The Brief No. 42: Odd Bedfellows and Legal Tech TrashTalk

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June 12, 2019

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Hopefully, you enjoyed our P3 pregame on the blog last week in anticipation of this week’s Practice Innovation Conference, June 12-14.  We’re keeping the pricing party going this week at P3 as we officially announce our new subscription pricing option. We’re also reflecting on the impact and potential of pricing for Hire an Esquire and the industry as a whole and how this unassuming, often overlooked concept has been the primary driver of technology and innovation in the legal profession.

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Conflicts of Law, not as Easy as A-B-C:  It’s groundhog day for those following worker classification legal issues. Gig economy companies, like the recently IPOed Lyft and Uber, are ignoring the ABC test adopted by California and other state courts that classify drivers and other gig workers as employees—and California ... adopts the ABC test, again. A recent NLRB interpretation of employee classification found that Uber drivers are independent contractors as the California Assembly doubled down on the ABC test (and its ability to enforce it) by passing Assembly Bill 5 that would codify the ABC test. Many national corporations are experiencing deja vu and purgatory as they attempt to reconcile growing differences between many state and national laws as states exercise their rights to legislate additional public and individual protections while the current administration rolls back public protections. Most recently automakers wrote a letter to the Trump administration requesting a less dramatic rollback of environmental protections and a compromise with California regulators to avoid the chaos and complications of a bifurcated market for emissions regulations.

“Lock them/her/him up”: While Americans may regularly check out of the legislative process, they love to watch those laws unfold in a courtroom drama. Netflix summer feature “When They See Us” won’t disappoint, further dramatizing the growing public and legislative calls for prison reform. It reflects on the racially fueled aftermath and unconscious bias in the criminal justice system that led to the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of 5 school children, known as the “Central Park 5”. The timing is more than opportune, 30 years after the infamous Central Park jogger attack and as the push for prison reform continues from both sides of the political spectrum. An interesting purity of principal has emerged as the far right--small government, low tax proponents  join forces with moderate and liberal forces concerned with inherent bias in the criminal justice system and the misaligned incentives of a for-profit prison system. AOC scored more points for the movement’s ideological purity objecting to Paul Manafort (and anyone) being placed in solitary confinement at Rikers shortly after she teamed up with Ted Cruz in the spirit of getting lobbying reform done. Here’s to hoping that maybe, once in a while, we can all just get along.

Industry Heavyweight Cries “FUD!” in Citation Smackdown: As glimmers of hope for civility and collaboration emerge in the political arena, uncharacteristic trash talking ensued in the legal tech world as LexisNexis and CaseText went to the mat about the quality of their offerings. The industry heavyweight sought to hold the ground they are quickly losing to newer, more agile, and cost-efficient competitors via the classic sales manipulation tool of instilling FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) with a whitepaper asking “Are Free & Low-Cost Legal Resources Worth the Risk?” They, of course, answered in the negative while questioning the comprehensiveness of Casetext, Fastcase, and Google Scholar. They stopped just short of reminding people that “No one ever got fired for buying IBM”. Casetext was not having it. Anyone else hoping that the next major legal industry conference features a freestyle battle between industry behemoths and challengers?

They Get Around Brown: A growing trend in which communities try to circumvent Brown vs. Board of Education is gaining attention. The Atlantic highlights a recent instance in Baton Rouge, where a predominantly white and affluent community is attempting to secede and form their own city. They deny racist intent, but site Sandy Springs, GA as their inspiration, and Sandy Springs spokespeople have been blatantly racist. Will this issue progress to litigation and the Supreme Court? We’re watching.


When they See Us premiered on Netflix on May 31. Ava DuVernay’s heartbreaking dramatization of how racist national rhetoric led to the wrongful conviction of 5 young men has sparked more than just conversation. The prosecutor Linda Fairstein, who has since become a bestselling crime author and Vassar board member, has resigned her board position and removed her social media accounts after intense backlash over her role in the wrongful conviction.

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