Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Legal ethics is an area that is a lot less interesting than it sounds: mostly it is about not stealing from clients and maintaining independence. There is little that is intuitive about it, so I have made it a practice to avoid steering close to the wind, and conduct my practice along bright line rules. One of those rules is that we can't fee-split with non-lawyers, and another is that we can't pay non-lawyers for referrals. Another is that we aren't supposed to  hold ourselves out as "experts". There are, as you would expect, services out there which kinda maybe sort of come close to doing these things, and I have always been troubled by them. Perhaps the most venerable is Martindale-Hubble, which is kind of a national and international directory of lawyers. If that was all it did I'd be fine, but the reality is that Martindale also runs a peer-review system that rates some of the lawyers in its listings. An "AV"  rating is the top for ability and ethics (you can't just be really capable, you also have to be "ethical"). BV is a tier below, and after that a lawyer is just listed. Lawyers and firms can buy bigger listings-- back when I was at a large firm the firm bought listings for everyone. The expanded listings include details like a lawyer's educational background, publications and presentations, bar association memberships and representative clients, and are crazy expensive. Lawyers who care about this stuff carefully cultivate their Martindale bios, updating them to include only the most recent publications, for example. Martindale maintains that its listings and its ratings are independent from each other, but they sure are aggressive in marketing their listings.There are clients who have made an AV rating an essential prerequisite for retaining a particular lawyer, so this matters.

A few years back Thompson-West decided to get into the act with its own ranking system, called (stupidly) Superlawyers. These rankings are also supposed to be based on peer reviews, and the listings are also super expensive.

A third service is called Avvo, and Avvo is different from the others because in addition to its ratings system it offers, for a fee, an on-line referral service. The New York State Bar Association's Committee on Professional Ethics has ruled that New York lawyers may not participate in this service, but I see no evidence that this has reined in the practice, and I get at least a couple of calls every other month or so soliciting me. Frankly, all such services should be banned.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

I have long maintained that Nixon was the last Republican President who possessed any sort of meaningful intellectual capacity. Reagan, Bush pere, and Bush fils, were basically fronts for interests that couldn't otherwise be advanced. (Ford? Ford did what he was told.) Trump is like this, with the chief difference being that everyone is saying the quiet parts aloud.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Some of the happiest moments I've had attending live music performances were at Roches shows. In a year which cost us Chuck Berry and Tom Petty among many others losing Maggie Roche felt the most personal.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Coco the dog spent Christmas at the kennel, enjoying friend time with the Bernese Mountain Dog and others. The following day Emily asked if I would pick her up, which I did gladly, and I brought her to Big Pink.
Coco always enters Big Pink in a state of high anticipation. Perhaps Emily will be there, but even if she is not Orng will be, and Coco is very excited by Orng. This time was no exception. As soon as she walked in she began to bark in the vicinity of the Christmas tree.
Here's a thing about Coco: if she tells you that there is a cat somewhere you can take it to the bank. I did not see Orng, or any other cat, but I believed Coco, so I started moving her, on a short leash, towards the kitchen. Of course the path was littered with boxes and packages and Christmas debris, so I was picking my way carefully when, from behind me I heard the brush of branches and the tinkle of ornaments. I turned, and saw the orange cat emerging from her napping spot, and stalking towards the dog and me, making a growling sound that made it clear that she meant business.
Like the tigers who are her cousins Orng moved forward. Her intent was clear, and I imagined I could hear her thinking. "First there was that gray cat that ate my food. Then there were the kittens, and now this... this thing. It ends now. These people are not to be trusted. What next? Elephants? Walruses? Coco the dog, I will see your head on a pike."
I got Coco out of there tout de suite, upstairs to the TV room where we could watch Lost in Space behind a barricaded door, but Orng followed, slowly, and we could hear her growling her primal growl for some minutes after, on the other side.
Truly she is a magnificent animal.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Best sandwiches of the year. I will have to check some of these out. My personal top sandwiches for 2017? The Cuban sandwich at City Fare down the block is the best I've had anywhere. I also enjoyed the hell out of my Ferdie's Special at Mother's, and my Zingerman's experience. And then there was the sandwich that Cocco the dog took off my desk......

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Swedish Death Cleaning

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Here's the thing with taxes: they are a method by which governments raise money, but that is really only part of it. On the most fundamental level taxes are a means of expressing policy. When something is favored-- home ownership, say, or health insurance-- a good tax code promotes that activity. When something is disfavored-- soft drinks or cigarettes or early withdrawals from retirement savings-- a good tax code operates to discourage that. Tax codes require adjustment because at some point they start to operate as less of a mechanism for policy expression and more of an end to themselves. From what I can see the Republican tax legislation that we are about to suffer has as its policy expression the idea that taxes are bad, and that the accumulation and retention of wealth by a small minority is good. This is, of course an outgrowth of the nihilistic belief that government is the ultimate bad, instead of the source of value in society.

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