Proposed legislative protection

Proposed Legislative Protection

Notwithstanding their dominant position and unnaturally large profit margins, the big three are jealous of Europe’s database owners. On March 11, 1996, the European Union Parliament and Council adopted the Directive on the Legal Protection of Databases (“EU Database Directive”). The EU Database Directive gave Europe’s database owners the authority to prevent unauthorized extraction and re-utilization of the contents of their database for a period of 15 years from the creation of the database. The EU has threatened the United States with trade retaliation if it fails to enact similar legislation.

The legal publishers are pressuring Congress to pass a law similar to the EU Database Directive. Congress has considered several such laws. On May 19, 1998, the House passed H.R. 2652, the Collections of Information Antipiracy Act; which died in committee in the Senate. The bill was called “an unfortunate residue of an overprotective exclusive property rights approach.” The 106th Congress considered two bills, H.R. 345 and H.R. 1858. While H.R. 345 was favorable to the publishing industry, H.R. 1858 was written by its sponsors with the advice of the public interest community to be a compromise bill. Both bills successfully made it out of their respective committees, but they were never consolidated into a version the Senate could consider. With the end of the 106th Congress, database protection was once again dead in the water.

The battle continues in the 108th Congress. On October 8, 2003, Representative Howard Coble and nine other cosponsors introduced a bill favorable to legal publishers, H.R. 3261, the Database and Collections of Information Misappropriation Act. In response, on March 3, 2004, Representative Cliff Stearns introduced H.R. 3872, the Consumer Access to Information Act of 2004. Both bills passed their respective committees, and, as of this writing, the two competing bills were placed on the House’s Union Calendar for consolidation before being brought to the floor of the House for a vote.

Reed Elsevier and Thomson are serious about obtaining increased copyright protections. In 2003, Reed Elsevier spent $1.2 million on its own full-time lobbyists and paid seven Washington D.C. lobbying firms over $640,000 to convince Congress to increase intellectual property rights, including database protection. As of mid-2004, Reed Elsevier has spent an additional $163,875 on federal lobbying. In addition to hiring lobbyists, Reed Elsevier donates a modest amount of money to political candidates via its Political Action Committee. In the 2000 election cycle, Reed Elsevier donated $12,500; in the 2002 cycle it donated $50,045; and in 2004 it has donated $53,522 as of the August 2 filing deadline. Reed’s “hard-money” contributions are matched by its $115,175 in soft-money contributions over the 2000 and 2002 election cycles.

Reed Elsevier’s $250,000 in political contributions does not place it in the upper echelon of federal donors. The West Group, now owned by Thomson, has a consummate Washington insider and longtime large donor in former West head Vance Opperman. Opperman is repeatedly scrutinized for his large political donations. In the 2000 election cycle alone, Opperman, via the holding company Key Investments, gave $488,000 in soft money to federal Democrats. Opperman also gave over $170,000 in 2002 to Democrats in Minnesota, where the West division of Thomson is headquartered. Thus far the millions Reed and Thomson have spent have not been enough to convince Congress to pass a favorable law.

by Jason Gelman

The Only Job With an Industry Devoted to Helping People Quit

I went to law school because I didn’t know what to do after college and I’m bad at math. Law school seemed like a safe, respectable path and gave me an easy answer to what I was going to do with my life. And, as part of the millennial generation obsessed with test scores and academic achievement, I relished the spoils of a high LSAT score, admission to an Ivy League law school, and a job offer from a fancy corporate law firm.

I spent my first year as lawyer holed up in a conference room sorting piles of documents wearing rubber covers on my fingertips that looked like tiny condoms. Eventually, I was trusted with more substantive tasks, writing briefs and taking depositions. But I had no appetite for conflict and found it hard to care about the Continue reading “The Only Job With an Industry Devoted to Helping People Quit”

What Courses to Take to Become a Lawyer

Law schools do not require a specific undergraduate degree to be admitted to law school. Instead, law schools look for students with writing, debate, speaking, and English skills. Undergraduate classes that build these skills will help prepare prospective attorneys for law school and their future career.

Writing skills are needed for creating professional legal documents. Debate and speaking classes are beneficial to prepare attorneys to argue cases in court. English skills will assist attorneys in speaking and writing with proper grammar so the attorney’s work will be taken seriously by others.

Another suggestion for undergraduate work is to major in a topic that builds the foundation for a particular field of law. Continue reading “What Courses to Take to Become a Lawyer”

What skills are required to become a lawyer?

Increasingly, law firms and chambers recruit applicants who have a portfolio of specific skills to equip them to succeed in legal practice. When talking to the graduate recruitment managers of leading law firms about what they look for in desirable candidates, there are qualities that come up time and time again. Law firms spend a phenomenal amount of time and money in searching for the most talented students; developing their trainees to become talented lawyers and future partners of the firm. This is why they have spent a great deal of time considering what attributes make the “brightest talent”, and invariably seek to recruit only the very Continue reading “What skills are required to become a lawyer?”

The business of legal publishing in 2004

The Business of Legal Publishing in 2004

The legal publishing market has traditionally been very quick to adopt new technology. Computers and the internet have brought the general public unprecedented access to large volumes of information and transformed the legal publishing business. There has been a tremendous rush, especially by the United States government, to place legal and national information online, thereby giving access to all citizens. Unfortunately, the massive amount of data is located across a complex worldwide network of computers and accessed via billions of individual websites. Computers have been harnessed to quickly query this bulk of information and deliver results useful to individuals, and legal publishers are masters at delivering these results.

In 1953, the first information retrieval system on a general-purpose computer was announced. Just eleven years later, in 1964, the legal field began to use these systems to store case citations, statutes, administrative decisions, and city ordinances. By 1975, there were 300 public access databases. Forty years after the first forays into online full-text information retrieval, the market is dominated by the three major players: the West Group, owned by the Thompson Corp., LexisNexis, owned by Reed Elsevier, and CCH, owned by Wolters Kluwer. In 1998, of the estimated $5.2 billion market for legal research materials, these three companies controlled over $4 billion in annual sales. In 2004 the “big three” posted $5.9 billion in sales. Online sales represent nearly 46% of this $6 billion-plus market.

The “big three” legal publishers enjoy unusually large profit margins on their legal publications as compared to the other divisions in their companies, and as compared to traditional publishers. Because online sales represent nearly half of the revenue for these “publishers,” it is unfair to compare them to other traditional print publishers. Instead, it may be more apt to compare the margins of these companies with other “information dealers.” The profit margins of companies in the software and programming industry average 24.845%, close to the 25.265% average margins of the legal publishing divisions. When considering that less than half of their revenue comes from online endeavors, though, the comparison is weaker. An average of the traditional publishing and software industries’ margins would be more expected. An average of the margin from the software and programming industry with publishing’s 5% margin, or 14.925%, presents a reasonable facsimile of the revenue streams for legal publishers. This calculation produces an estimated profit margin significantly lower than legal publishing’s 25%-plus margin. Regardless of their sector classification, the legal publishing divisions’ profit margins are in or near the top quartile of the S&P 500 companies, quite high by overall corporate standards. With such massive profit margins, it is hard to see how the legal publishers can argue that they are in danger. Quite to the contrary, the big three’s sales have increased 40% since 1998.

by Jason Gelman

Do You Want to Become a Lawyer? FULLY Prepare Yourself!

Should you become a lawyer?
Maybe… The truth is that becoming a lawyer is right for some people, but not for others.  The only way you can answer this question is by learning about what it is really like to practice law and whether your personality type will match with a certain type of law/legal work.
I have experienced the entire process of becoming a lawyer and the practice of law, and can honestly tell you that Continue reading “Do You Want to Become a Lawyer? FULLY Prepare Yourself!”