Archives for the month of: January, 2009
One of the worst ice storms in Northwest Arkansas history

One of the worst ice storms in Northwest Arkansas history

I set out yesterday morning to try to get back to Fayetteville.  It didn’t turn out quite that way.  My flight left at 3:00 p.m., so I got up and got dressed, checked e-mail once again, read the paper, grabbed a quick bite of breakfast and headed to the airport.  The cab driver was talking about the weather, and he said that’s why he lives in Phoenix so he doesn’t get our kind of bad weather.  He said the worse they have to deal with is how hot it gets in the summer time, and when he sees tornados and ice storms in other places he’d much rather have the hot weather (so that was the ride to the airport).  I checked in for the flight which was delayed (as a lot of flights were because of the weather).  We arrived at Dallas and when we got there the flight to XNA was delayed and changed gates several times.  After finally boarding the flight, we got to XNA and the pilot came on the intercom system and told us that because of the very low visibility caused by fog, he would be unable to land.  He was going to try to circle and see if we could wait it out.  It got to a point where we had to make a decision because of fuel, so we ended up going over to Tulsa.

At Tulsa we were offered the option to either fly back the next day or get on a bus and be bussed back to Northwest Arkansas.  By this time it was 10:30-11:00 p.m. at night and I knew that even if I arrived at XNA all the shuttle drivers would be gone, and I didn’t have a way to get back to the house.  Plus it’s not a good idea to arrive at the house at 2:00 a.m. in the morning in icy conditions.  It seemed a better option to me to stay over for the night in Tulsa which is what I did.  The flight was then rescheduled for the next morning from Tulsa to XNA.  All we had to do the next day was check in and say, “I’d like to get back on my flight.” Well that sounded like an easy thing to do, but when I showed up at the airport at 7:00 a.m. in the morning for the 8:05 a.m. flight, there was a lot of confusion.  The flight didn’t show up because it wasn’t regularly scheduled and I didn’t have a ticket from Tulsa to XNA which of course made sense because there are no regular flights from Tulsa to XNA.  The supervisor came out and we got all that straightened out.  I checked my luggage and went upstairs to go through security.  I had not been issued a new boarding pass because this was a continuing flight.  Unfortunately the boarding pass I had had the date of the day before because, well of course, it was a continuation of a flight from the day before.  The TSA Agent would not let me through with the boarding pass that wasn’t dated with the current day’s date, so back down to the reservation clerk I went, who then called back upstairs to TSA and I was finally allowed through security. 

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McCormick and Schmick

McCormick and Schmick

This morning I was a little bit stir crazy, so I went for a walk and found a little strip mall down from the hotel and had lunch at a McCormick and Schmick.  It was a delicious seafood lunch.  I walked around the mall and browsed a little bit, but was not in much of a shopping mood.  I then got the bright idea to call my friend, mentor and hero Dennis Shields who lives in Phoenix.  I went back to the hotel, did a little bit of work, e-mail and that kind of thing, and found out that the University was closed again.  I had dinner with Dennis that night at a place called Tommy Bahama’s, a delicious curry dish.

Today the National Association of Law Placement (NALP) hosted the breakfast which began at 7:30 a.m.  The speakers shared a lot of very interesting information with us.  Large firms have clearly been affected by the economy.  There have been a number of lay offs which puts an increasing strain on the career services office to provide services for students and alums.  The national placement rate for 2007 overall was 92%.  The prevailing large firm wage was $160,000, but there were fewer summer offers.  Another trend is that federal judges are switching to experienced clerks and some of the judges in state courts are moving to permanent clerks.  Another current concern is whether law firms will rescind offers.  The NALP principles say that firms should honor their commitments unless extraordinary situations arise, but if they are unable to honor those commitments the firms must communicate the changes and must do something to mitigate the harm to the student.  I wasn’t aware of those rules and found that information helpful.  Some of the things firms are doing rather than rescind offers are deferring the start dates for offers, staggering start dates for offers, delaying the start date with an incentive, offering part-time work and also providing stipends for pro bono work until they can bring the person in-house.  Mitigation includes severance pay and placement services.

Melissa Essary, Bucky Askew, and Jeremy Paul

Melissa Essary, Bucky Askew, and Jeremy Paul

The morning panel from 9:00-10:15 a.m. was entitled “The Dean as Financial Manager,” and the members of the panel were Dean Gail Agrawal, Larry Ponoroff, Bob Jerry and Rick Matasar.  They focused on managing through challenging financial times.  It was very, very helpful.  They talked about a number of issues both in terms of how to (as a practical matter) make budget cuts or to manage your resources, as well as the emotional part of managing in tough economic times.  I thought it was a very helpful session.  Dean Matasar talked about the fact that sometimes we have programs in our law schools that we’ve adopted but never really dealt with and the question becomes when do we get rid of them?  It’s our responsibility as dean to take these on.  He said that the privilege of a lifetime job in the academy is the sacrifice that comes during down turns and he thinks should be borne equally by all the faculty members.  He talked about the psychosocial impact, that it’s very important for deans to be open, that the conversations come from the core, that it’s the dean’s place to take the hits, and that it’s just one of the tough things that comes with the job.  I found that to be a bit of a wake up call because, of course, nobody likes unpleasantness, but I think he’s right.  Dean Matasar was my civil procedure teacher in law school, so we have a special bond, and I went up and visited with him afterwards about his presentation.

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Dean Karen Rothenberg of University of Maryland School of Law, Dean Daisy Floyd of Mercer University Law School and Dean Mary Crossley of University of Pittsburgh School of Law

Dean Karen Rothenberg of University of Maryland School of Law, Dean Daisy Floyd of Mercer University Law School and Dean Mary Crossley of University of Pittsburgh School of Law

 

 

 

Today began at 7:00 a.m.  The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) hosted a breakfast from 7:00-8:30 a.m.  The night before, Sunday night, when we were all out to dinner we’d teased Dan Bernstein about the need to be there at 7:00 a.m. since we were all out together the night before.  He gave us a hint that perhaps things wouldn’t start until a little bit later in the morning, and as it turned out when we arrived at 8:00 a.m. we had plenty of time to hear the presentation by LSAC.  I guess that’s an example of the expression that there’s “no such thing as a free breakfast.” We heard a welcome and update from Dan, the LSAC CEO, as well as from Ellen Rutt, the current Chair of the LSAC Board.  The main takeaway was that the number of applicants to ABA law schools is down this year.  However, this is preliminary data.  The number of LSATs (law school admission tests) administered at year end last year was actually up by 5.3%, so it will be interesting to see what those numbers look like at the end of this LSAC year.  We also received a chart entitled, “Where are Law School Applications Coming From?” which showed a percentage change from Fall 2007 to Fall 2008.  As of August 8, 2008, in our region of the country (South Central) the number of students applying to law school was down 1%.  That wasn’t the greatest decline.  The Northwest area of the country experienced that, but in the far West there was growth.  By the way, it was a very nice breakfast.  It was a buffet with eggs, sausage, hashbrowns, bacon, coffee, orange juice and a variety of fruit and pastries. 

The first session that morning after breakfast was entitled “The Millennials.” It was a discussion about how the new generation of American law students and attorneys are changing the practice of law.  The speakers on that panel were Dean Linda Ammons as the moderator, Prof. Tracy McGaugh at Touro College, and Nancy Philippi who is an attorney at Quarles & Brady.  It was a pretty lively discussion, including a clip from 60 Minutes on millennials which we all found pretty interesting.   

From 10:30 a.m. – Noon the session was “Effective Communication Between Chief Justices and Law School Deans,” and Representatives from three states discussed how they monitor law school admissions and conduct regular meetings between Chief Justices and law school deans.  The moderator was Dean Barry Vickrey from the University of South Dakota School of Law.  The speakers were Robert Bell, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Maryland; Mark Dows, Director, Pennsylvania State Bar; Mary Crossley, Dean of University of Pittsburgh School of Law; Geoffrey Mearns, Dean of Cleveland State University, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law; Thomas Moyer, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Ohio; and Karen Rothenberg, Dean of University of Maryland School of Law.   

One of the most interesting ideas to come out of this session (at least for me) was the idea that the Ohio law school deans have a yearly retreat of two days with the Ohio Supreme Court.  The Court also works with the law schools on the pipeline programs that reach all the way back to high school freshmen.  In their pipeline program, 37 students are exposed to a six week program that shows them what it’s like to be a lawyer.  The faculty of their pipeline program is comprised of current law students.  The participants in the program are not the gifted young people necessarily, but it reaches out to children who are in the middle of their class.  They (the deans and the Supreme Court) also work together on a Legal Education Reform Task Force which was developed in the retreats.  During their gatherings they also talk about national trends in legal education, and both the deans and the Chief Justices agreed the retreats foster collegiality between the schools and also between the schools and the Court.  It provides a regular and formal setting to talk about the challenges faced by both and I think that’s a really good idea.   

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Nora Macey, Barbara Brown (current Chair of the section), Brad Hoffman (staff directory of the section)

Nora Macey, Barbara Brown (current Chair of the section), Brad Hoffman (staff directory of the section)

Sunday bright and early, the Council Meeting began with a discussion of the leadership skills training program.  The goal of the leadership skills training as I mentioned is to provide an introduction to the Section and its activities to people who have demonstrated a significant interest in the activities of the Section.  This engendered a long discussion – including the details of the leadership training, who should be involved, and the next step.  We next considered a proposal by the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility on lawyer screening.  The question was whether our Section should take a position on the proposed rule.  The conflict is between client confidentiality and lawyer mobility.  23 states have passed a version of the rule.  It addresses whether when a lawyer is moving from one firm to another, a client be able to block the move.  Currently, the rule requires client consent and would impute disqualification to the entire firm.   

 

 

 

Another topic of discussion at that morning’s meeting was the Government Fellows Program and how that’s been operating.  Joel D’Alba and the members of his subcommittee surveyed a number of the government fellows who had been invited to serve on various committees of the Section.  They asked them about their experiences and how we might make the Government Fellows Program more rewarding to them as well as what we might do to encourage fellows to continue to remain active in the Section after their service as a fellow ended.  We also talked about the Section’s need for more people to write flashes (the e-flashes that are sent out on recent cases or legislation of interest to the Section), and new ways to market the Section, perhaps including Facebook and blogging.  We heard a report from the Law Student Outreach Program which pairs speakers from both the plaintiff union and management side to go out to law schools and talk with students about opportunities in labor and employment law.  Unfortunately, there’s been a drop in the number of those programs because the folks who were committed to going to the law schools have either moved on or have been unable to continue.  This prompted a discussion about the need to recruit additional people to participate in that program.  Chair woman Brown mentioned a few dates at the end of the meeting including the fall council meeting on November 7-8 in Washington, DC, held concurrently with the annual CLE meeting which will meet from November 4-8; the ABA annual meeting in 2009 is July 30-August 4 in Chicago; and the date for the 2010 labor CLE is November 3-6, but a site has not yet been selected.  That was pretty much the gist of the morning session on Sunday and after that it was time for me to hop in a cab and head to the airport.   

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Needless to say, the alarm really seemed early when it went off at 4:00 a.m., but I was able to make it.  One of the interesting things that happened (those of you who have followed the blog for a while know that I tend to get into conversations with cab drivers) was that the cab driver wanted to talk about how concerned he was that President Obama was going to take guns away.  He talked about how that would be a terrible thing, that the criminals would still have guns, and that the President shouldn’t take guns from law abiding people.  That was his big gest about the outcome of the election.  As you might imagine (at 4:30 a.m. in the morning), that was quite a conversation, but it did make the ride to the airport go by pretty quickly.

Section Council Meeting

Section Council Meeting

The Section Council Meeting started at 9:00 a.m.  My flight arrived in Chicago much sooner than expected.  We landed at 7:30 a.m., so I was able to get to the hotel by 8:30 a.m., check into my room and grab a bit of breakfast before the Council Meeting started.  I’ve mentioned the ABA Labor and Employment Law Section Council before, but for those of you who are new to the blog, it is the governing body of the American Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Section.  It is comprised of both voting members who are union, management, employee and/or at-large members who are neutrals.  In addition, there are a number of administrative representatives.  For example, those who work with the newsletter, the budget committee, the CLE committee, and the like.  The Council Meeting ran from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. during which time we talked about the upcoming annual CLE, and did some strategic planning for the future of the Section.  We also discussed the Mid-Winter Meetings, the need to create leadership paths (and that conversation went over into the next day) for people who want to get involved in the Section.  There was a long discussion about how to reach out to new members, and ways we could use new technologies to do so.  Among the other agenda items were reports from the Standing Committee Best Practices Task Force, the Publications Committee, the Trial Advocacy/Moot Court Competition Committee, as well as the Section Chair’s Report, Section Chair-Elect’s Report, Section Director’s Report, and Section Delegates Report.

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The Mid-Winter Bar Meeting has two tracks of CLE and I attended Track 2 because a number of our alumni were presenting on that track.  In the morning I missed George Niblock’s presentation because I had breakfast with Linda Lou Moore who has an exciting idea that I hope I’ll be able to share with you all soon.  I did arrive in time for the 9:45 a.m. session with Judge Lavenski Smith, 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which was entitled, “Judicial Selection:  It is More About the Choices than Who Does the Choosing.”  That was an ethics hour which was great because I got to see Judge Smith and also earn an hour of ethics for my own CLE requirement.  The next session started at 10:45 a.m. and the speaker was Bobby McDaniel, another of our distinguished alums.  He presented a fascinating talk on trial technology and how it can be used to enhance trial practice.

Lunch from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. turned out to be quite fun because Bill Martin, Bobby McDaniel, Prof. Rob Leflar, and Sally and Nick Patton and I went to Blues City Café for ribs.  Blues City Café, if you haven’t been there, has the best ribs in Memphis.  I’m not a dry rib person.  I think Rendevous is great, but personally I think Blues City Café is better.  At that wonderful lunch we talked about everything from trial lawyers to the current tort reform movement to what impact the new administration might have on immigration policy.  From 1:00-2:00 p.m. another of our distinguished alums, Judge Leon Holmes, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, Little Rock, gave a talk on “Jury Instructions and Closing Arguments.”  Then I went up to my room to check e-mail, return phone calls and what not and caught the end of Nick Patton’s 3:15-4:15 p.m. presentation on “Intellectual Property Litigation.”

Rondezvous Charcoal Ribs

Rondezvous Charcoal Ribs

That evening it was time to go to eat more Barbeque at the Rendevous.  This is an annual tradition of the Mid-Winter Bar Meeting and it’s always a lot of fun, not just because of the food, but because it’s nice to see everyone in a casual relaxed setting.  The menu consists of ribs, chicken, sausage, cole slaw, baked beans and garlic bread.  It’s quite a spread along with pitchers of cold beer or soda and a good time had by all.   The Rendevous is followed by the Dessert Gala back at the Peabody.  This year instead of it being on the balcony it was in the Venetian Room which was much better because there was a lot more space and the ability to spread out and visit.  Usually it was cramped and crowded, so this new venue was a big improvement.  Later that evening we had a pleasant surprise.  One of our very distinguished alums, Secretary Rodney Slater, had flown into town to be there that evening.  It was good to see him, as always.

Bill Martin, Jan Sprott, and Don Hollingsworth

Bill Martin, Jan Sprott, and Don Hollingsworth

For the evening’s events I was wearing a baseball cap because Michele and Jimmy had gone for a walk earlier in the day and found a cap that said, “Women who behave never make history.”  I loved it, so I wore it.  So, if you’re wondering why I was walking around in a baseball cap, it’s because it was a very special gift and I wanted to show it off that evening.  After the reception, I went right up to bed because I had a very early morning.  My flight left from Memphis to Chicago at 6:00 a.m. so I could make it to the ABA Labor and Employment Law Section Council Meeting.

Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m., Michele Payne and her husband Jimmy (who is quite the honey-do), picked me up at my house.  (We have an expression in the sorority when a guy helps out all the time like that that he is a honey-do, as in honey do this and honey do that.)  Jimmy is a wonderful friend to the law school and to me.  He did all the driving while Michele and I worked on the way over to Memphis.  We stopped in Little Rock to have lunch at Vermillion Water Grille.  As you know (if you’ve followed the blog), it’s one of my favorite restaurants.  We were met there by my friend, Steve Shults, who I met at the Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference.  Over time we’ve become good friends, so it was great that he was able to join us and that Michele and Jimmy were able to meet him.

Rick Ramsay and Rodney Slater

Rick Ramsay and Rodney Slater

After lunch we got on the road again arriving in Memphis at 3:30 p.m. which was a bit tight for us to get showered and changed and get the reception set up, but we were able to do it.  Our reception started at 5:00 p.m. in the Louis XVI Room.  I should back up and say that every year the Arkansas Bar Association Mid-Winter Meeting is held at the Peabody Hotel.  It’s always a great meeting.  It’s smaller than the annual meeting and a little easier to visit with folks who are there.  There are a number of pretty fun annual events around the meeting and the CLE is always very good.  Three years ago we began the tradition of having a reception on the Thursday night of the Mid-Winter Bar Meeting.  At the reception we give an update on what’s going on at the law school, answer questions and serve light hors d’oeurves and cocktails.  Generally, we have a good crowd and this year was no exception.  Those in attendance included Rick and Clair Ramsay, H.T. and Linda Lou Moore, Bill Martin, Tanya and Rod Holmes, Donna and Lamar Pettus, Rosalind Mouser, Virginia Hardgrave, Susan Schell, Don Judges, Mary Beth and David Matthews, Toof Brown, Jeff and Margo Germany, Walter Murray, Dave and Mary Harrod, James McMenis, Jason and Colleen Hendren, Clay and Barbara Patty, and Carlyle White. 

That evening a group of us went to dinner at Encore which is actually right across the parking lot from the Peabody on Peabody Place.  Our group included Donna and Lamar Pettus, Bill Martin, Susan Schell, Michele and Jimmy Payne, and myself.  We had a lively discussion given the week’s previous political events and Donna’s President-Elect status in the Bar Association.  It was a very good meal and good fellowship.

Don Bland

Don Bland

January 21st began with a busy morning of catch up given the previous day’s events.  That was followed by a wonderful lunch with Don Bland, Senior Managing Director of Outreach in the College of Business.  Don has been a friend for a number of years and I really treasure his advice.  He was a Wal-Mart executive for many years before joining the University.  He has been very helpful to me in thinking about how to handle difficult situations and is a great source of knowledge about the business community.  He’s a valuable resource as well as a good friend and I very much enjoyed lunch with him.  We ate at the new Shogun and had a sushi lunch.  I had the Bento Box and it was very good.  Unfortunately, it was so enjoyable that I forgot about the December and January birthday celebration back at the law school.  I missed it and I’m very sorry about that.  Dean Beard had to lead that celebration.  Don and I got into such a lively conversation that I forgot all about it.  December birthdays included Ann Winfred, Tom Black, Judith Kilpatrick, Ned Snow, Mel Thomas, Tim Tarvin and Janet Flaccus.  January birthdays included Susan Schell, Kate Dreier, Randy Thompson, Michele Payne, Mary Herrington, Emmy Bullock, Mary Beth Matthews, Rob Leflar, David Lewis, Carl Circo and Kalesha McGraw.

That evening I left a little bit early to get ready to prepare for another crazy trip.  Those of you who followed the blog earlier won’t be surprised.  This time I was to leave for the Arkansas Bar Association Mid-Year Meeting in Memphis on Wednesday, fly from there to Chicago for the American Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Section Council Meeting, and then fly from there on Sunday to Phoenix for the 38th Annual American Bar Association Deans’ Workshop held in conjunction with the Chief Justices of the State Supreme Court.  It was to be a pretty hectic week, so I left a little early to prepare for that.

Inauguration 2009

Inauguration 2009

Happy Birthday to Prof. Mary Beth Matthews!  That day was a very profound and moving day for me.  As you all might recall, it was the inauguration of our 44th President, President Barack Obama.  His inauguration holds great significance for me as a lawyer, as a person of color, and as someone who has championed equality and diversity.  It was an amazing day.  Many of us in the law school community came together to watch the inauguration in the Norma Lea Beasley entrance hall.  The inauguration itself was incredibly powerful and moving.  One of the most impressive things was the fact that even with all the people who were there, those many people, there were no disruptions, no discord, no arrests, just love, excitement and positive energy.  I think the most moving part to me was when President-Elect Obama walked down the stairs and the cameras showed his view of the scene, all the people of different races, colors, ages and gender gathered together to celebrate his inauguration.  It was a very personally powerful and moving experience to watch that moment along with the other members of the law school community.  It will always be a day that I will remember and treasure.

Scott Varady, University General Counsel and my very good friend, came over and joined us for a while to watch the inauguration.  He and I then retreated to my office to eat a hasty lunch of sandwiches from the coffee shop and to catch up a little bit.  Before I became Dean, we used to have lunch every month and now it just seems like our schedules don’t let us get together as much.  I know that Scott was as excited as I was about the occasion and it was really good to be with him on that very special day.

At 1:30 p.m. I attended the Council of Deans meeting.  We were joined by the officers of the Associated Student Government who talked about ways to work more closely with the academic deans.  They shared the results of a survey they’d done which gave us an idea of what some of the concerns of students.  They had clearly put a lot of thought and work into their presentation and the dialogue was very helpful to all who attended.  It was a very good meeting.

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