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Author: Geoffrey Rapp

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How do LAWYERS use blogs? (BLEG)

Sometimes, the law professor blogosphere resembles an echo chamber. We write posts that are commented on and linked to by other bloggers; occasionally, a post gets cited in a law review article or even a judicial opinion.

Last week, Professor Volokh asked his readers to help him figure out “which kind of lawyers read which kinds of blogs.” He was particularly interested in in-hous counsel at major business firms, and readers were kind enough to provide lists of blogs checked daily or subscribed to in RSS feeds. Next month, I’ll be giving a presentation in Columbus, OH to a group of securities regulators on the topic of “how securities lawyers use blogs.” I’d greatly appreciate comments on how lawyers in general (or business lawyers in particular) use blogs, and what blogs or kinds of blogs are most useful. Feel free to post comments here or e-mail me. Anyone willing to be quoted (with or without attribution) in a public presentation should feel free to let me know. This is a blog post in which I’m begging, or a “bleg,” for those less familiar with the vernacular of the bloggentsia.

Lawyers seem to use blogs in a number of ways. As consumers of blogs, lawyers may follow the latest developments in their areas of practice, or in related areas they may not have time to cover in the course of their ordinary practice. Lawyers also consume blogs for the same reasons they buy copies of American Lawyer magazine: for gossip, salary and revenue data, and the like. As producers of blogs, lawyers seem to use blogs as a form of financially inexpensive (but certainly time consuming) advertising. By providing regular updates to readers, lawyers attract hits and links and attention from across the country that may lead to far greater professional recognition than the traditional “1-555-Sue-4You” billboards and TV ads.

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A Voter Aptitude Test for U.S. News Law Rank Voters?

Professors are ablog about the U.S. News ballots recently arrived in law school mailrooms around the country. At Moneylaw, rankings guru Tom Bell (Chapman Law) relates interesting news of possible voting irregularities in the academic reputation balloting — with individuals other than deans, associate deans, recruiting chairs and most-recently-tenured profs receiving ballots even though they aren’t supposed to be U.S. News voters. At Prawfs, Jason Solomon (Georgia) reminds voters they are supposed to be assessing schools’ quality, rather than reputation.

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Jo(e) the Law Professor

Jo(e) the law professor has mixed emotions when it comes to the economic and financial turmoil of recent weeks.

Jo(e) thought s/he made a smart decision when s/he started work at a “Tier 2-Tier 3″ law school in the middle of America a few years ago by electing a portable and individualized pension plan, rather than the traditional defined benefit plan most professors of an earlier generation had chosen. Jo(e) observed increased mobility by professors over the course of their careers, and thought there was a chance s/he might someday move to another school or community. The traditional 20-year pension plan seemed inconsistent with professional trends, and Jo(e) questioned whether the traditional pension system would be solvent when s/he faced retirement.

Jo(e) watched his/her pension fund contributions grow during those pre-tenure years. This year, s/he noticed, with some anxiety, that his/her account now had less money in it then s/he had contributed. Distressing, needless to say.

Yet Jo(e) gets a kind of pervese happiness in seeing law school classmates-turned I-bankers transformed into handout-seeking neo-socialists.

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Judging Part-Time Law Programs

U.S. News “academic reputation” ballots are apparently out. This year, as TaxProf Paul Caron and voter Austen Parrish at Prawfs report, the magazine is asking voters to nominate “top-quality part-time J.D. programs.” This is likely an effort to counter criticism that the magazine’s possible inclusion of part-time students’ credentials in the overall law rankings will devastate genuine part-time programs across the country.

U.S. News has not made clear the precise formula to be used to rate these part-time programs, but one of the factors is “part-time peer assessment.” I am struck that professors at schools with no part-time programs are being asked to rate the part-time programs of schools that do offer this option. It might have been better to ask only those schools with part-time programs to evaluate other part-time programs. It also seems like U.S. News could rank evening programs, rather than part-time programs, to avoid letting schools’ more controversial but often larger part-time day programs cloud the rankings. But I digress.

Are the things that make a full-time program strong equally relevant in evaluating part-time programs? Perhaps so, but other factors may bear special attention in evaluating part-time J.D. offerings. In my opinion (having taught evening classes at three law schools offering part-time J.D.s), students at outstanding part-time programs are well integrated in the intellectual, academic, and extracurricular life of the law school.

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Bailoutspeak

Like most of the “crises” that captivate Washington’s attention, current economic and financial affiars have produced some interesting new terms, concepts and phrases.

One of my favorites is the term “toxic assets.” (When members of the pro-bailout forces describe these assets, which taxpayers are supposed to buy, they typically use the less caustic phrase “troubled assets“). During my brief venture over to the business school to take an accounting class, I seem to recall something about balance sheets involving “assets” and “liabilities,” but I don’t remember where I am supposed to put toxic assets in my ledger. Dinner might be considered an asset, but if it is poison, it would seem to me to be more of a liability. Toxic assets are nothing more than assets that are overpriced or overvalued — perhaps dramatically so. Yet saying that taxpayers should purchase or otherwise guarantee “overpriced assets”, well, that doesn’t have a very good ring.

Another concept I found amusing was President Bush’s assertion in his Tuesday morning plea to the nation (and its elected representatives) that to do nothing would not return us to the “smooth functioning of the free market“. Funny idea. I could show you a few hundred abandoned factories and warehouses on the drive up I75 from Toledo to Detroit that suggest the free market functions in anything but a smooth way. Capitalism’s “creative destruction” has always involved tremendous dislocation during transition periods.

And then there was Senator McCain’s amusing statement in Friday’s debate that a bailout was necessary to “keep these institutions stable.” Another wonderfully interesting phrase. I thought that, by definition, institutions were stable. If something isn’t stable, well, it’s not much of an institution, is it?