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!
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.” 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.
 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.
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.
On May 26, 2011, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5 to 3 upholding Arizona’s employer Sanctions Law.
This is a victory for Governor Jan Brewer who posted on her Facebook page, ” A victory today for the State of Arizona in our battle against illegal immigration! The US Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s employer sanctions law that penalizes employers who hire illegal immigrants. Again, a great victory in our ongoing battle!”
DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano signed this law into effect while she was governor of Arizona in 2007. The Chamber of Commerce along with various other organizations disagreed with the law and filed suit.
Yet the Federal Government already has an Employer Sanction Program
In 1986 the Immigration Control and Reform Act of 1986(IRCA ’86) was passed into law by Congress. This federal law required ALL employers to verify the identity and right to work of all employees. There were employer sanctions put into effect that allowed fines to be levied against employers who used illegal aliens in their businesses.
IRCA ’86 Causes illegal entries to plunge
I was with the United States Border Patrol stationed in Uvalde, Texas when IRCA ’86 was enacted. After this law went into effect, apprehensions of illegal aliens plummeted. Most of the Border Patrol Agents I worked with then believed this law would eventually make our duties obsolete and our agency would become overlooked and underfunded. Boy was I wrong.
Employer Sanctions slowly faded away with more regulations being brought against the investigating agencies. Fines became more difficult to obtain and ways around it were quickly discovered.
IRCA ’86 is still in effect. An employer has to fill out an I-9 for every new employee and verify the employees’ identity and employment eligibility. IRCA ’86 has the potential to virtually solve the illegal immigration problem yet twenty-five years later, the law is virtually ignored by both employers and illegal aliens.
Fraudulent Green Cards and Social Security Cards Readily Available
In 1997, I transferred to the Pasco Station of the United States Border Patrol. This was an interior station set in the heart of a large labor-intensive agricultural area. I quickly found that almost every illegal alien I encountered had a fake Resident Alien Card and a fake Social Security Card. Lawfully Admitted Resident Alien Cards are commonly referred to as Green Cards.
Employers discovered that when their employees filled out I-9s, verifying identity and employment eligibility, the employer only had to make a “good faith effort” to confirm the documentation presented was valid. They were not considered to have the expertise to distinguish a valid card from a fake one. Therefore employers can legitimately accept a fake green card and fake social security card and not be violating the law.
At the Pasco Border Patrol Station I found that any alien who arrived in the area could obtain a false green card and a false social security card within a day or two of arrival. Numerous individuals and entities were supplying these fake documents. One of the most ingenious suppliers was a large Taco Truck. A subject would enter the front door, have his photo taken and by the time he left the rear of the truck, he would have a fake green card and social security card with his name and birth date on it. Ingenuity at work.
I seized hundreds of such fake documents over the six years I was stationed at the Pasco office while my partner there had a large box jammed full of these documents.
E-Verify Could Make Law Effective
The government has created programs such as E-Verify for employers to use to validate documents presented but it is voluntary for employers to use the system. This program would severely curb the use of illegal aliens if it were mandatory.
Arizona wouldn’t need an employer sanctions law if the United States would enforce their own law that has been on the book since 1986.
Sources, IRCA 1986,www.uscis.gov Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. whiting www.supremecourt.gov www.facebook.com/#!/govjanbrewer
Imagine a conference attended by many legal industry leaders. This conference includes chairman of the largest firms, CEOs of the biggest non-law firm businesses, appellate court judges, deans from major law schools, and other notable figures in the legal industry firmament. Now, imagine that this august group has assembled to talk about technology and its future, near-term and long-term, for the legal industry.
If you are having some trouble imaging what I described, I’m not surprised. That type of gathering just doesn’t happen in the legal industry. But, it happens all the time for clients. The CEOs attending these conferences are not just the CEOs of tech companies (though some are), they are CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations in businesses that are not primarily tech related. The schedule of a Fortune 500 CEO is packed, day and night, so if CEOs choose to attend these conferences it tells you tech is a big thing. As I write this, some of the legal industry players are attending Bloomberg BNA’s Big Law Business Summit 2015. While a start, this summit doesn’t get us where we need to go.
The professional service firms, other than law firms, that advise the Fortune 500 CEOs spend a lot of time thinking about and studying technology. They hold conferences about it and write serious papers studying the potential impact of it. In particular, they develop ways for clients to leverage technology. These firms don’t do this work out of the kindness of their hearts; they do it because they see commercial value in doing so. If it is important to their clients, it is important to them.
Technology is an Opportunity, Not a Threat
Within the legal industry, however, tech is something most lawyers avoid. Very few of the individuals I listed who would be the candidates for an industry tech conference know much about tech. They know it is a large budget item for law firms and less so for law departments, but they rarely know enough about tech to understand the real benefits and risks to the firm. Gather the industry leaders together, and the conference may reveal more about what lawyers don’t know than facilitate industry growth.
This gap between the legal industry and clients raises many issues. If clients put tech as one of the top five issues they worry about, and most CEOs place tech there, and yet lawyers place tech low on the list (if it even makes the list), isn’t there a disconnect between lawyers and clients? It isn’t as if tech raises few issues (cybersecurity and privacy, to name just two). Tech has the potential to disrupt every business out there. How do you act as a trusted advisor to a client, when you have almost no understanding of what worries your client?
Let’s consider one piece of tech: blockchains. Because the people who read this blog tend to be more knowledgeable about tech, I’ll guess that two or maybe three out of every 10 readers could describe blockchain technology, at least in a non-technical sense. According to Wikipedia, a blockchain is a:
distributed data store that maintains a continuously growing list of data records that are hardened against tampering and revision, even by operators of the data store’s nodes.
If that sounds too techy, then try this definition:
The blockchain is a simple digital platform for recording and verifying transactions so that other people can’t erase them later — and anyone can see them. “You can think of the blockchain [as] an ‘append-only’ ledger. You can only write to it, you can’t delete it,” Peter van Valkenburg, the director of research at Coin Center, told Gizmodo… Bookkeeping tools generally require a bookkeeper, but with the blockchain, there is no head honcho bookie. It’s a decentralized, crowd-powered spreadsheet, relying on cryptography instead of a central authority.
Still confused about blockchains and wondering why they would interest you? Consider this. One of the Big 4 audit firms has been studying the business opportunities of block chains for about 18 months. Recently, it confirmed that it is “trialling blockchain technology to automate client auditing and crowdsource its consulting efforts.” Of course, this professional services firm isn’t alone in looking at blockchain business opportunities. In the financial community, companies have been looking at blockchain technology for quite some time. That makes sense, since blockchains use cryptocurrencies (think Bitcoin).
What about other clients, such as retailers? They are looking at blockchain technology for things like loyalty card programs. Auditing firms look at it as a way to reduce auditing costs. Consulting firms consider it a way to connect services requests with service providers. Where databases are used, blockchain technology may provide advantages over existing technologies. For lawyers, blockchains present substantive opportunities and legal service delivery opportunities. So if the CEOs of major financial institutions, Fortune 500 corporations, and non-law professional service firms (and I use non-law loosely here) are spending time on this tech, don’t you think it may be worth the time of the legal industry?
Embrace the Future
Blockchains are not all that is happening in technology, but they serve as one example of the growing chasm between lawyers and their clients. Clients need lawyers who are curious, who are passionate about learning what is happening in the world and then finding ways to use it to help clients solve problems with legal dimensions. Clients are becoming increasingly resistant to using lawyers who can do no more than present old ideas warmed over in new packages. Lawyers who do no more than deliver warmed over ideas add little value.
Lawyers who want to be viewed as leaders in their substantive areas should be thinking more broadly. What will be the impact of emerging technologies, such as blockchains? How could those technologies impact clients’ legal interests in those substantive areas? How could the technologies be used to mitigate legal concerns or add greater protection to clients’ interests? Law firms can assemble cross-substantive area teams focused on the legal implications of technologies – blockchains – for clients in particular industries. For example, a firm could form a Retail Industry Blockchain Working Group. The Group would focus on the implications of blockhains on legal industry legal issues and develop preferred courses of action. Or, the firm could expand the Group to include retail clients and work on industry approaches. Lead that Group and watch who retailers call when they have a blockchain issue.
Blockchains aren’t the problem; they are one symptom of a much bigger issue. Lawyers are content to ride out the past. Whether in firms or law departments, lawyers spend their time debating bills and other mundane aspects of practicing law. Money is important, but when did money become the central focus of legal services? Lawyers who deliver real value, who enable their clients to reduce risk and achieve their strategic objectives, don’t worry about money. When the value is there, clients appreciate it and will pay a reasonable amount to get it. When the value isn’t there, the only thing left to argue about is money.
Technology isn’t a threat to lawyers; it is a threat to legal service delivery practices that have outlived their usefulness. Technology is an opportunity for lawyers who know how to embrace it, help their clients navigate it, and who use it to augment their judgment to provide clients more value than either technology or lawyers alone can provide. Technology should be a call to action among legal industry leaders – embrace technology and lead clients into the future.