Making a change in diversity in the legal profession

When it comes to diversity in the law, the status quo is the reigning champion. At the start of the millennium, 88.1% of lawyers were Caucasian. 10 years later, 88.8% were white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in the year 2000 and 2010, respectively. In other words, minorities in this profession have increased by less than 1% percent.

Bryan Stevenson’s TED talk discussion about America’s social justice system gained about 2 million views and a standing ovation. He hit 4 key points that are required for social change:

  1. We need to get proximate to injustice. “The only solutions that work are the ones that are developed when one has an up-close view of a problem.”
  2. Change the point of view. “What is really going on when, say, a 14-year-old black boy lashes out and throws a book at a teacher? Is the solution to incarcerate that child or to ask what happens to a child who has lived for 14 years surrounded by violence?”
  3.  Continue to be hopeful. “We give up on issues that we believe are hopeless, wrongs that we tell ourselves simply cannot be righted. ‘Injustice prevails when hopelessness persists.’”
  4. Get out of your comfort zone. “Whether it is the people who led or joined the civil rights movement (or any other movement that created large-scale change), each and every person made a decision at a critical juncture that they were willing to be uncomfortable and put themselves on the line.”

With diversity being the issue to address in the coming years, people should know that it is not self-executing. The solution is to create advocates and mentors to motivate people from all backgrounds to enter the legal profession. Recruiters should diversify their campus searches and seek intelligent people regardless of economic background. No law school hopeful should be turned away because of financial issues.

Without change, the statistics may stay the same. The next three graduating classes will contribute only about 1% more diversity to the profession. However, the generation of Millennials can breathe life into this homogeneity.

Article via Above the Law, December 11, 2015

Photo: Ceremonial Courtroom, Alfonse D’Amato Courthouse, Central Islip via Douglas Palmer [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Nigeria and Online Dispute Resolution

One of the earliest letters I received from Nigeria (before the Internet – postage/envelope/letter inside/a “real” signature) invited me to help out an individual there who was a relative of a prince and had a very substantial bank account in New York, but they could not access the funds there (millions of dollars) without my help. Hmmm….

Nigeria has had a reputation for scammers for a long time. The Internet gave these scammers new fuel and new ways to catch people in their lair. These scammers are sophisticated and the reason they don’t give up is because it works. Nevertheless, the reputation that has befallen Nigeria is not one that should be allowed to perpetuate. I remember the first time I met my good friend from Lagos, attorney Ayo Kusamotu, on a phone call and we talked about a legal problem regarding trademarks and online dispute resolution for a long time. He suddenly interrupted me to say “thank you.” I asked him “for what?” And he said “for not bringing up the Nigerian scammers.”

It never occurred to me to bring up scamming – it is everywhere and it shouldn’t be attributed to one country or another. Ijeoma Ononogbu, another Nigerian colleague of mine, began her recent presentation on the state of justice in the African Union during Cyberweek, and she pointed out that Nigeria has adopted a broad based cybersecurity initiative designed to increase trust for online commerce; an absolute prerequisite for its growth. And last week, yet another colleague from Lagos, Morenike Obi-Farinde LL.M, FCIArb (UK), (founder of www.e-consumersolve.com), organized a first ever training program between InternetBar.org Institute and the Nigerian Bar Association on the use of practical technology techniques for online dispute resolution. Led by IBO board member Dan Rainey, there were 41 attendees.

Scamming may be endemic to the Internet – but building the foundation of trust to overcome it is in the genes of my Nigerian attorney friends. Transformation is in their hands, and they are doing great works.

To read more about Jeff Aresty, click here.


City Controller Candidates at the Technology Forum

The elections for Mayor and City Controller are underway. Candidates have been working hard campaigning and talking to voters. At a technology forum held on October 8 located at the Houston Technology Center, candidates for City Controller voiced their opinions on the growing use of technology in the city and how they would utilize it. All 6 of the candidates came from reputable backgrounds. Using that to each of their advantage, candidates spoke about how technology can transform the City of Houston.

Jew Don Boney, Jr is a former city council member and worked as a Texas Staff Legislature for many years. He was appointed as Associate Director for the Mickey Leland Center of Peace at Texas Southern University. When asked about integrating the city’s IT infrastructure with the current staff and IT infrastructure, Boney disagreed with combining the two. “When I served on city council, I was so unimpressed with the city’s infrastructure and IT but I brought in own people so we built and maintained our own for the entire 6 years that I served as a member of city council.” As a result, he claimed to have had the most advanced IT infrastructure in the city.

Chris Brown is currently Deputy City Controller and has managed money in the private sector as well as city hall. When asked what plans he has to put the checkbook online, he answered “I feel like that was our first trick question because I feel like all of our candidates know and agree that our checkbook is online and I know for certain because I put it online. In 2011, I led the project team to put all of our payments and checks online.” Continuing on with making the checkbook viewing by date, vendor, and amount he said “I think in my 12 years of experience I can say this whole-heartedly. We don’t have money to do these projects right now. We’re facing huge financial challenges in the city… technology is going to be the vehicle that we create efficiencies to go forward but we have to take the cost of that into effect.”

Bill Frazer has been a CPA since 1975 and worked as an auditor for Ernst and Young for 5 years. He served as controller for several companies. When questioned about how he would educate the public on the collection and analysis of data, he answered “I’m a CPA and I was the past president of the Houston CPA Society and during my tenure I also chaired the technology committee which was responsible for continuing education to over 15,000 CPAs in the area, 1,000s of hours of continuing education including technology at the user level. Not Excel, not Word, just simple applications that can be used by all to serve the clients.”  

Dwight Jefferson became a judge in 1995. From 2010 until 2015 he was appointed to the METRO board by Mayor Parker. When asked about transparency, he brought up a solution he came up with at METRO. “One thing that we did at Metro that was very helpful, both from the standpoint of transparency and getting input from the public in our processes was placing all of our board meetings online [in a] live stream.” He plans to implement this because the public would be able to go back to it later and see if they find things that are not properly addressed.

MJ Khan has an MBA from Rice University and served on the city council in the past. When asked about making the finances more transparent, he spoke from experience about how one aspect was not being reported. “When I was in the council, one of the things I noticed was that we have this huge unfunded liability that retirees have in 3.5 million dollars. And we were not even reporting that. So I asked why is that not part of the report? Luckily, I was able to convince my colleagues and it became part of it. So I think information sharing on a real time basis is crucial for citizens can see what is going on in our financial area.”

Carroll Robinson is an Associate Professor at the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University. He has served as the Houston Community College trustee and served on city council. He also voiced his opinion on increasing transparency. “Well one of the things I did with the available data is I ran a 10 year revenue forecast out on my Facebook, but I think the controller should do it not on an annual basis but on a monthly basis so we would avoid these situations …when you approve spending in one year and the compounding effect generates deficit problems. The careful controller ought to be for a different purpose than just releasing it at the end of the year.”

All the candidates used each of their previous experiences to their advantage. Early voting started on October 19, 2015 and will continue until the Mayoral election on November 3, 2015.

Photo: Houston Sunrise via telwink [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Lawyers and the future of the legal profession

Speakers at Avvo’s sixth annual Lawyernomics conference discussed how the legal profession will function in the next five to ten years. Avvo CEO Mark Britton noted that lawyers are leaving opportunities on the table by not addressing commoditized work. Attorneys aren’t providing certain services to their clients yet look negatively upon nonlawyers who try to do it themselves. Automating work through “freemium” models such as Rocket Matter can help attorneys create strong relationships with potential and current clients while allowing lawyers to avoid the work they don’t want to do, according to Britton.

F. Daniel Siciliano, a professor at Stanford Law School, asserted that, as law becomes readily available to the public and more open-sourced, clients will no longer need lawyers. He had done research that ultimately indicated that, when a targeted immigration law office relied less on human employees and more on technology, it was 10 times more profitable than offices with traditional revenue models. According to Dave Schappell, startup business development manager at Amazon Web Services, a lawyers should be investing in is the Cloud, an option that has been ignored by many attorneys. Plenty of major companies and government agencies already run on the Cloud, increasing agility and encouraging innovation by lowering risk, Schappell says. While the legal profession may be going through chaotic changes, it is important that they create a strong culture of client service and remain true to their values.

Article via ABA Journal, 18 May 2015

Photo: Law Books via Mr.TinDC [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Harvard Fellow Argues for Use of Pseudonyms in Online Interaction

Can pseudonyms make better online citizens? (Harvard Magazine, Sept 2014) – People socialize online more than ever: posting photos on Instagram, job-hunting on LinkedIn, joking about politics on Twitter, and sharing reviews of everything from hotels to running shoes. Judith Donath, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society , argues against using real names for most of these Internet interactions and relying instead on pseudonyms. A made-up handle is essential to maintain privacy and manage one’s online identity, she says. Her new book, The Social Machine: Designs for Living Online (MIT Press, 2014), also contends that well-managed pseudonyms can strengthen online communities, an idea that contradicts the conventional wisdom that fake names bring out the worst in people, allowing “trolls” to bully others or post hateful, destructive comments without consequences. Real names, such thinking goes, keep online conversations civil. But Donath often uses a pseudonym online, not because she wants to “anonymously harass people or post incendiary comments unscathed,” as she explained in a commentary published on Wired.comthis spring, but because she prefers to separate certain aspects of her life. In the age of Google, a quick search of a person’s name gathers everything he or she has posted under that name, from résumés to college party photos. As a public figure who studies how people communicate online, Donath’s academic writing can be found online under her real name. But when she writes product reviews on shopping sites such as Drugstore.com, or restaurant reviews on Yelp, she might use a pseudonym.

 

Provided by MIRLN.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/stockimages

 


Gone Too Far: The Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, Online Trespass to Chattels

Presentation about the problems of online trespass to chattels (Eric Goldman, 8 Oct 2013) – You may recall my prior post where I outlined my conceptual objections to online trespass to chattels doctrines, including the common law, the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act and state computer crime laws like California Penal Code Sec. 502. As I outline in that post, I don’t think nibbling around the edges with CFAA reform is very helpful. Instead, I challenge the basic premise that sending electronic signals to a remote computer is a chattel “use.” If we follow the logic of that revised premise, most of the online trespass to chattels doctrines simply go away. I think this issue is so important that I put together a “stump speech,” replete with my signature use of Microsoft clipart. Last month, I gave this talk for the first time at the Utah State Bar Cyberlaw Section’s “i-Symposium” in Lehi, Utah. The talk recording ( download ) and accompanying PowerPoint slides ( download ) are available in the HTLI iTunesU page 

Courtesy of MIRLN.

Photo provided by Chris Sharp/FreeDigitalPhotos.net