Learners will inherit the earth

First graders this year will graduate in 2030.

By 2030 up to 800 million workers around the world will have lost their jobs to automation.

In a presentation at Westtown School recently, New York Times journalist and Westtown graduate Kevin Roose said, “Things are going to keep changing rapidly… People who are able to adjust to [new industries] rather than clinging to the old way of doing things are going to have a big advantage.”

Eric Hoffer famously said,

In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exits.

In 2030, today’s first graders will need competencies such as creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, adaptability, and empathy.

Next fall, Guilford College will bring forth “The Guilford Edge.” It is designed precisely to develop the learners. Learners first, learned later.

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Sports and arts at Guilford College

Guilford College has very strong arts and very strong athletics. Right now, both are being re-imagined and newly resourced there.

Dana Giola, the Poet Laureate of California and former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, once commented

I don’t like sports, but you’ve got to admire the energy, creativity, and innovation that goes into sports. And it’s very similar to arts. It’s a way of focusing human energy to create these symbolic encounters which have enormous emotional resonance to audiences

Guilford’s got’em both.

Giola’s comment affirms Guilford’s thinking. The student experience at Guilford crosses traditional boundaries. It finds connections, focuses energy, teaches the importance of symbolic encounters. It’s creative.

These are elements of a life lived well. Both sports and arts teach those things HANDS ON at Guilford College.

I’m amazed continually at how often people who spent their college years at athletics and arts and literature (and other such endeavors) turn out to have the chops to get things done.

Athletes make great executives; French majors make the BEST lawyers.

A timidly lived life, an eggless existence, low fat

Eggs Fried

The Cleveland Clinic says eggs are good for you. It says you’d do well to eat them every day. Salt, it says, is not all that bad. A low-fat diet makes little difference.

All those eggs not eaten. All that cabbage not salted. So much skim milk. The mind reels. The spirit plummets. The metabolism boggles.

Who is to blame? Doctors? The Government? The Sugar Lobby?

Where is the reward for a timidly lived life? An eggless existence?

What price low fat?

Cahiers de Hoummous: Yuletide hummus, a MidLaw tradition

In the spirit of the season, garnish your hummus with a sprig of holly. The dark green leaf, the bright red berry: they rest so well on a rich bed of beige. (Recipe for the beige: The MidLaw Hummus Way.)

But do not eat that holly. Remember: Holly is toxic and can cause death to small animals and little children.

Merry Christmas to all! And a Happy New Year!

Bright long-term future of the right lawyers and mid-sized firms affirmed by tech guru

Kai-fu Lee, leading artificial intelligence exponent, makes the following observation about lawyers and artificial intelligence. He’s in line with MidLaw’s dogged confidence in the prospects of lawyers who focus on core (indeed, 19th Century) lawyer skills and MidLaw’s confidence in the mid-sized law firms that provide the best setting left for cultivating those skills. 

Top lawyers will have nothing to worry about when it comes to job displacement. Reasoning across domains, winning the trust of clients, applying years of experience in the courtroom, and having the ability to persuade a jury are all examples of the cognitive complexities, strategies, and modes of human interaction that are beyond the capabilities of AI. However, a lot of paralegal and preparatory work like document review, analysis, creating contracts, handling small cases, packing cases, and coming up with recommendations can be done much better and more efficiently with AI. The costs of law make it worthwhile for AI companies to go after AI paralegals and AI junior lawyers, but not top lawyers.

10 Jobs That Are Safe in an AI World

MidLaw has been saying so:

MidLaw Christmas Traditions – The James Brown Christmas Miracle

Everybody has their Christmas traditions. MidLaw has several. First is the James Brown Christmas Miracle, which MidLaw discovered last year. You can push a button right here, right now, and get James Brown’s Funky Christmas on your device. Now that is a miracle.

As nearly as I can tell, thanks for this are due to Josh Jones, a writer, and musician based in Durham, NC, and to Open Culture, the best free cultural and educational media on the web. And, of course, to JAMES BROWN.

Let us rejoice and be glad.

Have a Soulful Christmas (Track 6).

[Next week, it’s MidLaw’s Yuletide Hummus.]

Modern trends in scams, spoofs, and fraud, the fevered pace of it all

The great thing about check frauds is they proceed at a leisurely pace. (Used to.) Phone fraud, on the other hand, makes up 30% of all mobile calls and next year they say it’s going to 50%. That’s a fevered business. 

There’s a guy in Florida who made 96 million crooked calls in 3 months. OK, the initial calls were automated. Spoofing. But still.

Those guys focus on bank cards and identity theft. (“You’ll need to give me your credit card number.” “I need to verify your social security number.”)

By comparison, checks and bills were built for comfort, not for speed.

It’s another reason to regret the impending passing of the good old world of checks and checking

On the demise of checks and checking, and a “pleasantly remunerative” law practice

More than half of the branches of the largest banks in Sweden don’t keep cash and won’t take cash or checks anymore. Churches, charities, and even homeless street vendors prefer swipe cards or cell phone payments to cash. So do the major retailers worldwide. In Africa and India, most commercial payments move by cell phone. Cash and checks are too expensive, too risky, and too much trouble.

The point when cash and checks will be finished is in sight.

So this is a moment for MidLaw.

There was a time when MidLaw made a tidy practice in negotiable instruments law as an attorney and also as an expert witness. It was a nice practice – just narrow enough to require a quasi-specialist but nonetheless broad enough to keep a steady stream of legal questions and controversies coming in. And it entailed enough money both to keep rogues looking for new angles and also to justify paying lawyers to sort things out.

But the rogue community these days seems to be moving on to email, telephone scams, and the like. Those check scams that are left seem to focus on fake checks and counterfeits, and they just don’t seem to require lawyers so much anymore.

Well, the good old law of paper payments has a long and colorful history and MidLaw hates to see it go. It occupies not one, but two, articles (chapters) in the Uniform Commercial Code. There’s an extensive criminal law of worthless checks, forgeries, counterfeits, and kiting. Can a negotiable order to pay be written on the back of a cow? Can you serve as an intermediary to help the late royal family of Nigeria negotiate a certified instrument? (They said they were royal, anyway.) There’s a well-developed body of precedents about these things. In short — and I am serious: the law of negotiable instruments is a monumental and elegant achievement of Anglo-American jurisprudence.

But now as payments in cash and checks decline and fewer matters arise, MidLaw is mindful of the thoughts of that long-ago lawyer in Bartleby, the Scrivener, who had a practice as a Master in Chancery on Wall Street in the early 19thCentury. He said,

The good old office, now extinct in the State of New York, of a Master in Chancery, had been conferred upon me. It was not a very arduous office, but very pleasantly remunerative. I seldom lose my temper; much more seldom indulge in dangerous indignation at wrongs and outrages; but I must be permitted to be rash here and declare, that I consider the sudden and violent abrogation of the office of Master in Chancery, by the new Constitution, as a premature act inasmuch as I had counted upon a life-lease of the profits, whereas I only received those of a few short years.

Similarly, modern-day negotiable instruments lawyers can hardly indulge in indignation at the substitution of electronic payments for paper instruments, and they can hardly label it an outrage, but they might be excused a certain regret in noting the passing of this once pleasantly remunerative area of practice.

The new thing in Conetoe – what is it about that place?

Even as MidLaw was marveling about the extraordinary human talent cultivated there in the past, Conetoe was garnering fresh national approbation and accolades for new achievements. There’s a movie about it. They won an Emmy.

Conetoe.

What is it about Conetoe?

 

Blockchain, Bartleby, and real property lawyers

Bartleby, The Scrivener, A Story of Wall Street, by Herman Melville.

It was published in 1835, but it is uncannily contemporary. Uncanny: Bartleby is a direct comment on the application of blockchain to the practice of law in the 21st Century – coming from a guy otherwise best known for his study of albino whales and certain broader aspects of the whaling industry in the 18th Century.

The book is an almost perfect thing for a holiday weekend. It is free. Published in 1835, you can download it at no charge. It is short. And it is written in an engaging style. It is funny.

Withal, you can still feel a sense of accomplishment from reading it. It’s said to be “the most noted of American short stories.” It’s among the most interpreted, commented upon, and alluded to stories ever. The Economist magazine maintains a blog named Bartleby. Bartleby.com is a major Internet repository of classic texts. The character, Bartleby, is a stereotype, a trope even. So, it’s good to know what’s behind all that.

Bartleby has become a mental model, a way of understanding the world.

And – 200 years down the road – it has become impossible to conclude that, with Bartleby, Melville was not commenting on the application of artificial intelligence to law practice – with precision and humor.

The story is told by a Wall Street real property lawyer, who describes himself as:

a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best. Hence, though I belong to a profession proverbially energetic and nervous, even to turbulence at times, yet nothing of that sort have I ever suffered to invade my peace. I am one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men’s mortgages and title-deeds. All who know me, consider me an eminently safe man.

The lawyer’s snug retreat has been threatened by changes in the marketplace and profession, and by accompanying changes in the law and legal system:

The good old office, now extinct in the State of New York, of a Master in Chancery, had been conferred upon me. It was not a very arduous office, but very pleasantly remunerative. I seldom lose my temper; much more seldom indulge in dangerous indignation at wrongs and outrages; but I must be permitted to be rash here and declare, that I consider the sudden and violent abrogation of the office of Master in Chancery, by the new Constitution, as a—premature act;inasmuch as I had counted upon a life-lease of the profits, whereas I only received those of a few short years.

But, for the moment, the lawyer is experiencing an upswing in his business, and he needs to hire a fourth “legal copyist” or scrivener. Scriveners were 19th Century word processors. (Note for younger readers: until the late-Twentieth Century, word processors were human beings.)

So the lawyer hires a scrivener, Bartleby, who had lost his job as a clerk in the Dead Letter Office of the postal system due to a change in administration. Thereby hangs Melville’s tale of a man who copied legal documents, word-by-word and by hand, for his living.

Today, in the 21st Century, scriveners have been entirely replaced by small machines. Lawyers today – at least those in search of a snug retreat – are now the ones being re-ordered, if not largely eliminated, by changes in the law and by the advance of blockchain, artificial intelligence, and their supporting technologies, also delivered by small machines.

It’s hard to see how Bartley is not commenting on all that – although as Bartleby says, “I’d prefer not to.”

Possibly, the story is also a comment on contemporary politics. That’s for others to say. I’d prefer not.