Collaborative Family Law v. The Hartshornes

By: John Magyar · January 30, 2010 · Filed Under ADR/Mediation, Family Law, Uncategorized · 2 Comments 

Divorce litigation appears to be so wasteful. Precious money, time and emotional energy get consumed in battles that could be resolved so much more quickly through negotiation; and processes that promote settlement out of court like collaborative family law seem so obviously to be the better way.

However, while researching a paper on prenuptial agreements I happened upon the trials and tribulations of the Hartshornes. This is an extraordinary story – They disputed a prenuptial agreement all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada then fought about how to apply the decision, who gets the matrimonial home, how much to pay for the other party’s share of the home and finally over costs. All told they went to Court nine times over ten years.

It occurred to me that a collaborative process would have been very dissatisfying to this most combative couple. Although the notion that litigation should be avoided seems like such a reasonable point of view, it could be very patronizing to push this view on someone who is experiencing a painful marital breakdown and genuinely wants to fight.

No doubt lawyers who practice CFL are keenly aware of this, but the Hartshorne story makes the point so abundantly clear. It’s a monument to post-matrimonial melee.  And to their credit, the Hartshornes fought with lawyers rather than fists … but I still scratch my head in amazement. Ten years in court to end a twelve-year marriage. Incredible.

Blawg Review #228

If you’re just starting law school, law blawgs can be your best friend. In addition to this site, here are 99 other blog posts that you should read to help prepare for your adventure.  It won’t help you though if you’re a judge about to be tested.

Most law students want to be in the top 10-15% of their class, and there are career opportunities that depend on that. Ken DeLeon of Top-law-schools.com provides some tips for success in law school, including a handy flowchart on how to prepare for your law school exams. But keep in mind that the end of the billable hour might result in some changes to your legal education, and law students have different learning styles than the rest of the population.

Still applying to law school? An undergraduate degree in physics or math might be your best option to get a solid LSAT score. Remember that these days a law career is considered a risky option, and there are lawyers in Jersey actually working for free. Where else is success defined by more work (even for less pay), and not more recreational or family time?  Larry Ribstein still thinks law school is the cool choice.  But is it really worth it?

On the other hand  you could elect to skip your classes, get intoxicated regularly, sleep with all the members of the opposite sex, gain a reputation as being a total douche bag, and then score a book and movie deal.

Introducing Tucker Max – asshole extraordinaire – a graduate of Duke Law that claims assholes finish first.

An inspiring personality, certainly, and an approach that John Infante of Fearfully Optimistic would definitely disagree with.  It does make you wonder how many Dukes are faking the Daisy to hazard “celebrity bias.”  The Bitter Lawyer has an exclusive interview with Tucker that is, at the very least, amusing.

Then again, “skipping classes, playing basketball, doing cocaine and getting drunk” might help you become President of the United States – but eventually someone might start asking for your law school transcripts.  None of this is likely to come up during the President’s special advice to students tomorrow (Sept. 8).  An open and transparent government, perhaps, but not that open. Reality check: the last refuge of the persecuted crack smoker may not be in law school.

Hey, “Some people snort cocaine, others snort religion,” and the latter is not necessarily better.  The Exit at My Legal Fiction suggests wearing lipstick as a law school study aid, for some very compelling reasons.  If you’re a missionary in Kenya, please don’t vow to go to law school out of religious convictions, unless you’re going to a low-ranking religious-affiliated law school.  Happy Belated Todd, but I won’t be paying $25,000 for dinner any time soon.

Still, your biggest youthful indiscretion might be going to law school itself (and graduating at the bottom of your class hardly precludes success).  If your indiscretions precede law school and include a criminal record, there are some disclosure issues you should considerUsing stolen Social Security Numbers to steal student loans for partying, with  Tucker, Todd, or otherwise, probably isn’t a great idea.  Assistant Deans at law schools?  Not a good idea either.

Robert J. Ambrogi also tells us about Branigan Robertson of Chapman University School of Law, who won $10,000 for this video in the My Inspiration video contest:

These law students are doing better than a lot of lawyers these days. When life gives you lemons (or a recession), you should just make lemonadeDan Markel is asking, what kind of juice are you making?

On the other hand, if you’re looking to avoid personalities like Tucker Max at all costs,  you might be interested in Above the Law’s Douchiest Law School Contest.douchiest law school harvard duke.jpg

No surprise that Harvard and Duke are currently heading the pack as finalists.  Also check out Paul Caron’s review of U.S. News Law School Rankings for Judicial Clerkships, which includes data from Brian Leiter’s rankings. If douchiness turns you off of Yale and clerkships are really important to you, the University of North Dakota might be a good alternative.  However, great credentials don’t always make more satisfied lawyers, because these guys tend to be plagued by that green-eyed monster.

Charon QC’s musings might be useful in determining if a “douchy law school” is worse than a “McDonalds of law schools,” while Dan Slater of the NYTimes suggests just locking the doors to all law schools because there are too few hiring positions. Still having a hard time picking a law school? The iPhone app Law School 100 is free until midnight tonight (Sept. 7). Study aids are becoming more interactive, with West’s new Interactive Case Series now linking to directly to law review articles cited in the case series.

Keep in mind that law school is different than undergrad, and you should probably clean up those social networks you’re on. After all, you wouldn’t want your mom witnessing you pulling a Tucker Max, and some employers might require you to submit your social media for a background check. Social media is also being increasingly being used in the courtroom, and no, the judge doesn’t really want to be your “friend.”  Don’t get rid of that social media entirely though, because “People don’t find lawyers in the phone book… They find them through TV ads or friends or by searching the Internet, including blogs and social networking tools.”

Apparently what clients really want from their lawyer is to “feel the love,” so if someone comes to your office complaining they hurt their “tushy bone,” try not to laugh too hard. Be forewarned though – that volenti non fit injuria doctrine you learn in Torts class also applies to contracting Herpes Simplex I from wrestling, also known as Herpes Gladiatorium.

That’s probably not what Lauren in Law School had in mind when she suggested gladiator games as an alternative to On Campus Interviews (OCIs).  You can get a list of the guys in your university with herpes from the new Campus Gossip site just to be on the safe side.

Although the number of followers you have on Twitter is no sign of of expertise or influence, it might land you a job (or lose it) with a firm or get you published, even if Perz Hilton decides to sue you for defamation. No “love” (or wrestling) for him, sorry.  Some people do take Twitter seriously, perhaps too seriously.

Eric Goldman’s interview with David Lat highlights the importance of students networking during a crisis.  Dennis Jansen also thinks that networking with your peers might be useful, but consists of more than “beaming your peers with business cards or mass-adding people on Facebook and LinkedIn.” As popular as WordPress may be for blogs, it just might not be for your law firm, and you even might be held liable for content on your site to a tune of $32.4 million.

The Law Society or State Bar is probably not going to like it if you steal other people’s Twitter content and pass it off as your own, like Melina Beninghoff did . Stealing content doesn’t take brilliance, and it barely takes effort.  What is clever is coming up with this CraigsList listing from Los Angeles.  But is stolen content any worse than fake content?

Today is also Labour (sic) Day in Canada and the U.S.  That’s the Canadian spelling, because Labour Day did originate in Canada in 1872 with the Trade Unions Act, which legalized unions.  The United States followed in 1882 with informal observance in New York City, and by 1894 it was observed by 23 states through legislation. Still, it was the American President Lincoln, not a Canadian, who said in December 1881,

It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor…

Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not existed.

Although most Canadian law schools start the day after Labour Day, many Americans start a week or two earlier. According to Blawg Review 122 it seems that in Dublin they start as late as October, but it might just be that everyone (students and profs) are recovering from prolonged hang-overs.

Labour relations are highly relevant for this edition of Blawg Review, since law professors at the University of California are considering a walk-out despite having the “best public education in the world.” Perhaps they could use this list of 24 alternative mediation dispute resolution sites to read.

Maybe they should just settle this all over a beer. Then again, those Canadian brewers are at it again with their trade-mark litigation! Next time someone tells you “I Am Canadian,” you might want to do your due diligence.

The big thing up here in Canada right now is Copyright Consultation Reform. Although over-reaching legislation is great for the lawyers, it does little for end-users of copyright material.  If you’re one of those folks with a keen attention for cyberspace cases, this new blog following the 10 most important U.S. cases will probably be of interest.

But the big thing about Canada in the U.S. right now seems to be our healthcare system, which we’re rather partial to, despite what they mights say (Ignore those pesky suits).  Send us your gladiators with herpes, and your perdurable impetus. All that talk over at Volokh about a “lottery system” can only be described as nonsense.

(At 1:53 Glenn Beck repeats lottery libel, and at 3:21 yells at a caller to get off his phone, “you little pinhead,” for not listening to the “facts.”  The remix is even funnier.)

Although she acknowledges that healthcare reform is needed, Althouse has 10 things she hates about it.  Change is always hard due to “status quo bias.” Madeleine Begun Kane has a limerick she wrote just for the spats over healthcare in the U.S. (watch your pinkies!):

“Majority rule is just great,”
Said Gregg in the drilling debate.
“You’ve got 51 votes,
Then you win.” Check his quotes.
Yet 51 Dem votes don’t rate.

Seeking medical treatment is probably the first thing you should do after a car accident, irrespective of whether it occurs in Canada or the U.S.  Passen Law provides 9 other things you should do, including, of course, getting an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Another thing we have in Canada absent in the U.S. is a prohibition against the death penalty.  Perhaps the fact that 45% of wrongful convictions in capital cases are based on jailhouse snitches has something to do with it.  Mark Bennett of Defending People points out the interesting observation that a Texan executioner appears to be committing murder by that state’s law,

…would you participate in a death penalty trial, knowing that, for the rest of your life, with the turn of a tide of public opinion you could be prosecuted for making what you believed to be the right decision? You may be betting your life.

Do you think that employment contract with the State would protect you?  Don’t count on it, as Jeffery I. Gordon mentions that most contracts are too brittle to withstand scrutiny, even if those FirstDrafter clauses look like they can do the job.

On the other hand, if your employment contract follows an affirmative action plan that is not remedial and narrowly tailored for past discrimination, it may constitute unlawful discrimination.  We’re still not sure if a stripper constitutes an employee or an independent contractor in Employment Law class.

More guys in that class would probably express their anticipation for seeing Jessica Alba as the stripper-law student Nancy Callahan in the upcoming Sin City 2 if they weren’t concerned about objectifying women.

Don’t lose any sleep over it, unless you’ve sexually assaulted employees and are settling for $1.72 million.  Be careful though – the risk of contracting gladiator herpes (and sins) rises exponentially when wrestling with strippers.  You could also get robbed or raped.

Personally, I would be okay with any affirmative action that sought to get everyone but Tucker Max and any potential douches into my law school.  Nancy Callahan might get a pass, as long as she doesn’t hook up with Tucker while she’s there.


Special thanks to David Shulman for editing on this piece.


That’s it for this week’s edition! Remember: Blawg Review has information about next week’s host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.

Shell & The Elephant In The Room

By: Ainsley Brown · June 10, 2009 · Filed Under ADR/Mediation, Civil Procedure, Ethics, Politics · Comments Off 

First posted on Commercial Law International on June 9, 2009.

By Charles Wanguhu

A report by the Economist Intelligence Unit indicates that protecting a firm’s reputation is the most important and difficult task facing corporations. With the development of global media and communication channels, managing reputational damage is seen as crucial with events undertaken in even the remotest areas affecting the international brand of a corporation.

For Shell the stark reality of reputational damage is all too clear. After years and years of denial and expressing its innocence of the Ogoni affair (it still maintains its innocence), Shell has decided to settle a case brought against it out of court for a sum of 15.5 Million US $. The lawsuit had accused the company of colluding with Nigeria’s former military regime over the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other peaceful anti-oil protesters.

Like Nike before it Shell remains in many minds as the poster child of a lack of corporate responsibility especially in big multinationals. The Saro Wiwa case is largely sited not only in commercial classrooms but across NGO conferences worldwide. Multinationals are viewed as bulldozing their way with the help of corrupt and dictatorial regimes to fulfill their interests with complete disregard to vulnerable communities.

The perception of Shell as the irresponsible corporate persists despite the fact that it has invested millions in engaging communities in areas that it works in and has increasingly taken on human rights in its business models and stakeholder engagement strategies.

still life about the concept of  the nostalgy

In response to the case filed Malcolm Brinded, Shell’s executive director for exploration and production, was quoted,

“While we were prepared to go to court to clear our name, we believe the right way forward is to focus on the future for Ogoni people, which is important for peace and stability in the region.”

The settlement could be seen as a magnanimous move by Shell in some quarters with some already hailing the move as groundbreaking in terms of holding corporations accountable. However when looked at broadly the settlement will be seen as a coup for Shells PR team: instead of having weeks, months or even years of a contested trial where Shells actions or lack of thereof would be once again stirred up in everyone’s mind globally, a quick settlement offers a quick escape route.

All in all $15.5Million may well be considered a bargain when factoring in legal costs, reputation risks and lost revenue. There could well have been some champagne popped at Shell HQs but am sure downstairs in the legal department the wait is on with baited breath to see whether the floodgates have been open.

UWO Strike Averted

By: Lawrence Gridin · December 15, 2008 · Filed Under ADR/Mediation, Labour & Employment Law · 1 Comment 

A strike at the University of Western Ontario has been averted after the school reached an agreement with the union.

The bizarre union – International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 772 – is comprised of only 10 members. These 10 employees run the obsolete steam plant which heats both Western and University Hospital. They also keep the tunnels beneath the school nice and toasty warm.

An email was sent to Western students earlier this week to warn of a possible strike and to set out steps to help students avoid disruption of classes and transportation networks. Local 772 would have been in a legal position to strike as of midnight tonight.

Fortunately, Western News reports that a tentative collective bargaining agreement has now been reached, subject to ratification by the Board of Governors.

No word yet on York’s ongoing battle with its TA/Grad Student/Contract Faculty union. It’s an issue we’ve been following for some time now.

See e.g.:

Scientific Ecumentalism

By: Law is Cool · April 11, 2008 · Filed Under ADR/Mediation, Humour, International Law · 4 Comments 

Chris Blattman, an Assistant Professor of Political Science & Economics at Yale University, and a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development, has an interesting post on some of his recent work in West Africa:

You know experimental program evaluation has become a craze when even the Imams want it.

Today we sat down with an inter-faith network of Liberian religious leaders to talk about their peace building plans. They are a truly inspiring organization, building local capacity to resolve conflicts, and training mediators to resolve disputes in the community. The countryside is, to some extent, a powder keg, and they are building local early warning systems and rapid response capability to potentially serious conflicts.

Moreover, to reduce tensions in conflict-prone places, these religious leaders–principally Muslims and Christians–do not just aspire to a new social contract, they sit down with ethnic and religious leaders in each village and coax them to actually write one, specifying norms and sanctions.

And they want to know if it’s working.

I hum and haw about comparison groups, going through my impact evaluation 101 schpiel. I have serious concerns that one would or could develop a control group, let alone randomize, for such a program. So I dance delicately around the subject.

“Wait a minute,” interrupts the Imam, “Are you talking about a randomized control trial?”

I gape.

“Oh I see!” says one Reverend Minister, “We need a control group! This is a good idea.”

It turns out his holiness was once an agronomist. “This is just like our control plots for fertilizer. But how are we going to control for spillover effects?”

An older Methodist leader frowns sitting in the corner glowers. “Please, a moment,” he says. “I see a real problem here.”

Here it comes. Here is the doubt and questioning I expected. We’re talking about a peace building exercise, not fertilizer on a farm plot. Even I have my reservations. This man, of an older generation, clearly has other priorities.

“How,” he asks “are we going to select a proper sample?”

Canada could probably learn a thing or two on how to reduce similar tensions here.

h/t Siris

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