Because I’m a glutton for punishment (I’m writing for ATL aren’t I?), every now and then I will trawl through SSRN to see if there is anything worthwhile to read. Usually there isn’t. Mostly it’s stuff like Harry Potter and the Law or whatever. It can be hard finding substantive, interesting material to read among the cruft. The other problem is that the authors are publishing articles in law reviews — which no one reads. It’s far better to submit an article to a blog (or set up your own), if you really want to reach people. I gather the point is not to be read, but instead to have an extra line on your résumé. But I digress.
It is a rather broad study covering a number of issues that arise from the quality of legal writing among new lawyers. In particular how established members of the profession view the writing skills of new lawyers. So how did they fare?
This May, Thomson Reuters published the tenth edition of the estimable Black’s Law Dictionary (affiliate link). The most widely cited legal book in the world, Black’s is a must-have for every lawyer and law student.
I met with Garner during his recent visit to New York, where he taught his famous legal-writing course to various law firms and government employers. His voice was hoarse from a summer cold, but he generously soldiered through an interview with the help of some tea. Here’s a (lightly edited and condensed) write-up of our conversation.
* With OT 2013 drawing to a close, here’s a nifty chart that shows which Supreme Court justices vote together most and least often. The division is real, people. [The Upshot / New York Times]
* “Not only do they have unique interpretations of the Constitution but they can’t even agree on how to pronounce words.” Listen to our SCOTUS justices flub the word “certiorari.” [Legal Times]
* Quinn Emanuel and Samsung must now pay more than $2M in sanctions to Nokia and Apple after leaking confidential, “attorneys’ eyes only” information in a discovery blunder. Oopsie! [Legal Week]
* “Why can’t you get a real job?” This judge — the same one who sentenced a rapist to just 30 days in prison — told a fast-food worker to get a better job to pay off his restitution more quickly. [Billings Gazette]
* If you think you’ve seen the best of the “Law and ______” classes, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Say hello to some newcomers, like Video Game Law and Law of Robots. Justice Scalia is pissed. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Judges with daughters are seven percent more likely to support women’s rights than judges with only sons. Alas, Justices Scalia and Alito are impervious to human emotion. [New York Times]
* If you thought Supreme Court justices were “profoundly divided” over issues of law, wait until you see how they differ over the pronunciation of the word “certiorari.” [National Law Journal]
* This year’s summer associate programs sound pretty lame compared to the past: “The emphasis is certainly more on the work than it is on the social events.” All work and no play makes Jack an employed boy at graduation. [Boston Business Journal]
* “I saved the internet today. Your freedom continues.” Fair assessment. Sarah Jones’s win in her defamation case against Nik Richie and TheDirty.com was overturned by the Sixth Circuit. [Courier-Journal]
* This cowgirl is putting aside her rodeo accomplishments to go to law school. At least she’ll have the experience needed to ride the bucking bronco of the post-recession job market. [Casper Star-Tribune]
At a law firm, law matters. Law is the center of the institution’s universe, and it’s all everyone is thinking about.
It’s the other functions that don’t matter: “Another email from IT? Telling me about interfaces and gigabytes? Why don’t those clowns leave me alone?”
“Another email from finance hectoring me about time sheets? Don’t those morons know I’m busy?”
At corporations, law (and compliance) is an “other function.” The businesses are concentrating on their businesses, and law and compliance — along with human resources, information technology, and finance — are, at best, a means to an end. If you mirror the other “shared services” and send incomprehensible communications to the businesses, the businesses will soon realize that you’re just one of the pests, meant to be ignored.
Inevitably, if a business person accidentally steps over some legal line, you’ll hear that the business guy had no clue that the line existed: “Yeah, yeah. Now that you’re telling me about it, I understand that we have that rule. But how was I to know? The rule is buried on the fourth page of some impenetrable policy hidden somewhere in our computer system. I spend my time selling; I can’t waste time trying to make sense of your legalese.”
If you don’t sympathize with that guy, then you’ve been a lawyer for too long. His criticism is not just an excuse for having violated the rules; his criticism may well be the truth. How can you change that reality?
Have you ever made a typo? Have you ever misspelled something in a written document? Have you ever made a factual error? Chances are, if you are white and you made a mistake, the person reading it didn’t notice. Or if they noticed, they made an excuse for you. Don’t worry white folks, minor clerical errors won’t detract from your overall appearance of intelligence and competence.
But if you’re black, prepare to feel like an idiot. A new study shows that when law firm partners read identical memos, the partners who believed the author was white were much more forgiving than the partners who thought the author was black.
Hang on, I need to email this study to David Lat, Bryan Garner, my mom, Matt Levine, and Partner Emeritus, from my fake, white-person, @post.harvard.edu account, so they take it seriously….
It’s been well documented in these pages that male lawyers in Texas are a little rough around the edges, and many of them seem virtually incapable of getting along with their female counterparts. To that end, some of them have threatened to enlarge opposing counsels’ assholes, and others have used terms of endearment like “c*nt,” “flat-chested bitch,” and “dumb sh*t” when referring to women colleagues.
With that as a backdrop, it’s no wonder that even more colorful allegations are coming out as a result of a small-firm breakup in Texas. Sure, the defendant in this case may have allegedly “emptied” the firm’s bank account before she left for her new firm, but perhaps she had a good reason to do so.
You’d probably want to take the money and run too if your partner was allegedly sexually harassing female employees and “requesting sex for favorable treatment” within the firm….
Welcome to Above the Law’s newest feature, Fun With Fine Print. This occasional column will chronicle especially clever or awful examples of legalese, fine print, disclaimers, disclosures, and the like. Our readers who spend so much time toiling over contractual language, drafting it beforehand or litigating it after the fact, will hopefully appreciate — and contribute to — this feature.
We’ll start things off with an example of infamous fine print. Earlier this year, Subway got torpedoed over its regrettable response to a customer complaint. After Australian teenager Matt Corby complained that his “footlong” Subway sub was a mere eleven inches, Subway invoked the following fine print: “With regards to the size of the bread and calling it a footlong, ‘SUBWAY FOOTLONG’ is a registered trademark as a descriptive name for the sub sold in Subway® Restaurants and not intended to be a measurement of length.” Personally speaking, I think eleven inches is more than enough — but based on the uproar and litigation, maybe I’m in the minority.
Now let’s look at legalese worth celebrating, for its cleverness and its clarity. It also comes from a fast-food provider….
My second story about editing in two days? Woohoo! Nothing is more exciting.
I hope people don’t get the wrong idea about my feelings when it comes to typos and grammatical errors. They should be avoided. I’m just saying there’s no reason to get all bent out of shape over them. There are thousands of opportunities to make a small error in typing or applying the arbitrary rules of the English language, and when an error happens, it should be noted and fixed with minimal drama. Instead there are people like this. Or this.
But if you’re going to rip a bunch of people for poor editing, at least try to keep typos and grammatical screw-ups in your email to a minimum.
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Things have changed recently in Korea – a few of our US and UK client firms are looking, very selectively, for a lateral US associate hire. Until just recently, there was not much hiring like this going on in Korea, since US and UK firms started opening offices there. We have already placed two US associates in Korea in the past month at top firms. Most of the hiring partners we work with in Korea do not actively work with other recruiters.
If you are a Korean fluent US associate in London, New York or another major US market, 2nd to 6th year, at a top 20 firm, with cap markets or M&A focus (or mix), or project finance background, and you are interested in lateraling to Korea to a top US or UK firm, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Our head of Asia, Evan Jowers, was just in Korea recently, and Evan and Robert Kinney will be in Korea in a few weeks. We are in the process of helping several firms open new offices in Korea (a number of which are interviewing our partner level candidates) and also helping existing offices there fill openings.
Professor Joel P. Trachtman has developed a unique, practical guide to help lawyers analyze, argue, and write effectively.
The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win is a highly readable 200-page book, available for about $10 in paperback or e-book. Chapters focus on foundational principles in legal argument: procedure, interpretation of contracts and statutes, use of evidence, and more. The material covered is taught only implicitly in law school. Yet, when up-and-coming attorneys master these straightforward tools, they will think and argue like the best lawyers.
For most attorneys, time spent managing the books is a necessary evil at best. Yet it is undeniably a crucial aspect of running a successful practice. With that in mind, we invite you to view or download a free webinar by Above the Law and our friends at Clio to learn how to better manage your finances.
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