Chin was a Chinese American who was brutally beaten to death with a baseball bat on the night before his wedding. His killers, two white men, who by most accounts were out-of-work automotive workers that mistook Chin for a Japanese person, were sentenced to three years of probation and paid a $3,000 fine. This outraged many people, in particular those in the Asian American community, and is credited with galvanizing the Asian American Civil Rights Movement.
In an essay in Legal Week, British lawyer Tim Bratton argues that one of the traits we pride ourselves on is actually a flaw, preventing us from seeing the big picture and solving long-term problems:
The problem with lawyers is their conscience. More precisely, their conscientiousness. Because as fast as the work comes in, we develop our black humour security blanket, and tend to rise to the challenge. Yes, we moan, yes we cajole, yes we huff (and puff), yes we put the phone down and roll our eyes. But we crack on and do what needs to be done to get through the spike.
Because as a profession, we are conscientious. It is a kind of character defect we inherit at birth that makes us willing to solve other people’s problems (even when the other people sometimes don’t give us much input into the solution). Well, who wouldn’t want to spend their spare time doing that? Those departments that get to leave work at 5.30pm - hell are they missing out on the fun stuff that happens after hours!
And then, without anyone noticing, the spike eases and suddenly we’ve discarded the life raft and are back to treading water madly (but we think serenely). Problem solved, phew glad that’s over, let’s count all the thankyou emails from the clients we just got (one, two... erm, stop there).
All good once the spike is over?
No. Because by going into conscientious overdrive, we solve a short-term problem at the risk of failing to deal with or even see the long-term one. I would love to write more about solving this stuff. But unfortunately I have some urgent work to do so can’t waste more time thinking about the bigger picture.
In these days of virulent email scams, it's easy to forget that their ancestor, the chain letter, has been with us, well, not always, but at least as far back as 1888 when an enterprising Methodist academy for women missionaries ginned up a "peripatetic contribution box." Slate has a fascinating history. Among other things, Slate tells us of the chain letter phenomenon, "Like any truly great crooked scheme, it began in Chicago."
The Supreme Court has the trust and confidence of 74 percent of people polled by the AP-National Constitution Center, but a much smaller majority backs a basic premise of the U.S. Constitution -- 62 percent said a minority's rights should be protected, even when it means saying no to a majority. From the ABA Journal, More People 'Somewhat Confident' in Supreme Court than Organized Religion. Here's the poll (PDF).
The paper includes the interesting caution that the overconfidence caused by the act of representation can have an important effect on a lawyer's ability to settle a case:
When both sides' lawyers perceive their cases as high probability winners, they are less likely to settle and may be less likely to prevail upon their clients to settle. The impact of representation on confidence also offers a cautionary tale to lawyers considering a practice area in which they do not agree with their clients -- merely practicing in the area is likely to shade the lawyer's views on the legal and moral merits of the issues.
Men and women at London's Allen & Overy can opt for a 4-day week, or work full-time with an extra 52 days of vacation (above the normal 30), for up to eight years, at 80% of regular salary. But it's women with families who are really taking advantage of the offer. An Allen & Overy partner told the Daily Mail that the firm "had no choice because it was fed up with losing high-flying women as soon as they became mothers."
Here's a list of cultural awareness tips from VisitBritain ("Marketing Britain overseas and developing the visitor economy"),covering Japanese, Argentinians, Hong Kong and mainland Chinese, Arabs, South Africans, Brazilians, Indians, Mexicans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, Koreans, Belgians, and Poles. (Apparently it's not possible to offend an American.)
Here's a taste:
• Be careful how you pour wine for an Argentinian. The whole process involves a number of social taboos and unless you understand them you could insult someone. For example, pouring wine backwards into a glass indicates hostility. Don’t be offended by Argentinian humour, which may mildly attack your clothing or weight.
England's highest court says it will decide a case argued last week about whether the advice given by accountants on tax matters qualifies for the "legal professional privilege." According to a report in Accountancy Age, Court battle rages over legal privilege for tax advisers, the lawyer arguing for extending the privilege to accountants characterized the privilege as a fundamental right of the client and asked questioned whether there is a proper justification for confining it to lawyers. The the three justices hearing the case peppered the accountants' lawyer with questions about when and how the privilege would apply, voicing concern about whether opening up the privilege to accountants would create major complications. The case has generated huge attention in the legal community in Great Britain, and the hearing was standing-room only.
When mounting problems and declining resources make the challenge of fulfilling our special ethical responsibility as lawyers for the quality of justice seem too daunting, it helps to look at places where the challenges were greater and progress seemingly impossible. No example is more stunning than the changes that have taken place in South Africa in our lifetimes.
That's why the message that landed in my inbox this morning was so intriguing:
This is the 500th issue of De Rebus since it became the national South African Attorneys’ Journal in 1968. In the Editorial De Rebus at 500: The times, they are a-changing, we trace De Rebus’ history and wonder about its future under the imminent Legal Practice Act which will revolutionise the registration, regulation and representation of the whole practising legal profession, attorneys and advocates.
We are sending this notification to the officials of law societies and bar associations in English-language jurisdictions around the world with the request that they forward it to all their members. Should any of the latter be interested in following legal and professional developments in South Africa and the Southern African Development Community free of charge on a monthly basis, they need merely send an e-mail request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Philip van der Merwe, Editor, De Rebus
I highly recommend taking a look at their publication. You will find the content and format both familiar and exotic. Just click here.