f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

April 30, 2004

our kinda law book

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 1:39 pm

“Adventure to Color”   We would have learned a lot more criminal law and procedure, if Brandon Bird had been publishing during our law school days.  Indeed, our local public defender’s office oughta buy a couple copies of his Law & Order: An adventure to color right now.  [Thanks to The Texas Lawyer for the CLE pointer.]

  • evidence bag Tip to CSI: don’t forget the gloves and baggies.
  • Tip to the office supplies manager: get a whole lot of these things . . crayon box


the ethics of the Whatever Generations

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 11:58 am

graduates . . earning their degrees??


I found myself worrying even more than usual, yesterday, about the eroding ethical mindset of America’s youth and young adults.  Two very different sources triggered my concerns — an article in Harvard Magazine and a network tv news special:

  1. The article is titled Good Work: On professional norms and the treacherous temptation of “moral freedom”, by David B. Wilkins (Harvard Magazine, May-June 2004: Volume 106, Number 5, Page 21), which reviews the recently released book Making Good: How Young People Cope with Moral Dilemmas at Work, by Wendy Fischman, Becca Solomon, Deborah Greenspan, and Howard Gardner  (Harvard Univeristy Press, Feb. 2004); and

  2. The ABC News special, Primetime Thursday: Caught Cheating – A Crisis in America’s Schools — How It’s Done and Why It’s Happening, was shown at 10 PM last night, with Charles Gibson hosting (April 29, 2004).  The webpage contains much of the material and stats from the show.

[Obvious, but Obligatory] Disclaimer: Stereotypes and generalizations can be dangerous, or at least unfair to some individuals.  There are some really great people in every generation, including the age cohorts under 30 in the U.S.A. today.  [Warning: your Editor’s attempt to keep this posting lighthearted and flippant totally failed.  Don’t let that stop you from reading on.]

  • Flatulent Elders have been decrying the downfall of civilization and relative decline in morals ever since the first generation of human children started disappointing their clueless parents.  Nonetheless, as the Former Editor of this site liked to point out, ignoring important trends can be even more dangerous for society’s future and individual fulfillment than risking overly general statements or overly defensive reactions.

shiftKey  The Primetime special shows so much cheating, by so many high school and college students, using so many methods, and making so many excuses, that adults have to seriously ask ourselves what the heck we’ve been doing so wrong.  The show ends asking whether we’ve reached a tipping point, where cheating is so “normal” that there’s no turning back — or, can we “teach integrity” and its importance in a way that is likely to tip the trend back toward a society where honesty counts more than grades?

  • I first scratched my head over this subject in the late 1980s, when representing kids in Family Court.  What seemed very different from my own childhood in the ’50s and ’60s was the fact that many young teens would not acknowledge that parents had any right at all to tell them they could not stay out all night, or they had to attend school and stay out of fights, or they could not have sex after school rather than doing homework.   Of course, some kids in my generation did all those things while in high school, but a lot fewer than now — and one basic reason is that we knew (felt, agreed) the rules were legitimate, and we knew there would be very real consequences for misdeeds —  and that adult hypocrisy did not make the rules any less legitimate. 

You don’t have to spend time around very many of our youth and young adults to feel dazed by the logical disconnects they’ll use to justify anything and everything they do (please schools: teach kids how to put together a logical argument!).  Along with the general, “everybody does it,” and “the system only values grades/dollars” laments, I especially dislike

  • the “Clinton Did It” and the “Look at Enron” excuses for lying and cheating

  • the Dork Defense — you can’t expect me to work all the time, like some dork, so of course I plagiarized, cut corners, etc. 

  • the I’ll Only Do It Until I Get My Degree Promise

Oh, and in case I have not made it plain:  I believe that my generation, the Baby Boomers, are greatly to blame for the state of our children (especially those Boomers who want to be “friends” with their kids and popular with them rather than being, um, parents.)


desktop   So, I’ve been dreading for years the entrance of our pampered, “me first,” pressurized and relativized generations into the workplace.  In their new book Making Good, Howard Garner et al, help reveal what damage the combination of commercialization and the Whatever Ethos is starting to have on professional and workplace ethics. As reviewer Prof. David Wilkins summarizes, the basic premise of Making Good, and its parent organization, the Good Work Project, is:

Every worker has both the right and the responsibility to be a “professional” who produces work that is “good,” both in the technical sense of being performed with skill and in the moral sense of responding to the needs of society.  Individuals are most likely to be able to do so, the researchers contend, if the field in which they work is “well aligned” in that all stakeholders (for example, employers, workers, and those who receive or are affected by the work) want more or less the same thing (for example, curing disease or fairly and accurately reporting the news).

$Key small  “$key small”  But alignment is threatened when stakeholders become motivated by things other than achieving these core professional ideals. Given the extent to which market forces have come to dominate journalism, science, and the arts—and much of the rest of our lives—it is not surprising that the authors devote most of their time to studying how young workers understand and respond to the potentially corrupting influence of money.

Wilkins reports the good news:  “For the most part, young workers are committed to the same overarching goals that veteran workers had previously identified as constituting the core ethical aspirations of the domain”   But the bad news quickly follows: “From the beginning of their careers, young workers feel pressure to compromise these lofty ideals.”

The review states that “young workers in all three domains tend to personalize ethical problems and their solutions — wherever possible participants in the study framed their choices in terms of whether they were living up to their own ideals.”

In what many are sure to find their most disturbing finding, the authors report that time and time again young workers felt justified in exempting themselves from established ethical restrictions . . . to accomplish ends that they believed justified the means. Some ends were truly altruistic . . . Far too often, however, the end in question was simply self-promotion . . .

In a Christian Science Monitor article on Making Good (March 3, 2004) prolific author Gardner gives the following answer to an important question:

What are the Stakes? 

[Dishonesty is] a recipe for disaster. When the values of [a line of] work change, then the people attracted to it change. Fifty years ago geneticists weren’t expecting to be rich and famous. Now, if you attract people to run huge biotech companies to make millions of dollars, genetics becomes less about scientific curiosity. Broadcast journalism, with few exceptions, is not journalism anymore – it’s entertainment and ratings.

A domain could also disappear. If accounting, for example, continues to be as fraudulent as it looks now, it won’t exist in 20 years. Something new will replace it. Government surveillance? Private detectives? Professions are generated by a moral center in the first place, and if that gets too infirm the profession ceases to exist.

plan  There are no simple, easy or quick solutions.  The discussion at this website recently on The Silent Associate seems to show a generational split on when ethics rules and principles can or should be ignored.  The answers won’t be found if parents, schools, professional overseers, students, or career novices make excuses for the “cheating” done by the younger members of our society, or by the adults.  Elders must live up to their stated principles and see to it there are consequences for lapses and violations. [Please stop calling them mistakes!] 

The researchers at the Good Work Project conclude that six factors play a pivotal role in whether young professionals succumb to pressures to cut ethical corners:

        1. an individual’s long-standing beliefs and values,

        2. access to positive role models and mentors,

        3. values held by one’s peers,

        4. pivotal experiences that teach about or reward good conduct,

        5. institutional structures and policies, and

        6. periodic reinforcement of the idea of good work.

That looks like a pretty good place to start. 

  • For some useful perspectives on this topic, listen to an interview with Howard Gardner on the Diane Rehm Show (03-04-04), and see this page from a Salon.com book review, by Laura Miller (02-23-04) on Making Good and The Cheating Culture.

  • Book reviewer David Wilkins is the director of Harvard Law School’s new Program on Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry.  It will be interesting to see how his notions of professional ethics play out within the Law Industry program.

s/ sincerely (and way too seriously), Prof. Yabut prof yabut small

April 29, 2004

a yen for music composition

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 11:02 am

quarter note red . money logo . quarter note red

“ykey small” “ekey small” “nkey small”  We’ve placed the first item on Yabut’s Eternal Nightstand (the YEN List: things we’d really like to read, view, or listen to, if only we had the time).  It’s an intriguing book called Quarter Notes and Bank Notes: The Economics of Music Composition in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, by the venerable F.M. Scherer (Princeton University Press, 2004).  Prof. Scherer focuses his vast economic expertise on the realm of classical music, showing the intellectual, political and economic roots of the change from composers dependent on noble courts for their livelihoods to a freelance marketplace for music composition.  As the book’s Synopsis notes:

“$key small”   [Scherer] analyzes changing trends in how composers acquired their skills and earned their livings, examining such impacts as demographic development and new modes of transportation.  The book offers insight into the diversity of composers’ economic aspirations, the strategies through which they pursued success, the burgeoning music publishing industry, and the emergence of copyright protection. Scherer concludes by drawing some parallels to the economic state of music composition in our own time.

g clef blue  You’ll find an excellent mini-review here, by my friend Bert Foer at the American Antitrust Insitute.  Bert asks, “Has the winner-take-all dynamic which has made it possible for a musician to become wealthy in the mass market also brought us back to something like the eighteenth century model in which subsidies are needed for performances — with patrons from the middle class rather than the nobility providing the subsidies through expensive tickets?”

Your Coffee or Your Life?

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 9:33 am

What would you give up to stay young forever? A recent poll found that half of men, and one third of women, 18 to 64 would not give up sex in exchange for the Fountain of Youth. For those over 64, coffee was mentioned most often as the item they would never give up just to stay youthful. (Senior Journal, “Most Adults Won’t Give Up Sex for Staying Young, Senior Citizens Won’t Give Up Coffee,” 04-20-04)

coffe cup gray . . . . too tempting? . . . embrace black


Still safely on the young side of 60, we at pyj nonetheless agree on the coffee. The caffeine urge is in our genes, no matter what’s in our jeans. From looking at skepticalEsq, we’d say giving up sex won’t work anyway — at least, not involuntary chastity.

  • Superfluous? What would Americans give up to look and feel young? According to the article, “While 13 percent of Americans admitted they are not willing to give up anything for a sip of the youthful nectar, 15 percent would cease their intake of dessert and chocolate, 10 percent would surrender their coffee cup and nine percent would trade in their cable box.
  • Superficial? What worries do Americans have about aging? “The concern of physically feeling old (41 percent) may keep Americans more devoted to their anti-aging regimen than their concern for mentally feeling old (22 percent). Sagging skin is the biggest aging worry for those ages 18 to 24 (20 percent) while the 65-and-over age segment are exasperated by the appearance of wrinkles. Hair loss and graying was the top physical anguish for men (18 percent).”


coffeeCupSN  Aftertaste? (05-05-04): Yesterday, Scheherazade wrote about her Coffee Craving, confessing to badly missing the satisfaction of a strong cup of coffee, especially when compared to any cup of tea. (To Your Editor, tea — no matter what type or what you do to it — seems far more like medicine, dishwater, or a gentle purgative than a beverage to enjoy with gusto.) However, having stopped drinking coffee a half dozen years ago, Ms. Fowler finds that if she has some coffee now it “feels really unhealthy” and she has the urge to “clean out her system” (That’s where having some tea around might help!)

  • tree hugger I have no explanation for this phenonemon, except to say that Scheherazade has apparently been brainwashed against coffee — probably by some new-agey, tree-hugging, budinsky — and badly needs deprogramming, perhaps through going on a coffee binge or two. For the rest of you, take her advice and Just Say Yes to coffee. Your elders know what’s good for you: don’t give up coffee for some false promise of health. Go for the gusto!

April 28, 2004

dreaming of law school in Nigeria

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 11:41 am

Now they tell me!  Thirty years after my 1L days, I find out that the program at the Nigeria Law School is only one year long.   Chief Kayode Jegede, the head of the School says one year isn’t enough, but he’s probably in cahoots with the law professor union.  (Daily Times of Nigeria, “One year in law school inadequate for quality lawyers – Jegede,” 04-27-04, via law.com NewsWire)


#1 neg The Chief is obviously a worrywort, and a bit self-righteous:  For example, the Nigerian Times article notes that “Jegede decried the activities of some lawyers whom he accused of perpetrating fraud and shady deals.”   We have learned that less than a year ago Chief Jegede was bragging that the class of 2003 was “about the best, if not the best that have passed through the Law School.”  (Daily Trust, “Law school graduates ‘best set’“, July 4, 2003)  Despite that:

The former Justice of the Supreme Court called for the extension of the one-year law school programme to one and half or two years for future entrants of the law school which is 40 years this year, and has graduated over 40,000 lawyers since then.”

Conspiracy buffs should note that Chief Jegede is about to launch the School’s first endowment fund drive.  As the Daily Times notes: “He said the law school lacked student hostels, student and staff buses, library, generators, and a lecture auditorium, among others, and solicited for support from well-meaning citizens and organisations for a N5 billion endownment fund.


skepticalEsq endorses the contrary views of Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), the former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Ondo State, as set forth in a Nigerian Guardian article:

black check  He said extending the number of years of training at the school was not the solution.  It is a waste of time. I do not subscribe to it. Even the best of lawyers in this country, how many years did they spend in the Law Schools? Some of them spent the first three months.” (“NBA presidential candidates okay exams for Law School admission,” Aug. 7, 2002)

At the time of the remarks, Olanipekun was one of two candidates running for election to the presidency of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA).   He won.

#1 Afterthought (04-29-04): skepticalEsq (whose school is perennially #2) has pointed out one additional benefit from attending the Nigeria Law School — coming in first in the annual Nigeria News&World Report law school rankings!  No more tiers.  No more tears.

Reforming Murphy’s Laws

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 9:59 am

ship cartoon neg  What if you launched a new weblog, but no one could come?  A few minutes after we posted two nights ago on the birth of prof. yabut’s journal, our weblog server went down and stayed supine for well over a day. [Clearly, a clicked server does not boil any sooner.]   However, as Mr. Olson has taught us, we probably shouldn’t complain — much less sue — over the disruption of a free service.   We shall, instead, bemoan the inevitability of Murphy’s Law. 

On the other hand, lawyers are expected to be skeptics, nay-sayers and yabuts, so we thought we’d inaugurate this new weblog with a counter-intuitive attempt at optimism.  After pulling teeth, the best we could muster were the following reform amendments to Murphy’s Law, from Bob Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology column (week of April 22, 2004)

  • “If anything can go wrong, it will, but in correcting it you will stumble upon a lucky break you wouldn’t have encountered otherwise.”

  • “Everything takes longer than you think, which is a good thing, because if it took only as long as you thought, you wouldn’t be doing it right.”

  • “You will often find something in the last place you look, but along the way you’ll discover a valuable item you didn’t realize was missing.”

I’m not too sure we could get this Bill through Congress (where’s the pork?), nor stay this sanguine very long here at pyj.  We shall see.

  • Despite the source of the above Amendments, please be assured that Prof. Yabut (a) has never said “what’s your sign?” to anyone. (2) has literally only spent two minutes in California in his whole life; and (3) only picks up Metroland, the local alternative newsrag, for the movie listings (and the articles!), not the “adult” ads and classifieds.

P.S.   Although we wouldn’t pay full-price ($7.99) for Murphy’s Law for Lawyers: Wronging the Rights in the Legal Profession!, by Arthur Bloch, Tom Glass (Illustrator), the used copy at $0.50 is tempting for our next office grab bag.

don't forget  don’t forget our haiku news: The second installment of Jim Kacian’s Haiku Primer is now available, here.  To read the first installment, too, click here.

April 26, 2004

no fooling, he’s gone for good

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 11:28 pm

new name

new management   


prof yabut small flip  It must have been the 04-01-04 dateline, because many visitors have ignored our post ethicalEsq Sells Out.  You’ve been coming here expecting rants and sermons about evil lawyers, marketplace misdeeds, and lax ethical standards.  The former editor has even uploaded some of that poppycock from an unknown, remote location this month.  Well, no more!

END key . . ethicalEsq is gone

Prof. Yabut is Editor; haikuEsq has stayed on to add some class to this corner of the webiverse; and sibling skepticalEsq remains, although on probation.  The only things we plan to take seriously are haiku, naptime, and our web-given right to butt in.  We don’t know how this weblog will evolve, but we have no fear of change.  Posting may be sporadic, or prolific. 

We can’t hope to be as entertaining as Evan Schaeffer, as erudite as George M. Wallace, or as intriguing as Scheherazade, but we plan to explore and opine on a variety of topics, and will continue to feature haiku in the HAIKUesque column — with Honored Guests poets, and the humble offerings of dagosan.  

  • Further Disclaimer: It is also very unlikely that we will have as many cute baby pix as our Baggy friend, nor as many gadget reviews as Ernie.  And, although we will surely not mention Madison County as often as Walter, nor sing solo like Carolyn at My Shingola, it’s quite likely we will be at least as curmudgeonly as that anonymous law clerk.  And, one more thing: you can’t blame anyone else for our content.

  • The only remaining trace of ethicalEsq on this site will be the warehousing of his Legal Ethics Resources (with links to his postings), which his sainted Mama begged us to retain in his memory.  However, because we’re all recovering attorneys, don’t be surprised if things legal are often on our mind.

ethicalEsq sells out: To read what we said on April 1, 2004, when we announced that whats-his-name had left the building, click here  If you need reassurance that our Former Editor retired voluntarily, see the About page.

s/ prof. yabut prof yabut small

April 22, 2004

earth to Yabut . . .

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 3:46 pm

earth Our webmaster overheard this conversation a couple hours ago in the ethicalEsq lunch room:

Prof. Yabut: You’re picking up the tab, of course.  It’s my special Day.

skepticalEsq: What do you mean?  The radio just said it’s Curse Day.  You shoud be treating me.

Prof. Yabut:  You must be deaf, old man.  They said it’s Irks Day, so I’m the honoree.

ethicalEsq [just coming out of a nap]:  Did you say it’s Mirth Day?  Shoot, I probably should write a Weakly Special!

haikuEsq:  Sigh. Can’t you recall a time when we made a big deal of Earth Day?  I hope our readers take a moment to connect with our beautiful, fragile planet.

earth’s birthday:

recycling our Valentine


……. by dagosan


after the quake

the weathervane

pointing to the earth

from Open Window – a beautiful collection of haiku and photographs by Michael Dylan Welch. Click here to see the original, full-screen photo-poem.

computer weary flip Postscript:  We’ve been missing the joys of Springtime on planet Earth lately, due to too much weblogging.  Our hardware and software are about to crash.  Therefore, the ethicalEsq gang is going to take a short break from posting — unless something really earth-shattering happens (viz. ATLA declares use of a standard contingency fee unethical).  Meanwhile, we send our sympathies to the e-fuddled FoolEsq.

  • CAUTION: The postings found below this point may contain over-weeningly serious or judgmental materials that are likely to cause agita.

More on the Silent Associate

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 11:31 am

trust me Excuses, excuses. Reaction to the April 7th Daniels v. Alander decision out of Connecticut has not exactly been edifying. We posted on the case two weeks ago and generated an interesting thread of commentary. Last week, it was also covered in the ABA Journal eReport, in an article titled “To Tell the Truth — and Dispute the Boss: Court Reprimands Attorney for Not Correcting ‘Misstatements’.” (Thanks to John at LegalReader for the pointer.)

In an unanimous decision on the scope of ethical Rule 3.3 [Candor Toward the Tribunal ], the Conn. Supreme Court held (emphasis added) that

Depending upon the circumstances, the rule can pertain to an attorney who fails to correct a misstatement to the court that was made in his presence by another attorney.”

The Court has not carved out an inflexible, draconian standard of associate omniscience and vigilance. Please let me sum up its ruling:

Mr. or Ms. Lawyer, there will be times when your knowledge that the tribunal is being misled will require you, as an officer of the court, to find a way to correct a misconception created in your presence, even when you are junior in status to the lawyer misleading the court. One of those times is when — in the words of the lower Appellate Court decision (April 2003) — “co-counsel made any number of misstatements about facts that purportedly came, and under the circumstances of this case, could only have come, from [your] own personal observations and knowledge of events that occurred outside of the court’s presence. “


As I opined on April 8th, the correctness of this principle seems obvious (and there should be no de minimis exception if the point is material). Instead of hearing strong, loud encouragement for junior associates to do the right thing, even though it may often take some courage, we hear a chorus of excuses — cowardly catastrophizing and downright distortion about the scope of the court’s interpretation of Rule 3.3.

monkey cellphone .. hear no evil, . . .


According to the ABA Journal, a young associate who requests anonymity moans that, in practice, being truthful is “basically committing professional suicide” –“explaining that if a young associate in her old firm raised ethical issues, the partners tended to ‘look at you as if you had four heads.'” Well, having four heads is preferable, I believe, to having no backbone. Talk of instant professional suicide is silly — (1) losing such a job is not losing your profession, but would instead be keeping your professionalism alive; (2) it assumes an automatic degree of veniality in your bosses that even skepticalEsq won’t ascribe to them; and (3) it suggests that a job with a bunch of ethics scofflaws is worth nurturing.

  • The article notes that reprimanded associate “Driscoll himself says his former boss, who no longer practices law, would not have been angry if Driscoll corrected him.”

Driscoll’s lawyer Kevin A. Votre turns the obligation into a farce, asking how many associates are going to “jump up and say, ‘He’s not telling the truth, your honor’?” My reply: no associate with any sense would do it that way — and if he or she did, the foolish lack of discretion would jeopardize the job more than the correction of the misstatement. As ethics professor Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr., advises in the article,

“It’s obviously very, very tough,” Hazard says. “The kid, the younger lawyer, certainly should be very clear and ought to tug at the senior attorney’s coattails and see the judge in chambers afterward–make it as nonconfrontational as possible.”

Lawyer Votre also mis-interprets the Court’s ruling: “But associates are going to be in a tough position to make judgment calls. There has to be some relief from that rule. Maybe if you have a good-faith belief the lawyer is telling the truth?” Sorry, Votre, but the Driscoll Court clearly is not saying that Rule 3.3 would be violated when the silent lawyer has a good-faith belief the lawyer is telling the truth. Maybe we need an ethics rule about lawyers misleading the media and the public.

prof yabut small Senior lawyers need to let their juniors know that you expect and want candor. Juniors need to remember that ethics rules apply even when it takes courage to comply. Being a lawyer is special and does entail special obligations.

April 21, 2004

Special Rules for Solos?

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 7:29 pm

An article in today’s New York Law Journal says the State’s Chief Judge has created “a commission to examine the difficulties facing solo and small firm practitioners, a contingent that totals about 80 percent of lawyers in the state.”

“[T]he 28-member panel is to provide a way for solo and small firm lawyers to have a voice in the rules and requirements established by the Office of Court Administration, [Chief] Judge Kaye said yesterday”  (NYLJ, “New Commission Gives Voice to NY Solo, Small Firm Lawyers,” by Leigh Jones, 04-21-04)

phone old   This will surely be greeted with joy over at MyShingle. [see my blushing Update below]  But, we’re a little skeptical over here.  The “problems” leading to establishment of the Commission, as mentioned in the article, make me wonder if solo/smalls want legal standards and ethics to be dummed down, in order to meet the “special” needs of these “challenged” practitioners.  For example, the small fry firms worry about:

  • higher expectations from clients

  • added pressure for judges to move cases faster

  • Especially detrimental” recent limitations on fiduciary appointments, that “restrict law firms from receiving more than $50,000 in fees for fiduciary work in one calendar year and bar firms that employ political leaders from accepting appointments.”

Most “ordinary” consumers of legal services, as well as the clients of assigned counsel, are served by small and solo firms.   What they do not need are lawyers who want special protection from the “higher expectations” of clients, judges or ethics counsel.   Bar associations do enough protecting of lawyers rather than clients.  The judicial system doesn’t need to jump on the bandwagon. 

oil can 

Somehow, I think the “voice” of a mere 80% of the State’s lawyers is already loud enough (viz., just whose interests have stymied the growth of assistance to pro se litigants, self-help-law resources, and small claims court reform? and who were so successful for so long in preventing adoption of mandatory continuing education requirements?  I don’t think it was BigLaw and the White Shoes dudes in NYC).  SmallLaw has always been the Squeaky Wheel and always gotten plenty of grease.

  • June Castellano, the Rochester, NY, attorney who will chair the Commission, has a reputation as a fine, hard-working lawyer.  I’m hoping June will see quality control as a big part of her job.

Update (04-23-04):  I’m pleased to say that I was wrong about how Carolyn Elefant might respond to the creation of this Commission, and I apologize for using MyShingle as an e-foil.  Carolyn, separately, had concerns similar to mine about lowered quality of services and explains them far better than I did.  See her Comment here and her posting yesterday.here.

P.S. This is, perhaps, a good place to point our readers to a useful article from the new SmallFirm Business magazine on writing skills — Especially for Small Firms, Writing Skills Investment Pays Off (National Law Journal, by Jonathan Hershberg, 04-19-04). The author makes some important points, including:

Like it or not, each practicing lawyer is also a professional writer. Words on the page are often the only evidence of his or her character and intelligence. They convey the full weight of the author’s personality. Clumsy or inarticulate writing chips away at the reader’s trust. That trust is sacred; it is the single most important asset an attorney has, and it is well worth protecting.

Among the helpful tips:

  • Make clear writing a top-level priority. Too many professionals use pretentious, inflated language to make their ideas seem more impressive or to defend them from question. It rarely fools anyone, and serves only to frustrate everyone involved. . . .
    Fear plays a key role in perpetuating a long-winded and confusing style. Since clear writing is by definition easy to understand, it is also difficult to hide behind.”

  • Above all, respect the reader. Know your point, and get to it quickly. Respect the reader’s time, and make sure your point is easy to find and understand. . . . No one appreciates confusing, careless prose, and there’s nothing quite like it to poison a reader’s good will.”

Encore: Learned Hand on Liberty

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 3:44 pm

crusade ship   Two days ago, I quoted from Learned Hand‘s famous 1944 remarks on The Spirit of Liberty as a small part of a lengthy post.  After heavy exposure the past few days to talk on tax liberty, bringing liberty to other nations, and preserving personal liberty here at home, I think Judge Hand’s vision deserves to be highlighted in a posting of its own.  


As Judge Kevin S. Burke noted in his excellent speech on the judiciary:

In his The Spirit of Liberty speech in 1944, Learned Hand articulated a vision of justice and liberty that — despite our healthy and legitimate differences about how justice should be delivered — calls to mind some of our highest aspirations.  On May 21, 1944, when the world faced many of the same kinds of challenges we face today, he asked: “What, then, is the spirit of liberty?  I cannot define it, I can only tell you my own faith”   

  • The spirit of liberty is the spirit that is not too sure that it is right;
  • The spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women;
  • The spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias.”

dem donkey gray . . .  . . . . .  prof yabut small prof yabut small flip . . . . .  rep elephant gray


These days, we can’t feel Learned Hand’s spirit of liberty coming from our politicians and their parties, nor from pundits and the public (or ourselves).  Until we do, the definition of liberty won’t be the lofty one we teach our children.  It will look in practice a lot more like the secondary meanings found in dictionaries, such as

  1. A right or immunity to engage in certain actions without control or interference;

  2. A breach or overstepping of propriety or social convention; or

  3. An unwarranted risk.  (The American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Ed., 2000) 

Until we do, it will look like taking liberties instead of sharing and living liberty.


Lammers Gets Glamour Treatment

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 12:30 am

Tomorrow’s Law.Com NewsWire Legal Brief (04-21-04) spotlights Ken Lammers’ Crim Law Blog and his “A Week in the Life of a Criminal Defense Attorney.”  They know a good thing when they see one!

jailbird neg

Lammers Gets Glamour Treatment

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 12:30 am

Tomorrow’s Law.Com NewsWire Legal Brief (04-21-04) spotlights Ken Lammers’ Crim Law Blog and his “A Week in the Life of a Criminal Defense Attorney.”  They know a good thing when they see one!

jailbird neg

April 20, 2004

The Right to Information Literacy in the Justice System

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 10:11 pm

computer neg  In an important position paper released on April 14, 2004, entitled Supporting Information Literacy (draft), the Washington State Access to Justice Board asserts that “Access to justice requires that all people must be able to recognize when they have a legal information need and must be able to locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information.  This skill is called “Information Literacy.” 

  • The Paper declares that “The justice system has the dual responsibility of offering or otherwise assuring availability of both physical access (computer literacy) and intellectual access (information literacy) to legal information” and that the justice system must design programs to meet both responsibilities.”

This must-read 7-page document is loaded with seminal ideas.  Here are a few concepts that seem most important for assuring that all Americans have ready access to legal information and services — and that all members of the judicial and legal communities, and all information experts, form a partnership to achieve the goal of computer and informational literacy:

  1. “In order for everyone to have full access and use of the justice system, the justice system must further examine the nature of legal information that may be sought, the nature and demographics of the people wanting to access and use it, and not only provide it in the language read or spoken by the user, but in a manner relevant and understandable to the user. 
  2.  Efforts to create better web portals, sites, and tutorials of legal information are key to proactive legal information dissemination.  
  3. !key 2  When new legal information is created, it must be composed and disseminated using and accommodating the perspective of the first-time, inexperienced or unskilled user.

  4. The Justice System should foster the development of information literacy skills for everyone, especially to those who may be vulnerable or are on the wrong side of the digital divide.

  5. Partnerships must be formed with information providers such as librarians and legal clinics that assist individuals in sifting through materials, deciding which are most relevant and useful, and determining options and next steps. Public libraries and law libraries are especially important leaders in this area.

  6. Libraries and other information providers and legal service providers must continue to play a critical role in teaching computer and information literacy skills, and should be supported in their efforts to do so.

check red Finally, there is one recommendation the legal community should especially heed:  

“Because legal information is a very specific piece of the larger universe of government information, the legal community is obligated to identify a baseline necessary for understanding and using legal information.  A dialogue between past, current and potential legal consumers, individuals who seek or may seek legal information, and the justice system is needed to determine baseline legal information literacy skills that are necessary to create true legal literacy standards.” 

[Thanks to SelfHelpSupport.org for pointing to this Paper.]


Best wishes & thanks to cyber-friend and colleague, B. Janell GrenierEsq, who is celebrating her first anniversary bringing us the benefit of BenefitsBlog!!

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