Monthly Archives: July 2014

This smokin’ tobacco deal — what it shows about 21st Century lawyering

tobaccohouse12Think about this transaction the tobacco companies have announced. Think what it shows about the legal services  and “legal services organizations” needed to do the world’s work.

Recently, Peter Kalis asseverated that “classical” legal work – that is, work not susceptible of delivery by alternative legal services providers (LPOs and that lot) – is generated just now from three wellsprings: globalism, regulation and innovation/intellectual property. He might have been talking about the tobacco deal.

Outlines of the deal:

There are three parties. Two are American companies (Lorillard and Reynolds) and one is British (Imperial). All three are very large global enterprises organized into complex corporate structures.

 At every level, the transaction will be shaped by regulation. Antitrust and food-and-drug are only the headline regimes in play.

Essentially, what the three companies are doing is trading out brands. Some brands will move to Reynolds; some to Lorillard and Imperial. For the most part, the tangible property will follow the intellectual property. So, for example, Imperial becomes the owner of Lorillard brands and the plant, equipment and people that make the cigarettes will follow the brands. A major driver is acquisition of an e-cigarette brand, market and technology.

Envision the legal services that will be needed and the numbers and kinds of lawyers and firms that will be needed.

Globalism, regulation and intellectual property/innovation. Complexity, uncertainty, ambiguity.

Catnip for lawyers.

The future of small liberal arts colleges — “well trained minds & good hearts”

newgardenboardingschool Faculty & Staff New Garden Boarding School 1886

We have occasion to be concerned about the future of small, independent liberal arts colleges.

The June 28 issue of The Economist tees up the issue with an editorial and articles. Efficiency and affordability argue for large institutions and massive online courses. Public funding seems most likely to target large public institutions and curricula that prepare students for jobs.

Are independent, residential and small, liberal arts colleges simply obsolete? Should they seek to tag along in the turn towards technology, scale, distance learning and workforce preparation? Maybe. Or, maybe accommodations can be made that will preserve residential learning communities and achieve affordability. Maybe there remains a role for colleges that prepare human beings, in person, for fruitful, satisfying lives —  teaching practical skills for more than simply jobs?

Getting this right requires a recurrence to fundamental principles. What are liberal arts colleges for?

The vision of Nereus Mendenhall is a good place to start. Nereus Mendenhall kept New Garden Boarding School open during the Civil War and transformed it into Guilford College afterwards. His vision? “To produce men and women with well-trained minds and good hearts; people who can think for themselves and not be blown about by every wind of doctrine.”

That is a vision – a mission worth sustaining – at Guilford College and beyond. It’s bigger than job training and more than knowledge acquisition. The economics of it are challenging, but, as Quakers say, way will open.

Federal regulation of hummus, it has come to this

gavelSabra Dipping Company has petitioned the FDA to establish federal standards for hummus.

Hummus, the modest bean dip, is well known to this space.  And it is no stranger to such controversies.

Does it seem somehow incongruous that Sabra is a joint venture of PepsiCo, whose flagship product originated in Eastern North Carolina, and a company in Israel near where hummus was born? Does this have implications for the broader debate about the origins of hummus? Or, the (admittedly somewhat tenuous) case that hummus may have originated in Greensboro?

Are larger questions afoot? A loyal reader frets: “First they regulated my hummus, and I did not speak out ….” But – who can criticize the quest for quality? Serious questions, approaching angst, can (should) be raised about hummus made of beets.

The proposed federal rules would regulate “industrial hummus,” not hummus made in the privacy of one’s home.

I say, roll your own. Call it what you want. Buy you some Wranglers. This is America. Wherever you are.

But if you put beets in it, I’m not eating it.

An Omnibus Plan for Law Firms, Students

In the Beginning, there was the Bubble. It inflated steadily over about 30 years, and then it expired in the Great Recession. The Recession put an end to the Omnibus Law Firm Business Plan, which was (i) suffer your  business to grow by 5% to 10% a year; and (ii) hire new lawyers at the rate of 5% to 10% each year.Supply

The 30-Year Bubble and the Omnibus Plan were manageable, even for a “learned profession.”

Over the life of the Bubble and fueled by the Omnibus Plan, getting a law degree and working for a Big Law firm came to be seen as a good way to school yourself into making a lot of money. So, students came. Law schools expanded. New ones opened. Law firms competed to hire new lawyers. Law schools imposed rules about when and how law firms were permitted to hire new lawyers. And law students borrowed great sums to get into the game.

The Recession ended all that. Management got tricky. Hiring slowed, stopped and started. Getting a law degree no longer appeared to be a reliable path to a lot of money. Law classes shrank. Advice came about careers other than law practice for which law degrees are a good preparation (or, not).

Current data  shows little improvement in the post-Recession law-job market (“despite signs of modest improvement, . . .  there are still signs of weakness in the entry-level job market”).

Now, there is a new debate. Will shrinking law school classes, like bad harvests, create shortages?

Slate adjures “Apply to Law School Now! Things Are Looking Rosy.”

Above the Law rejoins “Sweet Baby Seamus, Do Not Apply to Law School Now!

Slate sur-rejoins: No, We really Mean It. Go to Law School.  Seriously.

Pointers about planning for persons considering legal careers and for managers of law firms:

Sooner or later this “market” will get the supply in line with the demand. Things will settle down.

Keep your eye instead on this: Even as the market is sorting out supply and demand, the legal profession is changing in fundamental ways. This is the result of developments in information and communications technology, globalization, the evolution of  in-house legal departments, and the growing sophistication of the unlicensed workforce (we call them “non-lawyers”).

The kinds of work that the law-licensed might do in the future are morphing all over the place. So is the competition. There is no longer a single, homogeneous species called “lawyer.” (So, why should there be a single institution called a “law school”?)

The advice from this station then is: try to get clear about what kind of law-related career and legal work suit you — or your law firm. What skills do you have or can you get? How do these align with what is coming? What kind of work gets your motor running? (This is sometimes referred to as strategic planning.)

I don’t think I’d do something I didn’t want to do, even if there’s a great market for it.

“When something online is free, you’re not the customer, you’re the product.”

hunte“When something online is free, you’re not the customer, you’re the product.”

It’s not clear who said it first.

Douglas Rushkoff explains what it means.

Recent news has revived the discussion.

The hunter and the hunted.

Guilford College’s remarkable new president comes to work

Guilford CollegeJane1’s remarkable new president  started work this week.