Ryan has previously waxed poetic about how some mandatory bars are imposing odd and counterproductive ethics rules and opinions.

This topic resurfaced for me recently as I have been asked to present to a futures committee of a mandatory bar in November. They are wanting me to give them a picture of all that is going on with pricing, legal project management and numerous other developments in the market.

This is an opportunity to share my thoughts in a neutral environment – where I can speak quite freely. I had been giving some thought to how to best utilize such an opportunity. My mind wandered through various subjects and how I can best educate them on the realities of this changing market. My mind then shifted to what can a bar do to help its members. A lot of this thinking was around how the bar can provide resources to help its members do better pricing and bring efficiencies to their practices.

And then it hit me: Those Stupid Rules.

Oh opportunity.

Having previously worked for a mandatory bar, I have more knowledge than I care to on how ethics rules and opinions are generated. The core question at the base of every issues is “Could a client be harmed?” or some variation on that theme. On the surface this sounds perfectly reasonable, since protecting the public is part of a mandatory bar’s charge. In practice however, based on lawyers’ risk averse natures, this unit of measure is usually taken to an extreme.

Take for example Ryan’s target; the Texas Bar Ethics Opinion 642. I can predict how the discussion went around this issue. The core question was: Could a client mistake someone with an “officer” title working at a law firm to be a lawyer? At the extreme the answer is: Yes. Someone, somewhere could make that judgement. And if that’s the case, there is a concern that using those titles could be interpreted as holding oneself out as a lawyer. And we all know the danger in that. (For normal people out there, the danger is that someone might pay this ‘non-lawyer’ for legal advice.) Given that string of logic, it makes perfect sense to issue an ethics opinion prohibiting law firms from using that title.

Back in reality – this type of rule actually inhibits a law firm’s ability to better serve its clients. Professional CIOs, CFOs, CMOs and others bring an expertise that adds to the abilities of firms and lawyers to serve their clients. Inhibiting the ability of firms to attract such talent is running in the wrong direction.

The straw that pushed me over the edge (metaphor blender engaged) to write this post was visiting a law firm’s web site and seeing the words “This is an Advertisement” prominently displayed on their homepage. Of course they felt compelled to include this since some ethics rule requires it.

Seriously?

I know – I know. Someone, somewhere might confuse a website as legal advice. Right.

So … mandatory bars, here’s my top recommendation. Stop it with the stupid rules. They are not protecting clients. They are doing the exact opposite. Restrictions on advertising limit the information avilable to clients about the value and need for legal services. So in addition to asking “could a client be harmed” ask some follow up questions, like: Will these restrictions hurt clients? If clients are not aware of the value of estate planning, will they be harmed? Not only is the answer yes, but last check 50% of adults in the US do not have wills in place. Enough said.

1974 was 40 years ago. Try implementing some rules suited for today or better yet, tomorrow.

Rant Complete (for now).

As the saying goes, “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” That phrase also applies to the State Bar membership benefits. The State Bar of Texas has agreed to add Fastcase as a member benefit on top of its already existing Casemaker access. This makes it the first Bar in the country to offer both services. In addition to adding Fastcase, the State Bar of Texas increased the level of subscription to Casemaker to include the premium services of Casecheck+, CiteCheck, and CasemakerDigest to the member benefit. That is a major coup for the Bar.

Fastcase’s access will depend upon the size of your firm. For those under 11 attorneys, you will have access to the premium Fastcase database (all states & fed), for those 11+ attorney firms, you will have access to the Texas plan. Everyone will have access to the mobile apps and to the HeinOnline integration for the covered material.

It is a great day for the State Bar of Texas and its members. Read the Fastcase and SBOT press releases below for more information.

To log in to this free benefit, members will visit the State Bar website at http://www.texasbar.com and log in with their bar number and password. The service is also available via the TexasBarCLE website at http://www.texasbarcle.com/.

PRESS RELEASES

State Bar of Texas adds Fastcase as free legal research benefit alongside expanded Casemaker service

AUSTIN — Texas attorneys now have unprecedented free access to two nationwide legal research services.

The State Bar of Texas has signed an agreement to provide its members free access to Fastcase, one of the nation’s most popular legal research systems. Texas attorneys will continue to receive free access to the Casemaker legal research service, along with expanded premium Casemaker services at no cost. The State Bar of Texas is the first and only bar association to offer its members free access to both Fastcase and Casemaker.

“We are thrilled to offer this free research tool as an additional benefit to Texas attorneys alongside our popular Casemaker service,” said Trey Apffel, 2014-15 State Bar of Texas president. “Part of our mission at the State Bar of Texas is to provide superior online resources and benefits to members which help them better serve their clients. We believe this agreement helps us achieve that.”

With the new Fastcase partnership, 27 state bar associations and more than 800,000 lawyers now have a subscription to Fastcase. The service usually costs $995 a year for an individual subscriber, but State Bar of Texas members will receive two great Fastcase benefits for free, effective immediately.

Firms of 11 lawyers or more will have free access to Fastcase’s extensive Texas Plan, including opinions of the Supreme Court of Texas and courts of appeal back to 1 Tex. 1 (1846), U.S. Supreme Court opinions back to 1 U.S. 1, Fifth Circuit opinions back to 1 F.2d 1, the U.S. Code annotated, the Texas Statutes annotated, the Texas Constitution, and 70 other Texas-specific legal research libraries.

Solo practitioners and firms of 10 lawyers or fewer will have access to Fastcase’s Premium Plan, including all libraries in the Texas Plan, plus nationwide coverage from state and federal courts, state statutes and administrative regulations, as well as court rules, constitutions, and other valuable libraries. To access the scope of coverage on the Web, visit www.fastcase.com/whatisfastcase/coverage.

The agreement provides State Bar of Texas members access to Fastcase’s intuitive legal research tools, training webinars and tutorials, mobile apps, and live customer support. The free member benefit has no restrictions on time or number of transactions and includes unlimited printing, unlimited reference assistance, and unlimited customer service.

Texas attorneys will also have access to annotated statutes from other states, Fastcase’s annotated U.S. Code, transactional access to newspaper articles, federal court filings, and legal forms, and transactional access through HeinOnline to the largest collection of law reviews in the world.

“We’re excited to offer Fastcase’s powerful research tools as a free benefit to Texas lawyers,” Fastcase President Phil Rosenthal said. “Providing the best legal research tools to Texas lawyers will improve the administration of justice and level the playing field for clients. We’re proud to partner with the State Bar of Texas in this effort.”

Casemaker’s expanded offerings include access to premium services (Casecheck+, CiteCheck, and CasemakerDigest) at no cost for all members. These services were previously available only to paid subscribers. Casemaker continues to provide the Administrative Code, Attorney General Opinions from 1947, Texas Case Law since 1886, State Constitution, Federal Court Rules, Texas Session Laws from 1995, State Court Rules, Texas Revised Statutes, including annual archived versions since 2001, as well as a robust federal library.

Casecheck+ is a negative citator system built into Casemaker that validates your research and identifies whether or not your case law citations are still good law. CiteCheck allows researchers to upload a brief (or other document) to Casemaker which quickly creates a table of the cases found, checks the latter case history of the cases cited, and displays any negative later case history. CasemakerDigest delivers daily summaries of state and federal appellate cases classified by practice area.

Casemaker has also added its new Subsequent History feature especially for Texas attorneys. At a glance, researchers can now determine writ and petition history. Casemaker’s new statute annotator feature is now available to Texas attorneys as well. At a click, researchers can quickly get an accurate picture of how the courts have cited, applied, interpreted, and construed each statute.

“We are proud to have provided the Texas lawyers with Casemaker’s online legal research for the past 10 years,” Casemaker CEO David Harriman said. “Our experienced legal editors are committed to providing the most up-to-date cases and statutes available anywhere.”

— — —

The State Bar of Texas is an administrative agency of the Supreme Court of Texas that provides educational programs for the legal profession and the public, administers the minimum continuing legal education program for attorneys, and manages the attorney discipline system. For more information, follow the State Bar on Twitter @statebaroftexas, like the State Bar on Facebook at www.facebook.com/statebaroftexas, or visit www.texasbar.com.

Fastcase is a leading legal publisher focused on smarter legal software that democratizes the law, making it more accessible to more people. Using patented software that combines the best of legal research with the best of Web search, Fastcase helps busy users sift through the clutter, ranking the best cases first and enabling the re-sorting of results to find answers fast. Founded in 1999, Fastcase has more than 800,000 subscribers from around the world. Fastcase is an American company based in Washington, D.C. For more information, follow Fastcase on Twitter at @Fastcase or visit www.fastcase.com.
Since 1999 Casemaker has operated with the single purpose of providing attorneys with affordable access to quality legal research. The company has invested heavily in developing the finest editorial team and state-of-the-art technology to increase speed and search functionality. Attorneys have a product that stands toe-to-toe with the traditional and expensive legal research providers. Casemaker offers a Google-like search engine, accurate citation services, and many organizational features that make research that much faster, easier, and reliable. Attorneys across the United States are using Casemaker’s simple high-definition search on a daily basis to find relevant cases, codes, statutes, and more, fast. Casemaker is based in Charlottesville, Virginia. Follow Casemaker on Twitter @casemakerlegal or Facebook at www.facebook.com/casemakerlegal.  

State Bar of Texas Launches

Free Legal Research Benefit with Fastcase

New Visualization Tools, Mobile Apps, Annotated Statutes for Members

AUSTIN, TX AND WASHINGTON, DC (June 26, 2014) – The State Bar of Texas today announced that it has signed an agreement to provide its members free access to Fastcase’s nationwide legal research system, effective immediately.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Fastcase is one of the nation’s most popular legal research services. Twenty-seven state bar associations have subscribed to Fastcase, as well as scores of the nation’s largest law firms. With this partnership, more than 800,000 lawyers have a subscription to Fastcase, many through their state bar association. The service ordinarily costs $995 per year for an individual subscriber, but starting today, State Bar of Texas members will get two great Fastcase benefits for free.

Firms of 11 lawyers or more will have free access to Fastcase’s extensive Texas Plan, including opinions of the Supreme Court of Texas and courts of appeal back to 1 Tex. 1 (1846), U.S. Supreme Court opinions back to 1 U.S. 1, Fifth Circuit opinions back to 1 F.2d 1, the U.S. Code annotated, the Texas Statutes annotated, the Texas Constitution, and 70 other Texas-specific legal research libraries.

Solo practitioners and firms of 10 lawyers or fewer will have access to Fastcase’s Premium Plan, including all libraries in the Texas Plan, plus nationwide coverage from state and federal courts, state statutes and administrative regulations, as well as court rules, constitutions, and other valuable libraries. You can access the scope of coverage on the Web at www.fastcase.com/whatisfastcase/coverage.

The Fastcase benefit is offered in addition to the State Bar’s Casemaker benefit, expanding members’ free legal research options.

“We’re excited to offer Fastcase’s powerful research tools as a free benefit to Texas lawyers,” said Fastcase President Phil Rosenthal. “Providing the best legal research tools to Texas lawyers will improve the administration of justice and level the playing field for clients. We’re proud to partner with the State Bar of Texas in this effort.”

SBOT members will receive access to Fastcase’s intuitive, smarter legal research tools, training webinars and tutorials, industry-leading mobile apps, and live customer support from members of the Fastcase team. The member benefit has no restrictions on time or number of transactions, unlimited printing, unlimited reference assistance, and unlimited customer service included for free.

The service also includes annotated statutes from other states, Fastcase’s annotated U.S. Code, transactional access to newspaper articles, federal court filings, and legal forms, and transactional access through HeinOnline to the largest collection of law reviews in the world.

“We are thrilled to offer this free research tool as an additional benefit to Texas attorneys,” said Trey Apffel, 2014-15 State Bar of Texas president. “Part of our mission at the State Bar of Texas is to provide superior online resources and benefits to members which help them better serve their clients. We believe this agreement helps us achieve that.”

To log in to this free benefit, members will visit the State Bar website at http://www.texasbar.com and log in with their bar number and password. The service is also available via the TexasBarCLE website at http://www.texasbarcle.com/ .

The Fastcase service will be free to members of the State Bar of Texas, but it is not a discount legal research service. Fastcase has pioneered the smartest legal research tools in the market, with integrated citation analysis tools, data visualization maps of search results, and the first legal research apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. The service also includes Bad Law Bot, the first big data service to identify negative citations to judicial opinions.

Fastcase has gained strong momentum in the legal research market and continues to challenge the norm in legal publishing and legal technology. Fastcase was voted No. 1 in Law Technology News’s inaugural Customer Satisfaction Survey, finishing first in seven out of 10 categories over traditional research providers Westlaw and LexisNexis. Fastcase has introduced new opinion summaries, and has been named to the prestigious EContent 100 list of leading digital publishing and media companies alongside Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook for three years in a row.

In 2010, Fastcase was the first company to launch an app for legal research, and later, the first company to launch an app for iPad. The American Association of Law Libraries named Fastcase’s integration with HeinOnline its 2014 New Product of the Year, and its app for iPhone the 2010 New Product of the Year. In 2011, Rocket Matter named Fastcase’s apps for iPhone and iPad the Legal Productivity App of the Year and the company furthered its mobile market presence by debuting the Fastcase for Android app in 2012. Lawyers on the go appreciate Fastcase Mobile Sync, which allows full integration of its mobile apps with the desktop version of Fastcase.

About the State Bar of Texas

The State Bar of Texas is an administrative agency of the Supreme Court of Texas that provides educational programs for the legal profession and the public, administers the minimum continuing legal education program for attorneys, and manages the attorney disciplinary system. For more information, follow the State Bar of Texas on Twitter at @statebaroftexas or visit www.texasbar.com.

 

About Fastcase

Fastcase is a leading legal publisher focused on smarter legal software that democratizes the law, making it more accessible to more people. Using patented software that combines the best of legal research with the best of Web search, Fastcase helps busy users sift through the clutter, ranking the best cases first and enabling the re-sorting of results to find answers fast. Founded in 1999, Fastcase has more than 800,000 subscribers from around the world. Fastcase is an American company based in Washington, D.C. For more information, follow Fastcase on Twitter at @Fastcase or visit www.fastcase.com.
Image [cc] Rusty Tanton

The term “Access to Justice” (A2J) is tossed around a lot in the legal world, but as the old saying goes, talk is cheap. It is common for state bar associations to step up and use another phrase to shoot down A2J projects or non-lawyers’ attempt to fill a gap in the legal process that is underserved. In most cases, it is seen as a ploy to protect the Bar Association’s members… at the expense of those needing help with a complicated legal system. One of the most contentious issues is on basic legal forms. Companies like LegalZoom have stepped in to create forms for the individual citizen, and have found many states are very reluctant in approving of their products and services.

This morning, LegalZoom launched a press release that announced that the South Carolina Supreme Court approved of their business model and that its services of providing legal forms for individual citizens to use is not the unorthorized practice of law. The original lawsuit of T. Travis Medlock v. LegalZoom, Inc. brought the action requesting declaratory relief, injunctive relief and disgorgement of revenues, among other measures. This isn’t the only UPL action that LegalZoom is facing, according to their SEC Filing, they are fighting UPL claims in Alabama, Ohio, Arkansas, Missouri, and North Carolina. On March 1, 2013, Nelson Mullins attorney, B. Rush Smith III, filed a pre-hearing brief that lays out what LegalZoom is doing is simply being “an online scrivener for a customer purchasing an online automated legal document.”

Looks like, at least in South Carolina, LegalZoom has prevailed. The press release is listed below.

SOUTH CAROLINA SUPREME COURT APPROVES LEGALZOOM BUSINESS MODEL .
Apr 22 2014 11:00:10
 
South Carolina Supreme Court Approves LegalZoom Business Model

Demonstrates Commitment to Increase Access to the Justice System for all South Carolina Residents

GLENDALE, Calif., April 22, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The South Carolina Supreme Court reviewed LegalZoom.com, Inc.’s business practices and, in an order issued on March 11, 2014, found that LegalZoom does not engage in the unauthorized practice of law, ensuring South Carolina residents the continued ability to access LegalZoom’s services.
“We are pleased that the South Carolina Supreme Court has approved LegalZoom’s business model allowing access to online legal documents,” said Ken Friedman, Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs at LegalZoom. “As with many state bars, when a record is made about LegalZoom’s products and services, the result is that our fundamental business model is found to be legally sound.”
“Everyone deserves access to the civil justice system. We look forward to continuing to serve our many customers in the State of South Carolina,” added Friedman. “Whether our customers want one of the products reviewed by the Supreme Court, such as documents related to business formation, estate planning documents, or real estate leases, or they want the help of licensed South Carolina attorneys associated with LegalZoom’s legal plans, LegalZoom will continue its business practices in South Carolina and all 50 states in which LegalZoom operates.” The announcement follows the resolution of the lawsuit of T. Travis Medlock v. LegalZoom.com, Inc.

About LegalZoom.com
LegalZoom is the nation’s leading provider of personalized, affordable online legal solutions for families and small businesses. Founded more than 12 years ago by attorneys with experience at some of the top law firms in the country, LegalZoom has helped over two million Americans become protected with binding legal documents. Although LegalZoom is not a law firm, it can help people access an attorney through its legal plans. The company has offices in Austin, Glendale, and Mountain View. For more information, visit  www.legalzoom.com.
CONTACT: Johanna Namir, (323) 337-0022

One of the best member benefits of a State Bar Association is the ability to access Casemaker or Fastcase (or InCite for Pennsylvania). However, sometimes it is confusing to keep up with which product each state offers. Luckily, the kind folks at Duke University’s Law Library have mapped everything out for us. Many law librarians have been promoting these services to the lawyers that want good research functionality, but don’t want to either pay a high price for an individual subscription, or don’t want to pass any costs along to clients for firms that do cost recovery.

If you’re unfamiliar with any of these products, go sign in at your state bar association and find out more. In some states, even paralegals and law librarians can use these products without actually having to be a member of the state bar association.

The race for state bar partnerships between Casemaker and Fastcase took another step toward Fastcase this morning. New York, which has been somewhat of a holdout on the free access to legal research benefit, is partnering with Fastcase to provide its members with free access to the product via the Bar’s website, www.nysba.org. I believe this brings Fastcase up to 25 state bar associations, and puts the momentum squarely on Fastcase’s side.

The formal announcement will go out in a few minutes from Fastcase and NYSBA.

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 25, 2013
New York State Bar Association Partners With Fastcase
to Provide Free Access to Legal Research Library
Access to Smarter Legal Research Tools Now Available for State Bar Members at No Cost
Washington, DC (September 25, 2013) – The New York State Bar Association and legal publisher Fastcase today announced a partnership to provide 76,000 members of the association with free access to the New York libraries in Fastcase’s legal research system.
The nation’s largest voluntary state bar association is offering access to online legal research for its members in New York, 49 other states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and 113 countries.
Beginning this week, members will gain free access to Fastcase’s New York libraries by logging on to www.nysba.org, going to Practice Resources and clicking on Fastcase. The free benefit includes judicial opinions from New York State courts, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court. It also offers access to New York State Consolidated Laws; New York Codes, Rules and Regulations; and the New York Constitution. 
As part of the benefit, members may subscribe to the nationwide Fastcase premium subscription for $195 per member per year—which normally costs $995 per year, a discount of $800. In addition, a specially tailored benefit will help new attorney members gain professional and financial footing during their first two years of practice. They qualify for free access to Fastcase’s entire federal and 50-state library, which will be available to them in October.
“We are pleased to provide the Fastcase online legal research library as a benefit to our members,” said New York State Bar Association President David M. Schraver of Rochester (Nixon Peabody). “The legal community has been conducting legal research online for decades. Now we are able to bring our members unlimited access to one of the largest law libraries in the world as a member benefit.”
This member benefit provides NYSBA members with access to one of the largest law libraries in the world, training webinars and tutorials, and free reference assistance. The member benefit is unlimited – with no restrictions on time or number of transactions, unlimited printing, unlimited reference assistance and unlimited customer service included for free.
“This is the new normal, when New York firms are absorbing their legal research costs as overhead, and firms of all sizes are looking to add a nonbillable ‘house account’ for legal research,” said Fastcase President Phil Rosenthal. “This partnership makes the NYSBA and Fastcase a better value than ever for New York firms, because they can reduce the costs of legal research and they can do so with the world’s smartest legal research tools.”  
Over the last few years, 24 state bar associations and scores of the nation’s largest law firms have subscribed to Fastcase, which now has more than 600,000 subscribers.
Fastcase has gained very strong momentum in the legal research market and continues to challenge traditional legal publishers. Fastcase was voted #1 in Law Technology News’s inaugural Customer Satisfaction Survey, finishing first in 7 out of 10 categories over traditional research providers Westlaw and LexisNexis. The American Association of Law Libraries named Fastcase for iPhone the 2010 New Product of the Year. In 2011, Rocket Matter named Fastcase’s apps for iPhone and iPad the Legal Productivity App of the Year, and Fastcase was named to The Best of Legal Times in multiple categories in 2012. Three times the company has been listed in the EContent 100, the most influential companies in the digital economy, alongside Google, Apple, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  And the 2013 ABA Tech Survey reports that Fastcase’s mobile apps are by far the most popular app for lawyers, more popular than all other legal research apps combined.
“When bar associations subscribe to legal research for their members at a volume discount, everyone wins,” said Rosenthal. “One of the most valuable bar memberships in the country just got better.”
About the New York State Bar Association
The New York State Bar Association, with 76,000 members, is the largest voluntary state bar association in the country. The organization has been serving the legal profession and the community since it was founded in 1876. To learn more about the NYSBA, visit www.nysba.org.
About Fastcase
As the smarter alternative for legal research, Fastcase democratizes the law, making it more accessible to more people. Using patented software that combines the best of legal research with the best of Web search, Fastcase helps busy users sift through the clutter, ranking the best cases first and enabling the re-sorting of results to find answers fast. Founded in 1999, Fastcase has more than 600,000 subscribers from around the world. Fastcase is an American company based in Washington, D.C. For more information, follow Fastcase on Twitter at @Fastcase or visit www.fastcase.com.

###
Media Contacts:
For Fastcase:
Jennifer Brand 202.731.2114
For the NYSBA:
Lise Bang-Jensen
518-487-5530
I’m a little behind in this news, but the Texas Bar Association has recently launched the new Casemaker platform for all of its members. The new interface is definitely a step up for Casemaker and makes searching across the different library database a lot easier. The Casemaker access is free to all members of the bar, and even to librarians within the state that register using the Texas Bar’s CLE website.

We here at 3 Geeks think that what Casemaker and Fastcase are doing through the bar associations is a valuable benefit for the bar members. Although we love to pit all of these competitors against each other, we also realize that they offer a great service that is far too often overlooked by the members of the bar. If you’re not sure if your bar offers Casemaker or Fastcase, here’s a quick list of which bars are covered:

 
·  D.C. Bar

Last week I posted on how recent DC Bar opinions would cause clients to have to pay for more lawyer time. I don’t think the DC Bar was attempting to directly protect the lawyers’ market from e-discovery vendors, but instead saw that protection as an unintended consequence. As a result of the post, I received a few requests to explain my position. Being a former mandatory bar guy, I explained that ethics opinion committees, when ask to clarify a rule for a given situation, will typically go with the most ethical answer they can find.

In the DC situation, the question involved the “adequate supervision” of people performing lawyerly tasks (lawyers or not) employed by a non-law firm – in this case those doing first document review with e-discovery vendors. The answer was the higher bar, stating that 1) a DC lawyer must make the final choice of personnel, and 2) a DC lawyer must supervise the personnel involved. As well, the DC Lawyer could not be employed by a non-law firm and has to have a direct attorney-client relationship with the client. The result is clients being forced to spend more on the service, in order to provide better protections for … the client.

So Greg, Ryan and I were in the pursuit of a three-beer solution when we came up with the idea for the: Ethics Opinion Question Challenge. The Challenge is to submit ethics questions to bar ethics opinion committees that force bars to release ever more restrictive ethics opinions. We think bars are at the back of the line when it comes to adapting to a changing market and this will force the issue with them, bringing them in to this wonderful mess the rest of us our dealing with. However, as a warning we should point out than an ‘unintended consequence’ of this challenge may be result in a smaller, protected market that belongs exclusively to lawyers.

Here’s an example to help participants in The Challenge: In DC, submit follow-on clarification questions related to the selection and supervision of non-law e-discovery vendor personnel. For selection – Does the final selection process need to include a full interview and verification of qualifications? It likely will, since the existing requirement for the lawyer to make the final selection implies the e-discovery vendor is not to be trusted. So the lawyer will need to conduct their own, independent review of the candidates. For supervision – Will the lawyer need to be on-site with the e-discovery personnel to supervise them, or can she supervise by occasionally checking in on them? Again, the best protection for the client will be on-site supervision.

Now here’s one trick to The Challenge. If the burden of extra effort in maintaining higher ethics falls mainly to the lawyer, the resulting opinion can backfire and be less protective for the client. In our example above, we end up with more billable hours for the client to pay. As a counter-example, ethics opinions on protecting electronic client communications came out saying no extra protection was needed. In this circumstance, requiring lawyers to employ encryption would only put a burden on … lawyers – and not lead to an increase in billable time.

So … there you have it, the Ethics Opinion Question Challenge. Feel free to post your questions here, or send them directly to your own ethics opinion committee. By the end of the year, we should have numerous opinions helping better protect the interests of clients.

Image [cc] zen

There has been talk for the last few years about the unsustainability of the Graduate School program in the United States. For many of us, we have heard the segment that talks specifically about law schools, and have watched as many of the schools are caught in… shall we say, stretching the truth about hiring rates and salaries after graduation. Unfortunately, these issues are not limited to law schools, they are affecting practically every graduate level program in the United States. The cost of obtaining a graduate level degree is not necessarily being off-set by the employment opportunities out there that require these degrees. However, students still persue them; graduate colleges still accept them and increase tuition and fees each year, and; Federal Student Loans are guaranteed by the US government insuring that schools get paid, banks get paid, and students get left with massive amounts of debt.

Everyone Else is to Blame


Last week, I ran across a few things that reminded me that this problem isn’t going away anytime soon. First of all, I had lunch with my co-blogger, Toby, who reminded me that no one involved in this situation thinks that they are the problem. He told a story of how years ago he sat in a room with people representing law schools, bar associations, law firms, and lawyers, and how it became a “everyone is to blame but me” session. He mentioned that everyone knew the system was flawed, but that the flaw lay in someone else’s area of responsibility.

The second thing I saw was a tweet from Jim Milles from this week’s Association of American Law Schools’ annual meeting:

Jim Moliterno on Washington & Lee’s 3L curriculum reform. This is a great time for reformers because there’s demand to do better. #aals12

I responded to Jim and asked him how in the heck can there be reformers in an environment when no one thinks they are the problem?? His response was that he thought it “was a little bit of encouragement from Dean Moliterno” on the subject. So, does that mean this is not a call to action, but more of a wish that someone would step up and be the reformer that law schools need? Best of luck with that.

So once again, law schools know there’s a problem, yet aren’t ready to step up to the plate to fix it.

Industry Responsibilities


What about the Bar Association?? Well, apparently they aren’t to blame either, according to the ABA President, William Robinson. In a Reuters interview, Robinson placed the bubble blame squarely on the shoulders of the students who go to law school:

It’s inconceivable to me that someone with a college education, or a graduate-level education, would not know before deciding to go to law school that the economy has declined over the last several years and that the job market out there is not as opportune as it might have been five, six, seven, eight years ago…

Robinson’s suggestion to the problem is if a student does decide they are willing to take the risk of entering a down-market job industry like legal, at least do it through a cheaper school. Robinson then picked up the ball and squarely punted it away from the ABA by saying that the ABA was completely powerless in holding down the cost of a law degree.

So the ABA isn’t to blame, it must be the Schools or Students fault.

Students Responsbilities


That brings me to an article I saw regarding students and the burden they have with debt after grad school. On the Life Inc. portion of the Today Show’s website, there was an interview of two law librarians titled “Loving the job, but hating the student loan debt.” At first blush, I have to admit that I wasn’t very sympathetic to a couple that took on more than $150,000 in student loans, and was having a hard time meeting those obligations even though their combined income was more than $100,000 a year.  While reading this, it made me wonder if William Robinson’s assessment that students are idiots for jumping into grad schools, and taking on massive amounts of debt for a potentially moderate paying profession is correct.

Is it wise to go to a grad school that charges in the neighborhood of $40K a year in tuition, as this librarian did by getting a degree at Drexel instead of a state school?? If the median wage of a law librarian is $54,500, does it make sense to go to a program that will cost you somewhere between $80K and $100K to finish? Jennifer Wertkin nailed the situation perfectly when she tweeted a response to this story and said “Law librarians overeducated & underpaid.” Although it is required for most law librarian jobs to have an advanced degree like a JD or an MLS, can that be sustained in an economy that doesn’t produce the pay to support the debt needed to enter the workforce?

Pressure to Take the Risk 
In a way, the whole situation reminds me of the recent housing bubble. Think of the similarities of the home ownership pressures and the pressures that the higher your education level is, the more successful you will be. We are told that college graduates are more likely to make tens of thousands of dollars more than their high-school counterparts. Grad school graduates make more than undergraduates. It reminds me of the argument we heard about home ownership equaling success (think of those home owners vs. renters stats for crime, income, stability, etc.) So, there is pressure on the students to take on more education than they probably need. Add to that, the easiness of credit for college tuition (conveniently backed by the Federal Government in most cases), increased tuition costs, and add in a sudden economic downturn, and you got yourself a bubble ready to burst.

Free-Market and the Big “POP!”


Earlier this year, I heard futurist Andy Hines make a comment at the AALL Future’s Summit, that Higher Education in the United States is in for an implosion in the next ten years. I think he may be right on that topic, and I think I might know what will cause the implosion. Of course, this is all speculation on my part, so I could be wrong, but bare with me on this. Just think about what would happen if the Federal Government decided to adopt some austerity programs, and one of those programs was to stop guaranteeing student load debt? Suddenly, the free market would kick in and students would have to practically prove that they have employment lined up in order to get a student loan for grad school. No loan guarantees would essentially sink most grad programs. It will be at that time that you will hear the giant “POP” in this bubble.

I have to admit that I usually think that many of the articles that AALL puts out in its Law Library Journal tend to be too rigid and too academic in style, but the Summer 2011 issue is actually chock full of interesting articles ranging from Ron Wheeler’s Does WestlawNext Really Change Everything? to Gail M. Daily’s tribute to Earl C. Borgeson’s Ten Rules for Law Library Management. However, the article that is near and dear to my heart (and also mentions me a few times) is a joint effort from DALIC (Digital Access to Legal Information Committee) called, Universal Citation and the American Association of Law Libraries: A White Paper. With its introduction by Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice, Yvonne Kauger, this article rehashes the history of the Universal Citation effort in the State Court system of the United States.

As many of you know, I was knee-deep in the movement back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, and I have to say that it was probably the job that I loved the most because we all felt like we were doing something special, and that we were making a difference to the public we served. Although, it also felt good that we were snipping the strings of control that big legal publishers had on the core legal research materials… especially the silliness over Westlaw’s pinpoint citations and their claim that those were copyright protected and that no one could use those without paying a royalty to Westlaw first. I had visions in the late 90’s that every court in the nation would adopt this simple, yet so effective, method of vendor-neutral citation. After all, if a state like Oklahoma could do it, it seemed that any state could. Unfortunately, it seems that something happened in the early 2000’s that caused the movement to fail.

The promise, and subsequent failure is stated eloquently in the White Paper:

¶12 Unfortunately, the wave of citation reform crested in 1998. Courts in Arizona, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, as well as Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, adopted elements of universal citation. However, no jurisdictions, other than Arkansas in 2009 and Illinois in 2011, have moved to do so since the early 1990s. The ABA has regularly reaffirmed its support for universal citation in a resolution, but no other major organization has joined AALL’s efforts with additional support.

While I was moderating a panel at this year’s AALL conference in Philadelphia, all of the emotion that I felt while building a vendor-neutral citation system, and making all of that information available to the members of the Oklahoma Bar, the citizens of Oklahoma, and to anyone else that needed access to the judicial decisions of the State of Oklahoma, came back to me in a rush. There are very few times that those within the legal community can make a true difference in how the public access justice, but this was one of those times. I told the audience that those states that didn’t jump on the band wagon of Universal Citation have let their citizens down, and continue to enable the legal publishing giants to control access to justice. In my opinion, the judicial leaders of those states did not stand up for the people they represent, and have shown a lack of leadership and vision found in the now 18 states that have adopted the system.

I also lashed out somewhat against AALL and its Citation Committee for planting a flag in the early 2000’s, claiming victory, and then moving on to other things. There should have been a major push by the organization to push adoption in other states, especially larger, more affluent states, like California, Texas and New York. I know that those states are difficult to deal with, and tend to not like changing the status quo of their legal systems, but the mission of Universal Citation was not accomplished, and as we can see now, the claim of victory was far too premature.

Can the idea of Universal Citation, free from the grasps of the legal publishers, be resurrected? I have to say that at this point in time, I really don’t know. It takes strong leadership on the state court level; it takes strong advocacy from the ABA, AALL and other organizations to push for reform, and; it will take outside help from the legal publishing community, especially non-Wexis vendors, to step up and help those states willing to take on such reform, just as the (pre-Wolters Kluwer) Loislaw people did for Oklahoma. That’s a lot of ships that have to adjust course in order to change the direction of the Universal Citation movement. It can be done, but it will take a great effort on many parts to breathe life back into such a worthwhile reform.

Read: Universal Citation and the American Association of Law Libraries: A White Paper

NOTE: Also take a look at the new effort from http://www.universalcitation.org — plus, a video of the meeting of this group at Rutgers last month is available at http://camlaw.rutgers.edu/av-request/10711/77aeade1b0

No, this isn’t the beginning of a bad lawyer joke. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship with Texas’s many bar associations.
Thanks to our Facebook relationship, I had the opportunity to share the stage at the Texas Bar Leaders Conference with the Texas State Bar’s social media whiz, John Sirman.
He’s a lawyer/webbie, just like me! It is always great to talk to someone who knows the angst of covering all of the web fronts of large institution. And we gave away a few of our social media secrets to Texas Bar leaders.
It was a great opportunity to meet lawyers from all across Texas and come up with easier, faster ways to share ideas between bar associations and replicate successes across the state.
We talked a lot about hash tags and how important it is to make them early and use them through out an entire campaign’s life.
It was a privilege to present to the group and I really enjoyed meeting some great folks from all of the bar associations across Texas.
If anyone has any questions about my presentation, feel free to reach out to me.