Fix It

Tough recent press for Boston University. Today’s Globe includes these articles:

One positive story–which the Globe fails to discuss clearly–is that the National Institutes of Health issued its risk assessment report on BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory, which stands completed but largely unoccupied near the Medical Campus in the South End. The report concludes that “the risks of infections or deaths resulting from accidents or malevolent acts at the NEIDL are generally very low to only remotely possible.” There’s a public hearing on the NIH findings on April 19. I hope this means the NEIDL will finally receive all the permits it needs for its full range of laboratories.

Life After Law School

Since September 1 I’ve written law school recommendations for 15 students. They’ve all heard my spiel (don’t go straight from college, work, live, mature, ask lawyers what they like and dislike about their jobs,* think about why you want to be a lawyer, analyze what type of job you could realistically attain after graduation and whether the $100,000+ investment makes sense). Some–evidently the really, really intelligent ones–have read all of my blog posts about law school. A few have even followed some of my advice.

I’ve not posted often recently about law school. The legal market is not as bad as it was a few years ago, and most prospective law students have done due diligence before coming to me for advice. So this cold shower is overdue.

The opening sentence of Law Firms Keep Squeezing Associates from the Wall Street Journal Law Blog:

Law firms are finally starting to recover from the recession, but they aren’t taking their young lawyers along for the ride.

The post fleshes out various ways in which associates are being left at the station: flat salaries and bonuses, outsourcing entry-level work, demanding billable-hour expectations, longer partnership tracks, attrition. Here’s the quotation most immediately relevant to current and prospective law students:

[R]eputable firms*** can be even more picky about whom they hire. While firms still compete for the highest-ranking graduates from Ivy League and other top law schools, it is a different story for solid candidates who lack gold-plated résumés. Students with lower class rankings or from second-tier schools who once would have made the cut “wouldn’t have a prayer of getting in now,” Mr. Dantzler [hiring partner at White & Case] says.

A harsh reality for the majority of law students.

*The response is universal: “Don’t go to law school.”**

**That’s not what I tell prospective law students. I say make an informed decision.

***Note the unthinking snobbery in the phrasing: reputable firms. So those law practices that employ the vast majority of the legal profession are . . . disreputable firms? The author means “large national and International corporate law firms that pay the highest salaries to first-year associates.” Those who work in such firms believe it means “firms at the pinnacle of the legal universe for quality of clients and practice” (a/k/a “the only firms fit for a lawyer of my superior skills”). Some who’ve worked at such firms and left for any of a thousand reasons define the term as “those firms filled with lawyers who combine Type A personalities and a desperate need to believe they’ve might the right career choice, despite the misery and unpleasantness of almost everyone around them.”

Kudos, WordPress 2.7

WordPress is a fully-featured open-source content platform. From the beginning I’ve written this blog on WordPress. (I can’t remember which version of WordPress was my first.) There have been a few bumps along the way, all my fault, and WordPress support has always shown me how to solve my problems. Its interface is intuitive and clean. Always a happy user, the latest version of WordPress has blown me away. I’m just catching up now with the upgrade because other things have grabbed my attention recently. The program responds much more quickly when creating and editing posts and the interface is superb, incorporating many features that were only provided before by plugins. Upgrading from earlier versions could be tricky but WordPress 2.7 contains an automatic upgrade feature. Various administrative screens are customizable, menus wonderfully intuitive, and the entire look and feel is clean and professional. Big points for open source.

More on Wikileaks

BU Today has an interview about the Wikileaks.org shut-down with Computer Science Department chair Azer Bestavros. His point–that “once the information makes it to the Internet, it’s impossible to take it back”–has profound implications about the ability of anyone, governmental or private, to restrict speech. It’s a point that Larry Lessig makes in his discussion of the Pentagon Papers case in Code 2.0 (Chapter 12, for those following the program): “Publishing requires a publisher, and a publisher can be punished by the state. But if the essence or facts of publication are punished elsewhere first, then the need for constitutional protection disappears. Once the piece is published, there is no further legal justification for suppressing it.” Professor Bestavros’s conclusion will be familiar to anyone who has taken my Internet law course or read Code 2.0: “Places like this bank should use much better technologies to protect their content.” In other words make if more difficult to leak sensitive information; rely on architecture, not law.

Wikileaks.org

Wikileaks.org–which can’t be found using that domain address since a judge’s ruling last week, but which can still be viewed at http://88.80.13.160/wiki/Wikileaks, its IP address, and at mirror sites (http://wikileaks.be/, http://wikileaks.de, and http://wikileaks.cx–permits anyone to post documents and other leaked material exposing unethical or illegal corporate and government behavior. A bank employee posted documents on the site purporting to disclose how Julius Baer Bank & Trust assists in money laundering and tax evasion. Last week, in a lawsuit brought by the bank, a federal district court judge in San Francisco ordered the wikileaks.org domain name disabled and locked to prevent its transfer to another domain name registrar. As a New York Times article reports, the judge’s order order “had the effect of locking the front door to the site — a largely ineffectual action that kept back doors to the site, and several copies of it, available to sophisticated Web users who knew where to look . . . The feebleness of the action suggests that the bank, and the judge, did not understand how the domain system works, or how quickly Web communities will move to counter actions they see as hostile to free speech online.”

The judge’s permanent injunction and temporary restraining order, issued without accompanying analysis of the free speech issues, violate the First Amendment. It is hard to fathom why the judge believed these acts of censorship to be legal. The Times articles notes that the U.S. Supreme Court rejected prior restraint of speech in the Pentagon Papers case in 1971, notwithstanding the Nixon administration’s argument that publication threatened our national security. (Every semester presents an opportunity to tell students that, because of the Pentagon Papers case, many people of my generation will forever view government claims that information must be suppressed on grounds of national security with profound skepticism.) Even if Julius Baer Bank & Trust has a legitimate trade secret interest in preventing disclosure–an argument not raised in the Time’s article–then shutting down the website or disabling the domain name would not be appropriate remedies. This is a bad decision that should be overturned on appeal; the Internet has already rendered it moot.

UPDATES: A New York Times editorial on this story and Citizen Media Media Law Project analysis of the legal issues.