Guest Blogger Jennifer Pacella

We are pleased to welcome Jennifer Pacella of the City University of New York, Baruch College, Zicklin School of Business as guest blogger. Jennifer is Assistant Professor of Law at the School of Business. She has taught Fundamentals of Business Law, The Law of Business Organizations, and the Law of GRC (Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance) & Whistleblowing. Her research interests include attorney whistleblowing and the Dodd Frank Act. She received her J.D. from SUNY Buffalo, her Master’s in Political Science from UNC, and her Bachelor’s in Political Science from SUNY Geneseo. Her prior professional experiences include clerking for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and working as an associate at Shearman & Sterling LLP in New York City in its Financial, Securities & Commercial Law group. I am an admirer of her recent work on in-house counsel and whistleblowing. Welcome, Jennifer!

Connecting With Students in the Virtual PR Classroom Using Informal Videos

One of the best ways to connect with students in the virtual classroom is to use informal videos for periodic updates and check-ins.  These videos are different from what I call instructional videos.  I use instructional videos to cover doctrinal fundamentals, with follow-up assessments and activities to deepen and assess learning.  For example, in my PR course, I may have a pre-recorded video on Rule 1.6 confidentiality vs. the attorney-client privilege.  While there are techniques for connecting with students in these instructional videos, because I create the videos well before the semester start and because they may be used for more than one semester, these videos often lack personalization.

To increase personalization and to better connect with an individual class, I use informal videos to start each unit.  These are short, typically 4-5 minutes, and include a quick review of the previous week and a few comments about the upcoming material.  I try to always reference one or more student’s work and to include anything else that lets the students know they are heard; I may also discuss a current event or recent issue.  While my more-formal instructional videos display my screen images (power points and other visuals) covering the doctrinal material, these informal videos are just me, speaking directly to the students.

This is how it works in my current, asynchronous summer class.  I email the week’s assignments before noon on Monday, with all work due by 5 pm Sunday**, giving me time to review on Sunday evening what the students understand and where they need more help.  On Monday morning, as I prepare to send out the weekly assignments, I create my short video and send it with the materials.  Here’s an example; I made this video using the free version of Screencast-O-Matic, my computer’s built-in web camera, and a $24 headset.  You will note it is not scripted, not professionally staged or lighted, and not edited; the goal is conversational.

These quick, easy, informal videos allow me to personalize what is often erroneously assumed to be a canned course.  As always, I’m happy to answer any questions:

**While some asynchronous courses give students complete control over pacing, our course does so on a week-by-week basis.  In other words, students work independently on one unit each week and are required to complete all components of the unit within the week.  All assignments are due on a specific day, at a specific time.  This allows students to act as a cohort of sorts throughout the course, facilitating both formal and informal group work.  It also allows students to feel more connected to one another and prevents any one student from getting too far behind – or too far ahead.

Death toll rises to 114 in GM ignition defect recall cases //AP

OTHERWISE: Death toll rises to 114 in GM ignition defect recall cases //AP.

Last year the Valukas report – prepared by Jenner & Block for the GM Board presented a devastating account of the willful blindness entrenched by GM’s General Counsel.  Since the blind do not see it appears that no one knew or cared to know of the scale of the catastrophe an odd little flaw in the ignition switch mechanism had wrought.

Davis Polk Law Firm Rebuked by Judge in A.I.G. Case

What ethical obligations do lawyers have if they harbor serious doubts about the legality of their client’s plan of action?  What if that client is the federal government (the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York) and the plan of action is bailing out A.I.G. to avert (or mitigate) a nationwide financial crisis?

Yesterday (June 15, 2015), Judge Thomas C. Wheeler of the United States Court of Federal Claims issued a ruling, which–among other things–rebuked the law firm of Davis Polk for blessing the transaction which gave the government a nearly 80 percent equity stake in A.I.G. The ruling cites an email from a Davis Polk lawyer in which the lawyer noted that the government “is on thin ice and they know it.”

The full story and the link to the 75 paged ruling are here.



Post-9/11 Torture at CIA “Black Sites” — Physicians and Lawyers Working Together — NEJM

Post-9/11 Torture at CIA “Black Sites” — Physicians and Lawyers Working Together — NEJM.

by G.J. Annas, J.D., M.P.H., and Sondra S. Crosby, M.D.Department of Health Law, Bioethics, and Human Rights, Boston University School of Public Health (G.J.A., S.S.C.), and the Department of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine (S.S.C.

Beyond the elimination of black sites, attorneys will have to stand with physicians who want to maintain their ethics (and follow, among other legal standards, the Geneva Conventions), support health professionals in their refusals to torture, and refuse to give CIA agents and contractors prospective legal immunity for violating human rights laws. And in all contexts, physicians should act only in ways consistent with good and accepted medical practice, with the consent of their patients.

Primus and Ohralik in the Facebook-era

When I teach lawyer advertising and solicitation, I often pose the following hypothetical to my students: Is the use of social media like Facebook to reach potential clients permissible solicitation under the precedent of In re Primus (where the Supreme Court held that North Carolina could not bar an ACLU attorney from holding gatherings to inform women about their civil rights after they had been sterilized on condition of receiving public medical benefits) and Ohralk v. Ohio State Bar Association (decided the same day as Primus, with the Supreme Court holding that an ambulance chaser could be barred from soliciting clients at the hospital bedside). My hypothetical is now a reality–from Bloomberg News comes this article on how law firms are using Facebook to solicit medical victims (h/t Professor Elizabeth Tippett of Oregon Law, whose scholarship focuses on lawyer advertising and marketing, among other topics).

An excerpt:

For ambulance chasers, persistence and a phone book just don’t cut it anymore. Law firms, which once relied on television commercials, billboards, and cold calling numbers in the white pages to find plaintiffs for medical lawsuits, have begun to embrace technology. To locate their ideal pharma victims more quickly and at lower costs, they’re using data compiled from Facebook, marketing firms, and public sources, with help from digital bounty hunters like Tim Burd.

Dewey & LeBoeuf Criminal Trial Has Begun

It is a rare event when the top managers of a major, venerable U.S. law firm are being criminally prosecuted for fraud.  So those of you who plan on teaching Chapter 6, Part II (Duties to Third Parties and to the Law) may want to take advantage of the ongoing trial involving top executives of the law firm of Dewey & Leboeuf, which collapsed in bankruptcy in May 2012.   The trial is expected to last (by some accounts) until Labor Day.

Opening statements began on May 26, 2015 in the New York Supreme Court before Justice Robert M. Stolz. The defendants, former chairman Steven Davis, executive director Stephen DiCarmine, and chief financial officer Joel Sanders were charged with concealing Dewey & LeBoeuf’s failing financial situation from lenders and creditors, including insurers that invested in a debt offering to raise about $150 mililion.

Natasha Lydon from Above the Law is reporting on the trial.  Her recent post about the opening statements can be found here.

For background on the case, The New York Times has a fairly informative article here.