Friday, April 24, 2015

Big Google

Slate.com just posted a "fun" article on how you can download your entire Google search history (i.e., searches you ran while logged in to a Google product (e.g. YouTube, Gmail, Blogger)).

Presumably, the searches aren't tied to a specific device; they are tied to your Google log-in credentials. That sounds...fun? I haven't quite decided. Would you really want to know how many times you were searching inane stuff during class hours instead of paying attention? It's like calorie counting to really get a picture of your nutritional choices---being in the dark is sometimes preferable than recognizing your patterns.

At any rate, there are at least two valuable takeaways:

(1) Google letting you get that info means Google has and keeps for all time that info. They may not have it aggregated at the moment, but it seems they can just go call it up at will. It's not just the anonymous searching they use to target ads; this is tying searches to a particular person. What kinds of confidential client matters are you researching on Google, and are there any risks of violating confidentiality by conducting these searches on Google?

(2) Because the searches can be tied to a particular person, consider whether and how you could request this information as part of discovery. Conceivably the data has time and date stamps, so they could be used to prove a particular bad act online or to serve in as a defense (e.g., the defendant was shopping online for four hours while a bank robbery was being committed).

For some Google alternatives that may offer more privacy in your searches and just as much search power, try Ixquick, DuckDuckGo, or the free Firefox browser plugin GoogleSharing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Amicus Briefs, or "Why a Love of Reading Must Be a US Supreme Court Clerk Job Requirement"

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the total number of pages of briefs submitted (including Amicus Briefs) in the same-sex marriage cases the US Supreme Court will consider April 28 is over 7,500. That's a lot.

Is this the most number of pages ever? No. "Court observers say the volume of filings in the case, combined under the heading of Obergefell v. Hodges, is second in recent memory only to the 2012 Affordable Care Act case in which President Barack Obama’s health-care plan was eventually upheld by a divided Supreme Court."

Isn't there a page limit on briefs? Sort of. The limit is actually a word limit per Supreme Court Rule 33. Merit briefs are limited to 15,000 words.

Where do you get all of these briefs if you'd like to brush up before arguments next week? SCOTUS Blog has the various briefs. Amicus briefs are limited to 9,000 words. For comparison, a 28-page law review article has around 15,000 words. So, based on the calculation that there are over 7,500 pages to read, it sounds as though there are around 260 briefs.

Didn't I read over 7,500 pages in my first year of law school? Maybe. In the 1L year, students take 31 hours of class over 28 weeks. (Let's say 15 hours are in the first semester and 16 are in the second.) If a professor assigns an average of 20 pages per hour, that means students read approximately 4200 pages in the first semester (300/week*14 weeks) and 4480 pages in the second semester (320/week*14 weeks), you're well on your way to a successful Supreme Court clerkship, if only in terms of the reading requirement.







Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sixth Circuit Review: A New Conversation


The Ohio State Law Journal has launched a new online publication:  the Sixth Circuit Review.  The Journal aims for this publication to be a “digital public square,” a discussion of important questions arising in the Sixth Circuit.  Scholars, students, practitioners, and judges are all invited to participate.

Afraid your comments will go unseen?  Chief Judge R, Guy Cole assures: “Only through a frank and ongoing dialogue will our court ever achieve its fullest potential. I promise you this: the judges of our circuit and their law clerks will surely read in earnest whatever you write.”

Begin the conversation by reading the inaugural issue and sending your own commentary to the Sixth Circuit Review editorIn the inaugural issue, you will find James M. Hafner, Jr.’s case comment on DeBoer v. Snyder – a good preparation for next week’s oral arguments at the Supreme Court regarding the Sixth Circuit same sex marriage cases.  Other topics include ethics and professionalism, pro se litigation, application of Rule 32.1 in district courts, whistleblower protections, summary dispositions, First Amendment balancing, and scienter pleading standards in securities fraud litigation – many opportunities to join in the conversation.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Marathon Fever - and Why Race Rules Matter

The Boston Marathon takes place today, and you can follow along to track the race leaders along the course.

Two stories from the marathon world highlight the importance of race rules. First, the St. Louis Marathon has suffered from a young lady cutting the course and placing or winning two years in a row. Kendall Schler has twice been unable to prove through race photos or otherwise that she began and completed the entire marathon under USATF rules. It appears Ms. Schler violated at least two USATF rules in particular:
Runner's identification shall consist of running numbers pinned securely on the front of each runner's uniform and displayed throughout the race. The registration list will contain each runner's name and running number.

Any competitor who has been found by the Referee and/or Jury of Appeal to have gained an unfair advantage by intentionally shortening the route of the race ("cutting the course") shall be immediately disqualified from the competition. See also Rule 163.6.
In less nefarious race news, "Four out of five members of the Snyder family—Steven, age 39, Gabriel, age 12, Elizabeth, age 11, and Belle, age 9—[ran] their first marathon together at the Athens Ohio Marathon on Sunday." Were the three children too young to compete per race rules? According to the race director, "the race does have a minimum age requirement, but a glitch in their system must have allowed the children of the Snyder family to register." How'd the Snyder kids do? Each completed the race around 5:43 beating their dad who finished around 5:54.

What does this have to do with the law? Industry standards, norms, or rules may be critical in torts cases to prove the standard of care or in contracts cases to prove the ordinary course of business practices in the event terms are missing from an alleged breached contract. (Perhaps even sexier than marathon rules is the wild world of dog breeding. When I clerked, we heard a case disputing ownership of a litter of puppies where the breeding contract was unclear and AKC rules were the only objective guidance the court had available.)

Don't think it doesn't matter, either. The first-place finishers of the Boston Marathon received $150,000 and endorsement opportunities in the millions. The 5K winners this year (each of whom set American records) also took home prize money. The winners each took home $7,500 for their victories plus an additional $5,000 bonus each for setting event records.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tax Day Satisfies

You might need a snack of some sort to get you through the Internal Revenue Code, Treasury Regulations, Revenue Rulings, and the like.  So did Aimee Cvancara, who needed a Snickers to get through work one evening.  Cvancara listed the 89 cent Snickers bar as a business deduction, but the tax court disagreed, calling it a personal expense.  A short, but thrilling documentary, dissects Cvancara’s audit and tax court experience, all in under 5 minutes – an excellent study break (without the non-deductible expense of a Snickers).

If you are inspired to learn more about business deductions – or need to because you are completing your taxes today – the IRS offers a helpful publication as well as a Q and A page.  Moritz students also have access to several tax specific databases, in addition to our major legal research databases.
 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Happy National Library Week


Libraries provide all kinds of things.  Including books, ebooks, databases of journal articles, images, and music.  We also share our research expertise at reference desks and through research guides.  During national library week (April 12 - 18), we're asking you to tell us how libraries have helped you out the past year.  In return, you have a chance to win a gift certificate.

You can celebrate national library week by sharing what you've made with help from your library, including Moritz, on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #librarymade.  The American Library Association will award a $100 gift certificate to Maker Shed or Amazon to a lucky winner.  (Promotion details are available here.)

Lexis has decided to celebrate national library week by donating coupons for free study aids.  The first two current Moritz Law students who email me a short description of how Moritz Law Library has helped them will receive a coupon for a free  Lexis Q & A eBook.

The Echo Chamber Redux?

In a previous post, we highlighted the curious statistics that suggest it's not so hard to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court . . . if you've done it before. From that post,
Reuters news service did a little research and produced The Echo Chamber, which concluded that in the last nine years, "66 of the 17,000 lawyers who petitioned the Supreme Court succeeded at getting their clients’ appeals heard at a remarkable rate. Their appeals were at least six times more likely to be accepted by the court than were all others filed by private lawyers during that period."
But there may be more to the story when it comes to some legal issues. From the New York Times, The Case Against Gay Marriage: Top Law Firms Won’t Touch It

That doesn't mean those arguing against gay marriage (or, possibly, in favor of states' rights) are from tiny mom-and-pop firms that have never stood before the Court before. In one case coming up on April 28, "the main lawyer opposing same-sex marriage will be John J. Bursch, who practices at a medium-size firm in Michigan," who has argued eight other cases before the Supreme Court. But he is arguing the case on his own, i.e., without his law firm's backing.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Baseball Season and Moneyball

Perhaps the best way to nurse the sorrow of a failed NCAA bracket is to embrace the start of baseball season. For a legal angle on the sport, take a look at one of our books on baseball law or on what it means to be a sports agent:
And for fun, take a look at Malcolm Gladwell's 2010 article Talent Grab: Why Do We Pay Our Stars So Much Money? Some interesting data from the article (with meaning for baseball players and lawyers alike):
In baseball, between the mid-nineteen-forties and the mid-nineteen-sixties, the game’s minimum and highest salaries both fell by more than a third, in constant dollars. In 1935, lawyers in the United States made, on average, four times the country’s per-capita income. By 1958, that number was 2.4.


"Stars", "titans of industry," and the like were not top earners. "The truly rich in the nineteen-fifties and sixties were people who had inherited money—the heirs of the great fortunes of the Gilded Age. Entrepreneurs who sold their own businesses could also become wealthy, because capital-gains taxes were relatively low. But the marketplace chose not to pay salaried professionals and managers a lot of money, and society chose not to let them keep much of what they made."
In 1956, Roswell Magill, a partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, spoke for a generation of professionals when he wrote that law firms “can no longer honestly assure promising young men that if they become partners they can save money in substantial amounts, build country homes and gardens for themselves like their fathers and grandfathers did, and plan extensive European holidays.”
And then things changed.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

New Design for Commerce.gov

Commerce.gov has a newly-designed website intended to increase usability. "That's great!" you might be thinking, "but what on earth is Commerce.gov?" The answer, "It's the website for the Department of Commerce," may still leave you scratching your head a bit because what on earth does the Department of Commerce do?

"The mission of the Department is to create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity. As part of the Obama administration’s economic team, the Secretary of Commerce serves as the voice of U.S. business within the President’s Cabinet.  The Strategic Plan is how the Department maintains its focus on achieving its Open for Business Agenda."

And so...?

Well, the Department was established in 1903 with the goal of promoting economic growth, create jobs, and encourage sustainable development. From 1903-1913, the Department included commerce and labor until the Department of Labor was established in 1913.

The Department of Commerce has some of the most critical, diverse, data-based divisions in all the Executive Branch, including the following:

  • Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)
  • Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) [Twitter: @ESAstats]
  • Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) [Twitter: @BEA_News]
  • Census Bureau [Twitter: @uscensusbureau]
  • Economic Development Administration (EDA) [Twitter: @US_EDA]
  • International Trade Administration (ITA) [Twitter: @ESAstats]
  • Minority Business Development Administration (MBDA) [Twitter: @USMBDA]
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) [Twitter: @NOAA]
  • National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) [Twitter: @NTIAgov]
  • Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) [Twitter: @USPTO]
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) [Twitter: @usnistgov]
  • National Technical Information Service (NTIS) [Twitter: @NTISinfo]

  • My personal favorites on the list are the Census Bureau, the USPTO, and NOAA.

    So give the new site a try, and let your Department of Commerce know what you think!

    h/t: beSpacific

    Wednesday, April 01, 2015

    Winner of Moritz Law Library and Technology Survey Prize!


    Thanks to the many Moritz students who completed the Moritz Law Library and Technology survey. The Library and IT Department are reviewing responses as part of the planning process already underway. Your input is much-appreciated. Congratulations to 2L Allison Haugen who won the Barnes & Noble gift card! Look for a comment box coming soon to the circulation desk for passing on any additional input.

    Monday, March 30, 2015

    Pot Smokers in Your Office

    In the recent article Marijuana Is Changing the Workplace. Here’s How Employers Should Deal With It., Slate.com's headline is curious---how should employers respond to employees' use of legal medical marijuana?---as though there are a myriad of options. The source of the article, Inc.com, takes more of a proactive approach with its headline: Why You Need a Workplace Marijuana Policy.

    In any case, not knowing or understanding the law doesn't mean an employer can choose whether to follow it. Thank heavens for lawyers who get paid to explain to client the state of the law and recommend sound policies and courses of action.

    The article begins with "be familiar with the laws that have been passed in their states...."

    You could try to find your state's laws on the subject; that might be sufficient to create a policy for any of your clients that employ people. Why not do that and track trends for your clients? Consider figuring out how every state handles this issue as a way to forecast the nation's feelings on marijuana law. Daunting? Of course. That's why you should see if someone (usually a law librarian) has done it for you!

    Fifty-state surveys can be found in a number of places: Westlaw, Lexis, BloombergLaw, HeinOnline, the National Conference of State Legislators to name a few. And in this case, BloombergLaw (which you can access with the password you received when you started law school) offers a specific survey on medical marijuana laws in the employment context. Bloomberg Law's state surveys can be found under the Practice Centers tab. Just pick the practice area in which you are interested, then choose "BNA State Comparison Charts" on the left, and you'll see what Bloomberg has to offer.

    Friday, March 27, 2015

    Law Student Writing Competitions

    It might be tempting after you've finished your seminar paper or journal note to just file it away and move on to the next thing.  Why not enter it into a writing competition?  Moritz students have been successful in recent competitions, even winning a trip to the Grammys.

    There is no single list of all law student writing competitions.  So check out several of the links below to find the right competition for your paper.

    The American Bar Association has compiled all of its student writing competitions into a handy guide.

    Richmond School of Law's Legal Essay Contest Catalog is a robust collection of contests. Try out the filter feature to see just the competitions on a particular subject.

    George Washington Law School maintains an excel file with over 200 competitions over the world.


    Thursday, March 26, 2015

    Airport Code Trivia

    "Every airport has a unique three-letter IATA (International Air Travel Association) code. Some make sense if you know the city or the name of the airport and others, well, what the heck?"

    Check out the beautiful, engaging website, Airport Codes, that shows you why each airport has the code it has; each explainer is accompanied by an often striking photo of the airport.

    A $5 Panera gift card to the first person who emails me why on earth Columbus, Ohio, has the airport code CMH.

    And for more on aviation law, check out one of the dozens of books we have on the subject or this Aviation Law Research Guide.

    Wednesday, March 25, 2015

    Better Call Saul and Attorney Ethics

    Slate.com offers a Better Call Saul podcast that recaps and explores each week's episode. This week, a professional ethics attorney, Nicole Hyland, joins the podcast to discuss the ethics of the lead character's actions. Ms. Hyland joins the podcast around minute 14:40.

    One of the questions Ms. Hyland addresses include whether it's an ethical violation to rummage through someone's garbage can in the alley to find out more about them. Says Saul Goodman, "You can't say it's private if a hobo can use it as a wigwam."

    Here are another couple questions the attorney addresses: Can you spill coffee on a police officer to distract him or her from noticing your client is stealing? What's the scope of permissible advertising by attorneys? How do you advertise ethically on Twitter? Can you impersonate another attorney? (The answer may surprise you.)

    Ms. Hyland assesses violations according to New York law, so if you'd like to compare her analysis against the law in your state or do a 50-state survey, check out the ABA's Center for Professional Responsibility. She also has a Tumblr blog on the subject if you're looking for fodder for a law review article.

    Tuesday, March 24, 2015

    10 Lessons You May Not Be Taught (but can learn!) in Law School

    The Lawyerist has a great list of 10 Lessons You Weren't Taught in Law School. Reading through the list, it's clear they lessons would be useful for practicing attorneys---or perhaps any new business person---but it's also clear there are some things a person has to teach themselves when the timing is right. Here's the list of ten with some resources you might find useful to cultivate these skills:

    1. How to Handle Conflict
    2. How to Forgive (yourself included)
    3. How to Have Difficult and Uncomfortable Conversations
    4. How to be Present
    5. How to Maintain Physical and Emotional Health
    6. How to Be Compassionate
    7. How to Manage Personal Finances
    8. How to Manage Law Firm Finances
    9. How to Create and Sustain Your Own Brand
    10. How to Collaborate with Others (Nicely)