Noon-Thirty News 08/03/10

Posted in News on August 3rd, 2010 by bl1y

Bike Stealing Burglar Sues Victim

[St. Petersburg Times]

For those of you suffering Bar Exam Withdrawal:

One October day in 2007, a homeless man broke into a car and stole a bike. He didn’t get very far. Within minutes, that man, Michael Dupree, was caught trying to sell the bike down the street.

[...] Anthony McKoy and the other men jumped him, pointed a gun at him, placed a knee painfully on his spine and handcuffed him. Dupree claims in his suit, which he filed without a lawyer, that the take-down “resulted in permanent disabilities and psychological disorders which the Plaintiff continues to suffer.”

Discuss.

100% Offer Rates, 0% Reliable Good News

[Above the Law]

ATL is reporting that 5 big law firms have given 100% offer rates to their summer classes.  Sounds like good news, but I wouldn’t be jumping up and down just yet.

First, the 5 firms represent only a total of 150 offers, with most of them coming from a single firm, Ropes and Gray, which gave 82 offers.  It’s really no surprise that offer rates are so high; law firms scaled back their summer programs in anticipation of not having many spots available.  All this means is that firms believe they have scaled back to the right amount, or possibly less than what they need.

But, the bigger reason to not break out the bubbly just yet is remembering what happened the last time law firms gave out offers in the 90-100% range.  They ended up rescinding offers, deferring incoming associates, and laying people off in their first year.  Law firm managers are not particularly great at predicting economic trends, and there’s little reason to think optimistic law firm hiring will really mean there’s more legal work on the horizon.  Douple dip recession and those 100% offer rates will mean bubkes.

FBI vs. Wikipedia

[New York Times]

The FBI sent a letter to Wikipedia demanding that it take down the image of the FBI logo that appears on the FBI wiki entry.  The FBI cited a law that prohibits the use of the the seal, but Wikipedia contends that the law is aimed only at preventing people from committing fraud or impersonating an FBI officer.  The use of the image on the Wikipedia article is clearly not intended to make it look like the page is endorsed by the FBI or an official FBI website.

The New York times agrees, displaying the image alongside their coverage of the story, and I think they’re right.  If you’re bored, feel free to discuss whether the FBI could bring a copyright infringement suit for use of the official government logo.

You Know When It’s Steal

[St. Louis Today via Dumb as a Blog]

Robbing a fast food restaurant through the drive-thru seems like a pretty decent plan, as far as robberies go.  You’re already in the get away vehicle.

But, calling back to complain about your measly haul ($586) is pretty dumb.  Especially when you call to complain twice.  The article didn’t specify if the man was caught (and no name appears, so he probably wasn’t), but hasn’t this guy ever heard of caller ID?  Even if he used a payphone or other untraceable number, do you really want to make sure the employees know exactly what your voice sounds like?  Take your $586, buy yourself 2930 cripsy chicken nuggets, and call it a day.

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Edit War: Battle of Latham

Posted in Law Firm Edit War on May 19th, 2010 by bl1y

While edit warring got put to a stop yesterday with another 3 day protection of Latham’s Wikipedia article, the battle is still raging on in the Discussion page.

Right now it looks like information about the layoffs will make the cut, but that would be only a small victory.  I want to get in the drop in Vault rankings, rumors about stealth layoffs, and the fact that “Latham” is now synonymous with layoffs, as in “I got Lathamed despite having only good performance reviews.”

Feel free to weigh in on the discussions, but remember to keep things civil and respect the Wikipedia rules.

Since this is the first real fight over law firm Wiki content, it’s important we get in as much information as possible and set a good precedent for updates to other law firm pages.

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Pio Pio Pio

Posted in Law Firm Edit War on May 18th, 2010 by bl1y

Law firm edit war is moving up to the next level.

With Latham’s Wikipedia page now unlocked, information regarding mass layoffs, plummeting vault rankings, and the coining of the term “Lathamed” have been restored.

And now that we have started our first major engagement, it’s time to roll out the Edit War Strategic Informational Defense Command.

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Edit War: Battle of Latham

Posted in Law Firm Edit War on May 17th, 2010 by bl1y


More news from the front lines.  It appears that our first all out battle of edits has commenced over at the Wikipedia article for Latham & Watkins.

All information regarding Latham’s notorious layoffs have been removed, and following a brief revising skirmish, the page has been placed under temporary protection.

That protection expires today, and you can bet by tomorrow the fighting will have started back again.

*Update*

For those of you finding your way here from the coverage on ATL, the edits of various law firm Wikipedia pages have been summarized here.

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Law Firm Edit War: Willkie Farr

Posted in Law Firm Edit War on April 9th, 2010 by bl1y

As reported on AboveTheLaw.com today, Willkie Farr has deferred it’s class from fall 2010 to January 2011.  Deferrals are pretty common these days, but what makes Willkie’s actions stand out is that they assured their newbies as recently as January or February that they would be starting on time.  Now you can find this information on Wikipedia!

This really sucks for people who have already signed leases and made other moving arrangements expecting to have a paycheck coming in this Fall.  Willkie is offered no stipend, but is allowing associates to take a $20,000 salary advance, to be paid back over the first year of work.  $20k might sound like a lot for a big lump payment, but it has to cover associates living in New York City for 6 months.  The associates are going to be stuck with security deposits, broker fees, moving expenses, probably some furniture costs (especially if moving from a furnished dorm), and the price of building a professional wardrobe.

List of Wiki Raids:

Bingham McCutchen

Cadwalader

Curtis, Mallet-Prevost

Fish & Richardson

Latham

Morgan Lewis

Nixon Peabody

Paul, Weiss

Pillsbury

Willkie Farr

Wilmer Hale

Winstead

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This Article Has Multiple Issues

Posted in Law Firm Edit War on March 31st, 2010 by bl1y

# Its neutrality is disputed. Tagged since March 2009.

# It is written like an advertisement and needs to be rewritten from a neutral point of view.

Anyone who’s taken a professional responsibility class or the MPRE knows that there are a lot of rules regulating attorney advertising.  And, if you’ve been on the internet at all in the last couple years, you’ve probably figured out that almost every major law firm has a Wikipedia entry.

Not surprising, most of the articles were created by, or heavily edited by, employees of the law firms.  This isn’t typically problematic.  The Wikipedia articles generally contain information about the size of the firm, the firm’s history, the location of its offices, and its main practice areas.  The pages do not contain any contact information, but do link to the firm’s official website.

I would argue that at this point there are no ethical problem.  Using the New York Code of Professional Responsibility (since a ton of big firms are headquartered in NY), an attorney advertisement is defined as such:

“Advertisement” means any public or private communication made by or on behalf of a lawyer or law firm about that lawyer or law firm’s services, the primary purpose of which is for the retention of the lawyer or law firm. It does not include communications to existing clients or other lawyers.

What makes the garden variety law firm Wikipedia article okay is the “primary purpose” language.  A Wikipedia article’s primary purpose is to serve as an encyclopedic article and provide neutral, factual information.

Things get dicey when firms do more with their Wikipedia articles.  Some firms have added awards and honors, probably not too bad, still somewhat encyclopedic.  Other firms have gone so far as to delete negative information on their articles.  At some point I think adding in praise and editing out criticism creates a biased article that could constitute an advertisement.  But, I want to know what you think.  Is any editing of your own firm’s page advertising? Is it only advertising if you create a highly biased article? Or, is it never advertising?

Does editing your own firm's Wikipedia entry constitute attorney advertising?

View Results

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You might be thinking “So what? Firms can advertise. Maybe this violates neutral tone and bias rules on Wikipedia, but it’s not an ethics issue.”  You would be wrong.  The NY ethics rules have this requirement for advertisements:

Every advertisement other than those appearing in a radio or television advertisement or in a directory, newspaper, magazine or other periodical (and any web sites related thereto), or made in person pursuant to DR 2-103(A)(1), shall be labeled “Attorney Advertising” on the first page, or on the home page in the case of a web site. If the communication is in the form of a self-mailing brochure or postcard, the words “Attorney Advertising” shall appear therein. In the case of electronic mail, the subject line shall contain the notation “ATTORNEY ADVERTISING.”

Since no law firm Wikipedia article I’ve seen has labeled itself as attorney advertising (and would probably be removed from Wikipedia if it did), any Wikipedia article that qualifies as an advertisement violates the Code of Professional Responsibility.

As online resources like Wikipedia grow and gain credibility, and as law firm PR departments become more web-savvy, we could see a potential shit-storm of ethics violations in the next couple years.

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Edit War: Fish Fights Back

Posted in Law Firm Edit War on March 30th, 2010 by bl1y

Back on February 5th I edited the Fish & Richardson Wikipedia article, adding information about the closing of the firm’s corporate practice, layoffs of 110 staff and attorneys, increase in revenues of 4.7% and increase in profits of 20%.

On February 14th, those changes were deleted by the user Lneal, so I of course have put them back.  “Lneal” is most likely an employee of Fish & Richardson.  Wikipedia shows Lneal has made 26 edits, 25 of which were to the Fish page (the other was Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton).

I don’t know of any ethics opinions on point, but I have to imagine that Wikipedia articles have the potential to be an attorney advertisement, if significantly edited by the firm, and if editing in an advertisementy way.  Not only does Wikipedia not allow articles to be used as advertisements (violates neutral tone rules), but since Wikipedia articles don’t carry Warning: Lawyer Advertisement! labels, they could be prohibited advertisements under professional responsibility and ethics rules.

*Update*

After some research, I’ve found that there is an Elizabeth Neal who was hired as Fish and Richardson’s director of events and communications in 2008.

As Director of Events & Communications, Elisabeth Neal will be responsible for external communications including material, website, and client alerts. She also manages all firm events and regional marketing activities and works closely with the practice group and business development marketing team to coordinate firm-wide marketing initiatives as well as cross-marketing opportunities.

My guess is Lneal is “Liz” Neal.  Keeping tabs on the firm’s Wikipedia page certainly seems like it would be part of her job.

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FCC Recommends Free Access to Fed Court Docs

Posted in Uncategorized on March 2nd, 2010 by bl1y

The Federal Communications Commission has outlined a plan it will be submitting to Congress aimed at “using Web-based technology to drive civic engagement with the government.”

Among the FCC’s plan is the recommendation that federal court documents be made available free of charge.  These documents are currently available on the archaic PACER system, which charges users 8 cents per page viewed.  PACER has been criticized in the past for charging fees to view documents which are in the public domain.

While making access to PACER free won’t likely result in significant cost savings, it could be a sign of a trend that will reduce legal expenses.  The addition of Bloomberg Law, which competes with Lexis and West, will likely drive down research costs as firms begin hiring associates that became familiar with the new system through free trials given to law students.  And, more generally, young associates are more tech savvy than the older generation, and more likely to use free resources, such as websites maintained by administrative agencies and state courts, which are becoming increasingly easy to locate thanks to Google and Wikipedia’s references and external link sections.

Associates and partners alike need to embrace free resources and push for reduced research costs.  Sure, they pass the expense on to the client, but at the end of the day the client only has so much money to spend.  Less money being spent on research means more money can be spend on billable hours.

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Edit War: Winston & Strawn

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18th, 2010 by bl1y

Imagine you’re a law firm’s client and that firm is asking you to pay $50 an hour more for an associate’s time than you did the previous year.  Pretty normal, as lawyers become more skilled their time becomes more valuable.  But let’s say you asked that firm if they were paying the associate more and the firm said no.  Wouldn’t you ask why you should pay more for the associate when the firm isn’t paying more?

Now, imagine you’re an associate at that same firm.  You find out that your time brings in more money to the firm but you’re compensated the same amount.  Won’t you be pissed?  Won’t you be more pissed if you found out that the firm’s collection rate on its bills had jumped from 52% to 58% bringing in another $7 million?  That’s not a 6% increase, it’s a 12% increase.  It’s 6% of what the firm asked for, but it’s a 12% increase over what they were previously bringing in.

You bring in more money for the firm, the firm collects more on its bills, and you don’t see an extra dime.  Way to go, assholes.

List of Wiki Raids:

Bingham McCutchen

Cadwalader

Curtis, Mallet-Prevost

Fish & Richardson

Latham

Morgan Lewis

Nixon Peabody

Paul, Weiss

Pillsbury

Wilmer Hale

Winstead

Winston & Strawn

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Edit War: Bingham McCutchen, Fish & Richardson, and Wilmer Hale

Posted in Law Firm Edit War on February 5th, 2010 by bl1y

Today sees three new targets in the Law Firm Wikipedia Edit War, all thanks to what should be an embarrassing article from The Boston Globe.

Bingham McCutchen laid off associates, and then posted not only increased profits per partner (which can happen when you cut expenses), but also increased revenue.  How you cut staff while having an increased workload is beyond me.  Sounds like their clients are getting ripped off.

But, what makes Bingham’s actions particularly bad is that the firm chairman described 2009 as the “best year ever.”  Yeah, unless you were one of the people for whom it was the worst year ever.  Douche.

Fish & Richardson also conducted lay offs while posting an increase in profits.  Their managing partner had a little more tact and described the recession as “a painful year for everyone.”  Of course, it’s not nearly as painful if you’re one of the Fish partners.  They saw a staggering 20% increase to profits per partner.

And last, but certainly not least, Wilmer Hale…oh Wilmer Hale, you sick sons of bitches.  Wilmer Hale only posted a 7% increase in profits per partner, but the reason they’re going up on the ol’ wall of shame is lying to the press about layoffs.  In June 2009, AbovetheLaw.com reported stealth layoffs at Wilmer Hale.  Wilmer Hale denied that any layoffs had taken place, and even said none were planned or expected.  Then in July, just one month later, announced that layoffs had occurred.  And, then again in October.  What the Hale?

List of Wiki Raids:

Bingham McCutchen

Cadwalader

Curtis, Mallet-Prevost

Fish & Richardson

Latham

Morgan Lewis

Nixon Peabody

Paul, Weiss

Pillsbury

Wilmer Hale

Winstead

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