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Lexis Upgrades Time Matters, Stumbles, Falls Flat On Its Technology Face

I'm Blogging This

Using new software can be a hit-or-miss prospect largely because the developers rely on you and me to help get the bugs out of it.  But when you're on Version 8, you should have most, if not all, of the bugs exterminated.

Should have, that is.

Hopes were high when Lexis bought Time Matters three years ago.  As time has passed, however, they've faded.  One of my law school professors once famously remarked, "Hope springs eternal."  Apparently, that sentiment doesn't apply to software upgrades.

WLF just upgraded from Time Matters Version 7 to Version 8 this weekend, and today, despite our hopes, we still have the same problems we had Friday.  Perhaps one of the most annoying problems is the billing interface.  Every time we open a completed slip, the dollar amount drops to zero.

That's a bit of a problem for a law firm that sends invoices to its clients each month.  Even though our clients don't complain, it really has a disastrous effect on cash flow.  But that's not the only problem.  Despite Lexis's claims that the upgrade fixes the software's bugs, even the best of intentions go wrong - things that worked in prior versions don't work in this new version.  Ouch.  Please, don't get me started - there are a host of other problems, as well - but too long a list for this post.

We've made the billing interface suggestion to Lexis numerous times, asking them to fix the bug, but with no results.  Apparently, Lexis's Quality Control Department isn't talking to its Tech Support Department, and vice versa.  So, we're likely going to switch programs, encourage others who are thinking of buying the Time Matters program not to, and generally start a boycott.

Can you hear me now, Lexis?  I'm voting with my feet, and my blawg.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, March 12, 2007 at 23:55. Comments Closed (6) |

Surely You're Shocked That 90% Of All Email Is Spam

You and the Securities and Exchange Commission, that is.  The SEC is shocked that spammers promote stock through email - so shocked that it suspended trading in 35 stocks that were promoted by spam.  So shocked that the stocks were suspended for a whopping 10 days.

That'll teach those spammers.

Stock spam amounts to 30% of the spam that's out there - nearly 100 million stock spam emails a week.  The other 70% must be spam ads for Viagra, if my inbox is any indication. 

Former California Congressman (now SEC Chair) Chris Cox, had this to say in a press release, "When spam clogs our mailboxes, it's annoying.  When it rips off investors, it's illegal and destructive.  Today's trading suspensions, and actions that will follow, should send a clear message to spammers:  the S.E.C. will hold you accountable."

Well, maybe not the spammers, but the companies, who the SEC believes are complicit in the spam campaigns.  The way the scam works (you knew it was a scam, right?) is that a spammer picks a stock with a limited number of publicly available shares, then buys most of the shares.  Next comes the spam email "tipping" you and me off to a great buy.  We rush in, our demand drives up the value of the remaining stock, and the spammer then dumps his/her shares at these peak values, driving the price through the floor just hours after fools rushed in to buy.

The stock then never regains its glory high. 

Punishing the company by suspending it however, may be like killing the messenger without solid proof of the company's complicity.  Punishing the stock purchaser before the run-up would perhaps be a more effective tactic. 

But I'm just a country lawyer in backwater Newport Beach.  And I don't by stock based on email tips.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, March 09, 2007 at 00:55. Comments Closed (0) |

San Francisco Seeks To Limit Use Of Plastic Grocery Bags

It's one thing to be on the Left Coast, a.k.a. the land of fruits, nuts, twigs and berries.  It's quite another, however, to be North of the Left Coast.

Quite another thing altogether.

The City and County of San Francisco City/County Supervisors are trying to push through a measure to limit the sale of plastic grocery bags.  Pause for a minute here and contemplate that word:  "limit." 

But before we get started with that analysis, let's look at the consequences of such a "limitation."  It likely means more consumers will be using paper bags.  While that option is friendlier on the recycling end of things, it does mean, on the other hand, that we'll be cutting more trees down.  

The supposed environmentally conscious supervisors explain that result with two options:  recyclable plastic paper bags or canvas bags.  Sure, San Franciscans could all become canvas bag-toting shoppers, but the only way that's going to happen is to completely ban paper and plastic.  And if you offer two types of plastic bags, then the recycling team is going to have a helluva time distinguishing the two, and they'll end up with both in the regular trash instead of being recycled. 

What's most troubling, however, is that word I identified earlier:  "limit."  Notice I didn't say "eliminate" or "ban."  The City/County plans to enact this legislative marvel only against grocery stores with more than $2 million in sales.  In other words, there's a gaping hole of an exception that won't end up keeping plastic bags out of the trash.  The small stores will still be able to use plastic bags.

If you're going to put your toe in the water, why not jump in all the way?  Just get it over with and ban plastic altogether. 

Just don't ask for a plastic milk jug.  If San Francisco has its way, you'll be getting your milk in a paper milk jug.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, March 08, 2007 at 23:39. Comments Closed (1) |

Lawyer to Lawyer Internet Radio Gets A Sidebar With The Bench

In the world of law, judges and attorneys have been working side by side throughout history.   We each couldn't do our job without the other, in fact.

On Lawyer 2 Lawyer, we will turn to three expert judges to discover what they look for in an attorney and what they expect.  Please join me and my fellow Law.com blogger and co-host Bob Ambrogi as we welcome Justice William W. Bedsworth, an Associate Justice for the California Fourth District Court of Appeal, the Honorable William Dressel, President of the National Judicial College in Nevada and Judge Steve Leben, President of the American Judges Association, to discuss their view from behind the bench.



Podcast 

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, March 07, 2007 at 20:03. Comments Closed (0) |

Indian Tribe Files Suit Over 13-year Delay In Acting On Gaming Application With 60-day Required Response

The fine folks over at Courthouse News bring us this tidbit from their files:  A Complaint filed by the Seminole Indians against the Secretary of the Interior. 

By law the Secretary of the Interior has 60 days to act on an Indian tribe's application for a gaming license.  The Seminole Tribe of Florida claims several secretaries of the Interior have failed to act on their application for over 13 years.

That's a lot longer than 60 days, even if your office doesn't come furnished with a calendar.  Apparently, the Secretary of Interior lacked the funding to purchase not only the paper to write back to the Tribe, but also the means to track the days and years that were ticking by.

That's the government for you. 

While MIPTC understands Indian law, doesn't it make sense that if you are a sovereign nation, you don't need to ask permission?  But that's just me.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, March 06, 2007 at 00:21. Comments Closed (0) |

Do Not Mail Bills Create Conflict Between States and Federal Government

About eleven states have introduced "Do not mail" bills, modeled after the Federal Trade Commission's "Do not call" telephone registry.  The states include Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Texas, Vermont (just last week) and Washington.  Don't worry if your state is not among them, though.  The laws, if enacted, will not likely survive a constitutional attack.

You may remember from your Civics class that the Postal Service is regulated solely by the federal government, and that the several states have no authority to get in the middle.  In legal jargon, we call it preemption.

Nevertheless, many legislators around the company are jumping on the bandwagon.  They argue that homeowners should be able to control what arrives in their mailbox.  True or not, MIPTC wishes those legislators would turn their attention to what arrives in my e-mail inbox, not my mailbox. 

That sentiment aside, the "Do not mail" bills being proposed exempt two important categories:  politicians and non-profit organizations.  Surprise, surprise.

From about August to November 2 each year, my mailbox is overcome by mailers from politicians and I can't find my regular mail in between the political advertisements.  I also don't need any more "free" return address labels from non-profit groups.  At the rate I send letters, it will be 2075 before I start writing my return address by hand again.

On the other side of the issue, direct mail marketers argue the legislation would hurt businesses that advertise by mail and will financially hurt the Postal Service because it relies heavily on mail advertising as a main revenue source.  Can you imagine where the cost of a first class stamp will go next?

If you want to get off direct mailing lists whether your state enacts these laws or not, then register here

Now if the politicians and the non-profit groups would honor that registration, we'd be all set.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, March 05, 2007 at 21:32. Comments Closed (3) |

Punitive Damages Award Reduced To Amount NTE Compensatory Damages

Don't get too excited here; California is not yet stepping back from recent US Supreme Court opinions (Gore v. BMW, etc.) that limit punitive damages to something less than 10 times compensatory damages. 

The court of appeal, however, is limiting punitive damages in situations where only economic damages are awarded.  In other words, if you didn't suffer personal injuries, your punitive damages award may not exceed the compensatory damages.

In the case that led up to this decision, a company called Mach I acted as a broker for Jet Source.  Mach I located, inspected and purchased jet aircraft for Jet Source.  Later rather than sooner, Jet Source discovered that Mach I was inflating the purchase price of the planes and keeping an extra profit for itself.  Jet Source sued, and recovered $6.5 million on this issue, and the jury hammered Mach I with some $26 million in punitive damages.

The appellate court believed that Jet Source was a sophisticated buyer (not a vulnerable victim), and while Mach I's conduct "merits no praise," its conduct was not so reprehensible that justified a punitive damages verdict that was four times the compensatory award.   In a partially-published opinion, the court held that such an award violated due process, and must be reduced to no more than the compensatory award.



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, March 04, 2007 at 16:32. Comments Closed (2) |

What Kind Of An Agreement Does It Take To Buy Real Property?

How about this:  a written memorandum that sets out a short description of the property, the price ($16,750.00 listed, but was missing digits and meant by both parties to be $16,750,000.00).  The memorandum included a formula to determine the price, and was signed by the buyer and then followed by a letter confirming the terms, signed by both the seller and the buyer, together with a good-faith deposit.   

Don't get fooled by the missing digits; the parties both agreed the figure was meant to be $16,750,000.00.  Still think these writings were sufficient?  Here's a clue:  to create a legal, binding agreement requiring one party to sell property to another, you generally must have:  (1) a description of the property; (2) a description of the price; (3) a written document containing those terms; and, (4) the signatures of both parties.  So, except for the missing digits, it sounds simple enough, right? 

Nope.  Not even close.

It wasn't the missing digits that caused the problem.  Both parties agreed they meant $16,750,000.00.  It was the formula that caused the misunderstanding between the parties. 

The seller told the buyer the numbers that were in his rent rolls, who generated the final $16.750M price based on the formula.  The parties wrote down the terms of the deal and signed it.  The seller then sent the actual rent rolls to the buyer, who applied them to the formula in the written documents, and came up with a purchase price of $14,404,841.00, just over two million dollars short of the figure written in their agreement.

Needless to say, the seller wasn't happy with the shortfall, and refused to sell.  The buyer sued, claiming the agreement was sufficient to require the seller to sell the property at the $14 million figure, given the formula in the agreement.  The seller, on the other hand, claimed the purchase price was the one closer to $17 million.

This case isn't an easy one.  In the trial court, the sellers won, and the contract was determined to be insufficient to require the sale.  The court admitted evidence of the parties' explanation of the terms of the sale, and determined that the parties may have meant to apply the formula to the rent rolls to determine the final price or may have meant to actually set a firm purchase price in the document, and the formula was surplusage, which created a contract that couldn't be enforced because it was too vague.

In the appellate court, however, the buyer won because that court believed that the terms were sufficient, and could be interpreted by the testimony of the parties.

The Supreme Court disagreed, and ruled instead that while extrinsic evidence like the testimony of the parties is admissible to determine what the parties meant to do in their contract, any evidence outside the actual contract could not be used to contradict the terms inside the contract.  In this case, the import of the California Supreme Court's ruling meant that the price term, an essential element of the contract, was so ambiguous that no court could interpret what the parties were trying to do.

The moral of the story?  Hire someone who went to law school to draft complicated contracts, even if you don't think they're complicated. 



Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, March 03, 2007 at 10:02. Comments Closed (0) |



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