I'm an editor emeritus at Above the Law. I am still a contributor to ATL, but now spend my days at Forbes writing about privacy, technology and the law at The Not-So Private Parts. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook.
On the other side of the pond, the principles of the First Amendment often take second place to the right to privacy. Britain, for example, has a smashing little thing called a “superinjunction,” which citizens can get from a court to keep the media from writing stories about them. They also have regular injunctions, which people — usually rich people, since injunctive relief can be expensive — can get to keep their names out of scandalous scoops. This results in lots of tabloid stories that read like Gawker’s blind items, or simply don’t run at all.
A married soccer player (for Manchester United, in case you care — though you probably don’t) got himself one of the latter, when the Big Brother star/model he was balling told him she was selling her story to the press. Unfortunately for him, a Twitter user crusading against muzzling the press with superinjunctions somehow got his tweepy hands on the information and published the rumor about the player’s adulterous scoring, along with a bunch of other supposedly superinjuncted gossip.
It caused an uproar in Britain initially, but the fire died down fairly quickly — until the soccer player’s lawyers decided to give it some more fuel….
Proving your case requires more than a screenshot.
The practice of “oversharing” on social networks has been a boon for law enforcement. Investigations regularly involve checking out people’s Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn profiles. Thus, it’s probably unwise to post about your involvement in a crime. Or about threatening a witness set to testify against your boyfriend.
While investigating Antoine Griffin, a murder suspect in Maryland, police checked out his girlfriend’s MySpace wall, where she had unwisely written (note that “Boozy” is Griffin’s nickname): “FREE BOOZY!!!! JUST REMEMBER SNITCHES GET STITCHES!! U KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!”
The “veiled” message was a little too transparent. During the trial, prosecutors used this as evidence that Boozy’s girlfriend, Jessica Barber, had intimidated one of their key “snitches” witnesses, affecting his testimony. They introduced a print-out of Barber’s MySpace wall into evidence. Boozy was busted and found guilty of the 2005 shooting. Seems like an open and shut case, right?
But Griffin appealed, in part because the prosecution had not proven that it was really his girlfriend’s MySpace profile, or that it was really something she had written. The Maryland Court of Appeals was sympathetic….
Although I’m no longer an editor here at Above the Law (*tear*), you know my byline occasionally still pops up to bring you news of lonely lawyers and goings-on in the world of privacy. This week, I asked Elie and Lat if they were interested in a lawsuit against a computer rental store accused of spying on its customers via webcam. (Most shocking aspect to me: People actually rent laptops?) Or the recent reminder from the Seventh Circuit that looking at porn at work — even if just for 67 seconds — can get you fired (at least he got the job done quickly).
Instead, Elie saw that I’d recently written about WikiLeaks founder (and dancer extraordinaire) Julian Assange — who’s still kicking it in England — calling Facebook “the most appalling spying machine ever invented.” Elie asked, how is that guy not in a jail in Sweden by now? And why have no major banks bitten the WikiLeaks bullet since we last heard from the white-haired wonder?
An update on the Julian Assange – WikiLeaks saga, after the jump…
Toronto partner David Cowling, exonerated booty dancer
Back in January 2009, a moot court after-party hosted by Mathews, Dinsdale & Clarke got wild enough to spark allegations of sexual harassment. Canadians do know how to party, eh? The “night of debauchery” has haunted David Cowling ever since; he was one of the partners accused of getting overly friendly with female associates and law students, while gettin’ jiggy.
He says that an internal law firm investigation cleared him of charges of inappropriate dance floor behavior, but that the firm refused to make that public, leading to rumors continuing to swirl in his work and social communities in Toronto. Oh, and have we mentioned that David Cowling specializes in labor and employment law? “If I were a personal injury lawyer, sexual harassment rumors would not be such a bad mark on my professional reputation,” says Cowling.
So he filed a libel suit against Adrian Jakibchuk and Sarah Diebel, the two associates who accused him of doing the really funky chicken on the dance floor. Apparently, they don’t study the Barbara Streisand effect in Canadian law schools. That got the allegations splashed across Canadian newspapers and here at ATL.
But now he’s got his name cleared, with a public statement from his prior firm, along with a seven-figurish settlement. He started a new firm and dropped his lawsuit against his accusers, and has a few things to say about his side of the story.
So say you’re the law student who supposedly got felt up by a partner on the dance floor, and his lawyer calls you up in the middle of exam week to talk about it. Yeah, that’s awkward. And Cowling sent along the transcript…
The satirical Onion News Network recently reported on new government funding for that “massive online surveillance program run by the CIA,” known as Facebook — dreamed up by “secret C.I.A. agent Mark Zuckerberg.” The report made light of how much information we’re willing to make available to a third party — information that we would never consider freely handing over to the feds. While funny, the report speaks to serious concerns about privacy. Civil liberties advocates like Christopher Soghoian and Nicholas Merrill worry about the ease with which the government can get access to the digital information we store with third-parties like Facebook, Yahoo!, and Google, as well as to the rich databases that our mobile phone providers have.
Should we call it the Tech.B.I. or the Dot.Com.I.A.?
I’ve only been on one blind date in my life. Arranged by a journo friend, it was actually more like a sneak-peek date, since the suitor and I Facebook-friended and g-chatted prior to getting drinks for the first time.
My Courtship Connection participants are not so lucky. Their dates are completely blind — they don’t even know one another’s names prior to meeting. All they know is that they’re going to be meeting up with a lawyer or law student. I’m still in mild disbelief that risk-averse legal types are willing to participate, but I suppose the risk of being partner-less in perpetuity is greater than that of a single, potentially-horrific date.
So, how do you best set the tone for such a night? I always ask participants to wear or bring something distinctive so they can find one another. I recently paired a do-gooder attorney with a legal academic; the two seemed like hipster types to me, but I was hesitant about sending them all the way to H St. NE, so instead I chose The Passenger for their rendezvous. Our self-described “cheery, active, irreverent” lady lawyer said she’d be “wearing high heels and carrying a cantaloupe.”
So guess what our “hippie economist” brought? Hint: it’s phallic….
What’s more hopeless than sending two lawyers out on a blind date and hoping they hit it off? Answer: Sending thirty-something lawyers out on a blind date and hoping they hit off.
It’s safe to assume that a person (and especially a woman) still single in their 30s is a picky type. As Elie recently lectured a trio of spinsters +30 single ladies, “You could have gotten married at some point in your 20s and you chose not to. There’s not something wrong with the guys you date; there’s something wrong with you.” It’s possible that Elie learned all that he knows about women from Lori Gottlieb.
Despite odds being stacked against me, I decided to match up two D.C. lawyers in their mid 30s. They have different political stripes, but both named Atticus Finch as their favorite legal character, and would gladly give up gavels for spatulas. Asked for three words about themselves, he said he was a “funny nerdy cultured chef” and she said she was a “city-dwelling chef/policy-wonk.” They sounded like they should be able to come up with a recipe for romance…
Three years after the Client Number Nine scandal, those involved have moved on to bigger and better things. Well, depending on how you define “bigger and better”: Eliot Spitzer landed a gig at CNN, while his former call girl, Ashley Alexandra Dupré, now pens a sex column for the New York Post and was featured on the cover of Playboy. But some people who weren’t directly involved have had a harder time moving on, namely a woman named Amber Arpaio.
You may remember her name and perhaps even her driver’s license photo from this YouTube video released by “Girls Gone Wild.” At the height of the Client Number Nine media frenzy, Joe Francis offered Dupré one million dollars to do a “Girls Gone Wild” magazine shoot and promotional tour. He withdrew that offer when he serendipitously realized he already had footage of Dupré from earlier times in his archive. Dupré then sued him, saying she was only 17 at the time that footage was shot.
Francis responded by releasing a video of Dupré mugging for the camera in a towel, claiming to be 18, and saying her name was Amber Arpaio. The camera then lingers on Arpaio’s New Jersey license for about 30 seconds. The video was widely circulated on the Web, and led Dupré to drop her lawsuit — Francis and ‘Girls Gone Wild’ were triumphant!
Well, until Amber Arpaio filed her own lawsuit against Dupré and “Girls Gone Wild,” for defamation and invasion of privacy…
A couple of participants played Courtship Connection musical chairs
At the heart of our Courtship Connection series is the premise that lawyers play well together in romantic relationships. Hopefully the story earlier this week of an engagement between two lawyers going horribly wrong won’t discourage future participants from taking on a fellow lawyer as a playmate.
Previous Courtship participants aren’t discouraged, at least. Perhaps you remember the whiskey-swigging law student who was “prettier/kinder/smarter” than the Blue Moon-drinking fellow student I paired her with? In her write-up, she expressed an interest in the “nice, smart, and talkative” Big Gov lawyer who wasn’t swept off his feet by a fellow conservative attorney over dim sum on Valentine’s Day. She was up for “steamed buns” but, sadly, he wasn’t.
Our picky Elephant says that “a friend” alerted him to whiskey girl’s call to action. He emailed me to say he was up for it, so I sent them out to The Tabard Inn in Dupont Circle. He wound up getting that action. At least, I think he did…
This installation of the Courtship Connection has some important advice for blind daters. If you are feeling sick or if you are feeling exhausted, or if you are suffering from those two conditions combined, you should just reschedule.
(Last week, one of our participants was sniffly on her date and still managed to make a love connection, but we should all think of that as the exception and not the rule.)
I had high hopes for these two do-gooder lawyers in their late 20s, who named First Amendment law and environmental law as their favorite classes in law school, respectively — and who managed to translate their noble passions into professional gigs. Both Donkeys — d’uh — he said that if he weren’t a lawyer, he’d be a “singer for an unsuccessful band,” and she said she’d be a “yoga teacher, park ranger, and world traveling vagabond.”
Such a precious pairing! I sent them to Adams Morgan’s Tryst on a Tuesday evening to drink environmentally-sustainable coffee and chat about how to keep Obama in office come 2012. She was enchanted and even went so far as to send a text post-date. Unfortunately, that text went ignored. Here’s why…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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When Chintan Panchal decided to leave a global BigLaw partnership to start his own firm, he could only hope that he would face the high-quality problem of firm building that many had cautioned him about. Focused on the uncertainty surrounding of a new firm launch, he decided to tackle staffing needs, IT challenges, and financial planning requirements after he had built up his legal practice.
Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
“With the assistance of NexFirm, we have upgraded the capabilities of our firm to meet, and in some cases exceed, the standards we were used to at our former BigLaw firms. Operationally, we can now attract and service clients we didn’t have the bandwidth to support in the past, and continue to build our team with the best and brightest legal talent in the industry,” said Chintan Panchal, adding “It has worked out quite well in our case; NexFirm is an essential partner for us.”
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