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You are right Malcolm, it isn't zero disposable income. What it is is very, very small disposable income, such that there are a lot of ways that you'd want to spend it, and given that law is a) expensive even when really cheap; b) provides benefits which are uncertain (e.g., my non tax-filer still has the basic problem of debts he can't pay even after legal advice) and c) will weigh poorly against other choices a lot of the time, law isn't going to win. And I don't think it's irrational to choose the certain happiness of a new pair of boots over $75 of legal advice the benefits of which are uncertain.
Toggle Commented Jun 20, 2015 on A Little Microeconomic Puzzle at Legal Ethics Forum
To build on Malcolm's comments, I think it may be the case that for many of those with unmet legal needs the amount they are able/wiling to pay for legal services is $0. Not because they don't think that legal services will be valuable, or that they don't recognize they have a serious legal problem, but because they have zero disposable income after meeting their cost of living. I have a lot of friends who have reasonable jobs, $40-50K per annum, who every month just match expenses to revenues, banking on there being no unexpected expenses. And when there are - e.g., a car repair problem - it's a major issue, and sometimes the response is just not to do it. In one case I know of, someone hasn't filed their taxes for three years (which isn't in itself unlawful in Canada). They owe the government money - because they are an independent contractor not an employee - which they don't have, so they didn't file. And now, because they haven't filed and they owe money, when they do file they will owe serious penalties and interest on top of their taxes. Which they also don't have the money to pay. A lawyer or trained accountant would be able to deal with the last of those issues and help negotiate a payment plan. But after rent and debt-servicing and other cost-of-living, there is no money to pay a lawyer/accountant. And for extra bonus fun, dealing with the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) as a self-rep is extremely difficult. Anyway, I'm just theorizing that even if you hung out your shingle and charged $30 per hour, there are a lot of people who would leave their legal problems unresolved. Even when you aren't "poor" the economics of life leave far less to spend on things beyond rent/food than I think people realize. Further, there is a lot more incentive to spend the money you do have on something that will help you forget your troubles (a night out with friends) than to spend money on something like, with the non-tax-filer, can't solve the basic economic problem, which is not having enough money to pay your taxes.
Toggle Commented Jun 20, 2015 on A Little Microeconomic Puzzle at Legal Ethics Forum
FWIW, the Canadian Top Ten will be posted on tomorrow too.
Frances, can one express this in economist terms: e.g., group as a percentage of attendees at CEA relative to extent of disadvantage/discrimination as measured against beneficial effect of lunch. My guess is that the the issue is less with the first measure (women as percentage of attendees and the extent of disadvantage/discrimination) then it is with the second (i.e., the beneficial effect of lunch). Scarce resources is always a concern. But I think what I'm saying - and I'm an outsider to this issue, obviously enough - is that I would be very cautious before I decided that something that CEA does that may benefit a group that merits that sort of support (i.e., a relatively high percentage of economists with relatively significant disadvantage/discrimination) is not worth bothering with.
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Frances, to answer your second question first, there are many organizations for women in law in Canada: There are also many discussion papers and conferences (e.g., here: about why women leave private practice in droves and what, if anything, can be done about it. It creates a market problem when every Cdn. law school graduates at least 50% women and private law firms cannot retain them for more than a few years. There are many standard reasons given for that - the demands of time, the unpredictability of lawyer hours in private practice - but I think part of the reasons relate to the kind of culture I talk about in that blog post. On your first point, two comments. First, that other groups face discrimination doesn't make it unnecessary to address one that does. And Linda's comment confirms what I would have suspected, which is that economics is not immune to some of the issues that the legal profession faces, and there is a legitimate need for women to have some place where they can find support. I would guess that women in some respects have less barriers - e.g., socio-economic/cultural disadvantage is probably a more significant issue at hiring than gender is. But some of those other barriers may require different approaches than the creation of community which it seems to me the CWEA lunch is about. For example, when I am looking at law school admissions I always talk to some of the file readers about the extent to which people from more privileged backgrounds can game the system, and that it's important not to put undue emphasis on soft measures like personal statements for that reason. But, again, doing the one thing ought not to preclude doing the other if it serves a real need. Second, not every kind of disadvantage is cognizable as discriminatory (that's the lawyer's phrasing) or worthy of efforts to ameliorate it - that I am just an annoying ass doesn't mean that I am entitled to accommodation. It just means that I'm an annoying ass.
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Frances, does your hypothesis depend on there being no specific advantage to women connecting with other women in the field as distinct from men connecting with women, or women connecting with men? That may be true in terms of networking for the attainment of professional advantage or progress - if a connection is to help me get recognition for my work, then the thing that is important about the connection is unlikely to be gender. But what if the connection is not for professional advantage, but is rather for professional support? It may be that economist academics don't have issues with sexual harassment or gender discrimination, but the profession I started in (as a lawyer) certainly still continues to do so. And if that is the case, networking with other women academics may provide young women academics with the opportunity to meet other women who can give them advice on how to successfully navigate those issues.
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Brilliantly said Nick! Computers make my life better 95% of the time, and in the other 5% they reduce it to a cesspool of unmitigated misery. My own pet peeve is websites that require me to have passwords of a certain length, or with a certain combination of capital letters etc., which guarantee that I will never, in a million years, remember what the password is.
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Quebec does as well actually.
British Columbia has notaries that are regulated providers of legal services. I think the question to be precise is, are there regulated providers? I think lots of people provide legal services who aren't lawyers, but the question is whether there is official recognition of it, and to what extent.
What Monroe said. What I dislike about these sorts of things is the idea that you can gloss over the difficult ethical questions that being a lawyer raises by saying an oath that pretends they don't exist. E.g., what is "unnecessary harm to public and third party interests"? Isn't that the central moral question that being a lawyer raises, at least some of the time? Not only what is (and what is not) unnecessary, but how does one live with the necessary harm that one's role may require one to inflict? Put another way, I'm not sure that one ought to - or could - ignore the moral complexity of the lawyer's role by saying, "well, it's OK because I only cause necessary harm to others". These are deep moral and ethical questions, and oath saying elides them rather than ellucidating them. Alice
In my ethics theory class we spent a lot of time talking about the formal and practical rules governing lawyer behaviour (or the extent to which the rules governing lawyer conduct are like the "pirate code" - i.e., "more of a guideline really"). David Luban has an interesting discussion of this in relation to baseball in Lawyers' Ethics and Human Dignity, and from that we had a very lively discussion about the analogies to hockey in general and to fighting in particular. So this video... awesome.
Patrick you are amazing!
John, I know Monroe recently did quite a bit of work on this. I can't recall if/where it was published, but he would be a good person to ask.
I don't know that we deeply disagree. My own views on it are complicated. My reaction was in respect to your comment about working folks volunteering their time, and the suggestion therein that the lack of pro bono indicates that lawyers aren't volunteering their time, which I don't think follows. Also, while half a loaf is better than no bread, I think the debate over pro bono is too often a way of ducking the hard conversation about what a real societal commitment to access to justice looks like, and about why we haven't done it. I think it is a reflection of broader social inequalities, and in my own view we do not do enough to ameliorate poverty and suffering across the board. There is also the question about "middle-class" access to justice. Pro bono and legal aid do not tend to touch either of those, and yet injustice results from the absence of access to counsel there as well. My own article on the issue is here:
I think Patrick there is a difference between volunteering in general and pro bono. I wonder if many lawyers a) don't want to spend their volunteer time essentially doing their work; and b) are less willing to do the things they are paid to do for free. I think giving back to the community is important for a person seeking to achieve a well-lived life, but I am not sure that it follows that lawyers ought to do so through professional activities. I also think that this is an inefficient way to create access to justice, and I'm also not convinced that access to justice is a lawyerly obligation as opposed to a societal one. Alice
With a substantial caveat, I agree that if the client is competent the lawyer's obligation is to follow the client's instructions. But the real question is where competence arises. What if your client is legally competent but also quite convinced that he won't get the death penalty if he conducts his (hopeless) defence? What if the client's desire to freely embrace death today is likely to be gone in a year or two? What if that desire is the product of despair and belief in the futility of resisting the power of the state? I don't think this question lends itself to a single answer - I think once one recognizes that the lawyer has an obligation to the client, the only question is how, given the facts with which the lawyer is faced, that obligation can be fulfilled.
Toggle Commented Aug 11, 2013 on Maj. Nidal Hassan's Lawyers at Legal Ethics Forum
I'm interested in that assumption John. I can see from the things I've read (and discussed here) thinking that they believe Zimmerman was justly acquitted, but that's not of course the same thing as seeing him as "completely innocent of any wrongdoing". Is there some other reason why you would think that they would believe that? Alice
It starts in elementary school. My daughter is told frequently not to use wikipedia. And it makes me mental. Wikipedia isn't perfect. It gets some stuff wrong (although that is sometimes corrected too). But as you say - it's a good basic entry, and often it's as much information as you need. All you need to know is a) don't treat it like revealed truth; b) cite it if you use it; c) use it sensibly - e.g., by mining the sources it references; d) research other sources as well. I'm not surprised students get tripped up with academic integrity issues on this one. As an aside, we sometimes expect too much of students on academic integrity. I became aware of an incident where a student was told that he could collaborate with other students in preparing his answer. So he did so. Then he and the other student got in trouble because their answers used the same language. The rule - which was not set out in the syllabus or course outline anywhere - was that they could collaborate but they could not submit answers with the same words. I think expecting an undergraduate student to parse that difference is unrealistic, especially if you don't tell him that the difference exists.
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The problem with the nuclear plant was just the enormous capital cost associated with it. Also the production of the oil sands results in extraction of the natural gas as well. If the oil sands don't use the natural gas they produce they have to send it somewhere else to be used. And of course at the moment there is something of a supply glut in natural gas because of the advent of fracking, so that's problematic. I am not sure how useful the intra-Alberta numbers on the oil sands are Patrick insofar as pricing the carbon isn't something that individual Albertans would pay directly - the payment would be by the corporations who develop the oil sands all of which have international scope in their activities and ownership. The carbon is produced here, but it is produced by and for the benefit of people well beyond Alberta's borders. I will only add that despite the issues in the exurbs I think a carbon tax is very important and desirable. As an example, the oil sands are likely to be worth developing economically, but let's make sure we have included all of the costs - carbon, reclamation and most essentially the uncertainties inherent to the whole exercise. Do we know how this will all turn out? I don't think so, and let's be honest about that in deciding whether or not to develop it.
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According to the Pembina Institute, 7% of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions came from oil sands in 2010 ( I don't know what their positions are now, but historically energy companies have not opposed carbon taxes or carbon pricing. See, e.g., Shell Oil noting in this article that their ought to be a carbon price: Oil sands do produce more greenhouse gases than conventional oil production, but I am not sure that they would be the worst hit industries by a carbon tax, or that the political opposition would come there as opposed to from the exurbs.
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Frances, would the census data have that problem with self-employment? If it did that would explain the data. Although on that data lawyers ranked where you might expect in the professions: dentists, doctors, lawyers, engineers.
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A few thoughts to various posts (and this might go back a bit, as I made a comment that was eaten and unrecoverable). First, on the gender of law school admissions. At the U of C we are consistently at around 50/50. We do NOT adjust for gender in any way. It's always a bit of a surprise that it ends up 50/50 each year as we look at a variety of inputs - LSAT/GPA as starters, but also extra-curricular and work/life experience - but it does. I don't think any law school admits based on gender. Second, I would be very surprised if U of T grads were over represented in law school partners. In the US the top law schools do not produce more big law partners. See here: Also, no Canadian school had that much of an edge over other Canadian common law schools. All law schools in Canada are very hard to get into. There was no material expansion in Canadian law school places between the time that Moncton opened in 1982(ish) and TRU opened in 2011(ish). Every year some 400 Canadians are studying law overseas after trying to get in here. Some (most?) jurisdictions regulate the number of places that can be offered in existing law schools, and every province has to approve the opening of a new professional faculty. Very different from the US. Also the caps on tuitions here make law school much less of a money spinner than in the US. Some American universities have reported general budget cuts as a result of the declining law school enrolment (one of the DC schools - name escaping me at the moment). It's fair to say that U of T tuition has gone up, but it still doesn't approach anything like the nose bleed altitude of the private US schools. Third, job prospects vary jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We have placed 99% of our students in articling positions every year for the past several years. That isn't because of our innate fabulousness (although we are of course innately fabulous) but because of our location. Fourth (and related to third) hiring from law schools is market specific. Our students do very well in the Calgary market; somewhat less well in Toronto market (OK, but not as well). When I advise people about where to go I always tell them (even if it's not strictly the best recruiting strategy) to try to go to the law school in the market they want to work in. Fifth (and this contradicts 4 to some extent), students wanting to go to law school might rationally choose to go to a school where they will be statistically more impressive, since a student in the top 15% at a "lower" ranked school has better job prospects than a student in the top 30% at a "higher" ranked school. I.e., is more likely to get a big firm job, clerkship or good government job. Sixth, some law schools are more "national" than others. Both the U of C and Dalhousie have 50% of their students from out of province. Toronto has a much lower percentage of students from outside of Ontario - I think 30/40%. Finally, I have written about hourly billing, but I am cheerfully skeptical about all billing methods. Hourly billing has perverse incentives, but so do all billing methods. Hourly billing has many advantages. I don't think it is particularly responsible for the gender problem in law. I think that arises more from the tournament structure of law firm partner (see the book, Tournament of Lawyers). Also, it is hard to get good data on lawyer salaries. The census data shows lawyer salaries as not that high - I think in the $70K range as the mid 2000s - but I have never been quite sure how that works given the massive salaries enjoyed by some in the profession. I wrote a paper on that too in relation to access to justice and whether lawyers are able to extract rents. My conclusion was that theoretically they could, but there was no evidence that they did - i.e., that they enjoyed earnings higher than one would expect relative to other professions. All of those are on my SSRN page.
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