Law


This is absolutely fantastic, and I completely understand the point.  Kudos to the Italians for making it work. 

This study is directly relevant to life as an associate at a big law firm.  As an associate at a big firm, one competes with other associates for a very limited number of partnership positions.  Associates work crazy hours, respond to emails at all hours of the night, and generally have no life. 

All associates would actually be better off if all associates would agree to be mediocre.  If all associates billed 500 fewer hours per year across the board, the same people would still be made partner — the result would be unchanged — but we would all have an extra 500 hours to enjoy. 

This doesn’t work though, because someone will always cheat.  (We are lawyers.)  Even if everyone agrees to bill only 1800 hours, there will always be that guy who thinks he can get ahead by billing just a few more hours.  It becomes a race to the bottom where the desire to provide a future for one’s wife and children competes with the crushing mental and physical anguish of billing yet another hour. 

The Italians seem to have solved that problem with a combination of social pressure and lowered expectations. 

L-worlds: The curious preference for low quality and its norms

Abstract. We investigate a phenomenon which we have experienced as common when dealing with an assortment of Italian public and private institutions: people promise to exchange high quality goods and services (H), but then something goes wrong and the quality delivered is lower than promised (L). While this is perceived as ‘cheating’ by outsiders, insiders seem not only to adapt but to rely on this outcome. They do not resent low quality exchanges, in fact they seem to resent high quality ones, and are inclined to ostracise and avoid dealing with agents who deliver high quality. This equilibrium violates the standard preference ranking associated to the prisoner’s dilemma and similar games, whereby self-interested rational agents prefer to dish out low quality in exchange for high quality. While equally ‘lazy’, agents in our L-worlds are nonetheless oddly ‘pro-social’: to the advantage of maximizing their raw self-interest, they prefer to receive low quality provided that they too can in exchange deliver low quality without embarrassment. They develop a set of oblique social norms to sustain their preferred equilibrium when threatened by intrusions of high quality. We argue that cooperation is not always for the better: high quality collective outcomes are not only endangered by self-interested individual defectors, but by ‘cartels’ of mutually satisfied mediocrities.

(HT Kids Prefer Cheese)

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The NYTimes has discovered a new constitutional principle: “selective incorpodumbassicity.” This means that the stupidity of some voters is incorporated, using a fabricated interpretation of the 14th Amendment, to rewrite the 2nd Amendment so that legitimate gun ownership, by responsible law-abiding citizens, is treated exactly the same way as if you robbed a bank.

In Dr. Munger’s response to this NY Times editorial.

There has been a lot of noise about what Audi’s “Green Police” Super Bowl is supposed to mean.

Given Audi of America president Johan de Nysschen’s recent comments on the Chevy Volt, I think it was firmly tongue-in-cheek.

If you’re considering law school, maybe you should read this take from the folks over at Big Debt, Small Law along with all those glossy law school brochures.

Consider the typical, hapless TTT[*] law school grad: First she invested 100 K in a worthless undergrad degree like English Lit or Poli-Sci, then compounded this initial mistake by piling on 120 K or more in non-dischargeable law school loans, bought hook, line and sinker the materially fraudulent salary stats of her law school, endured the BarBri blather-thons, walked the hot coal hazing ritual of the bar’zam, and now finds herself coping with $1500 a month loan payments and a total lack of job opportunities.

I commented on the bimodal nature of lawyer salaries back in the good old days (2007), and I can guarantee you that the top salary hump has gotten a lot smaller in the intervening years.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still believe that the law is (or can be) an honorable profession and that the rule of law is an absolutely necessary condition for a free and prosperous society.  I’m just reminding everyone that there is no such thing as a free lunch, no matter what the admissions office says.  I cannot comprehend how a fourth tier school like Pace University can justify $39K a year in tuition.   How would you ever pay it back when good students from top tier schools are out of work?

However, my favorite quote from the diatribe is a side note about pro bono.

Thanks to a generation of propogandist “college for everyone” drivel, there’s an acute shortage of HVAC repair techs, plumbers, electricians, and other skilled tradesman. Don’t believe us? Call a plumber and a lawyer and see who can get there first. By the way, ask the plumber if he’s willing to install your faucets “pro bono” because you have no money. After all, running water is surely as important as your legal problems (and plumbers are VERY expensive), so just tell him he should do it for free in the public interest. Try the same thing with your auto mechanic, roofer, HVAC guy, and electrician. You’ll quickly find that only the “law” is so fixated on the merits of giving expensive professional services away to deadbeats for free. Here at Big Debt we’ve long argued against any and all pro bono work. Why? Because by so doing, one reinforces in the public’s mind that the service provided is worthless. This is especially true when rendering an “intangible” product like law, one that looks to a layperson like nothing more than a stack of very boring paperwork.

Justice should be free, right?

For context, a good CNC technician can make six figures without the bar dues and malpractice insurance, and no one ever asks them to give their work away for free.

(*Note: TTT stands for third tier toilet.)

Ineffective counsel causes death row inmate to default on his ineffective counsel claims.

You have to admit that sometimes the law seems a little absurd.

[I]ndeed it is one of the characteristic marks of English liberty, that our common law depends upon custom; which carries this internal evidence of freedom along with it, that it probably was introduced by the voluntary consent of the people.

— Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765) (Book I, pg. 74)

LONDON — The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court long have been Anglophiles, routinely turning to antique English cases to help decide issues from gun rights to terrorism.

The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist had gold stripes stitched into his robe to emulate the British Lord Chancellor’s costume in a Gilbert and Sullivan opera.

Now, the Mother Country is following the lead of its offspring. This month, the U.K. replaced its Law Lords — a committee of noblemen that served as the highest tribunal for much of Britain — with the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. It isn’t just the name that echoes the top American court. For the first time, the U.K.’s highest court is fully separated, American-style, from Parliament and its legislative function.

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