Monday, June 26, 2006

Book Publishing & Court of International Trade Ceremony

I keep thinking that I'm going to be done with this book that I've written on copyright litigation, but more and more things keep popping up. It's an amazing experience to go through the editorial process, focus the book toward the audience's needs, and think about marketing. It's all very exhausting, but last week I was informed that the book is considered "publishable" and my editor had some very kind things to say about how it is written.

The ceremony at the Court of International Trade is shaping up nicely. You are all invited to attend on July 25 at 3 p.m. Here is an invite! If you are not sworn in to the court, the Federal Bar Association will sponsor you. We are honoring Chief Judge Restani, the first woman Chief Judge of the court. We have learned that the chief judge has fans around the country, so attendance should be fairly robust.

If you care about things like countervailing duties, gray market goods, getting your seized goods back from customs, or just enjoying some great modern architecture and learning about this important institution, please come on over!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Software: Open Content Licenses

Every day busy lawyers are clicking the buttons to download software. The buttons often say "I agree with the terms of this license agreement" or simply "I agree". Is anyone reading this stuff? I certainly am not, and I'm pretty much in the field -- litigating things like forum selection, class actions, and certainly wanting to buy things that carry a warranty of merchantability. These license agreements are both onerous and odorous: as lawyers we will be arguing that they are "contracts of adhesion" and should be disregarded. Chicago school lawyers would enforce shrink wrap licenses placed on rotten sides of beef. As you can tell, Small Firm Life is generally on the Ralph Nader side of things when it comes to consumer protection.

But there's a whole group of people that have been worried about the bigger picture. "Locking down" culture is their stated concern. Academics, politicians, industry lobbyists, and copyright philosophers all have different points of view as to how much control over modifying written works a copyright owner should have. And since software counts as a written work under US copyright law, modifications to software are a major point of contention.

Licenses are contracts governing the use of software and other copyrighted works. Generally, a content owner like Microsoft asserts full copyright in its work and leverages every aspect of that copyright, including the right to stop others from modifying its software ("creating a derivative work").

Open Content Licenses are licenses to use software that allow you to modify the software, make a product, and sell the product (the new software) subject to certain conditions. In other words, the copyright owner is asserting less than all of its rights. But as a cond a ition of using the software in modifying it, you have to agree to permit others to modify the software and to sell it. The idea is that if you are a young and hungry software developer, you will take "open source" software for free, develop a great product based on it, and both the underlying software and the new product will both find a bigger commercial market. For a good explanation of what's going on, check out Lawrence Liang's Guide to Open Content Licenses. It's free, of course. Also known as the "open source movement" this is becoming big business.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Copyright Society & Network of Bar Leaders

I spent a terrific weekend at the annual meeting of the Copyright Society of the USA. On the bus ride up I got to sit next to Joyce Creidy, a classmate of mine from Fordham Law school who is the mother of twins and recently landed a job with Thomson Compumark. Joyce really knows everybody and convinced me to join the intellectual property section of the New York State Bar Association. Not like I don't have enough bar association memberships!

The most interesting presentation of the weekend was on documentary films. Check out the Center for social media's Documentary Filmmakers Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use. It's really tough for documentary filmmakers to get clearances when bits and pieces of copyrighted works appear naturally in their works. Fair use is a delicate and highly controversial issue. It is highly politicized and people take very extreme positions. On the political "right" of copyright, there is no "right" of fair use, it is only a defense. On the political "left" of copyright, almost every creative work should be free and communal. An attorney from Paramount Pictures characterized the above cited Statement of Best Practices as being like Winona Ryder writing a book on best practices in shoplifting. So it was a fun panel!

My partner Dan Marotta was sworn in as President of the Network of Bar Leaders last night at a ceremony at Tavern on the Green. New York State's Chief Judge Judith Kaye. United States District Judge Eric Vitaliano (EDNY) swore him in. It was amazing - about 90 people attended. Many distinguished judges and bar association presidents were there. The best part for me was being seated next to actress Linda Fiorentino who is just the most terrific person! Dan will make a great President.

On my way to the swearing in, I ran into Jonathan Tasini. He is running for US Senator for the seat occupied by Senator Hillary Clinton. We walked together for a few blocks, had a good talk, and I complimented him on his campaign's achievements and visibility. I support his position on the war.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Court of International Trade Event & Frontpage Link

I'm helping to organize an event at the Court of International Trade. It's a court of national jurisdiction located two blocks from my office (right across from the state and federal courts on Foley Square). It's a very modern floating glass block building. Chic period architecture within.

The CIT consists of nine active Article III judges and four senior judges. Although seated in New York, it is authorized to hold proceedings anywhere in the nation and abroad. On July 25, the Federal Bar Association will be honoring Chief Judge Jane Restani, the first woman to serve as Chief Judge of that court. We will also be holding in a swearing in ceremony for attorneys wishing to be admitted to the court. All judges are expected to attend, and the wine & cheese reception afterwards should be great. All of my attorney friends from Blogville are welcome to attend.

So I sat down with my partner for another Frontpage lesson. I figured out how to put a new picture of myself on the website, how to create a page, and how to add a link. I succeeded in putting an Invitation to Court of International Trade event on my website. I think it looks pretty good. When I saved a draft of this post and tried to test the two preceding links, the invitation came up, but Blogger threw me out. We'll see how the published post looks.

I'm pretty impressed with Frontpage and look forward to learning a lot more about it.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Linking A Website To A Blog - Frontpage & Class Actions

My partner Dan Marotta did all of the hands-on in building our firm's website. We worked with a designer and used Microsoft Frontpage. I was involved with the design and the links that we selected to put on the site, but he learned the Frontpage program and sweated over making it look uniform and having the boxes line up. We didn't want a site that we couldn't change or understand. We were watching at the time (late '90's) how web designers were holding people hostage over making changes and locking them into crazy contracts. Over time, there have been relatively few changes to the site.

We've seen our website as place that people visit after learning about us, basically to read our resumes. For class action issues, it's a good thing to master. If a class action I've proposed gets certified, I really don't want to outsource the fairly simply process of getting the right documents onto the web to give the world notice. Probably the best website for class actions around is the Milberg Weiss website. Forms, notices, copies of pleadings, etc. Also forms on the Federal Judicial Center's site mentioned in my previous post. It's sad what's happening to them, because I think they've done so much good. Their website description:

Experts in protecting victims of corporate fraud and other public misconduct
Responsible for over $45 billion in recoveries
The most prestigious and recognized plaintiff law firm in the United States

I've resolved to dig in, master Frontpage and start using our website more dynamically. I took the very small step of installing Frontpage and sitting down with my partner and getting a lesson. In a few minutes, I added a link to Small Firm Life and learned the design and preview functions. It was very simple.

I hope to spend more time on it during my Spring cleaning. I have a feeling that my Spring cleaning of the website and blog will take place during the dog days of August at the rate I'm going. Since I'm not going to quit the day job, that's just the way it's going to have to be.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Federal Judicial Center

The Federal Judicial Center maintains a website with lots of great information and free publications. It has a biographical database on all federal judges (past and present). For example, I was able to figure out that there have been 38 female chief judges who are still sitting on the bench. Search limitations (gender)(chief judges)(sitting judges only).

One indispensable free publication is the Manual of Complex Litigation (4th). Download it and velobind it if you are engaged in class action or multidistrict litigation.

The FJC's job is to train federal judges and federal court employees, but they've got a very rich website worth exploring.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

New York Commission To Examine Solo & Small Firm Practice

In February 2006, a Commission To Examine Solo and Small Firm Practice issued a report on how New York's court system could be improved to level the playing field for solo and small firm practitioners. The report may be found The report opens:

The vast majority of attorneys practicing law in the State of New York work in solo and small firms. More than 83.5% of attorneys in New York are solo practitioners, 14.7% work in offices of between two and nine attorneys, and only 1.8% of attorneys work in "large" firms, defined as firms having 10 or more attorneys.

This information will probably shock not only attorneys around the world who know only New York's megafirms, but also New York practitioners. We lack a certain self-awareness and are certainly not well-organized.

The report is chockablock with interesting information about the needs and interests of small firm practitioners and how the costs of litigation could be driven down by a more efficient court system. Technology plays a big role. The report comes out against mandatory electronic filing being instituted. Glenn Reynold's message that "Small is the new Big" hasn't hit us here.

Some great suggestions: abolish individual court rules, have courts serve orders by fax instead of requiring personal appearances by attorneys, promulgate forms on court websites to avoid the need to purchase expensive formbooks, permit preliminary conferences to be eliminated where parties agree on discovery issues, stagger court appearances to avoid "cattle call" motion calendars.

While this report is highly specific to New York State, it would probably be a good tool for small firm practitioners nationwide concerned about improving quality of life to take a look at. Your state may be way ahead or way behind, it's always interesting to know. The report really takes into account the life differences between urban and rural practitioners.

I did a google search and the report does not seem to have sparked much discussion on the 'net. I hope that some of the other bloggers looking at solo practice, such as Ben Cowgill's Soloblawg or Carolyn Elefant's MyShingle will dig into this rich feast. Will Arnie Herz find Legal Sanity in the report?

Or will the report, as so many other sensible and learned initiatives, die a quiet and unremarkable death? The report was commissioned by Judith Kaye, our highly-respected Chief Judge and was written by thirty solo and small firm practitioners. Bravo! In our maverick tradition, the report didn't pull any punches and may have been a more daring vision than the court anticipated.

If you care about the practice of law and the admistration of justice to real people, this report is critical. It's 95 pages, it's free - read it, talk about it and let's hope it sparks some positive change.