Monthly Archives: November 2015

Cahiers de Hoummos: as International Year of Pulses approaches, MidLaw urges restraint

PULSE LOGO_IYP_en_print-squareWord has come – from New York, Rome and capitals around the world: 2016 is to be the International Year of Pulses. (That is: 2016 is to be the International Year of Pulses!)

The Year has been declared by the United Nations and its Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). And, about time.

MidLaw knows that pulses are annual leguminous crops yielding between one and 12 grains or seeds of variable size, shape and colour within a pod. They are used both for food and for feed. And, MidLaw knows that the term “pulses” is limited to crops harvested solely for dry grain. Oh, and pulses use soil bacteria to draw nitrogen from the air, reducing the need for fertilizers, so they promote environmental sustainability, as well.

First among the nutritious, sustainable pulses stands the chickpea: sturdy foundation of hummus, core ingredient of the ancient bean dip.

Of course, pulses also include lentils, beans and peas. And all of them “have been an essential part of the human diet for centuries,” even though, as the FAO laments, “their nutritional value is not generally recognized and is frequently under-appreciated.”

Friends, that deficit is about to be corrected. In the Year of Pulses, look for the heretofore lowly pulses to be celebrated, as “not merely cheap and delicious,” but “also highly nutritious sources of protein and vital micronutrients that can greatly benefit people’s health and livelihoods, particularly in developing countries.”

So, 2016 looks to be quite a year.

But, in all the excitement, MidLaw feels compelled to sound a note of caution. MidLaw detects amidst the entirely justified enthusiasm for pulses generally, an incipient encouragement to those who would advocate making hummus out of any pulse that comes their way. (Not just pulses, beets as well.)

While MidLaw is second to none in enthusiasm for pulses, there are fundamental principles. So, yes, it is good to celebrate the culinary and other merits of under-appreciated beans and peas. MidLaw agrees. But, we must recur to fundamental principles. And, such a principle is that hummus is made only from the chickpea.

The peoples of the Levant have been making hummus for 5,000 years. And surely by the waters of Babylon in all that time, temptations must have come to render hummus from chickpea alternatives. Yet, the Levant has stood firm. Over the centuries; over the millennia. There is no voice there for beet hummus, none for the black bean. These are doings of Californians.

Now, MidLaw gladly embraces change. Truth is eternal, but our understanding of it must progress. Revelation is continuing. MidLaw knows this. Yet, neither should the settled wisdom of the ages lightly be cast to the side when buffeted by the latest wind of doctrine.

So, MidLaw has readily embraced the whirring blades of the food processor and absorbed the burning heat of the microwave — in the name of change. But MidLaw has also recurred frequently to fundamental principles. And MidLaw stands firm for the timeless principle that hummus be of chickpeas made.

This is the MidLaw Way. As it shall remain — even in the International Year of Pulses, which itself is much to be welcomed and indeed celebrated.

Pulse Symbol_High

Meacham flubbed opportunity — Andrew Jackson practiced law in Greensboro before he moved to Tennessee

JacksonSpeaking at the Guilford College Bryan Series in Greensboro this week, Jon Meacham commented on Andrew Jackson, about whom Meacham has written a Pulitzer-Prize-winning biography. “Sorry,” he said to the Greensboro crowd, but “Jackson was a South Carolina native who settled in Tennessee.”

Boy, did Meacham miss an opportunity. For two years before he left for Tennessee, Andrew Jackson lived and practiced law virtually on the spot where Meacham was standing as he spoke those words.

Jackson got his legal education clerking in Salisbury then moved to Martinsville, a now-extinct town in Guilford County (essentially, Greensboro), where he was first licensed to practice law. Later, he moved from Guilford County to Tennessee with Judge John McNairy of Horsepen Creek (now also part of Greensboro). McNairy was the first native-born lawyer licensed in Guilford County, and McNairy descendants still practice law in Greensboro, including one at Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard. Both McNairy, a federal judge, and Jackson became leading figures in Tennessee.

Meacham, himself a Tennessee native and resident, missed a golden opportunity to pander to his Greensboro audience in the course of an otherwise excellent presentation focused mostly on his new biography of George H.W. Bush.

Jon Meacham apothegm @ Guilford College Bryan Series

Guilford sealJon Meacham at the Guilford College Bryan Series last night:

I believe deeply in the power of the liberal arts to enable us not only to see the dots, but to connect them.

Titanic struggle, North Carolina business, lawyers, history — epic telling of long ago story

Brophy photo of Mebane Luten Bridge

Prof. Alfred Brophy photograph of Mebane Bridge

What an extraordinary story.

A landmark legal opinion written by a fabled judge. A titanic battle between forces of the agrarian past and the industrial future. The construction of a gleaming bridge across a winding river in the wilderness – with no roads connecting the bridge on either side. The bridge built in the face of a repudiated contract. A baron of industry. Properties initially developed by North Carolina’s legendary John Motley Morehead. Two separate groups claiming to be the legitimate board of county commissioners. Democrats, Republicans.

It happened in Rockingham County, North Carolina. The case was Rockingham County v. Luten Bridge Company35 F.2d 301 (4th Cir. 1929). The prevailing lawyers were partners in the firm that became Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard.

Behind it all sits the perennial North Carolina policy debate, still current: should public funds be levied and invested to build the infrastructure of a new economy and how? How should infrastructure and the education of the people be provided for?

I have just become aware of the great telling of that story and the rooting out of its many facets in A Bridge, a Tax Revolt, and the Struggle to Industrialize: The Story and Legacy of Rockingham County v. Luten Bridge Co., by Barak Richman, Jordi Weinstock, and Jason Mehta, 84 North Carolina Law Review 1841 (2006).

 Well done. There’s only a hint of sex, or it coulda been a movie.

The algorithims are coming! The algorithms are coming!


Respected sources are newly reporting that lawyers “are facing greater disruption and transformation in the next two decades than we have had in the past century.”

The algorithms are coming.

Artificial intelligence is set to replace associates. Robots will replace junior partners. They may replace senior partners.

This is disruptive? Maybe it is Nirvana.

We are told, credibly, that what’s coming “will give rise to new ways of sharing expertise in society and will lead to the gradual dismantling of the traditional professions.” OK, but maybe this is an opportunity for lawyers to return to what they were meant to be – not technicians and managers, but counselors, advocates.

Surely the services lawyers provide in the future will evolve. But surely also clients will continue to value, perhaps in new ways, a sense of context and level of judgment that they themselves do not have – the last level of counsel and assurance. And in the end, there will be occasions when only a lawyer can bring the last level of conviction and passion needed in complex and ambiguous circumstances. Algorithms are coming, but ambiguities are not going away.

For law firms, the work of the future is to understand what’s coming, to manage the timing of it, and to learn how to develop new lawyers with the professional judgment and skills they will need.

In the end, law firms must deliver to their members, organic culture, authentic experience, and opportunities to fail. Those are what develop great lawyers.

In the end, the great lawyers will be the ones who learn to bring hammers to the coming computer fights.