportunities the organization provides.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

More Marijuana Law Updates

Lawyers have an ethical obligation to stay current on changes in the law. With marijuana law in its nascency, it's not just those attorneys representing pot users and not just attorneys in the West who have to keep up to date. Rulings in state courts will inevitably be persuasive law as other states adopt marijuana legislation (whether pro or con) but have no prior binding precedent to look to. And marijuana law isn't just a matter of criminal law---it now affects family law and employment law to name a couple of areas.

With that in mind, here are two interesting news stories from the past week:
And for those with questions about the state of marijuana legislation in Ohio, check out these sites:

Bar Prep Break: Summer Reading

Many of you are busy poring over bar prep materials -- outlines, essays, and practice questions.  Breaks can be important, too.  As the New York Times has reported, relaxation can increase productivity.

For some of you, running at a metro park is an ideal way to spend time away from the bar, but if you're like me, you'll probably use that time going over outlines or problems in your head.

How about a reading break?  Being absorbed in a bestseller takes your mind off of the elements of contract formation or lien priorities.  The Columbus Metropolitan Library's summer reading program includes prizes for adults, among them a $25 Target gift card.  If you don't want to stray too far from the law, try out the ABA's new editions of Perry Mason.  What better way for Columbus to maintain its status as the most intelligent community of the year?

Monday, June 01, 2015

Career Perspective from Terry Gross

Many law librarians are looking forward to hearing NPR's Terry Gross as our keynote speaker at the upcoming American Association of Law Libraries conference in Philadelphia this summer. Ms. Gross is exceptional at interviewing people; she has a real gift for eliciting meaningful responses from those she interviews, and I've always admired her.

Recently Ms. Gross was interviewed by Marc Maron on his podcast WTF, and she shared personal stories that have elevated my admiration of her even more. Specifically, Ms. Gross described moments from her early life that shaped her as a person, helped her learn about herself, and developed her professional identity. Give the podcast a listen for the specific stories' details, but here are the life lessons you might consider as you look for work this summer or after you graduate from law school. (Warning: the podcast has a handful of profane/swear words.)

(1) Terry Gross was fired from a teaching job, but she was thrilled because she wasn't good at teaching and she couldn't quit because it was not in her to be a "quitter."
  • Lesson one: it's okay to get fired.
  • Lesson two: it's okay to quit.
  • Lesson three: it's okay to not be good at everything; some things are worth getting better at, and sometimes it's fine to have those bad experiences and truly recognize what it is about you that makes you not so hot at a particular job. Odds are if you aren't "good" at something, you won't like it anyway, so don't just keep trying to like it because you're afraid of quitting.

(2) She got into radio because someone knew there'd be an opening at the college station and she could probably hang out and volunteer for anything that needed to be done.
  • Lesson: if you're interested in a particular line of work, just start doing it. Build your skills in that area. Don't worry about getting paid, and always keep your eyes open for (1) ways to improve, and (2) ways to convert that free experience into paid employment. Ms. Gross's volunteer spot has turned into 40 years on the air, numerous accolades, and a rich, fulfilling career.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Data Mining and Facebook: Lucrative Business for Tort Lawyers

The Dispatch recently ran an article on how tort attorneys strategically use Facebook, combined with other research resources, to identify potential litigants.

"For example, [digital bounty hunter Tim] Burd was hired for a lawsuit claiming a medical device used in hysterectomies, known as a laparoscopic power morcellator, causes ovarian cancer to spread in patients. The CDC says women over 55 are most likely to contract that kind of cancer. Burd says CDC data are especially powerful in combination "with Facebook, which is why we love it so much, because there's ovarian cancer support groups and stuff like that. So we target women in the country over the age of 55 that 'like' an ovarian cancer support group. That's a pretty targeted demographic.""

The story reports that attorneys will pay researchers like Mr. Burd up to $3,000 per name . . . but why rely on others to do this work for you? With the right research skills you could set up your own system that would likely not cost you $3,000 per hour or even per ten hours. Consider signing up for an Advanced Legal Research class to learn how to save yourself a few bucks and track down potential clients.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Latest in Music Copyright Infringement Lawsuits: Stairway to Heaven

Stairway to Heaven was released in 1971 by Led Zeppelin. That's 44 years ago. Forty-four years is half a lifetime at least, so why has a copyright infringement suit been filed only now?

Well, most likely it has to do with court cases and risk. Under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, attorneys can be sanctioned for filing frivolous lawsuits. What's more, attorneys like to win, especially when taking cases on a contingency fee basis.

Two big cases have come out recently that suggest a copyright infringement suit can be lucrative even 44+ years after the claim arose. First, the U.S. Supreme Court held laches isn't a bar to these types of suits"
[Writing in favor of the plaintiff who is suing MGM for copyright infringement over the film Raging Bull, Justice Ginsburg] goes on to open a path towards more copyright lawsuits that will undoubtedly be alarming to Hollywood studios.

"It is hardly incumbent on copyright owners, however, to challenge each and every actionable infringement," she writes in explaining why a plaintiff might not sue right away. "And there is nothing untoward about waiting to see whether an infringer’s exploitation undercuts the value of the copyrighted work, has no effect on the original work, or even complements it... If the rule were, as MGM urges, 'sue soon, or forever hold your peace,” copyright owners would have to mount a federal case fast to stop seemingly innocuous infringements, lest those infringements eventually grow in magnitude."

(Emphasis not in original.)

Second, the $7.3 million verdict in the Blurred Lines infringement case suggests juries can be persuaded to find infringement where many musicians would not. As we mulled in a previous blog post here, "How can an attorney truly assess the impact of this verdict, and what obligation of sound counsel does this verdict have on a practitioner? In other words, what do you say to a musician who is inspired by or whose works "sound like" a song you already know?"

It seems plaintiff's counsel in the Stairway to Heaven litigation is "you certainly have a case worth pursuing."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Presidential Libraries



There are currently 13 presidential libraries, one for every former president since Hoover.  And the site of the 14th presidential library has been revealed:  the Obama Presidential Center will be located in Chicago.

Where did the presidential papers go before the era of presidential libraries?  According to a CRS Report describing the legislative history of the Presidential Libraries Act, the papers were initially thought of as personal property, and many of them were lost or destroyed. 

With the advent of presidential libraries, these papers are much better preserved.  For example, although his time in office was relatively short, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum offers some fascinating digital material, from state dinner menus and programs to National Security Council meeting agendas and minutes – fodder for lawyers and nonlawyers alike.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

One Future Law Student's Summer Plans: Run, Forrest, Run!

Barclay Oudersluys just graduated from college and will be starting law school at UC-Berkeley in the fall. Between now and then, he'll be recreating Forrest Gump's run to raise money "for the Hall STEPS Foundation, a nonprofit founded by professional runners Ryan and Sara Hall to fight global poverty through better health." Mr. Oudersluys  merely has to run 32 miles per day to complete the 3,200 mile journey.

Interested in running, but not, perhaps, 3,200 miles? Consider joining a local training group with Front Runner or Columbus Running Company, the latter of which has free group runs on Saturdays. Embrace the possibility that any residual exam stress and/or job stress may just melt away.