A race to the… zzzzzz

As I read Sarah’s post about time spent outside the office, a flood of different thoughts passed through my mind.

First, I always feel like I have no time for anything. Second, bar associations? I can’t even figure out why I am always going to bed at 1 a.m., when it makes the morning extra-uber miserable. Third, why did I go to law school again?

I keed, I keed. Sort of. The desire to strike an ideal work-life balance has been a struggle for me since day one of my associate’s career. I am not at a crazy and scary BigLaw firm, but my firm does expect its associates to make their goals.

As one of the few associates in one of the smaller branch offices, I know it is easy to feel like you are on a very depressing island, churning away at a thankless career. As I see young attorneys, especially my fellow bloggers who seem to find the time and energy to help the community, participate in bar or professional organizations, be a supportive spouse AND raise kids, I want to hang my head in shame (and I’m neither married nor have kids).

I have been making headway where I can — participating in this blog, getting more involved in a professional organization catering to corporate defense counsel and… oh yeah, the small task of trying to make my associate goals.

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When TMI on social media spells trouble

Why some people take pride in the fact their Facebook profile emulates an episode of Tosh.0 is beyond me. (I am not saying that I don’t watch the show and laugh hysterically. But, simultaneously, I do wonder why people put some of this stuff up on the Internet for the entire world to see.)

While Facebook has been in the news recently for its upcoming IPO, another story, about Facebook privacy, caught my attention on the radio as I was brushing my teeth this morning. Apparently, Facebook is still working on deleting photos from its servers in a timely manner nearly three years after the issue was brought to Facebook’s attention.

Have you ever deleted a horrific photo on Facebook that was posted by a “friend?” Well, you may not have really deleted it. Photos “deleted” from Facebook seemingly never go away if you have a direct link to the image file on Facebook’s servers. Just imagine the joy felt by those individuals who had the common sense or foresight to delete photos because they didn’t want retaliation from an employer, wanted to avoid family drama or uploaded a photo of a friend without permission, to name a few reasons, when they discovered the photo would remain accessible for an indefinite amount of time as long as someone had a direct link to the .jpg file in question.

A few months ago, I had to research the discoverability of information and data on a Facebook (or other social media) account and profile. From the limited guidance published by a few jurisdictions, it seems that a party would likely succeed in requesting Facebook information and data during the discovery process. The court’s interpretation of federal Rule 26(b)(2)(c) allows for an extremely broad scope of relevancy.

While Maryland courts have not ruled on this broad scope of relevancy as it pertains to social media discoverability pursuant to Rule 26(b)(2)(c), it has ruled on its reliability and authentication. In April 2011, the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed the conviction of Antoine Griffin, which was based on evidence gathered from a MySpace profile of Griffin’s girlfriend. The Court of Special Appeals had ruled the police officer proffered by the state as an authenticating witness was sufficient to authenticate the MySpace profile printout. (A law professor from Chicago gave a great summary of this case on his blog and I will highlight some points here.)

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Before you post, update, comment or vent…

As Jen posted Tuesday, the Supreme Court has ruled the government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a “search.” The five-justice majority notably left out its thoughts on whether that search was unreasonable and required a warrant.

U.S. v. Jones involved a drug dealer who appealed his conviction for conspiring to distribute drugs that was based on evidence the police collected via a GPS monitor physically attached to his vehicle. The police used the GPS monitor to track Antoine Jones’ movements for more than a month without a warrant. All nine justices upheld an appellate court decision reversing Jones’ conviction.

While the Supreme Court mentioned that police might need a probable cause warrant from a judge to physically attach a GPS device to a vehicle and monitor the vehicle’s movements, SCOTUS omitted a clear opinion on what specific situations required a warrant.

While the decision is better than what the government contended — that it could affix GPS devices on the vehicles of all members of the Supreme Court, if it desired, without a warrant — it is hard to tell where we stand in the increasing debate over our rights to privacy.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a concurring opinion, suggested Americans have more rights to privacy in data held by phone and Internet companies than the Supreme Court has held in the past. I did not own an iPhone at the time when everyone found out that Apple tracked its users, but I do own one now. And let me tell you — every time my device asks me whether it can “use my location,” I wonder if I should let it.

John W. Whitehead, writing at The Huffington Post, listed several sources of technology that spur the privacy debate. Drones, smart dust devices, surveillance cameras, facial recognition software, iris scanners and your very own cell phone are some of the items available to the police without engaging in a “search” pursuant to U.S. v. Jones.

This is because these technologies do not require the government to engage in a physical trespass of one’s property to gain information.

On another note, I sent in my very first set of discovery requests a few weeks ago that utilized requests for information available via social media. The latest case law (and there is still not much of it yet) leads us to believe that pokes, wall comments, status updates and the like will be discoverable if relevant to the matter being litigated. Is anything we do via our gadgets and on the Internet going to be protected in five years? What are your thoughts? Where do we draw the line?

Presenteeism schmesenteeism

Back in November, my fellow blogger Cara wrote about how young lawyers tackle the decision of going to work when they are knocked over with a cold or the flu.

She, like many of us, showed up to work due to the guilt and stress of leaving work on your desk or placing the burden on someone else in the office to pick up your slack. At the same time, I cannot count the number of times a co-worker has shown up to the office sick and BAM, I was sick just a few days later.

I, myself, fell victim to the flu last week and, for the first time since starting my job in November 2009, had to spend an entire week home sick. Despite the raging fever and having only the ability to either sleep or shuffle slowly from the sofa to my bedroom, the guilt from not being in the office invaded my dreams and turned them into nightmares. (Tossing and turning from nightmares of being fired is not a great way to try and recover from the flu.)

My office does not assign a set number of sick days, personal days or vacation days. They are granted through the discretion of our supervisors and our own judgment based on our hours. While the policy’s flexibility sounds great, it is simultaneously maddening because, as a junior associate, you frequently do not know what to do. I find myself stuck in an involuntary competition with other junior associates as to how few days I am away from the office.

What are your thoughts? Does your office provide you with a set number of sick days, personal days and vacation days? If so, how do they distinguish between the types of “days off” and how many are you allotted? Do you subscribe to the philosophy of “presenteeism,” or do you shield your co-workers from your germs by staying at home? With the advent of teleworking and technology, shouldn’t people just work remotely to protect their peers?

The blame game for diversity percentage shame

In my last post, I encapsulated the 2011 debate regarding the maintenance of minorities within law firms. It was a grim picture with depressing numbers.

After the recession in 2008, it appeared law firms planned to overhaul longstanding systems, such as lockstep and summer associate programs. However, as we find ourselves on the doorstep of 2012, diversity programs have not seemed to be successful in increasing the diversity numbers within law firms.

This is not an issue specific to law firms, though. The percentage of minority lawyers compared to the overall lawyer population has hovered around 10 percent for almost a decade. In a conference hosted by the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT), the consensus by law deans, admissions officers and pre-law counselors is counselors and admissions officers need to do a better job of identifying promising minority applicants, guiding them through the often intimidating application process and ensuring they graduate.

More pipeline programs need to be developed as part of the solution so pre-law advising can bridge the racial gap at law schools by supporting minority students in their efforts to gain admission to law schools. While most law school applicants kill themselves trying to gain acceptance into institutions at the top of the U.S. News & World Report rankings, these pipeline programs can also help minority students identify other law schools that could be more in tune with their professional goals post-graduation.

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In the minority

As the oldest child of first-generation Korean immigrants, I honestly never paid that much attention to my status as a minority. I was born here in the United States, and English is still my dominant language (much to the chagrin of my parents).

I think the last time I even remember being teased for being Asian was on a school bus when I was nine years old. I had to really reach back and think about it, so it must not have been too traumatic.

Fast forward 20-plus (ahem, give or take) years later. I had a long discussion with another minority associate about minority attorney retention issues in law firms. It was probably the first in-depth conversation I had regarding race and issues associated with being a minority as a professional adult. Also, it was the first time I realized what my parents were actually talking about when they sat me down numerous times to give me the “you are a minority in America” speech.

The National Law Journal recently reported statistics in two back-to-back articles regarding ethnic and female diversity in law firms for 2011. (The numbers were derived from demographic information about nearly 124,000 attorneys in 1,349 law offices. It also included diversity figures in the 44 U.S. cities with the largest attorney populations.) I think the title of one article, “Ethnic diversity improved at law firms; for women, not so much,” says it all.

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