Jan 262009
 

Toymaker Ty has apparently started marketing dolls named “Sasha” and “Melia.” I saw a quote by Ty saying that it was a complete coincidence that those happen to also be the names of President Obama’s daughters, but I don’t think anyone’s buying that story.

On the other hand, I can’t get behind the analyses laying out the causes of actions the Obama’s could raise in suing to stop the dolls. Even if the dolls portrayed more of a likeness of the girls, the free speech angle still seems too blithely dismissed. As I commented on the PatentlyO site’s post, while Ty’s marketing of the dolls may be unseemly, we are much better off being a country where this kind of thing is allowed to happen than a country where it is not.

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 Posted by at 5:19 pm
Jan 252009
 

When I was in law school, BU, like many other law schools, started offering students a chance to get professional-looking business cards through the career development office. I thought it was a great idea: business cards are a nice, convenient networking tool that can quickly and concisely convey basic contact information, and, instead of using chintzy, homemade cards, by getting them through the law school we could take advantage of their sophisticated branding. Who wouldn’t want to get these?

Well, apparently some people. Former law student Jeremy Blachman, of Anonymous Lawyer fame, once had a blog post questioning the need. Or, rather, the need to be any more pretentious than we already were just by being law students. OK, maybe that’s more an issue for students who were at Harvard than for those of us across the river at Boston University… But, really, business cards? For students? Still, networking is networking, and it’s always good to have a convenient way to do it that doesn’t make you look like a shlump.

Especially because you never know who you’re going to need to network with.
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Jan 222009
 

I was starting to do so well, living up to a 2009 resolution to write a lot more. Why, right here on this blog I almost got up to a post-a-day average. But then my laptop broke, so here I am, sitting at home in the dark, curled up in a fetal position and shaking from withdrawal…

OK, that’s not technically true: I’ve found intermittent Internet access through other means, and I hope to have my own machine back shortly. But until then, and until I can catch up on writing about all the interesting things that need to be written about, I wanted to thank “CharonQC” (aka Mike Semple Piggot) for interviewing me for his podcast for his blog and Insite Law Magazine.

We talked about English and American law and practice, the economy, the presidency, and, uh, me… And yet somehow managed to avoid any mention of Stephen Fry, which seems odd because we managed to work in references to David Tennant and Edward Fox, yet Mr. Fry has had a greater influence on stoking my interests in UK law than either of the others. Oh well, for a future podcast perhaps…

 Posted by at 11:39 am
Jan 182009
 

This weekend I added a link to my Twitters on the sidebar of the blog. I’m still embroiled in a love-hate relationship with Twitter, enthused by some of the potential it offers and frustrated by its limitations of that potential that keep me from using it as I want.

As someone who has pointedly studied innovation diffusion, it is interesting to see Twitter slowly spread around the world and watch social norms rise up to accompany it. While some tout Twitter as a microblogging tool, its capacity to create social networks through the following of other people is where the most interesting behavioral norms are sprouting. What does it mean to have a follower (someone who reads your updates)? What does it mean to follow someone else (so you read their updates)? When do you want to follow? When should others follow you? And when is it ever appropriate to unfollow someone and stop reading their posts?

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 Posted by at 10:46 am
Jan 182009
 

It wasn’t even a month ago that I found myself in the US Air terminal at LaGuardia, waiting endlessly to continue my journey up the East Coast. I was very grumpy about it, too, because it was due to US Air’s moronic stand-by policy, which I’ve complained about before. From an operations standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to prevent people from getting to their final destinations as expediently as possible if on the day of travel the passenger is ready and willing and the earlier flights have capacity. Last month I was trying to get from DC to Boston and was worried about approaching bad weather. But because the weather in DC at the time was fine, the agent made me go to LaGuardia to catch my connection. Where I got naturally got delayed by the weather there. I could have paid to change my ticket, but as I noted earlier, I refuse to pay for the privilege of solving their flight operations problems.

But even camped out in LaGuardia I acknowledged that as long as US Air eventually got me where I was going in one piece, I guess that would be ok. And it turns out that they’re pretty good at that part.

I write on my blog a lot about air travel, partly because I do a lot of it but also because I love to do a lot of it. I am at my happiest when I can log onto United’s website and see a list of upcoming booked itineraries laid out for me. It fills me with glee, not just knowing that soon I’ll be somewhere interesting but that I get to ride a plane to get there.

I’ve always been enamored with flight, and I subscribe to the philosophy of Patrick Smith, a pilot and columnist for Salon regarding air travel: isn’t it so cool we can do this?

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 Posted by at 10:41 am
Jan 162009
 

Every so often the legal blogosphere erupts in conversation about the plight of contract attorneys. As it really should, because the plight of contract attorneys can often be pretty grim and looks to becoming even more so. It can be feast-or-famine, unstable, life-sucking, dead-end work that also seems to be getting less and less economically viable.

What a waste of an education. What a waste of a profession. Contract lawyering need be none of these things, but a few things will need to change in the legal industry to make it viable, or else it will just cripple the careers of more and more law graduates.

Below I suggest what those changes need to be, and, taking a page from the technology sector, propose better models for how contingent law work can be better leveraged to everyone’s benefit.

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 Posted by at 8:07 am
Jan 152009
 

The economy definitely seems to be going down these days, but my question is, when was it actually up? In 2001 and 2002, after the Dot Com bust, applications to law school doubled, reflecting the sense that there was just nothing else to go get a job doing. Had that situation really ever improved?

On retrospect, though, even if it hadn’t, those years still seem like good times. There may not have been many technology jobs, but the rest of the economy more or less seemed to hold itself together. Fewer law firms seem to have laid people off, at any rate.

Which is kind of what makes now so scary. Not that the law firms are laying people off, per se, but that the wealthier sections of society seem to be struggling. Now, maybe that’s not quite true. It’s hard to shed tears for a law firm laying people off and also returning $1.8 million in profits per partner. “Struggling” may be a relative term. But bankers are out of work too, and even wealthy philanthropists are unable to share what they once did now that their portfolios have shrunk.
It’s making me wonder if there might be something to “trickle down economics.” At least insofar as when the wealthy suffer, all below them do as well, as the wealthy no longer have any wealth to be shared. But I hate to validate an economic policy that creates such rigid class strata. I note a dynamic, not a solution. I don’t think the solution necessarily is to bolster the wealth of the wealthy and hope that it will trickle down; on the contrary, I think it’s much better to bolster the wealth of the larger lower classes so that it might then trickle up.

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 Posted by at 7:38 am
Jan 142009
 

The New York Times is reporting on the status of lawsuits to stop the repeal of New York City’s mayoral term limits, a repeal undertaken at the urging of current Mayor Bloomberg, who otherwise would be forced out at the end of his term.
I hate term limits on principle. I understand that that they are intended to help break the chokehold that connected incumbents can have over seats, but I find it too imprecise a remedy because it forces out from office those who are capable and accountable as much as it forces out those who are not.

That said, I find myself rooting for the lawsuits, because if there’s anything I hate more than term limits it’s the changing of the political rules to advance an individual’s own political career.

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 Posted by at 3:43 pm
Jan 142009
 

I do really like my Palm Treo (700p). It does almost everything I want, although not necessarily as well as later devices do. The web browser, for instance, can’t view pages without heavily adapting them, and I can’t see attachments or Flash. (Note to restaurateurs who insist on building their websites with Flash: hungry people out and about will not go to your restaurant unless you provide a text-based alternative they can see on their phones.) It also, as I long ago lamented, doesn’t have WiFi, which, after my recent trip to London where I had the use of a phone that did, is a conspicuous oversight.

But it does have certain advantages over other, even newer devices. The PalmOS, which has an API others can develop for, is a nice non-Microsoft alternative. The phone I recently got to use in the UK provided my first experience with Windows Mobile, and while it wasn’t awful, it wasn’t as smooth. I can pretty much drive my Treo without the stylus, but even with relatively small fingers that wasn’t always possible on this other phone. Also, unlike an iPhone, Palm supports cut and paste, and it, too, offers a fairly elegant and hardy hardware design not overly encumbered with extraneous buttons that can fail.

But nice as the Treos are, they are getting long in the tooth and iPhones and Androids and Blackberries are saturating the market Palm had once pioneered. The company is in desperate need to make a possibly last stand with a new product that is everything the old Palms were and more, and, by many accounts, the Pre is unveiled at CES this month may just be that.
But its launch announcement declares it to be tied to Sprint, whom is not at present my carrier in either the US or UK, and thus, despite the phone appearing to technically sate all my cell phone needs, it won’t. And were it to hit the market right now, I would likely not be a customer.

There is something very wrong with the cell phone industry when building better products won’t guarantee you business. While it may be true that if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door, it will not be true if it is locked to a single exterminating service. For the sake of the cell phone industry and consumers, this situation needs to change.

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 Posted by at 10:03 am
Jan 142009
 

Passing through immigration at Heathrow got a little tense. The agent was querying me on my reason for being in England. The truth was that I, anglophilic lawyer that I am, was there to meet and network with as many of my UK peers as I could, and was really excited about it. Was that business or pleasure? I don’t know!

But then I told her I was also in town to see the RSC production of Hamlet, and after the obligatory conversation raving about David Tennant I was allowed into the country.

Ever since my Stephen Fry-induced spur of the moment Christmas trip in 2007 (helpful immigration tip #2: mention his name fondly at the border, and they will also let you in) I’ve become a full-blown anglophile. But not just in the normal, cultural ways — in a way that completely overlaps with my new lawyerly profession. If it involves England and law, I am like moth to flame. I buy books, attend symposia, follow its news, follow its policy, meet its professionals… I basically just spent a week in London taking meetings with UK lawyers, and it was the best vacation ever.

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 Posted by at 9:13 am