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ABA Journal: Modern Law Library
33 minutes | 12 days ago
Increasing revenue while cutting down on billable hours? 'AI for Lawyers' says it's possible
As the founders of a company that provides AI-powered contract analysis software, Kira Systems' Noah Waisberg and Dr. Alexander Hudek are used to facing skepticism, fear and doubt from attorneys. Will AI steal their jobs? Would using it violate ethics rules? How can it be good for a business model that relies on the billable hour to cut down on the amount of time it takes to review a contract? In their new book, AI for Lawyers: How Artificial Intelligence is Adding Value, Amplifying Expertise, and Transforming Careers, Waisberg and Hudek attempt to answer these questions and provide an accessible guide for firms considering how AI might add to their practices. They also pulled in other minds in the legal tech community to speak to the use of AI beyond the kinds of contract review Kira Systems focuses on, such as in litigation analytics, legal research and e-discovery. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Waisberg and Hudek discuss their experiences as early proponents of artificial intelligence, the unique programming challenges presented by legal language, the still-developing ethical debates and common misconceptions about AI.
46 minutes | a month ago
'Watergate Girl' give an inside look at special prosecution team that brought down Nixon
Jill Wine-Banks was barely 30 when she became an assistant Watergate special prosecutor investigating President Richard M. Nixon. In Watergate Girl: My Fight for Truth and Justice Against a Criminal President, Wine-Banks (who was then known as Jill Wine Volner) shares her experience battling political obstruction, courtroom legal wrangling and the era's sexism. Though she'd originally attended law school with the thought it would help her become a hard-news journalist, she found herself instead under the microscope of a ravenous press that dubbed her "the mini-skirted lawyer." Her memoir, which has been optioned by actress Katie Holmes' production company to be made into a feature film, concentrates on her time in the Watergate special prosecution. She candidly shares not only the work the team was doing behind the scenes but also the difficult time she was having with her marriage and personal life. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Wine-Banks and the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles discuss her winding career path, which also led her to becoming the first female general counsel of the U.S. Army and the first woman to be hired as the executive director and COO of the American Bar Association.
34 minutes | a month ago
Interested in infectious disease litigations? Before you accept a case, read this
When Davis M. Walsh and Samuel L. Tarry began assembling Infectious Disease Litigation: Science, Law, and Procedure, they had no idea that soon a pandemic was going to make the topic more relevant than ever. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Walsh and Tarry talk about the experience of editing the book, the unique challenges of litigating infectious disease cases, their advice for attorneys looking to get into the expanding field, and how COVID-19 might have changed juries' points of view in such cases.
61 minutes | 2 months ago
What can Texas tell us about the rise and fall of the death penalty?
By the late 1960s, use of the death penalty was on the decline in the United States. But after the U.S. Supreme Court declared in the 1972 case Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty as practiced violated the Eighth and 14th Amendments, there was a political backlash. By 1976, Georgia had a new capital punishment system that did pass Supreme Court muster, and other states followed suit–including Texas. In Let The Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty, Maurice Chammah examines how Texas reinstated its death penalty and quickly became the leader in the nation in number of executions. Texas has carried out 570 executions since 1976, more than quintuple the total of the next ranked state, Virginia, which has executed 113. Why does Texas stand out this way? In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Chammah shares what he learned; how he researched this book; and how and why the surge of death penalty cases in the 1980s and 1990s dropped after the peak in 2000. He discusses elements of Texas history–including the use of lynching–that contributed to the use of the death penalty. He also shares with the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles some speculation about what the publicity surrounding the resumption of federal executions after a 17-year hiatus at the end of the Trump administration might mean for death penalty abolition efforts.
48 minutes | 3 months ago
Why do barristers wear wigs? 'Dress Codes' explores fashion and the law
Ask any attorney about the most outlandish clothing they've seen worn in a courtroom, and most will have a colorful story. But what determines the appropriateness of any outfit? In Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History, Stanford law professor Richard Thompson Ford looks at why we wear what we wear; how that has changed over the centuries; and the laws that were codified around what could be worn and in what situations. For example, in the legal profession, fashion is generally quite conservative compared to some other industries. But why are wigs worn by judges and barristers in the United Kingdom, but not in the United States? Why is it a power move in Silicon Valley to wear a T-shirt and jeans? How can your fashion choices wind up getting you charged for murder–or acquitted of those charges? In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Ford answers all these questions posed by the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles. They also discuss how Ford's own father trained as a tailor, and the ways it influenced how he himself views fashion. Ford also discusses how researching the book made him change his mind about a particular employment law, and shares the fashion-ating controversy of Elena Kagan and the morning coat. Lastly, for the young attorney just compiling their professional wardrobe, Ford offers advice–and a cautionary tale from his own days as an associate.
33 minutes | 3 months ago
How your firm can use technology to build business and keep clients
As a longtime technology consultant to law firms, Heinan Landa knows that lawyers are cautious customers who can be resistant to change. But the old expectations around client service no longer exist, he says, and meeting the new standards requires a shift in the way law firms do business. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Landa tells the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles that he intends his new book, The Modern Law Firm: How to Thrive in an Era of Rapid Technological Change, to help ease lawyers' anxiety about this upheaval by helping them identify their firms' "Technology Operational Maturity Level." By identifying a firm's current maturity level, Landa hopes to provide attorneys with a road map of next steps. While The Modern Law Firm was written with midsized firms with 10-100 lawyers in mind, Landa says that with adjustments of scale, the advice can also be relevant to solos and to BigLaw attorneys. Whether or not your firm has the resources to hire a full-time chief technology officer, Landa would encourage all attorneys to take an interest in emerging trends, and he suggests a number of ways to make it a manageable part of one's work life. Landa also discusses the ways that COVID-19 has accelerated the need for technology adoption, and walks through what he has identified as "the Four Pillars of Exceptional Customer Service" to help firms keep and build business.
40 minutes | 3 months ago
'White Fright' author discusses historical lynch mobs and the attack on the Capitol
Historian Jane Dailey discusses her new book, White Fright: The Sexual Panic at the Heart of America's Racist History, and what America's history with lynch mobs can teach us about the attack on the Capitol. She and the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles also discuss how the end of Reconstruction impacts us today, and several key court cases that influenced the way courts considered racial identity.
39 minutes | 4 months ago
Our favorite reads from 2020
As a tumultuous year draws to a close, we gathered together ABA Journal editors and reporters to discuss what the past year has been like for them as readers. With the stress of the pandemic and national elections, how had their reading habits changed? Were they concentrating on current events or comfort reads? With our offices operating remotely, did they have more time for reading? Modern Law Library host Lee Rawles spoke to editor Victor Li and reporters Lyle Moran, Amanda Robert and Stephanie Francis Ward to find out which books helped them make it through 2020–and what listeners could be adding to their own 2021 reading lists.
38 minutes | 4 months ago
Former corporate lawyer draws inspiration from her family for her tireless clemency work
Brittany K. Barnett was a perfect fit for corporate law. As a certified public accountant who comes from a family with an entrepreneurial spirit, it made sense to fulfill her childhood dream and become a lawyer. But the same east Texas upbringing that gave her the ambition to succeed as a corporate attorney also wound up pulling her towards what her mother calls her "heart work": clemency and sentencing reform. In A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom, Barnett describes how the war on drugs preyed upon the community she grew up in. It eventually led to her mother, who was fighting a drug addiction, being imprisoned for two years when Barnett was a young adult. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Barnett shares how formative experience changed her and made her identify strongly with Sharanda Jones, an incarcerated woman Barnett met during law school. Jones had been given a lifetime sentence without the possibility of parole for a first-time drug offense. Barnett's fight to free Jones expanded into a larger mission as she became involved in the Obama administration's clemency project, and she continued that work after the Trump administration signed the First Step Act into law. Working with celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and Sean "Diddy" Combs has helped her bring needed attention to certain cases, she tells the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles, but incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people can be tremendous advocates for themselves and should be the directing force behind the work. She also shares details about two non-profits she's founded, the Buried Alive Project and Girls Embracing Mothers.
37 minutes | 5 months ago
Lawyer recounts the life and legacy of the mysterious man behind Pilates
In 1963, John Howard Steel was a 28-year-old attorney with a challenging litigation practice, an unhappy marriage and a stiff neck. At the urging of his mother, Steel decided to try physical therapy at a gym owned by an elderly German immigrant named Joseph Pilates. It was a decision that would change Steel's life. Caged Lion: Joseph Pilates & His Legacy is a memoir, history and biography that tells the story of Steel's intergenerational relationship with Joe Pilates and his wife Clara, and the transformational effect of Joe Pilates' workout routines. Steel estimates that at the time of Joe Pilates' death in 1967, his life's work–which Joe Pilates called "contrology"–was limited to a circle of some 50 insiders who attended his New York City gym. He had no idea that one day the exercises that had cured his stiff neck would become an international phenomenon. His main concern was purely selfish, he says: He wanted the gym to keep operating so that he could continue to practice the workout that had benefited him so much. And he was not alone; people who Joe Pilates had mentored would eventually open more studios that kept contrology–now known simply as Pilates–alive. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Steel tells the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles about the unlikely history of Pilates–both the exercise phenomenon and the man himself. While Joe Pilates was living, Steel never questioned the man directly about his murky origin story. In his research for Caged Lion, Steel would disprove some of the tales the man had spun and come up with his own theories about how Joe Pilates developed his now-famous techniques and equipment. He also shares the backstories of the legal battles over who could use the Pilates name and practices.
41 minutes | 5 months ago
Having a hard time connecting with your witness? Try these tips
You're a plaintiffs attorney with a promising tort case, but getting the narrative evidence you need from a particular witness is like squeezing blood from a stone. How can you get through to them and help ensure that your client gets the damages needed for long-term care? The real problem might be that your communication styles are fundamentally different, says author and trial consultant Katherine James. Properly preparing one's witness is key to a successful outcome, but lawyers can't assume that every witness has the same learning style that they do, James says. She provides tools for figuring out communication and learning styles in her book, Harvesting Witnesses' Stories: How to Get your Client the Second Best Life in the World by Maximizing Human Damages. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, James explains to the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles how she draws from her background in the theater to advise lawyers. James shares some of her war stories from her many years as a trial consultant and offers advice to listeners about how they can achieve the best outcome for their injured clients.
31 minutes | 6 months ago
Knowing when to tell your client 'no,' and other ethical dilemmas
One of the most important ethical obligations a lawyer has is knowing when to tell their client “no.” But how do you know when that moment has come, and how do you deal with it? For legal ethics experts Lawrence J. Fox and Susan R. Martyn, teaching their fellow attorneys how to cope with the dilemmas they may run into at their practices has been a passion for years. It’s also behind their seventh book together, the recently released Fair Fight: Legal Ethics for Litigators. Told in a storytelling format, the book strives to be a reference manual that is also a good read. Fair Fight walks its readers through every step of the litigation process, from recruiting clients—or understanding when you’ve acquired a client—to a sentencing or settlement. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Fox and Martyn walk the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles through “the Six C’s” of legal ethics, discuss the writing process that’s made their longtime partnership work, and share their advice for what lawyers most need to keep in mind to meet their ethical duties during the COVID-19 pandemic.
31 minutes | 6 months ago
Voting rights attorney tells a tale of dark money chicanery in 'The Coyotes of Carthage'
Steven Wright spent six years at the Department of Justice Voting Section witnessing all manner of election chicanery, voter suppression and dark money campaigns. So when he turned his efforts towards fiction, he decided to write what he knew. The result was The Coyotes of Carthage, a literary novel following Toussaint Andre Ross, a Black political consultant sent from his Washington, D.C., agency in disgrace to run a dark money campaign and convince a small town in South Carolina to sell their land to mining interests. The personal, moral and ethical choices that are made could save his career–or set him adrift entirely. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Wright tells the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles how he made the leap to creative writing, what it's been like to teach students at the University of Wisconsin Law School remotely, and the plans to turn The Coyotes of Carthage into a TV series.
22 minutes | 7 months ago
The case for separating Church and State
The separation of church and state is a concept that is often talked about, but there's hardly a national consensus on what that should look like–or whether it should exist at all. In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has been shifting towards an "accomodationist" interpretation, say the authors of The Religion Clauses: The Case for Separating Church and State. To Erwin Chemerinsky and Howard Gillman, this is a dangerous approach. In this episode of the Modern Law Library podcast, Chemerinsky and Gillman explain to the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles the difference between separationist and accomodationist views, the reason they felt that it was an opportune time to write this book, and what they hope to accomplish with its release. They also stress that a separationist view is not hostile towards religion; rather, it maintains a neutrality to not infringe on anyone's religious beliefs or prioritize one religion above another. (Note: This podcast was recorded before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.)
48 minutes | 7 months ago
'Demagogue' tells the story of Sen. Joseph McCarthy's rise and fall
What made 1950s America vulnerable to a man like Joseph McCarthy, a junior senator from Wisconsin? In Demagogue: The Life and Long Shadow of Senator Joe McCarthy, Larry Tye takes an in-depth look at McCarthy's life. Tye tells the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles that his interest in McCarthy was piqued during his research for a previous book, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon. Ethel Kennedy's memories of McCarthy were clearly fond ones. She recollected a man who doted on children, gave her husband his first real job and "was just real fun." It was a far cry from the caricature of McCarthy that is more generally known. With access to military, medical and personal records that have never before been shared publicly, Tye was able to make a number of revelations. One of the surprises? McCarthy had told the truth about heroics during his military service in World War II, something that had been dismissed by many as another tall tale told by a fabulist. But Demagogue was not written solely to humanize a man who has become a cultural caricature. "I seek not to redeem the Wisconsin senator but rather to unmask fanatics and fabricators on all sides in a way that presents a truer, more fully dimensional portrait of a figure so central to the narrative of America," Tye writes.
36 minutes | 8 months ago
6 key numbers that can diagnose the financial health of your law practice
Do you know how many billable hours you can devote to a new case? Or whether you need to add another attorney to your firm? Can you afford to take time off from your practice, and if so, how much? If you're one of the lawyers who is kept up at night with worries about your firm's finances, you are not alone. Financial consultant Brooke Lively says that law school does not prepare most people for the business side of the practice of law. Through her work with attorneys and firms, she's identified six key numbers that can tell the health of a law practice and identify what next steps a firm needs to take. They are compiled in her book From Panic to Profit: How 6 Key Numbers Can Make a 6 Figure Difference in Your Law Firm, and she walks the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles through all six.
30 minutes | 8 months ago
Convicted of a crime that never occurred? It happens all too often, law prof says
We are used to hearing about wrongful convictions where a murderer walked free because an innocent person was misidentified. But when Montclair State University professor Jessica Henry was researching material for her course on wrongful convictions, she discovered that in one-third of all known exonerations, the conviction was wrongful because there had not even been a crime. This discovery paved the way for her new book, Smoke But No Fire: Convicting the Innocent of Crimes that Never Happened. In it, Henry recounts stories of disappearances deemed murders until the living "victim" was discovered; natural deaths deemed suspicious because of faulty forensic science; and fabricated accusations that sent innocent people to jail. More importantly, Henry identifies the lapses at every stage of the justice system that can allow for these injustices to occur: from dishonest police officers to careless forensic labs, over-zealous prosecutors, over-worked defense attorneys, and overly permissive and under-informed judges. In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Henry speaks with the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles about some of the strange and heart-rending stories she uncovered and how the legal community can work towards eliminating such injustices.
48 minutes | 9 months ago
How well-meaning social reforms created 'Prison by Any Other Name'
At a time when the country is discussing how the justice system and policing can be reformed, it's critical that we avoid adopting reforms that have damaging consequences. In Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms, authors Maya Schenwar and Victoria Law outline the way that well-meaning movements ended up funneling people into environments where they faced even more scrutiny and punitive measures. In this episode, the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles discusses with Schenwar and Law examples such as the school-to-prison pipeline; court-ordered drug treatment programs with no proof of success; location-monitoring devices that are expensive and set probationers up to fail; and the invasiveness of family social services in an era of mandated reporting.
60 minutes | 9 months ago
How feminism worsened mass incarceration–and how it can stop
As a law professor at the University of Colorado Law School, Aya Gruber has seen her Millennial students wrestle with a contradiction that she has long struggled with herself. "On one side of the scale is a Black Lives Matter-informed belief that policing, prosecution and incarceration are racist, unjust, and too widespread," writes Gruber in her new book, The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women's Liberation in Mass Incarceration. "This side abhors the practice of putting human bodies in cages. On the other is a #MeToo-informed preoccupation with men's out-of-control sexuality and abuse of power. This side wants to get tough." In this episode of the Modern Law Library, Gruber shares examples of the unintended consequences of feminist criminal law reforms; discusses her personal experience as a public defender; and helps ABA Journal host Lee Rawles make peace with her interest in true crime podcasts. Gruber also describes how feminists can rethink gender justice advocacy without contributing to a discriminatory, carceral system. Special thanks to our sponsor, Headnote.
26 minutes | 10 months ago
What does police abolition look like?
Recent protests over police brutality have raised the volume on calls to defund the police. But while police abolition may be new to some, it's a concept that has been studied and discussed for decades. In his 2017 book, The End of Policing, Alex S. Vitale explains the troubling origins of modern policing, why commonly suggested reforms like training and increased diversity have not been successful, and how slashing social services has placed police officers in situations they are unequipped to deal with. In this episode, Vitale also shares with the ABA Journal's Lee Rawles how he explains the issue to sceptics, and ways that lawyers can help rethink the ways that the criminal justice system re-enforces inequality. Special thanks to our sponsor, Headnote.
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