For the past few years, alarmingly low bar pass rates have made headlines. In July 2014, Erica Moeser, president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners declared that the current bar exam test takers are “less able” than their predecessors. Law schools deans argued that this was a harsh categorization of their graduates. However, when the July 2015 bar exam results came in, Moeser’s statement was proven correct. Since the law school crisis began, applicants with lower qualifications who were predicted to encounter difficulty passing the bar exam were admitted in packs.

The great law school brain drain is evident but let’s take a closer look on what caused this great phenomenon. Jerry Organ, professor of the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis has been tracking LSAT profiles of law school students for years. His analysis shows that LSAT scores correlate with scores on the bar exam. Below is a graph that displays categories of LSAT scores and the percentage of those with that score matriculated into Law school.


While the percentage for the students that scored between a 150-159 remained relatively stable, the 160+ category slowly declined and the students that scored below a 150 continue to increase every year. This is what happens when law schools need money and accept virtually anyone. Organ noted that “the top is eroding and the bottom is growing” and predicts the brain drain will have lasting effects: “Given that the LSAT profiles of matriculants and of law schools for fall 2013, fall 2014 and fall 2015 are less robust than those for fall 2011 and fall 2012 (the classes that graduated in 2014 and 2015, respectively), one can anticipate that the declines in median MBE scaled scores and corresponding bar passage rates in 2014 and 2015 will continue in July 2016, 2017 and 2018 absent increases in attrition, significant improvement in academic support programs at law schools, or improved bar preparation efforts on the part of graduates.”

Article via Above the Law, January 20, 2016

Photo: Studying via Francois de Halleux [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

President Obama is ordering the federal government to study smart gun technology.

On Monday, Obama told the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to look into smart gun technology, such as fingerprint and radio-frequency identification. The goals are to track lost or stolen guns and to prevent accidental gunfire. The president cited a 2013 Department of Justice report as inspiration for the studying smart gun technology. Obama was quoted saying that “…the (DOJ) made clear that technological advancement in this area could help reduce accidental deaths and the use of stolen guns in criminal activities…”

These actions and others were addressed in a speech from the White House on Tuesday by the President. Obama outlined this memo and other executive actions meant to tackle gun violence. This speech comes one month after 14 people in San Bernardino, California were fatally shot by a couple influenced by radical islamic beliefs. In response, gun sales rose sharply amid fear of extremists.

In addition to encouraging gun safety, these executive actions will expand background checks in order to  close the “gun show loophole”. This loophole allows gun dealers conducting business at gun shows or online to do so without conducting background checks. Current laws exempts gun collectors and hobbyists from conducting background checks before selling a firearm.

Although The President’s recommendations are consistent with the Second Amendment and supported by the “overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners”, it is unlikely to find support among gun rights groups. These groups have stated that smart technology is a way for the federal government to track gun owners.

Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement Tuesday that the NRA would not allow “law-abiding gun owners to become scapegoats for President Obama’s failed policies…The NRA will continue to fight to protect the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms as guaranteed under our Constitution.”

Obama plans to address gun violence during a nationally televised town hall meeting at George Mason University in Virginia on Thursday night. In his speech Tuesday, he recalled the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that left 20 children and six teachers dead. Obama stated, “Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad”.

In his memo, he continues with that sentiment stating that “…developing and promoting technology that would help prevent these tragedies is an urgent priority…”

Article via CNET, 6 January 2016

Photo: 44 by SAL [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Lawyers are a conservative group when it comes to adopting new technology. This continue to hold true for the ever popular cloud technologies. Concerns about privacy and security related to data breaches are holding some firms back from transitioning over to cloud storage and services. In a 2015 Cloud Security Survey released Netwrix reveals the concerns around cloud adoption among lawyers include: security and privacy of data (26 percent), migration costs (22 percent) and loss of physical controls (17 percent). Moreover, security risks include unauthorized access (32 percent), insider misuse (18 percent) and account hijacking (18 percent.)

Alex Vovk, CEO and co-founder of Netwrix, told Legaltech News “Legal departments will be reluctant to entrust their valuable data and customers’ sensitive information, until they are absolutely sure that cloud providers can offer better security than the company can ensure on-premises.” Although data security is a privacy issue for all industries, legal departments are less likely to adopt technologies that do not guarantee full protection for their data.

Law firms may be cautious, but that doesn’t mean that they are uninterested in cloud technologies. According to the survey, 44 percent of the respondents indicated they their firms were in a stage of evaluation and discovery concerning cloud services. “This indicates that [law firms] are potentially ready to invest more in additional cloud security and consider various cloud options,” Vovk said. In fact, when it comes to hybrid cloud models, legal entities have the same interest in making the transition as private companies. In addtion, 37 percent of those surveyed favor a private cloud model.

Vovk summed up by stating that “… as soon as cloud providers are ready to provide additional security measures and to some extent ease the compliance burden …lawyers would become less skeptic[al] about cloud adoption.”

Article via Legaltech News, 3 December 2015

Photo: Cloud Solutions via NEC Corporation of America [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

The National Security Agency has been collecting metadata, which is information such as phone numbers and duration of calls, since shortly after the attacks of September 11. The collection of this metadata has ceased as of November 28th. So what changed?

There is a new law in place, known as the USA Freedom Act of 2015. This law is being seen as a victory for privacy activists and tech companies looking to protect their user data. The USA Freedom Act of 2015 came about as a response to the revelations of Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor that revealed the deep surveillance of the NSA on the American people. This new law prohibits the bulk collection of phone data previously done by the NSA. Although the agency won’t keep the bulk data, investigators will still have access to these types of records when they are investigating a particular person, or targeting specific groups. The existing metadata that has been captured during the last 5 years will be kept until next February 29th in order to ensure a smooth transition.

National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price stated that this new law, “struck a reasonable compromise which allows us to protect the country while implementing various reforms”.

Some have concerns, since the new law is going into effect so soon after the terrorist attacks in Paris. At a time when America is scaling back its surveillance, countries like England and France are considering new bills to enhance surveillance. Since American companies like Verizon would be involved, it may mean the creation of new treaties between Great Britain and the United States.  It is likely that this type of confounding circumstance will present itself more in the future due to the international nature of terrorism.

Article via ABAJournal, 30 November 2015

Photo: National Security Agency Seal via Donkey Hotey [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs (Bloomberg BNA) hosted Big Law Business Diversity and Inclusion Conferences in New York City and San Francisco throughout the past two weeks. The events helped facilitate the collaboration of some of the most prominent in-house and law firm leaders, in addition to human resource specialists, to create solutions to diversity problems in law firms and corporate legal groups.

The Chief Legal Officers of around 500 major corporations signed a pledge in 1999 to improve the diversity of their teams. Sixteen years later, only minimal progress has been made. Though one third of the U.S. population and one fifth of law school graduates belong to a minority group, less than 7 percent of law firm partners and 9 percent of general counsels of large corporations are black, Latino, Asian American, or Native American.

As Bloomberg BNA states below one of its released videos from the conference, “It is common knowledge that the legal community remains one of the least diverse.” Though law firms have made some improvements in thinking about diversity during the hiring process, “[r]etaining and developing those individuals and leveraging the diverse perspectives they convey is where the true challenge lies.”

Bloomberg BNA has posted videos from the conference, one of the most popular being “Inclusion Strategies: Retain and Promote” for those who could not attend the events.

Article via Above the Law, November 6, 2015

Photo: Scania Executive Board 2010 via Scania Group [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Many objections have been made to Uber in the past, and now Uber is facing a lawsuit after two anonymous women have stated that they were sexually assaulted by Uber drivers. Not only does the lawsuit call into question how effective Uber’s background checks are, it also attacks Uber’s marketing strategy. The lawsuit claims that because Uber advertises its service as a safe way to get home for young women who have been drinking, Uber should be more closely monitoring the actions of their drivers. The official complaint from the two women who were allegedly assaulted states that, “By marketing heavily toward young women who have been drinking, while claiming that rider safety is its #1 priority, Uber is instead putting these women at risk.”

Uber drivers have been classified as independent contractors rather than employees up until now, but this lawsuit could force Uber to exert more control over their drivers. The lawsuit calls for Uber to up their safety measures, including conducting more thorough background checks with drivers and requiring drivers to place a GPS tracking system in their car that will set off an alarm if the driver goes off-course. Other requests include a 24-hour customer support hotline and forcing drivers to disable child-lock features on doors in Uber drivers’ vehicles.

While Uber maintains that they have ” strict safety standards”, this lawsuit is not the first time its drivers have been accused of sexual assault. Uber uses the company Hirease to screen potential drivers, and several databases are checked to make sure the driver in question has not committed any violent crimes or sexual violence, among other violations. Determining if Uber is at fault for these assaults is difficult, Sarju Naran, an attorney for Hoge Fenton’s law group, explains: “Even with thorough background checks, it is often difficult to predict if or when someone might engage in violent or other criminal acts.” If Uber is found to be liable for these drivers’ crimes, though, it will have serious ramifications for the company moving forward.

Article via CNET, October 8, 2015

Photo: Paris, as seen in the back of an Uber via Kirsten [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]