Thursday, 30 September 2010
Interesting film being shown during London Film Festival week CONVICTION. The film is having a gala screening at the London Film Festival on 15th October and is about one of the first cases of DNA being used as evidence. Hilary Swank plays Betty Ann Waters, a woman who devoted her life to earning a law degree to free her brother, Kenny Waters, from life without parole for a murder he did not commit.
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
We are keen and delighted to announce that the 56th session of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance will take place on Friday 1 October 2010, from 6.00 to 8.00pm, in room 5.16, 309 Regent Street (University of Westminster).
To get us back in the mood of philosophizing about the nature of laws we will read something classical (Plato's Laws or Aristotle's Rhetoric) and develop quite independently what might be called "A Hierarchy of Algebras for Legal Analysis". Joe will set out how Hohfeld's schema of legal relations, i.e., jural opposites and jural correlatives of rights, privileges, power and immunity, can be more simply understood in terms of Category Theory.
Category Theory, born about 60 years ago is now firmly embedded in the way we think about modern algebras – it is an extremely superficial theory that can be applied to practically anything –computing networks, quarks, boxing, dish stacking menus, flights of birds, and now, hopefully, legal theory and applications.
Hohfeld in the early part of the 20th century purported to have established an "analytical jurisprudence" that could be used to unravel the mysteries of any legal problem by showing how genuinely complex any legal relation is in terms of jural opposites and correlatives. This schema has always been quite difficult to apply, but with a bit of practice, can be used to resolve many so-called problems in the interpretation of laws – or, in the so-called "practice of law".
Joe will propose to simplify Hohfeld's "field equations" into a much more compact framework, making use of monoids and the articles of faith of Category Theory. The hypothesis is that if we can show how Hohfeld's legal relations are a category, then wherever Hohfeld's analysis applies, we also have a category. Thus, this sort of legal analysis would get everything else that Category Theory has to offer for free! Further, we would have a precise way of speaking about the structure of laws as fundamental conceptions of mathematics. This sounds like a conceptual breakthrough... At this level of abstraction, fundamental conceptions of law (which is the very title and aim of Hohfeld's work) are equivalent to fundamental conceptions of mathematics – which is the title to high school level text on Category Theory. How weird and wonderful if the implied isomorphism is actually the case!
We shall consequently test the application of Category Theory to our traditional banqueting session at Vapiano (19-21 Great Portland Street, W1W 8QB), from 8pm onwards.
See you on Friday!
Joe, Rezarte and Laura
Monday, 27 September 2010
(thanks to toonpool.com)
Legal Support Network has just published its fourth briefing on legal services reform. The thrust of the issue is to prefigure what will happen in a year's time when Alternative Business Structures start running.
There is an interview with Stephen Mayson about the future of the legal sector and Neil Rose (of Legal Futures) writes about the shape of the new regulatory landscape. Outcomes-focused regulation will be "regulation for grown-ups" according to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. What will be the outcomes for clients? The entity/firm not the individual lawyer will be responsible, and that goes wider than lawyers.
Finally, there's an article on "Welcome to the Revolution" which says it's already happening. Disclosure: I'm one of the people interviewed for this piece. Despite that it's good.
Happy reading and you can download the Briefing here. And remember, at the best of times, revolutions can be unsettling....
(thanks to hubpages.com)
Friday, 24 September 2010
(thanks to deep-focus.com)
This summer has been one of writing and most of all, rewriting. Draft after draft, constantly seeking constructive praise--who wants criticism? But constructive criticism is what I got, which is more than the faux-Blair above and his writer received.
Given that I'm still alive and the criticism was good, I have put the final drafts of two papers on SSRN for download.
The first is "Transnational Lawyering: Clients, Ethics and Regulation" in Lawyers in Practice: Ethical Decision Making in Context, Lynn Mather and Leslie Levin, eds., University of Chicago Press, 2011.
The second is "The Re-Landscaping of the Legal Profession: Large Law Firms and Professional Re-Regulation" Current Sociology, vol 59 (4) 2011.
Amongst other things, I am now in the throes of revising my PhD dissertation from some time ago for Alan Childress' new series of Classic Dissertations for Quid Pro Books. For more on this venture see here.
Summer is turning into a busy Fall.
PS. I'm reading a certain politician's memoir--see above again--and it's not very good, rather gushing and over-earnest. If you can find a remaindered copy it might be worth buying.
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
(Thanks to truthaboutcars.com)
The EU's consultation period on the implementation of the Services Directive closed on 13 September. And the effects are being felt.
As I said in my earlier post countries like Greece and Italy have a long way to go in liberalizing services, including legal services.
The Greek government has now decided that restrictions on multiple offices and tariffs should go. Lawyers are particularly upset. According to Greece.GreekReporter.com (ht to John Steele at Legal Ethics Forum) 15 Greek bar associations have complained that Greek lawyers will suffer through these reforms. Other statements include:
Nikolaos Pagidas heads the bar association on the island of Syros which covers several other Cycladic islands. He notes that lawyers are struggling to survive. “Do we want lawyers who are independent and battle-ready or lawyers in the employ of multinationals? With the memorandum, with regulations that do not exist anywhere else in Europe, the government is harming lawyers,” Pagidas told Kathimerini. “Why does the financial crimes squad not go after the big-shot lawyers who don’t pay taxes and make an example of them? The squad is raiding the offices of bar associations preparing protest action, in a bid to cow them, but it leaves alone those who never pay taxes…It’s obvious that they have chosen to blacken the image of the whole profession to serve their communication needs.”Of course Pagidas is wrong, many of the restrictions on practice that the Greek government are removing have long gone elsewhere in Europe. And even perhaps lawyers elsewhere in Europe are paying their taxes.
I'm also trying to picture "battle-ready" Greek lawyers.
(thanks to pfangirl)
But then then he would say that.
Friday, 10 September 2010
The Ark Booktower above was part of an exhibition of small spaces at the Victoria and Albert Museum this summer. I especially liked this one which was a booktower, enclosed by books with occasional seats at different levels, so one could stop and browse. If I had one I would never leave it.
I mention this because I have juist been reading an interview with Alan Childress of Tulane Law School in Law Librarian Blog: Part One and Part Two. (And HT to Legal Blog Watch.)
Alan has started a new publishing venture that I've mentioned before, called Quid Pro Books. It's based on publishing primarily in eBook formats (many of them) as well as print when needed. As a long time user of Kindle, Alan could see the benefits for scholars and students in using these formats over print.
Two main lines to his venture are republishing lost classics and bringing PhD dissertations to market quickly. The discussion of Holmes' The Common Law illustrates what Alan is doing:
Joe Hodnicki: That brings us back to your just released corrected and annotated edition of Holmes' The Common Law, which, to remind readers, can be acquired directly from Quid Pro Books and on Amazon in print and Kindle editions.And most recently, Alan has published my colleague's, Lisa Webley, book, Adversarialism and Consensus? The Profession's Construction of Solicitor and Family Mediator Identity and Role. I will write about this more anon.
Alan Childress: I am actually proud of what I did there, and not just did for others. The Annotated Common Law is a new book that I believe will become a standard in every library or prelaw-student’s gift basket. I took a great book and decoded it with some 200 notes. All Holmes’ historians remark what a “difficult” read it is. Not really, if you just explain some basics to readers as they go, like “case” is a writ and what a writ is, or translate Latin and Greek. Some of his speech patterns are quite old but sound like my Southern uncles—in fact my ancestors may have shot Holmes. I think I deciphered him well and I explain legal terms, like chattels and bailments, for nonlawyers. I’m surprised no one did this before. Plus again with the proper footnoting, nice presentation on the page, true page numbers, etc. Its value in digital is simpler: every previous digital form of the book traced back to a poor scan which left out words from the margins and had him saying modem and docs. Holmes is hard enough without guessing his every eighth word.
But do read the interview. It's full of interesting titbits as well as informing us about the future of legal publishing.
Monday, 6 September 2010
I was interviewed today by a legal journalist on the future of law firms once alternative business structures (ABS) enter the market in October 2011. The focus was on how partners and business managers/investors would work together.
This pre-supposed an image of integration and colleagueship within a new order. I am not optimistic. As my interlocutor remarked law firms have virtually shed whatever thin layer of management they had to maintain profits per partner (PEP). PEP is that mythical measure that signals to lawyers (and to suspicious corporate counsel) that I'm doing better than you. In the last year we have seen how the maintenance of PEP has stripped any sense of collegiality out of many firms as they have laid off associates, professional support staff, salaried partners, and even equity partners.
Yes, we've seen the final demise of another myth: that there is a tournament to partnership. I doubt there is even an "elastic" one anymore, or it's stretched beyond its limits.
There's a great film that's been re-visioned many times. Punishment Park was a typical 70s Nixon-era film, done in cinéma-vérité style, that follows a group of "convicted" hippies across a desert as they attempt to out run National Guardsmen. If they reach the flag location they will be freed. Of course when they reach the flag, there are the guardsmen and police waiting for them. I leave the rest to your imagination. This is a closer representation of the tournament today.
Once ABS arrive many partners are going to find themselves in the same situation as the hippies in Punishment Park. Investors and managers of the new law enterprises--law firm won't be a relevant term--will have definite ideas about what they want their human resources to do, what targets to achieve, and how decisions will be taken. Partnership, being notoriously inefficient in their eyes, will die out and self-governance will wither.
Why would this happen? Lawyers under the new regimes will find the managerial burden lifted and taken on by others. This will allow them to focus on--the law, what they like. But that is not where the power will lie. Lawyers will let this happen because they dislike management, but having ceded control, well they won't be able to get it back.
So the answer to my question is not very good. And it won't matter how many managing partners are sent to Harvard Business School, we are going to see a dramatic change in the business of law. The profession of law will still be there but much smaller than it once was.
And, finally, if you haven't seen Punishment Park, it's very worth catching if only to ponder its relevance now.
PS. Stephen Harper over at The Belly of the Beast has an interesting post on Biglaw and the Black Swan which picks up on analogous themes to the above post. It's worth reading.
Friday, 3 September 2010
(Thanks to Karishma Daswani)
Neil Rose at Legal Futures reports that the Legal Services Board (LSB) is to compel law firms and barristers' chambers to disclose information on diversity, which would encompass:
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
- working patterns
- social mobility
My colleagues Lisa Webley and Liz Duff have been doing research on this, in conjunction with scholars from Leeds, for the LSB. Their report is due shortly and at Westminster we will be holding a seminar on this on 13 October. My guess is that their findings will not make happy reading for the profession.
This is an aspect of the legal profession which has remained under-researched and misunderstood for a long time. Both solicitors and the Bar have been reluctant to provide figures, except in aggregate, on gender and ethnicity. We do know that there are severe distortions in numbers between entry to law school and those in practice.
Lawyers and the legal profession have been good at portraying themselves as meritocratic and having removed the last traces of noblesse oblige. Yet without the statistics how do we know?
Discussion groups on Linked In have been grumbling about "heavy-handed" regulation from the LSB over having to collect and disclose this information. But they have only themselves to blame for not taking the lead and actively seeking to resolve the problems endemic in the profession.
Unfortunately when it comes to change the legal profession is snail-like. And this is one of the reasons the Legal Services Board exists--to overcome the inertia of the profession. Maybe it will begin to get the message, if it's prepared to listen. But....