Wednesday, August 13, 2014

To Facebook or not to Facebook- part 2

I am young enough to enjoy the "social media" and old enough to know that the world did just as well without it.  I heard part of a segment on NPR's Diane Rehm Show this week, "Effects of Increasing Digital Connections on Relationships and Community", with authors of two books: The Vanishing Neighbor: The Transformation of American Community by Mark Dunkelman and The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter by Susan Pinker.

Their common theme is that social media does not necessarily change our intimate relations (though it might play a role in their initiation) but social media does draw a person into remote relations with people seldom if ever seen, such as Twitter followers and Facebook friends.  The losing interest in this squeeze of time and attention is that segment we used to call "community" (before everyone talked about "communities" in the abstract).  

If they can shoot a rabbi in Miami, they will come for you too eventually.

This week's tragedy of the rabbi shot and killed in Miami coincided with the anniversary of a priest being shot on the front porch of the rectory at St. Paul's Church in Birmingham, Alabama on August 11, 1921.

Human beings need scapegoats.  We have a terrible time accepting that we collectively suffer, do, and tolerate horrible things.  We tend to take out our fury on someone we can dehumanize.  No small group gets as much widespread hatred as the Jews.  Last week, Rabbi Joseph Raksin of Brooklyn was apparently shot in cold blood while walking on a public street on the Sabbath.  In 1921, Fr. James E. Coyle was shot on the rectory porch while saying his evening prayers.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Flat fees v. billing by the hour

When I started practicing law, I found myself working by the hour for the first time in years.  My salary was fixed, but my most tangible value to the firm was measured by my billable hours.

The billable hour is a haunting presence in a law firm.  Young lawyers are led to believe that happiness is making partner and that making partner means sitting at a desk for more than 2,000 hours per year, but we all know that happiness is not being chained to a desk.  Among my law school classmates, as bright and energetic as they are, most have not become or remained partners in large firms.  They are well-distributed in small firms, government agencies, corporate in-house legal departments, start-ups, and solo practices as well as big firms.  Those who bill by the hour consider it a perpetual burden, and those who no longer bill by the hour were generally glad to unload the burden.

How slow can you go?

A few times each year I slow-cook pork outdoors, that is, I smoke Boston butts overnight.  (The Boston butt got its name in North America because of how it was packed in barrels called "butts"; it is actually the upper front shoulder.)  Before you begin, the meat should be close to room temperature.  I rub the pork with brown sugar mixed with sea salt and a little pepper.

What is coming after Hobby Lobby?

Cases similar to Hobby Lobby are being reconsidered by the lower courts.  Meanwhile, various courts of appeals are issuing conflicting precedents regarding the Affordable Care Act that will likely be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, can a federal regulation require a religious non-profit such as the Little Sisters of the Poor to declare themselves against the contraceptive mandate so that their insurance company, by fiat of the federal government, must provide contraceptives at no cost to the employees?  Wheaton College and the Catholic University of America as religious non-profits are likewise fighting the contraceptive mandate and received a temporary reprieve from it.  Can such religious institutions whose long-held statements of faith oppose the use of abortifacients be forced to include them in their health insurance plans?

"It's not the money. It's the principle!"

There is an oft-repeated story of an attorney who told the jury in his closing argument that the case was "not about the money, but the principle."  The jury responded by finding a verdict in his client's favor and awarding him the grand sum of a dollar in damages.  

Litigation is akin to warfare.  Thucydides said that nations have three motivations when going to war: fear, honor, and interest.  The same is true in litigation, and it is best to note that the three motivations tend to overlap.

What is an LLC? Why is an LLC preferable to a corporation and partnership in some situations?

A limited liability company is a hybrid business entity that combines features of both corporations and partnerships.  LLCs have been in existence for about three decades but are still not understood by the general public.