One Texan’s Support for a Voter Photo ID Law

In a society where a photo ID is required to for actions ranging from cashing a check to buying a six pack of beer, requiring one to perform one of the most solemn acts in a democracy, voting, seems only sensible.

The argument that, in the state of Texas, Hispanics are less likely to have a photo ID than Anglos is not persuasive. How many of these Hispanics who lack a photo ID are actually registered voters, not to mention legally in the country? The studies being cited by the Justice Department do not provide this information.

The integrity of elections is one of the most important things that should be defended in a democracy. A vote by someone who is not qualified to vote is a theft from people who are qualified to vote.

Voter fraud has been a fact of life in Texas since Lyndon Johnson stole the 1948 Senate race. Claims that such cases are rare today are not persuasive against a photo ID law. If murder were rare, measures to prevent that crime would still be relevant and necessary. That is true for voter fraud as well.

Seven Gardening Tips for a Beautiful Garden

/A garden is an endless source of pleasure for those who love gardening. It’s a place to get away from your worries and tensions. Lush green and colorful flowers or growing vegetables are sure to lift your spirits. Following are some tips that might be helpful if you are just getting started setting up your garden.

  1. Keep your garden weed free and insect free for a healthy garden that is welcoming to you, your children,your grandchildren, or whomever you choose to share your special place with.
  2. Plant a garden that is easy and within your means to keep. Planting an extensive garden will take extensive care to maintain it. When it becomes more of a chore than a pleasure, you know you have overdone it.
  3. Before you buy your plants, ensure that the soil is ready for planting. There’s nothing worse than buying your new plants and then not being able to plant them because you have done nothing to prepare the soil.
  4. When buying new plants, make sure they are healthy. Some nurseries will put plants on sale that appear to be only half alive. They might seem like a tempting bargain, but unless you have a green thumb, probably many of these plants will not make it. Make sure your new plants are green, healthy, and have signs of new growth on them.
  5. You might want to decorate your garden in a variety of ways. Earthen figures or ornamental clay pots add a nice touch to decorating a garden. Or perhaps a pile of stones well placed at a corner of the garden would add a unique look.
  6. Buy yourself a good, sturdy set of gardening tools. Without good tools, making the garden becomes a difficult task. And you don’t want to lose interest before you have your plants in the ground.
  7. Kneeling can take a toll even on the most fit person. Sometimes investing in strap on knee pads or a knee pad that you place on the ground and kneel on is worthwhile.

Gardening can be an extremely relaxing hobby. You can build yourself a reading area in or near your garden which can be a pleasurable escape from reality. To see something you have planted grow and become more beautiful with each passing day will make you smile. And if you have planted vegetables, to enjoy the cooked fruits of your labor is unsurpassable.

Hydroponic Gardening for Clean, Green Food

Everyone knows the benefits of clean organic food. It’s no secret we all want to eat healthier, more nutritious foods and lead more sustainable lives. Do you sometimes think you may not have enough fresh greens in your diet? Imagine having all the salad greens and vegetables you’ll ever need, clean and fresh from your yard or indoor garden. The idea of gardening may conjure up problems for some urban dwellers such as inadequate space, the time and trouble of irrigation, and just spending all your free time in the dirt. Hydroponic gardening could be the answer to all of those gardening issues and offer solutions to many more.

Hydroponic gardening is a very simple concept. It provides constant irrigation which contains nutrients for plants without the need for soil as a growing medium. You can buy hydroponic gardening systems online or you can build your soil-free garden yourself. This article is not a step by step on how to build one of these efficient gardens but rather a look at how these gardens operate and what one might look like.

The main thing in hydroponic gardening is the stream of circulating water. It will usually come from a storage tank on the ground with a water pump that pumps water up to the top or high point of the garden. Many people like to use 3 to 4 inch PVC pipe to channel the stream which has its advantages. The stream and the storage tank must be “light tight”; the pipe method accomplishes this. If your nutrient rich water is exposed to sunlight you’ll have algae blooms in no time. PVC is also sold with all the right sized attachments like the end pieces and “t” fittings. Another method for streaming uses household rain gutters containing gravel or other lightweight rocks. The key element is to get water with added nutrients pumped from the storage tank to the high end of your stream and have it saturate all the plant roots as it flows by before dropping back into your storage tank. The water should splash from about 6 inches above the surface so it can re-aerate.

In the top of the PVC stream pipe are holes cut large enough for plant holders. Plastic pots are available with open slotted sides so water can flow through to nourish your plants. There are various growing mediums made from moss-like materials to hold the plants in place. This “flowing water” feature of hydroponics allows your plants to take just as much water as they need; no more and no less. This means you never worry about watering the right amount; you just change the water every few weeks and add more nutrients. It’s wise to do a lot of research on plant nutrients before starting your hydroponic garden as nutrients are considered the “key” in this type of gardening. You need to use the right nutrients for the right plants. It stands to reason that all plants in the stream should be compatible in their nutrient needs. Too much nutrient in the stream can cause “nutrient burn” causing your plants to turn brown and die. The pH in the water has to be in the proper range and rain water usually works well. If you don’t have access to rain water, there are “pH kits” you can purchase to get the water in the right pH range.

It’s been said that if we stopped wasting water and fossil fuels on mowing and growing grass lawns and we simply planted food crops at home, we could feed the world. By growing your own food you’ll use less fuel for shopping, fewer grocery bags and know what is in and on your food. This is certainly another example of “green is better”. The ease and convenience of hydroponic gardening makes it clear that we do have choices. From apartment or condo balconies, to front yards, back yards and roofs, hydroponic gardens can help make our families healthier, happier and more self-sufficient!

Why Do You Need To Recycle Kitchen Appliances

The majority of countries imposed certain regulations on recycling kitchen and home appliances with the increasing concern about the environment. Especially in Europe and in the USA, you might even get a fine of you throw away old appliances along with your normal waste.

What appliances should be recycled?

If the government in your country imposed recycling of electrical appliances by law, they probably offer options for people that want to recycle them. You can call a Green Line and someone will come to pick up your old fridge, microwave or washing machine. For some appliances like convection microwaves, you can give your old machine for a new one, having the peace of mind that your old device is recycled correctly.

The microwave oven is a recyclable appliance as well. It is important not to throw it in nature or with the common waste, as it has many recyclable parts that are also harmful for the environment.

Recyclable appliances thrown in nature have many harmful effects

  • They are 10 times more polluting than common waste
  • Almost 75% of a microwave oven can be recycled and the components can be reused for making new appliances
  • Most of governments offer programmes encouraging people to recycle these devices and to change them for new ones. This is a win-win situation as the energy saved by replacing old appliances is huge.
  • Most of new devices are less consuming than the old ones, so there is an incentive for everyone to recycle old appliances such as microwave ovens often.

Old electric appliances have many elements that are non-degradable, such as mercury and cadmium. If these substances reach the soil, they will be polluted for a long time. Freon is a substance commonly used to manufacture fridges, and it can be completely recycled to make new appliances. Freon release in atmosphere is one of the main factors of pollution.

Plastic is a non-degradable material that has toxic emissions in the atmosphere. Microwave ovens are made of special plastic that would degrade even harder, besides the metal parts that are also recyclable and can be reused.

Mercury is a part of batteries, LCD screens and switches. Mercury intoxication can lead to serious health problems such as cancer, diabetes and lungs problems.

How are electric appliances recycled?

It is the responsibility of each one of us to identify the closest place where you can recycle your appliances. There should be a recycling spot at your local grocery store where you can bring small appliances and batteries, but if you have a bigger appliance, you can check for a brand offering you the possibility to send the old appliance and replace it with the new one.  

You can find programs of such kind for your microwave oven as well. Make sure you are buying a reputed brand that would also have a pick-up service, so you can give the old appliance and get the new one easily. Many brands offer this service as it is a great way to encourage clients to recycle.

Container Care Tips for Container Gardening

/Container gardening is the fastest growing trend in home gardening. Container gardening enables everyone from apartment dwellers to landowners to beautify their surrounding and produce food. These container care tips will help keep the beauty and food production going strong year after year.

Container Cleaning Made Easy

Containers need to be emptied and cleaned at the end of the growing season or in spring prior to re-planting. The nutrients in the soil have been depleted and needs to be replenished and the containers need to be cleaned to prevent any spread of disease or pests.

A cheap toilet brush will make cleaning containers easy. Dump the used soil out of the container onto a tarp and scrub the container with a mild soap and water solution and the toilet brush. It will keep your hands clean and thoroughly clean the containers.

Replenishing Soil Nutrients

While you have the soil removed from the container, replenish the nutrients for another growing season by mixing in some compost or cow manure. Nutrient-rich soil will feed the flowers and vegetables and the organic matter will keep the container soil from compacting.

Use Newspaper, Charcoal And A Wick

Before placing the amended soil back into the container, add three things that will make container gardening easier.

Placing a folded piece of newspaper in the bottom of the container to cover large drainage hole will prevent the soil from spilling out when it’s placed back into the container. The newspaper will also prevent the soil from washing out during watering.

Poke a small hole in the newspaper that covers the bottom drainage hole and add a wick for slow water absorption. The wick can be any absorbent material, a strip of cotton or wool works great. The wick needs to be long enough to be about two inches up inside the container, with the opposite end of the wick on the outside of the container to lay in the drain tray. When watering your container garden, put water in the drain tray and the wick will help keep the soil moist and the plant from drying out. Makes watering easier and is especially useful if you are away from home for a few days during the growing season.

Add a few pieces of activated charcoal to the bottom of the containers before replacing the soil. The charcoal absorbs excess water, making it almost impossible to over water any indoor or outdoor plants (over-watering is the leading cause of plant death). The charcoal absorbs excess water and slowly releases it back into the container soil

Container gardening is fun and practical, and these container care tips will help keep your containers and plants in tip-top shape.

Portland, Oregon Chinese Garden

Sometimes you just need to escape the city. This isn’t always an easy thing to do when you’re actually in a city. But right in the middle of downtown Portland, is a full city block that contains the Portland Classical Chinese Garden (NW 3rd & Everett, Portland, Oregon, 97209). If you’re looking for something interesting, different, and fun to do in Portland, Oregon – the Chinese Garden is a fantastic place to visit on your list of things to do.

The Portland Chinese Garden was started in 2000 – as a partnership between Portland and it’s Chinese sister city: Suzhou, China. The two cities became ‘sisters’ in 1988 and support many projects between the two. The Portland Chinese Garden is like a window into Chinese culture, architecture, and gardens – right in downtown Portland.

The architecture and garden itself was created by workmen from Portland’s sister city of Suzhou – which is also one of China’s oldest cities. Portland construction companies provided the foundation, while all of the Chinese structures in the garden are truly Chinese.

The garden is over 40,000 square feet with an 8,000 square foot lake, Lake Zither. The garden contains a large number of plants indigenous to China – some over 100 years old.

As well as the beautiful garden and lake, there is a traditional Chinese teahouse located in the Garden’s Tower of Cosmic Reflection. In the teahouse you can sample a wide variety of teas which were originally used as medicines in ancient China – and experience a traditional tea ceremony. While you’re enjoying your tea you can read and learn about the long history and benefits of different teas.

Although you can go and enjoy the Chinese Gardens for a few quiet hours in the middle of a busy day – the garden is also available to rent for various events – like weddings. I imagine it would be a very interesting and fantastic location for a wedding.

The Portland Chinese Gardens also offer a number of classes and tours for schools or visitors. Or you can explore the gardens on your own. One of the great things about the garden is that it is constantly changing as well, so each visit is unique.

There is an admission fee – or you can purchase an annual membership at a reasonable rate. My wife and I actually received a membership as a wedding present and have enjoyed it immensely.

If you’re looking for something to do in Portland, Oregon, something that is a little bit quieter than the usual hustle and bustle of the city – be sure to check out the Portland Classical Chinese Gardens right in the middle of downtown Portland, Oregon.

What is Godwin’s Law?

When it comes to humanity’s potential for evil, you can’t get a better prime example than Adolf Hitler. He killed millions of innocent people and started another world war just so that he could attempt to seize control for himself. With the internet being what it is, comparing someone to Hitler has become commonplace. Whenever someone does something that you don’t approve of, see if you can find a way to link it to Hitler to make it seem that much worse.


This is a ridiculous tactic for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it’s blatant hyperbole. Second, it does come off as being in poor taste comparing someone who you’re debating to a mass murdering, genocidal madman.

As such, the internet banded together and passed something that is referred to as “Godwin’s Law”. It even has its own page on TVtropes. Basically, Godwin’s Law decrees that anyone who compares a person or action to either Hitler or the Nazis, automatically loses the argument.

For example, if a meat eater and a vegetarian were to get into an argument over which diet choice is better, the meat eater might point out that Hitler was a vegetarian. It has nothing to do with anything and just sounds weird. Oddly enough, people cite his vegetarianism as a redeeming quality more than a condemning one.

He was also quite fond of his dog, and animals in general, so if you were arguing with someone who had a beloved pet, or an avid animal rights activist, you might bring that up if you wanted to invoke the law.

Ironically, for as many people out there who equate their bad boss with the dictator, the man was apparently quite pleasant in that regard.

Sadly, as with other laws, people still insist on breaking it. There was a point where shock jock Howard Stern compared Jay Leno to Hitler (Stern isn’t a fan of the late night comedian to say the least). When George W. Bush was in office, the far left was throwing out Hitler comparisons every chance they could get.

Now that Barack Obama is in office, it’s the far right that is throwing out the Hitler comparisons.

Regardless of your political affiliation, I would like to believe that a vast majority of the populace finds both comparisons absolutely ridiculous.

It should be noted that simply invoking the name of Hitler isn’t necessarily breaking the aforementioned law. If you were discussing history, then Nazi Germany would be an appropriate thing to discuss. Every once in a while, a dictator will come along and maybe…maybe you could get away with making a parallel, but by and large, the Hitler comparison is over the top and will result in a fail on your part.

If you are actually talking about the man and his time in power, all is well and good. It’s when you use the comparison to insult someone or to advance your own argument that you fail.

While the trope is gaining some exposure, it clearly needs to be brought up more as people continue to make ridiculous Hitler comparisons and it just makes everyone look ridiculous.


Old Kentucky Law Thwarts Rush Limbaugh

Thousands of Republicans and Independents were re-registering as Democrats to participate in Pennsylvania’s closed Democratic primary before the March 24th deadline. On April 22nd, Pennsylvania will go to the polls. The purpose of a closed primary is to keep voters affiliated with other parties from participating. It makes sense. Why should a Republican be allowed to help choose the nominee for the Democrats, and vice versa? Beyond that, if a state chooses to have closed primaries, it doesn’t make sense to allow voters to switch parties less than a month before the vote!

Conservative radio talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham and others have been telling their Republican listeners to temporarily register as Democrats in states with closed primaries. They want them to vote for Hillary in order to keep her viable, hoping to prolong the Democratic race and fracture the party. They are taking advantage of an opening in the sysytem, not to mention the fact that Republicans already have a nominee. In states that haven’t voted yet, Republicans are trying to influence the race on the Democratic side. Nobody could have anticipated a primary season like this, and many states need to update their voting rules.

Kentucky is a closed primary state. Voters go to the polls May 20th. If you’re a registered Republican or Independent hoping to get a piece of the Democratic action, you’re out of luck! Not only is the primary closed, but Kentucky has a little known law in place to prevent “party raiding”… Party raiding is when voters change party affiliation in order to influence the vote. To prevent this, Kentucky has two deadlines for people to register. New voters have until April 21st to register. But if you’re already registered and simply wanted change party affiliation, you had to do so before December 31st of last year to be eligible to vote in the May 20th primary… Sorry party crashers!

Over 9,000 registered voters in Kentucky have changed party affiliation since the beginning of the year, but most are just learning they are too late.


What the Computer May Have Missed

In 2002, reporters asked Secretary of Defense Donal Rumsfeld a question at a U.S. Department of Defense news briefing. In answering, he set up a taxonomy that has become popular to catalogue our state of knowledge. In the Rumsfeld Taxonomy, there are things we know, things we don’t know, and things we don’t know we don’t know. In the Secretary’s words, “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns.” The last category, as Secretary Rumsfeld noted, is the most intriguing.

Scientists Discover Tacit Knowledge

Michael Polyani was a Hungarian physical chemist. He studied in Budapest and Karlsruhe, Germany, but WW I interrupted his studies. He served as a medical officer during the war and, during a sick-leave, managed to write his PhD thesis (encouraged by Albert Einstein). He received his PhD from the University of Budapest after the war.

After teaching for years in Hungary, he emigrated to Germany and then found his way to the University of Manchester. With the turmoil in Europe, his interests had shifted from chemistry to economics. The University accommodated the shift by creating a chair for him in Social Science which he held until he retired from his distinguished career in 1958.

Years before he retired, Polanyi gave the Gifford Lectures at the University of Aberdeen. He published a revised version of his Lectures in 1958 as the book, Personal Knowledge. In the Lectures and book, Polanyi argues that all knowledge relies on personal judgments. That is, he argued, one cannot reduce knowledge to a set of rules. Polanyi’s views countered those of his friend Alan Turing and were the basis for some early critiques of work in artificial intelligence.

Polanyi extended this idea of personal judgments to a concept he called “tacit knowledge.” According to Polanyi, we experience the world both through sensory data and through other knowledge—tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge includes things we aren’t aware we know, but which play an essential role in our lives and work.

Polanyi’s ideas have been the subject of much research. That research helped explain a problem that has bedeviled scientists for many years. As any high school student who has taken a science class knows, one of the bedrocks of science is the idea of the repeatable experiment. Scientist A conducts an experiment which yields results that meet a basic significance test. She publishes her results in a journal. Scientist B wants to extend Scientist A’s work. To get started, Scientist B tries to replicate Scientist A’s results. B runs the experiment as described in the Journal article, but gets results different from A. Were A’s results a fluke? Were B’s results a fluke? After many attempts, B and scientists C, D, and E are unable to repeat A’s results. Now what?

At first you might think such an outcome uncommon. Scientists publish in peer-reviewed journals. We assume that by the time an article makes it into print, the results it reports aren’t a fluke. Scientist A may have repeated her experiment several times before publishing to make sure her first results were not a fluke. The peer reviewers would catch any flaws in what she did. The data is public. So, absent fraud, we think A’s results are reliable. In fact, scientists still struggle with unrepeatable results. Why can’t anyone repeat them?

This is where Polanyi’s theory comes into play. Under the tacit knowledge theory, the steps in the journal article are not sufficient for other scientists to replicate the experiment. The missing element is tacit knowledge. In the case of A’s research, she has some tacit knowledge necessary to make the experiment work. Tacit knowledge goes beyond failure to create detailed instructions. It includes knowledge the person can’t articulate.

Science and the Unknown Unknowns

It is the time of the Cold War. Russian researchers led by Vladimir Braginsky at Moscow State University are working on ways to detect and measure gravitational waves. Measuring these waves is a big deal—you may recall seeing articles in 2016 describing how scientists had, for the first time, detected gravitational waves. Albert Einstein had predicted such waves 100 years ago.

The Russian researchers’ instruments used sapphire mirrors. Every little thing mattered in the search for gravitational waves, including the quality (“Q”) of the sapphire used in the mirrors.[1] The Russian researchers claimed to have measured a new, high quality level for their mirrors, something of great interest to those searching for gravitational waves. But, despite their best efforts, researchers at major universities including Caltech, Stanford, Perth, and Glasgow could not match the Russian’s results.

Since it was the Cold War, many were skeptical that the Russians had achieved what they said. As the years passed and no one could repeat the results, the skepticism grew. By 1998, the Cold War was over. Scientists from Glasgow University visited Moscow State University to learn how the Russians had managed to measure the impressively high Q.

After a week, the Glasgow scientists trusted the Russian scientists. With distrust out of the way, the Glasgow scientists focused on what the Russians were doing. It turned out, there was a lot to know beyond what the Journal article said.

Remember, the equipment is very sensitive. Construction and technique play critical roles in the measurement process. This was where the Russians had tacit knowledge. The Glasgow scientists learned how to suspend the sapphire, what to use (a certain silk thread from China worked best), the best length for the suspension thread, the most efficient way to create a vacuum for the test, and many other factors. They also learned patience. The Russian scientist doing the experiments would re-run the same experiment over many days making minute adjustments, before he would accept the results.

Some changes had explanations. But for many, the answer was akin to the famous dictum from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when writing about pornography, “I know it when I see it.”[2] The Russian scientist could not articulate what he need to do, he just knew when he had to adjust the apparatus or run the experiment another time.

AI, Law, and The Tacit Knowledge Risk

As we see the earliest incremental steps of artificial intelligence creeping into law, we should ask whether tacit knowledge plays a role in the legal universe. It is easy to be dismissive and argue no (though I suspect lawyers will try to answer yes). Law is not an “exact” science like physics. The steps that physicists outside of Russia missed when trying to replicate the Q experiments were in many cases matters of omission. Had the Russians given long and detailed explanations of everything they did, the other scientists may have replicated the experiment.

If we push a bit further, the “yes” answer gains currency. Harry Collins has written extensively on tacit knowledge. In Tacit and Explicit Knowledge, the third book of his non-fiction trilogy studying knowledge “top to bottom,” he developed a “Three Phase Model” for tacit knowledge: relational, somatic, and collective. Relational addresses the “contingencies of social life,” somatic the “nature of the human body and brain,” and collective “the nature of human society.” Without delving into the Model, we can see that tacit knowledge includes more than what our senses tell us, it includes much going on around us.

In law, we moved from formalism to realism in the beginning of the 20th century (pragmatism never caught on). What lawyers and judges did involved something beyond formalism. Looking at the facts, reading cases and statutes, and applying the latter to the former was necessary, but not sufficient. The process needed an additional something, and it came from experience, both life and current. Reading the cases or statutes applicable to a set of facts did not give you all you needed to “apply the law.”

The tacit knowledge concept puts a name to what many lawyers try to articulate when they say we need lawyers. Sending a computer to law school, where it learns the theory and rules of law, is not sufficient to give us a practicing lawyer. Even having the computer read all the decisions of all the courts, study the hornbooks, and peruse law review articles falls short. The computer may learn what is in print, but it will not learn the “unknown, unknowns.” It will not learn what the lawyer or judge omitted from the papers. As important, it won’t know what it doesn’t know.

Tacit knowledge plays a role in shaping the biases and heuristics that Daniel Kahneman brought to our attention in behavioral economics. A judge deciding a case employs those biases and heuristics as she applies law to facts. To claim otherwise attempts to argue that judges are not human. But where does this knowledge take us?

Consider tacit knowledge along with artificial intelligence. AI uses machine learning. Imagine we gave AI software all of the cases ever decided involving securities law. We gave the same computer all the law review articles written, all the books published, and any other written thing we could find. The AI used machine learning to scour the materials for patterns. It found things we knew and some “patterns” we didn’t know. But are the new patterns correct? And, what about everything that wasn’t written down?

AI software stumbles when it comes to certain challenges. Law can magnify those challenges. Writing quality varies widely among judges. On a good day, judges may omit essential information from their opinions. On a bad day, they also omit logic. AI will have difficulty inferring what is missing. If 1,000 cases lack the same information, AI may find the pattern. But if only one case lacks the information, AI can’t find a pattern. Another challenge involves deciding what weight to assign each fact. The judge may list 10 facts, but not the importance of each fact to the outcome. Facts change by case, so finding a pattern is difficult.

Think of a decision involving a criminal sentence. Case law requires that Judges list the factors that played a role in sentencing. Most do, but some omit some or all of the factors they considered. The software may see a factor in the case and incorrectly think the judge considered it. The judge may have used her experience to weight recidivism risk factors when deciding what support services the defendant would get, but not listed her experience. Tacit knowledge plays a role in judicial decisions.

When we introduce AI into law, we need to ask what happens to tacit knowledge. If we think of AI as just doing a better job finding things, then we can argue it has little to no impact. AI finds cases faster than a person, but the person still reads and interprets the cases. But how does the AI know which cases to select versus the human? Would a person have selected a case, even though ambiguous, because it gave hints about new directions to pursue?

I am not pretending to answer the tacit knowledge question in this article. But I think we must ask the question as we expand our use of proto-AI and AI technologies. The question may not be what we found, but what we missed.

[1] The quality or Q factor for a material measures the rate at which its resonances decay. Think of a bell. You ring the bell and it takes time for the ringing to subside. The longer it takes, the higher the Q. The scientists wanted “high Q” sapphire and the Russians had measured a Q of 4 x 10 to the 8th.

[2] Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 185 (1964).

Another Reason to Re-Think Legal Education

Lawyers have suggested many reasons for changing legal education. I have another one to add to the list. I think legal education teaches inefficiency. From day one in law school, law students are taught to be inefficient in the practice of law. By the time they hit the world outside academia and start practicing, they have three years of intensive inefficiency training. In a world that has moved towards reducing waste, at least in corporations, having someone join the workforce who has been taught inefficiency adds some complications. At a minimum, it means we will spend years re-training them, at the same time they are learning to practice. More realistically, we will end up with many lawyers who are never re-trained.

Legal Inefficiency Training

Think about your first year of law school. Were you ever taught how to analyze a contracting situation, a tort, or a criminal law situation as a process as well as a substantive law issue? Probably not. You were taught a way to analyze contract issues. Yet, in real life the situations lawyers handle are built largely on process, not just substance. Indeed, in many situations the law is relatively straightforward. Having a strong command of the process can mean the difference between doing well or just doing.

When I was a general counsel, I helped negotiate a complex arrangement with a licensor. The basic license agreement was straightforward. We had the license form worked out and most of the substantive terms were not changing. The real key to this license was the exhibits. We had a complicated, large set of exhibits. A lot of the work in getting the license done related to these exhibits, which meant a lot of process control. The license was worth a lot of money to our company so getting the process right (or messing it up) had significant consequences – as in, something that might require disclosure in our securities compliance documents. We also had time pressures to get the license done, putting further pressure on the process. At the end of the day, everything worked out, we met the deadline, and my client was satisfied with the result. Getting there, however, was 80% process and 20% substance.

The same teaching issue I talked about above carries through all substantive classes. Evidence is taught as concepts of law, and yet much of evidence revolves around process. Securities law is covered with process challenges, and the same is true for intellectual property, estates and trusts, and so on, but all of those classes are taught from a substance perspective with the hope, I guess, that practicing lawyers will retrain the students when they hit the real world.

Obviously, the substance of law is important. But, teaching substance as if it exists in a sterile world separated from process results in a very distorted view of law. It builds in the habit of thinking that substance and process are distinct, separate parts of law and not part of an integrated whole. Imagine if doctors were trained solely from books and without any laboratory or clinical component (and I’m not arguing medical school is the model, just pointing out a couple of obvious differences). Using clinical training as part of teaching lawyers, as Michael Dillon suggests, would help, but I don’t think it is the entire solution to the inefficiency problem.

Re-thinking how law is taught will be difficult for most law school professors. They have relatively little exposure to the practice of law, even less to the practice of law today (versus many years ago when they graduated), and virtually all of them have no exposure to lean thinking in combination with the practice of law. It would be interesting to see what percentage of law school faculty have gone through any training on modern legal services delivery, including project management, process improvement, and technology.

Legal Efficiency Training

The good news is that this one issue could be fixed at little or no cost. The first step is teaching law school faculty about the modern practice of law. Seminars, workshops, and other training tools can accomplish that goal. The second step is to have law school faculty start modifying existing courses to reflect these modern practices and incorporate them as part of the core learning experience. My son is taking accounting, yet they don’t have him using accounting ledger paper from the 1930s to learn double-entry bookkeeping. If he can learn the basics of accounting with Excel, I’m not sure why law students can’t learn the basics of contract law in combination with Word and contract automation. Third, law schools should start thinking about law in the context of problems presented by clients. This isn’t a novel suggestion, but it still is a good one. Some classes should be integrated classes where students confront problems that require cross-functional thinking. Three years of training students to think one-dimensionally creates habits that are difficult to break. Problems don’t come neatly sliced into property law, tax, or other substantive areas.

The last point involves a personal pet-peeve, so I’ll share a story about it. As a corporate general counsel, I spent a fair amount of time on tax issues. The companies where I worked had global businesses, so we had plenty of international tax “opportunities.” On more than one occasion, partners from whichever of the Big Four accounting firms my company used would come to us with a tax proposal. They would have spent a fair amount of time working on the proposal and consulting with our tax team. They would invite the corporate lawyers to an overview presentation. We would identify several fatal flaws in the plan almost immediately. Those flaws were missed because the tax practitioners knew nothing about and didn’t take the time to ask about, the corporate law aspects of what they proposed. We would suggest many ways to work around the problem, and usually, after much additional work by the tax practitioners, we would land on a solution. I would always ask why the tax practitioners didn’t come to us right at the start, knowing that the key to the entire plan depended on corporate work, so that we could develop an integrated solution that worked. They always responded, “we were taught to look at the tax issues and let someone else think about the rest.” Not very efficient.

A Different Type of Training

The type of training I’m advocating does overlap with what some others (e.g. Michael Dillon) have suggested. But, it is more. If you teach inefficiently and teach how to do things inefficiently, students pick up on that and model that behavior. Combining teaching with practical experience helps (assuming the practitioners are efficient). Nevertheless, teaching itself needs to change.

We all know the oft-repeated quote attributed to Albert Einstein, “Insanity: doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.” If we continue teaching law the same way (based on inefficient service delivery models), and yet expect different results, we shouldn’t be surprised when they don’t materialize. We should start teaching law as an efficient professional service, which will build change from the bottom up.