The New York Times features an in-depth article on the start-up Social Intelligence which helps human resources do deep background checks on possible hires. They scour the web, looking not just at social networking sites, but all sorts of sites such as Craig's List or Flickr, to see what sorts of things might be revealed about the applicant. The applicant is first asked if he or she consents to a background check. (Don't be a fool! But what will it say about you if you refuse?!) Also, the individual is shown the results of the search before it is reported back to the potential employer. And apparently the searches shouldn't cover the sorts of questions that are out of bounds for an employer to ask in an interview (Like, are you married? Do you have children?)
The biggest problem for young people is that they cannot control what others put up on the Internet. If a friend posts a picture of them, even if they ask very quickly for the photo to be taken down, it already may well have been duplicated and shared across the web in places they know nothing about. It is very difficult for "digital natives" to control images in particular, though they can certainly be circumspect themselves.
The best rule is not to post anything online that you would not want published on the front page of a major paper. Sadly that flies in the face of the current youth culture!
The article in the Times recounts several examples of people who failed to get a job because of "dirt" uncovered by "Social Intelligence." There was a woman who applied for a job at a hospital, but the company found nude photos she had posted at an image sharing site (well, the article made it sound as though she had posted them). The Times also reported another applicant who was using Oxycontin, as found through Craigslist. They don't talk about photos of wild parties, but I am sure that is something that employers don't want to see.
On the other hand, perhaps, by looking on the Internet, the company will uncover evidence that will support your resume's list of awards and even have nice comments from colleagues or teachers or peers about your abilities (we can hope!). That's the nice little carrot that Social Intelligence holds out to applicants at their website.
Photo of a bloodhound is courtesy of http://dogsranch.com/the-bloodhound.html/bloodhound
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I have loved my association for more than 20 years. I joined in 1986, as a freshly minted, eager, hopeful (not quite so young) law librarian. And I have been a member of AALL ever since, as well as a member of whichever regional chapter I lived nearest. But, this is like a lot of marriages....
I have to say, honey, your bad habits are starting to really wear on me!
Were you always so damned conservative with your choice of counsel?!
And have you always been this sneaky?!
I hate to think you really meant to try to slip that little Antitrust Policy past me. But I just can't help but be a little hurt and yes, I have to say it, mistrustful.
I'm sorry, honey.
The magic is just not there any more.
The trust is gone. You blew it. When you started flirting so with those big vendors, I tried to laugh it off. You know, "AALL's just all excited with the annual meeting, and all...." And maybe I thought, "Well, we kind of need the extra dough." So, I was, I have to admit it, a little willing to let you, (ugly word) prostitute yourself with them.
Then, when the FTC folks came to ask you what you thought about antitrust problems if Thompson were to buy West Publishing, Oh, AALL, you sold your soul, not for silver or gold, but I think for the pleasure of shaking hands with somebody who told you they were important. Maybe they just bought you lunch.
You started turning your head when Thompson would rebuff the librarians who asked for pricing info for the AALL Price Index, and then, took Thompson's side against the librarians!
Lately, it sounded like we were getting some good from our counseling, babe! When the Executive Board okayed the (watered - down) mission for a AALL consumer caucus, I thought, "Hey, maybe the old magic is still there! Maybe I can get excited about my old association again!"
But then, ah, no! You pull this stunt with the secret Antitrust Policy. What am I to think, honey?
Let's think about the timing....
The Caucus was going to meet on July 25?
But the Executive Board was going to secretly vote on an Antitrust Policy on July 21. And what would that policy cover?
The following topics are some examples of the subjects which should not be discussed at Association meetings, either virtual or live:I fear our consumer caucus would be pretty much crippled, dear! And so slyly done!
1. Do not discuss current or future prices (be very careful of discussions of past prices).
2. Do not discuss what is a fair profit level.
3. Do not discuss standardizing or stabilizing prices or pricing procedures.
4. Do not discuss cash discounts or credit terms.
5. Do not discuss controlling sales or production or allocating markets or customers. (This applies to services as well as products.)
6. Do not complain to a competitor that its prices constitute unfair trade practices and do not refuse to deal with a company or individual because of pricing or distribution practices.
7. Do not discuss anticipated wage rates.
And worst of all, I think this damn'd lawyer just copied and pasted out of the Antitrust treatise without stopping to think or find out any details about our relationship, honey. It looks like the fool just picked up the general law about trade associations very much like this blog post for Building Product Marketing Trade Associations. Take a look, sweetie, and see if the post doesn't look an awful lot like what that old attorney has been charging you an arm and a leg for advice!
Friday, July 15, 2011
Rankings Stink Stirred up again: Gotanda and Henderson and the Distortions the Rankings Have Wrought
National Jurist has two articles that raise some new and unpleasant questions about the rankings game. A New Low in the Rankings Arms Race, by Jack Crittenden chews over again Villanova's February admission that it misled the ABA in reporting LSAT and GPA statistics for years. Villanova's new dean, John Gotanda, announced last January that he found that the previous administration had been knowingly reporting false LSAT and GPA data to the ABA for some years up to 2010, in an attempt to raise its ranking with the US News and World Report. This announcement confirmed long-running rumors of smoke and mirror tricks at certain schools where the numbers just seemed too good to be true. What is surprising is that the first school stepped forward voluntarily, rather than slipping up and being caught. Villanova and Dean Gotanda deserve a round of applause for rock-ribbed morals and principled behavior. The new dean launched an immediate internal investigation, hiring Ropes & Gray for an independent audit, which found significant differences between what should have been reported and the figures which were turned in. The admissions reporting process and organizational structure will be reconfigured as part of the housecleaning.
LSAT score has a weight of 12.5% and GPA weights 10% in the US News algorithm. In his Morse Code blog, Bob Morse said in February that US News will not revise the older rankings to take the inaccurate data into account, though he believes that the weights of the LSAT and GPA scores in the US News algorithm are enough that it would have affected Villanova's ranking.
How does the rankings data for the J.D. class entering in 2010 compare to the previous year's? The difference is significant enough between the older and newer data to have a meaningful negative impact on Villanova's upcoming ranking: For the fall 2009 entering class, Villanova reported inaccurately a median LSAT score of 162 and median undergraduate GPA of 3.44. For the fall 2010 entering class, Villanova certifies its median LSAT score was 160 and its median undergraduate GPA was 3.33.According to the National Jurist article, Villanova's ranking in 2011, with the new, accurate data, dropped to 67, from 61 in 2010, (though it was 68 in 2009, and 60 in 2008 – the mysteries of the rankings!).
The article goes on to quote Bucky Askew, long-time consultant on legal education for the ABA, as saying that it is very rare for inaccurate data to be purposefully submitted to the ABA questionnaires, though there are currently concerns over the accuracy of employment data and that the ABA is reviewing that. Oh, what a very optimistic man! Or perhaps, a diplomatic one.
Paul Caron, is a tax professor at the University of Cincinnati and leading blogger at TaxProf Blog and Editor in Chief of the Law Professor Blogs Network. He also publishes Leiters Law School Rankings, an alternate ranking system that competes with US News and World Report's ranking system. Prof. Caron critiques the collection of data by the ABA, and suggests that using information directly from the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) , for instance, where law students must register to take the LSAT and have their undergraduate school send their GPA before applying to law school would be a better and more reliable resource for the LSAT and GPA data. At this point, the LSAC is not at all involved in the ABA questionnaire data gathering process, and there are no checks and balances on the law schools' self-reporting.
Probably the reason to pull the Villanova issue back up is two-fold. One is simply to encourage folks not to beat on the school – that is the last line of the article, “If we place too much scorn on Villanova, other schools will be scared from stepping forth and doing what is right,” quoting Professor Bill Henderson of Indiana University. Henderson writes an opinion piece that is the second article on the topic in the National Jurist, “How the Rankings Arms Race Has Undercut Morality.” Henderson has some excellent insights:
For better or worse, the rankings created new metrics of competition. … we never expected to get an education on how competition in a magazine could produce a competitive environment in which bad behavior becomes the norm. Each year the rankings arms race seems to produce a new low in law school conduct. …
The story we can write now is a tragedy. It has many victims and no heroes. And it is not yet over. (snip)
Over time, a terrible dynamic has emerged in which bad behavior among law school administrators is rewarded and principled behavior gets you fired. Virtually everyone hates this system. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to rationalize unethical actions for the greater good of one's school. … Career services and admissions professionals – who are not tenured and so have no strong job security – are under tremendous pressure to increase or hold onto their numbers. They justify their actions (to themselves and others) by saying the practices are the norm throughout the law school hierarchy. As a result, pretty soon they are the norm.
Henderson describes how the rankings initially reflected the general consensus among academics about how the various schools were ranked by public opinion. But as alumni and university administrators began to realize that the rankings really influenced applicants, pressure began to be applied on deans and the professors of the law schools to improve the ranking of the school. By 1995, the US News editors had been seeing “disturbing discrepancies” between median LSAT scores as reported to the magazine and the data submitted to the ABA for accreditation purposes. The editors of the US News and World Report wrote in their Law Schools rankings issue that year a plea, “Will the ABA eventually insist that schools make such data public?” Eventually, the ABA, under public pressure, began to publish an annual ABA-LSAC Official Guide to Law Schools, which included such data, and US News began to rely on this resource for most of its rankings data.
Later in the opinion piece, Henderson explains the miracle of the increasing percentages of law school graduates employed after graduation reported to US News, even during the worst legal hiring slump in memory, and when lower percentages of these same graduates have managed to pass the bar exam. The “employment” need not be legal; it can be a job at a fast food joint, or the law school itself, temporary or part time. And because US News automatically counts 25% of “unknown” graduates as employed, canny career services personnel may avoid contacting graduates whom they suspect might not be employed. Henderson asks, if this is not consumer fraud, are we not at least perilously close? Yet the employed at 9-months statistic can drop a school several places in the rankings if it is not high enough. Students pay close attention to this number, naturally enough. Recent pressure on deans and law schools, and the ABA itself from students and alumni who have been embittered by the fraud their schools have perpetrated in this one area, led by the folks at www.lawschooltransparency.com, has accomplished a great deal.
Prof. Henderson recounts how, as pressure mounted to maintain or increase ranking, law schools changed how they admitted students. They no longer looked at resumes or personal statements or letters of recommendations, focusing more and more on formulae to increase the LSAT median scores and increase undergraduate GPAs. Schools changed how they awarded scholarships, giving less on the basis of need, and more on the basis of merit, in order to lure and retain students with the higher LSAT scores and GPAs in law school.
The effect has been to reshuffle the priorities and the make-up of the law schools. Rather than admitting students who may not have stellar pre-law credentials, but have potential to become great lawyers and add something to the school or bar, or who will increase the socio-economic and ethnic and racial diversity of the school and bar, schools are focusing solely on increasing the LSAT and GPA scores in order to maintain or better their rankings. This focus almost naturally brings a higher percentage of students from affluent backgrounds, and tends to reduce the levels of diversity in all categories. They also tend to need the scholarships less in terms of financial need. Yet, that is where the law schools are spending their scholarship money.
Students who have to work during law school tend to get lower grades because they cannot put in the longer hours of study, and are distracted. So there is a vicious cycle at work for the lower-income students who do not receive need-based scholarships. They have a higher debt load, and thus need to work more. The more they work, the less they can study. And so their GPA drops, and they are less likely to receive a merit-based scholarship. And because their GPA and class rank is lower, they are less likely to get jobs upon graduation, when they leave law school with a higher debt load.
Henderson argues that, rather than creating an objective, measurable ranking system that creates a fair way to distinguish among the law schools for consumers, the rankings systems have created instead, a warping gravity well, that pulls law schools out of shape and into its orbit. He calls for the ABA to create a clear and rigorous standard that requires reporting of data on post-graduation employment, including clear explanation of how the data was compiled and documented. The data should then be verified as accurate and randomly audited by neutral third party professionals. Discrepancies should result in severe penalties for law school administrators. The data should be open to the public in a way that makes it easy to compare school to school. Henderson notes that the information is already reported to National Association of Law Placement, but is never made public by school. He calls for the lawyer members of the ABA to override the academic members who have such obvious self-interest in this matter. And if the ABA cannot act, Henderson goes so far as to call upon the Department of Justice and Congress, and various state supreme courts, which regulate the legal profession to take away the ABA's accreditation authority and act directly.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
The chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Roderick Ireland and the chief justice for administration and management, Robert A. Mulligan, sent a strongly worded statement to Governor Deval Patrick. Seven justices of the Supreme Judicial Court joined in a letter requesting Governor Deval Patrick not to nominate any more judges because of the impact on the overstrained budget for support staff. And Mulligan sent a letter to Patrick as well.
There is also an archival website which includes a number of statements from the current and former chief justice and chief justice for administration and management or separately. Here is a statement from the previous chief justice, Margaret Marshall and Justice Mulligan on the fiscal year 2011 budget, protesting cuts and the attempted removal of the very troubled Probation Department from the judicial branch into the Executive. The Boston Globe reports from a copy that they have
“We make this request . . . with great reluctance and deep regret,’’ the justices wrote. “The people of Massachusetts deserve better. But the fiscal jeopardy into which the operation of the Trial Court has been placed demands extraordinary action.’’(from the Globe article) This statement is remarkable in several points. First, Roderick Ireland is an appointment of Governor Patrick. And a number of the other signatories are as well, in a separate letter where seven justices of the top court requested a moratorium on naming new judicial appointments, because of the budget troubles. Second, the statements are coming at a point AFTER the budget is final, not when there is any time to negotiate. The letter explains that for each new judge appointed, the budget cuts would require the department to lay off 3 staff members in order to fund the judge's salary.
The governor's legal counsel pooh-poohed the statements, saying he is still receiving requests from trial court chief judges to fill vacancies, and that this is the sort of grand-standing that the courts have been doing for a long time. But over the last 3 years, the judiciary of Massachusetts has lost a total of $96 million, or almost 16 percent, of their funding. The trial court has lost 1,115 employees in four years, and more than 60 percent of the courts are staffed below the level necessary to ensure the prompt delivery of justice, the judges said. See this article gleaned from the State House News posted at Daily News Transcript,commenting on the governor's and legislators' hostile response to the justices' statements.
The Globe lists out the courts that are slated in the Justices' plan for closure. They plan to close the courthouses, lay off the employees and transfer the functions to the courts nearby. Legislators are alarmed by the plan because the courthouses are both economic engines in their communities and also places where legislators can exercise their powers of patronage. Some of the legislators have stated that the selection of courthouses seemed calculated to punish the decision-makers on the budget and judicial salaries. But the president of the Boston Bar Association, Donald R. Frederico, said the justices' concerns are legitimate, “They're just at the breaking point. At difficult economic times, a lot of programs and agencies have to be cut, but the courts have taken a disproportionately large share.”
As long ago as 2009, former chief justice Margaret Marshall made an eloquent and very public comment and plea about the crisis in state courts as their funding is being squeezed by the recession. See the NECN video. Margaret Marshall is a native of South Africa, and you may have to get used to her distinctive accent. But the video is well worth watching. She is a marvelous speaker and this is a powerful statement in this interview. She gave a talk first to the ABA, raising the issue. She has hard data about what kind of staffing is required to process each type of case, from national data. And she tells the interviewer that in 2009, they were at 80% capacity. The demand is rising as the recession continues, with more divorces, more child abuse, more loan defaults, etc. You can imagine how much more has happened in the 2 years since, as the budget has been slashed further.
We are all watching the scandal about the British tabloid News of the World whose reporter hacked into the cellphone voice mail of a missing girl and deleted some of the messages while police were searching for the child. But have you considered the implications of hacking voice mail in cellphones? It means that it's dead easy to get into anybody's voice mail – unless they take a few precautions.
The Boston Globe has an article in today's paper by Hiawatha Bray, one of my tech heroes. The hack is done with a service anybody can find, called ID spoofing. Google it. It works like a pre-paid calling card or sometimes through a Web interface. You pay for a certain amount of time to have a PIN that represents to the telephone you are calling that you are calling from a different telephone number.
Spoofing can be used for legitimate purposes, as law enforcement sometimes uses it, or women fleeing from abusive situations have used this to conceal their location and phone number. But mostly, it is considered a malicious act, and bills have been introduced several times to outlaw the practice, beginning in 2006. Finally, in December, 2010, the Truth in Calling Actpassed Congress and was signed into law by President Obama, prohibiting spoofing “with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value...” Law enforcement is specifically exempted. The penalties are fines, and enforcement is under state jurisdiction.
But the important part of the Globe article is to explain how to protect yourself from having your voice mail hacked. Here is the information: Protect your voice mail
The image is courtesy of Entrepreneur website, which actually has a very helpful post about protecting your cellphone, adding a paragraph about the viruses that are becoming so rampant in a lot of the apps that people are adding outside of the official sites. See http://www.entrepreneur.com/blog/219961
The new law and regulations governing credit cards is going into effect, and it's something that everybody with credit cards needs to be aware of! Visit the Treasury Department's handy website: www.helpwithmybank.gov for a useful and easy guide. But here are some highlights that you need to be aware of:
Banks are going to be raising the interest rate on your credit card. They will send you a notice, usually saying that the interest rate will kick in in 15 days. [YOU need to know that this interest rate will only affect new purchases after the 15 days date IF you REFUSE the increase and choose to pay off your balance at the old rate!! But you have to be proactive and register your refusal.]**This may be an error! The Boston Globe article specifically said this, but I cannot find anything on any of the websites or in the text of the Federal Register (yet!) to verify this statement If it's a mistake, my apologies, folks. I will finish correcting as soon as I finish reading through the Federal Register!
Penalty rates for late payments are going to go way up!! Generally, banks can't change the rates on existing balances, UNLESS you are 60 days late or more paying the balance off! Then they can come at you with a penalty interest rate as high as 29.99% or higher!!
The law was designed overall to protect consumers, so it's ironic that there are these surprise provisions to warn you about. From the Treasury's website, helpwithmybank.gov (the Treasury's site is more helpful than the Federal Reserve's link, but look at both if you have questions about credit cards.
The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (also known as the Credit CARD Act) for credit card companies will result in new credit card policies and protections for you. Effective February 22, 2010 there will be new rules for rates, fees, and payment due dates. The new law also provides protections for consumers under age 21.
The Federal Reserve has prepared a brochure titled: What You Need To Know: New Credit Card Rules, that highlights the key changes.
You can view and print the pamphlet at the following link:http://www.federalreserve.gov/consumerinfo/wyntk/creditcardrules.htm.
An even more helpful website than either government site is the Credit.com site.
They summarize the new law and regulations in plain language and make it very accessible. The nice thing is that it is written from the consumer point of view, which is different from the government sites. The site has lots of other helpful information about consumer and credit concerns. Links are at the bottom of each page. The site seems very credible, consistently rating number 7 in lists of top 20 or top ten financial websites from places like CNNMoney.com or FastCompany.com or even number 6 at Finovate's list. It claims 15 years of experience and a large professional and experienced staff.
Wikipedia (at least as it appears on 7/13/11) contains an excellent summary of the law as well, including the controversial addition of an unrelated rider that prevents the Secretary of the Interior from prohibiting citizens to possess firearms in any National Park. The entry is excellent for including links to websites providing full text of the statute, versions of the bill, and regulations that are related to the bill. The list of related regulations includes some that are not linked on the Internet, very complete.
The image is courtesy of http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2011/03/dallas-fort_worth_deep_in_cred.php
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The struggle over the papers of Robert F. Kennedy continues. We previously blogged about papers dating from Kennedy's time as Attorney General, held by the John F. Kennedy Library, but closed to researchers because the Kennedy family refused to grant full public access. On March 1, the presidential library decided to open up the sixty-three closed boxes, and archivists have been "organizing and declassifying" the papers since then; this work should take between six months to a year to complete.
An article in today's New York Times brings the saga up to date. According to the Times,
As archivists prepare to make public 63 boxes of Robert F. Kennedy's papers at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, his family members are having second thoughts about where they should be housed and are considering moving them elsewhere because they believe that the presidential library has not done enough to honor the younger brother's legacy.
The family never transferred title to the papers to the Kennedy Library, and they have expressed the desire that they be held in a facility that would do more to memorialize Robert F. Kennedy. Family members point out that President Kennedy is memorialized by his presidential library, and that the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate is in construction. There is nothing similar for Robert F. Kennedy. The Kennedy library offered to name a wing for Robert F. Kennedy if the family would transfer title to the papers, but the family refused, saying "'They offered to put the name on a hallway.'"
Because the family feels disrespected by the presidential library, they have had talks with other institutions and universities about housing the papers there. Should the family attempt to move them, the issue of ownership of the papers would move to the forefront. The family believes it has "right" to the papers, while "ownership of papers from Robert Kennedy's years at the Justice Department might be disputed under the Presidential Records Act." Douglas Brinkley, a professor of history, "says he hopes the Kennedy Library finds a way to properly honor Robert Kennedy's legacy. ... But no matter what is done, you will always stand in the shadow of a brother who was president."
Margie Maes, Vendor Liaison for the American Association of Law Libraries, has posted a request for comments on the new action plan for vendor relations. You can read the action plan and comment on it on the AALLNET Vendor Colloquium page. A group of librarians feels that the proposed action plan doesn't go far enough in addressing long-standing concerns about AALL's commitment to consumer advocacy. In response to the request for comments, a number of AALL members have joined together to draft a group response, which follows:
Dear Vendor Colloquium Working Group:
Thank you for inviting AALL members to comment on your Action Plan. The undersigned are among AALL members who want AALL to revitalize its commitment to consumer advocacy. Some of us bring to our recommendation many years of experience as AALL members and law librarians.
We appreciate your dedication to improving librarian-vendor relations, and we support goals designed to aid communication. However, the Action Plan has a serious shortcoming: it falls far short of AALL’s promise as a consumer advocate. The “partnership” ideal endorsed in the Action Plan appears to apply to all legal information vendors, whether or not they have extensive histories of anti-consumer practices. In fact, you do not define "partnership" or “consumer advocacy,” and appear to limit consumer advocacy to discussion during an Annual Meeting program. At any rate, we support the idea of engaging smaller legal publishers, under Goal II-C, and any other legal-content vendors who follow consumer and antitrust law in their business practices.
Even before the ongoing economic crisis, law libraries could not afford the cumulative costs of anticompetitive and unfair business practices by some vendors of legal and law-related information. In 2006, an attorney for the Information Access Alliance testified on skyrocketing subscription prices and unreasonable contractual constraints from single-firm, anticompetive conduct. Although his testimony concerns harm to research libraries from "bundling" of scholarly journals, the same type of conduct has harmed law libraries when they renew their subscription contracts. As described in a recent Library Journal interview, evidence also abounds of unfair business practices. A few of the many examples include:
• opaque, confusing, and deceptive pricing models for online subscriptions and for "bundled" portfolios of print or print-and-online subscriptions;
• non-disclosure demands in contracts;
• inclusion of more or fewer titles than requested in bundled subscription contracts, with inadequate or no options for correction;
• serious, widespread failures in editing, indexing, updating, and revising of publications
The business misconduct has reached a scale of devastating impact on law libraries. It has imperiled not just the quality and integrity of their services, but also, in many cases, their long-term sustainability.
Law libraries and allied consumers of information services should work together to remedy anti-consumer practices within the industry. They can do so without violating antitrust law. They may act in coalition to petition appropriate governmental bodies for remedies vital to their collective interests, and to the public interest.
We would rally behind AALL if it did everything possible to advance this vision of consumer advocacy. We would welcome collaboration with AALL’s leaders. So we recommend, as a first step, that AALL’s Executive Board embrace our proposal of a more robust consumer advocacy than AALL has pursued. At your request, my colleagues and I would be happy to elaborate on the proposal. We also ask that a future Colloquium focus on the means and goals of consumer advocacy, with digital or phone-conferencing access to all members, and a full, open record of proceedings.
If you wish to add your name in support of this comment, please contact Michael Ginsborg at email@example.com. We expect to submit it to Margie Maes by the July 15th deadline.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Jason Kaufman, a fellow of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society put together a research team in 2006, of 5 sociologists. Himself, 4 others from Harvard, and one from UCLA, to look at the Facebook pages from the students at Harvard College who would graduate in 2009. They hired student assistants at Harvard to help them go through, and collect data, as they followed the students through their 4 years at college. They collected information such as home state, major, political views, network of friends, gender, romantic relationships and preferences. They believed they were redacting information in a way that would protect the identities of the subjects adequately.
But Kaufman did remark in a videotaped talk in 2008, "Considering the Sociology of Facebook: Harvard Research on Collegiate Social Networking," that using Harvard students as research assistants did create an "interesting wrinkle... from a legal point of view..." If a Harvard student subject of the research, for instance, had set his or her privacy settings to show information only to his or her friends, and yet one of the research assistants was able to access this Facebook page because he or she was "friended," that is different from the undergraduate who had set privacy settings to show the whole world his or her pages. Nobody at the Berkman Center ever told the undergraduates on Facebook that they were studying their Facebook pages. They did not want to alarm them. Mr. Kaufman says that, "We all agreed that it was not necessary either ethically or legally."
What the sociologists have gathered is a fabulous collection of useful data. They released a portion to the public, titled "Tastes, Ties and Time," Facebook Data Release, September Data Release, 2008.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on critics attacks on the project, "Harvard Researchers Accused of Breaching Students Privacy", by Marc Parry, July 10, 2011. As early as 2008, Michael Zimmer, a privacy scholar and co-director of the Center for Information Policy Research at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, raised alarms over how easy it was to identify the supposedly "anonymous" university which was the source of the data, and to possibly identify the individual students within the study. For instance, there were only 3 students in the dataset from Utah, so that the Chronicle was able to pin point and contact one student and ask what she thought. (She did not mind her data being out there, but she would rather have been asked) The concern is that future employers, for instance, might use such data to discriminate.
The Chronicle article describes a very unclear battleground, where grant funders push for more data sharing and the privacy standards surrounding social networks are shifting from moment to moment. The author, Marc Parry, does a great job of explaining the increasing risks and difficulties for researchers with the best of intentions in trying to safeguard research subjects while doing internet research. He relates a story where a researcher gathered a Twitter stream from a whole group of people who were protesting a meeting, the Group of 20 Summit in Pittsburgh, probably using the hashmarks. During the research period, though, the police cracked down, and began to investigate the protesters. One of the major subjects of the Twitter research suddenly deleted all his tweets. But the researchers had already stored them separately in an archive and planned to use the data in a paper they were planning. The researchers had not sought prior approval from an Institutional Review Board (IRB board), thinking of Twitter more as newspaper publications than as utterances that might come under 5th Amendment protections. The researcher commented to the Chronicle author that he doubted his IRB Board would have predicted the issue arising the way it did any more than he did. This is just a developing area where it's very difficult to imagine how things might blow up. On the other hand, the Harvard/Facebook data was a very unique and difficult-to-gather data-set that many sociologists have wanted to use. Apparently many scholars have applied to use the data. Perhaps scholarship, says Parry, is the biggest casualty.
NALP (National Association for Law Placement) issued a press release on the employment and salaries secured by the graduates of the class of 2010. It is not a happy picture, which should come as no surprise.
They had earlier reported (in June) that 50.9% of the 2010 grads had jobs compared to 55.9% of the 2009 class. And more of the jobs are in smaller firms than in earlier-graduating classes. As we will see, this tends to depress the salaries. Part-time jobs make up about 11% of the jobs reported to NALP overall of the jobs requiring bar passage. But part-time jobs are especially prevalent in the academic sector and public interest sector, for jobs requiring bar passage. Only 68.4% of the class of 2010 reported to NALP that they had obtained jobs for which bar passage was required by the time of this report, and only 64% had full time employment in jobs requiring bar passage. 27% of the jobs were temporary, including judicial clerkships. Excluding clerkships, the percent of recent grads holding temporary jobs requiring bar passage is 19%.
Median $63,000 (down ~13%)
Mean $84,111 (down ~10%)
* All figures for those reporting full time work. Note that there is a large discrepancy between large firm salaries, which tend to cluster between $145-160,000 and small firm and other salaries, which cluster around $40-65,000. This means that there are very few salaries that actually fall anywhere near the mean or median points. They should actually skip this national overall analysis and just do the separate analysis for large firm rates and small firm and alternate practice rates, I think!
By type of work:
Median $104,000 (down ~20%)
$93,748 (they did not include the 2009 figure)
Virtually no change from last year for public service & government salaries. So most of the downward pressure on the salaries is coming in the law firm market.
I recommend reading the short report in full, though it is not happy news.
Thursday, July 07, 2011
International criminal law has been in the news of late. The International Criminal Court recently issued an arrest warrant for Muammar Khadafy; it remains to be seen if he will ever be brought to justice. In addition, Ratko Mladic,
commander of the Bosnian Serb army, was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity, and went on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on June 3. This is the fiftieth anniversary of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Nazi policy of forced deportation of European Jews, who was responsible for the deaths of millions. The conjunction of current events and the anniversary of the Eichmann trial inspired a thoughtful piece in The Boston Globe, written by Illana Bet-El, a writer and historian.
She believes that the Eichmann trial should be a model for modern war crimes trials. Eichmann's trial lasted only eight months. It featured an opening speech by the chief prosecutor, Gideon Hausner, that "was, and possibly remains, a high point of legal oratory: simple, direct, and powerful." Equally important was "the visual impact of the trial ... with Eichmann, the bespectacled middle-age man in a suit, his face often framed by heavy headphones ... encased in a glass booth." Bet-El asserts that the
[T]rial remains iconic ... [it] gripped an audience, explained the event, and imprinted its meaning: justice was seen and understood to be done in a clear and steady manner - relevant both to the victims and many millions of onlookers.
In contrast, modern war crimes trials are interminable, sometimes lasting for years. They do not engage the world community with their "constant if minor drip of developments." There is no sweeping oratory. Eichmann was isolated in his glass booth, while in the modern trials, all of the proceedings take place behind glass, and the participants interact only with their computers and earphones. "To the outside world, justice is neither seen nor heard to be done." There is still time "to retool the machinery," to try Mladic (and perhaps Khadafy too, one day) in such a way that the trial will work for "the victims and the greater good." Bet-El offers some specific suggestions: "[H]is trial must start and end in a timely manner; it must be clear and succinct; and it must encapsulate the horrors of the events."
Wednesday, July 06, 2011
NALP Executive Director James Leipold, speaking at the Northeast Association of Pre-Law Advisors, pointed out a few bright spots in the otherwise dismal job market for lawyers:
seem to be picking up a bit, with lateral hires looking strong, while entry level, alas, still pretty bleak.
Posted by Betsy McKenzie at 3:19 PM
Some time ago, I wrote a brief post here about a troubling story here in Boston. Boston College archives contain oral histories of some of the people involved in the "troubles" in Northern Ireland, a few still alive. Suddenly, they have been subpoenaed, despite the individuals who were interviewed for the oral histories being promised complete confidentiality. It turns out that the U.S. Department of Justice is helping the British government serve the subpoenas. The Chronicle of Higher Education has an excellent article following up on that short article (my link was to the Boston Globe).
It turns out that the subpoena is under a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), which began to be entered into about 30 years ago, according to the Chronicle. These treaties create mutual obligations between the agreeing nations to assist in "criminal" investigations and prosecutions. The U.S. entered its first MLAT in 1976, with Switzerland. Before the rise of MLATs, police or investigators had to move through courts and diplomatic channels with letters rogatory. Now they can simply go police to police. Sounds really good when you are talking about following terrorists or drug smugglers or such evil doers. The problem comes, according to Senate Executive Report 104-22, titled "Treaty with the Republic of Korea on Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters," dated 1996, from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The report notes that the problem with these MLATs is that the crimes that the other country requests the U.S. assist with investigating need not be criminal under U.S. standards. So under MLATs, can the United States be pulled into investigating foreign nationals for activities which are political crimes only under the terms of another nation's draconian laws, but which would be perfectly legal under our own laws? The Senate report says political crimes are an exception. But Chris Bray, writing for the Chronicle, does a masterful job of analyzing how this example is sliding past the definition police.
The MLATs vary in how broad the terms can be -- some are broad enough to include civil and administrative proceedings in addition to criminal proceedings, so that forfeiture proceedings could be covered in drug investigations, for instance. All of the treaties have exemptions to the types of actions, but these tend to be based on the national security interest, not interest of individuals, or ethical guidelines, so that saying that individuals might be killed because you opened the archives would not be a reason for an exemption. In the U.S., MLATs are executed through the criminal division of the Justice Department, which seems to be exactly who was serving the subpoena on Boston College. Kudos to Chris Bray at the Chronicle for doing great research on the problem!
Saturday, July 02, 2011
The angry law students and recent graduates, disillusioned by the terrible job market have been much covered by the legal press and blogs like Above the Law, and the ABA Journal online. Their blogs like Third Tier Reality, Law School Transparency, and the Temporary Attorney, Lawyers Against the Law School Scam, Subprime JD, and many more have been noted at law schools and the ABA alike.
The ABA reports on law professor Lucille Jewel of John Marshall Law School in At;anta who has an article in the latest issue of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science and Technology (vol. 12, issue 1, Winter, 2011), You're Doing it Wrong: How the Anti-Law School Scam Blogging Movement Can Shape the Legal Profession, at page 239-278. Prof. Jewel argues that the acid tone of the proliferating blogs by angry students and graduates is having a slow but powerful effect changing the law schools and the ABA which accredits law schools. The blogs raise the problem of an oversupply of lawyers in the job market, the exorbitant expense of legal education, and a lack of transparency in how law schools report and publicize post-J.D. employment data. Deans and administrators are reacting to the criticism.
Meanwhile, Prof. Bill Henderson of Indiana University has been studying the job market for some time and has come up with an article in the
ABA Journal and online that considers whether the changes in the legal marketplace were happening before the economic meltdown, and are part of a paradigm shift. Henderson has graphs showing big shifts from employment in law firms to more demand for legal services from low to middle income people who cannot afford the traditional law firm model, whether big or small firm. Henderson compares legal services to many other industries: architecture, newpapers, insurance, securities, and accounting to consider ways in which this business (which so few of us have really thought of as an industry) needs to change in order to take advantage of the new marketplace.
I keep telling students that in some ways, this meltdown actually is like a big forest that has had a tornado rip through. it leaves huge swathes of space open for a different kind of growth. If they are willing to think differently about delivery of services, there is a huge demand for services that is unmet. People who have connections in their community through ethnicity, religion, sports organizations, dog walking or any sort of connections, or who are willing to make those connections, can build a constituency and have word of mouth advertising. Attorneys who do good work for a fair price will find a market. But to make a business model that can be scaled and replicated into a larger group than just a one or two person office, you need to think very creatively about how to break apart and re-deliver the pieces of what have been done in traditional offices.
Look at the Henderson article for some provocative ideas.