Media and Journalism

An ethics scandal is one thing. A sex scandal is another. The combination is amazing. That’s what happened when a lawyer was accused of billing a client $900 for a number of sexual encounters after starting up an affair with her. A guy’s gotta get paid.

This was the story of Thomas Lowe, a Minnesota attorney who got his Arnie Becker on by hooking up with a woman he was representing in a divorce and billing her, resulting in his indefinite suspension.

All this went down last year, but now — out of nowhere — we have a response from Thomas Lowe….

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Hey, have you read Above the Law for like one single minute in the past month? If so, you probably know that we’re having this big blogger conference on March 14th at the Yale Club. Yeah, the Yale Club. You’ll be able to recognize me: I’ll be the only big… blogger guy surreptitiously holding a can of crimson spray-paint.

Speaking of coming, you should come. We’ve got CLE and all that. Click here to buy tickets to get CLE credit for listening to bloggers scream about stuff on the internet.

To refresh your memory, details on the panel that I’m moderating — almost entirely sober, mind you — follow.

My panel is called Blogs as Agents of Change, and we’re going to talk about whether all of these spilled pixels are actually making a difference. You know my view… just ask Lawrence Mitchell, but here are the panelists:

  • Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency: Nobody has tried to use the power of blogging to impact the legal world quite like Kyle. Is it working? Are there best practices that he can share? And how does a blogging crusader actually pay bills and eat?
  • Karen Sloan of the National Law Journal: Karen is who I’d like to be if I grew up. She’s a real reporter. A journalist. She can talk not only about the impact of blogging on actual decision makers, she can also speak to the impact of blogging on the quality of legal reporting. Are we helping, or are we screwing things up for everybody?
  • Joshua Peck of Duane Morris: Peck is the founder of Law Firm Media Professionals. Basically, when bloggers throw a rock at a Biglaw window, Peck is one of the guys who has to replace the glass. If bloggers are making an impact, Peck can tell us how to make a bigger one.

Should be fun. I hope to see you there.

I took the title of this column from Aristotle: “Young men are easily deceived, for they are quick to hope.

But I’m really thinking about business development and, as I often do in my navel-gazing columns, simply using myself as a case study.

I graduated from law school in 1983 and published my first article (in California Lawyer) in 1986. (I’d provide a link to the article, but I’m afraid the internet didn’t exist way back when. The article was a thriller, though; trust me: “Reviewing the Unreviewable: Obtaining Appellate Review of Federal Trial Court Remand Orders.”)

Because I was a young man, I was quick to hope: I’d published an article! My phone would naturally start ringing off the hook within the next few weeks! I’d be deploying my novel thesis in cases left and right, and the partners at my firm would be dumbstruck by my ability to develop business! Life of Riley, here I come!

Because I was quick to hope, I was easily deceived: Publishing one short article — even an article with a pretty decent thesis in a journal with a fairly large circulation — does not generate new business.

So I expanded my analysis and published the long-form of my article in the Arizona State Law Journal in 1987.

Because I was still a young man, I was still quick to hope. . . .

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Ed. note: Frank H. Wu is the Chancellor and Dean of the University of California Hastings College of the Law. He shares some of his thoughts about legal education and the legal profession here on Above the Law from time to time.

I was talking to a reporter the other day about changes within the legal profession. She had called me to ask what types of jobs were opening up. I disappointed her. She wanted specialties offering positions that were sexy, new, and numerous.

I explained there were indeed more jobs. But I did not know any of them that satisfied all of her criteria.

There were many possibilities for her article. None of them were everything she was looking for.

That would be true for the individuals obtaining those roles as well. I recall a former colleague who used to say in response to the extravagant expectations that young people express about their careers: “That’s why we call it ‘work.’” She meant that there isn’t any reason to believe it will be fun. It is more likely to be boring, stressful, or both boring and stressful by turns if not simultaneously.

By the journalist’s standards, unless it is sexy, new and numerous, it does not register at all. That isn’t the best understanding of the universe of possibilities. Law is not intrinsically sexy….

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A week ago, someone called me out on Twitter for a perceived grammatical error in one of my posts. That person told me to “get it together.” I corrected that person on the rule, but my would-be grammar adviser didn’t like it one bit. That person responded in true ATL commenter style by retorting, “Maybe that [rule] will help you pass the bar exam.”

That person was another woman. I reminded her that she’d been using her real name while making her snide remarks, and she immediately deleted her Twitter account. She’d apparently forgotten that she wasn’t using her anonymous commenting handle, and didn’t want to be associated with what she’d said.

Perhaps that’s why our commenters feel like they have free rein to say whatever they want, no matter how racist, how sexist, or how anti-gay it may be — they can disclaim ownership, because in the majority of cases, they’re not using their real names. It’s much easier for lawyers and law students to be vile when they don’t have to associate themselves with what their online personalities have said in real life.

That said, it’s difficult being a minority online, whether that word is used to describe race, gender, or sexual orientation. If you’re interested in learning how to engage your commenters, you should attend Above the Law’s inaugural Attorney@Blog conference, where I will moderate a panel on racism, sexism, and homophobia in online commenting platforms, featuring the following distinguished panelists:

This panel will explore the various strategies and best practices (along with their intellectual underpinnings) available to legal bloggers in managing the dark side of the internet: the “trolls” who engage in offensive and hateful (albeit protected) speech.

For more information and for tickets to the conference, please click here. Up to six ethics CLE credits will be available. We look forward to seeing you on March 14.

Attorney@Blog Conference [Above the Law]

Last month, Grantland published a story that led to great harrumphing across much of the internet. Titled “Dr. V’s Magical Putter,” it profiled a golf-club inventor whose big secret — that she was transgender — was revealed slowly, teased until the end like a mystery novel. The eponymous inventor’s death was treated as a mere plot point, puzzled over like everything else about the woman’s life. If you haven’t read the piece yet, I heartily encourage you to do so. I’ll wait.

This weekend, the New York Times published a story that will likely lead to very little harrumphing. This story, the profile of a transgender attorney who represents terror suspects, was written not as thrill-packed pulp fiction, but rather as the sober account of a ballsy attorney who deserves our approbation. If you’ll excuse that last sentence’s shameful bit of wordplay clowning, I promise you the rest of this post will be wholly serious. Because the New York Times story is important both for what it says about a life lived honestly and for what it says about the progress we’ve made in accepting such honesty.

So now, let us name all the interesting things about attorney Zoë J. Dolan. I mean, besides the umlaut….

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Then you should attend Above the Law’s inaugural Attorney@Blog conference. One of the nation’s preeminent First Amendment litigators, Floyd Abrams of Cahill Gordon, will deliver opening remarks. And then I will moderate a panel on free speech online, featuring the following distinguished panelists:

The panel will discuss emerging free speech issues and offer practical advice on how to avoid legal pitfalls online. If you’re a media lawyer, a journalist, a blogger, or just someone interested in these topics, you should definitely attend.

For more information and for tickets to the conference, please click here. The conference includes lunch and CLE credits (including coveted ethics credits). We hope to see you on March 14!

Attorney@Blog Conference [Above the Law]

David Boies: just one great lawyer among many at Boies Schiller.

What comes to mind at the mention of Boies, Schiller & Flexner? Perhaps the legendary named partners — David Boies, Jonathan Schiller, and Donald Flexner — or perhaps the legendary bonuses, which last year went as high as $300,000.

But there’s much more to the firm than that. Even though BSF is most famous for its litigation work, it has a sizable and well-regarded corporate practice, for example. And even though its biggest presence is in the state of New York, with offices in Albany, Armonk, and New York City, the firm has several other outposts — including a growing and high-powered presence in Washington, D.C.

Boies Schiller has been adding some impressive new talent to its D.C. outpost. Last week, the firm welcomed a leading litigatrix. Let’s learn more about her, shall we?

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Ed. note: Please welcome Jenny M. Brandt, who will be covering celebrities and the law. You can read her full bio at the end of this post.

As an attorney, I have noticed how obsessed other attorneys are with boxing in our identities. Either you’re a plaintiff’s attorney or a defense attorney. A prosecutor or a public defender. A Biglaw sell out or a public interest bleeding heart. Everything about you can be learned from which area of law you pursued. To some degree, these stereotypes ring true. I could never be a prosecutor, and there are few I’d like to have a drink with. They are a certain kind of person. But, in many ways, these boxes restrict us from living life free to enjoy all that is out there for consumption.

I view the aversion to celebrity gossip among attorneys as a byproduct of this black and white thinking. What does it say about you if you actually care that a criminal defense attorney allegedly slept with Lamar Odom, a Kardashian husband? Attorneys like to sound smart and believe the same about themselves. Consuming celebrity gossip with the masses means that you are a commoner, lowbrow, lacking in sophistication, or just plain dumb. Right?

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The other panels at our inaugural Attorney@Blog conference deal with important issues. Sexism! First Amendment! And don’t forget, we’re getting you six ETHICS credits of CLE in a non-boring format.

My panel isn’t about such highfalutin’ technical or social issues. My panel is about something near and dear to the hearts of most people who either blog professionally or do it as a hobby. My panel is about navel-gazing. Because every legal blogger has a little Fredo Corleone in them: “I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… I’m smart and I want respect!” Without that little sin of vanity, we’d all be representing clients or teaching classes or doing whatever the hell I’d be doing if I had real skills, quietly. Unobtrusively.

Instead, legal bloggers go out there and try to make an impact. We try to move the conversation or effect change in some way.

Is it working? Is anybody freaking listening? Should we be concerned about “bad” legal bloggers who make everybody dumber one hashtag at a time? I’m not the right person to answer any of these questions, but here’s the panel of smart people who will think through this with me:

  • Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency: Nobody has tried to use the power of blogging to impact the legal world quite like Kyle. Is it working? Are there best practices that he can share? And how does a blogging crusader actually pay bills and eat?
  • Karen Sloan of the National Law Journal: Karen is who I’d like to be if I grew up. She’s a real reporter. A journalist. She can talk not only about the impact of blogging on actual decision makers, she can also speak to the impact of blogging on the quality of legal reporting. Are we helping, or are we screwing things up for everybody?
  • Joshua Peck of Duane Morris: Peck is the founder of Law Firm Media Professionals. Basically, when bloggers throw a rock at a Biglaw window, Peck is one of the guys who has to replace the glass. If bloggers are making an impact, Peck can tell us how to make a bigger one.

I think it should be a fun conversation for current bloggers interested in how their work is being perceived, and for prospective bloggers who are trying to figure out if there’s a point to taking the time to blog. And, again, you get CLE for listening.

Attorney@Blog Conference [Above the Law]

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