so i'm an idiot, too

After spending one hour and twenty-three minutes babysitting a download--on dial-up access--mind you, of an 11.9MB Service Release 2.0A, (not 2.0 mind you, which I already have), of my beloved TimeMatters, what else would you call me?

Too short-sighted to have broadband? Guess that's the same thing. I can't point you to a specific functionality that I just gained by wasting an hour and a half of billable time on a holiday Sunday. Even a Goddess has her off moments, I suppose.


why i hate westlaw

I have had a seemingly irrational dislike for Westlaw for the last twenty years.

More rationally, I have found that Westlaw's vaunted keyword system is imprecise enough to be useless. The points I want to research always seem to have a keyword which runs to four decimal places.

As I think of it, the fundamental problem with the keyword system is that it was built a long time ago, not unlike Roget's Thesaurus, which acquired its basic structure in 1852. Distinctions and categories which once made sense no longer do, and new distinctions and categories come to be, but the old superstructure has to remain. In that respect, Westlaw is a directory system, like Yahoo!, going up against a Boolean system, like Lexis-Nexis.

In the hands of a reasonably skilled user, Boolean searches work better every time, another reason I love google. My issues, as they say, with Reed-Elsevier a/k/a the Borg are another rant for another day. Suffice it to say it's not their databases I dislike.



Okay, in the year 2002 Cadwalader sends personal trainers to attorneys' desks to walk them through generating complex documents. Unfortunately, from this article it sounds as if those attorneys are using primarily word processing software, not HotDocs or other document assembly software. Now, I'm being a little hypocritical here, because I am still getting by with Word 2002 and TimeMatters, when I'm not using my family law document assembly program, but if I had as many lawyers as Cadwalader, I'd be making everyone use HotDocs, and I will buy HotDocs Pro, I will, as soon as another crop comes in on the money tree.



Why doesn't every lawyer in private practice have a PDA? And case management software?

I strongly suspect that a certain percentage of lawyers avoids all computer technology because the computer's legacy input device, the keyboard, reminds them of--gasp!--secretaries, and that percentage has never probed beyond the caste system this attitude perpetuates.

I will admit that I was skeptical in 1983 when the secretary in my federal government outpost in West-by-God-Virginia attempted to teach me word processing so that I could edit my own memos. Now, I was no stranger to keyboarding, having typed my way through college and even taken law school exams by typewriter, but I was suspicious of this woman's motivations and declined the offer of the lesson. Well, she was a lazy so-and-so, and so, perhaps, was I.

By 1986, the Manhattan law firm to which I jumped stopped actively discouraging lawyers from using computers, but did not encourage their use because, as the offical management statement went, the lawyers would lose too much billable time learning to use the systems. My Wang can do wonders, indeed.

By 1988, at this point in Seattle, I found myself participating in a pilot project placing computers with an MS-DOS operating system on the desks of all lawyers on my floor. There I observed two very senior partners take to technology like ducks to water. So what if they couldn't get anyone else on the floor to use our internal e-mail system. I had seen the light.

Fast forward to 2002. I have skipped right over the evolutionary step where I should have bought a laptop. I am on my second Palm OS PDA. After essentially wearing out my trusty IIIxe in fifteen months of very hard use, I recently sprang for an m515. This is a smokin' unit, folks, and the colored screen makes Bejeweled even more fun to play. With my foldup keyboard and cellular phone I can spend a totally productive day away from the mothership (desktop), all day, every day. All because I am man enough (as it were) to be seen using a keyboard. Now, if only my batteries would hold a charge longer...


deposing cardinal law

I had a pretty good rant on this subject on my PDA but it appears to have disappeared in transmission from AvantBlog. So I'll start over.

Thanks to the good auspices of someone presumably sympathetic to the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Boston, Bernard Cardinal Law's deposition transcript is just a click away on an AP wire site. Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly has it too. In the old days, just a few short years ago, I had to rely on a friend of a friend to get my hands on a grubby (in several senses) xerox of Paula Jones's complaint against then-president Clinton. Who needs friends anymore? I have google.

In reviewing this transcript, I find myself mulling over Hannah Arendt's proposition about the banality of evil, and wondering if the converse (or is it the contrapositive) applies and what is banal is evil. Rigid corporate hierarchies like those of the Catholic church are certainly banal enough. Maybe that makes them evil. I also find myself wondering whether the Archdiocese of Boston couldn't have rounded up some more dignified counsel for ol' Bernie. Noting a continuing objection to all the questions on first amendment grounds? Maybe in Massachusetts they don't have that silly rule about material being discoverable, whether or not admissible, if it leads to the discovery of admissible evidence? They certainly don't have their rules of civil procedure posted on their court website, so I couldn't confirm that.

Despite their grand speech at the beginning of his depo, Law's lawyers were unable to train the man into the most basic good habit of a witness--wait until the question is complete before you begin answering it. There were so many fragments in the transcript, the court reporter would have been sweating were it not for the comfort of a video feed. Probably no one ever tells a cardinal not to interrupt. Law's habits were certainly not broken by any hasty prep session his lawyers might have undertaken. Of course, Cardinal Law gives the impression of never really listening to anybody, anyway, so why should his own counsel and the opposing lawyers be any exception?

As long as I'm critiquing here, what about plaintiffs' counsel? They haven't given any signs so far of being students of the great Pozner and Dodd on the science of cross-examination. Law's lack of memory of such things as a letter on which the word "urgent" appears in his own handwriting is so legally juicy that it is hard to understand why he wasn't subjected to a punishingly meticulous cross-examination on the subject. His denials were so incredible, in fact, that he stopped the release of additional transcripts for thirty days. What I would really like to cross-examine Law about, myself, is his claim that a group of laypeople had the authority to veto a cardinal's financial decision about settling a case. All sorts of questions of apparent authority and actual authority.

In the era of the Internet it's much harder now for professionals to make mistakes in public. I freely admit to knowledge of several hearings, at least, in my day, in which my participation was either ers and ums, or a pure word salad. I'm lucky that I'm no one in particular and so one has ever ordered up those transcripts and slapped them on the web either because they're of public interest (or even just to embarrass me). But Cardinal Law and this multimillion-dollar renegment is a big deal. You would think the legal talent on both sides would have been closer to the top of their games.


second try

The first was pretty promising. This should be my last content-free post.
This is my first test post using AvantBlog to compose posts on my PDA and then transfer them to my blog. How cool is this?
On two separate law-specific mailing lists that I'm on I got gullibly-forwarded emails yesterday about the same hoax virus. Forwarded by two separate people within a few minutes of one another. It really surprises me how few lawyers appear to use google these days. I mean, come on, you can put the toolbar in your browser. Not to mention more advanced engines like copernic, my favorite. We are missing opportunities to display our superior research skills. End of rant. (I can't use my cute fake-html abbreviations in the blog because they don't show for some reason).


It had never occurred to me to use a blog as an adjunct to my website before, but as usual LLRX.com has its hand firmly on the feeble pulse of the uses of technology in law. After reading an article there, and salon.com's take on the meaning of blogs, I have been inspired to create A Blog Of My Own.