Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oracle v Google

"Trials are so sensational."  "Jury duty is a drag."  "Famous people pay their way to justice."  

Our complaints demonstrate how we take our open system for granted.  Not without reason, unfortunately: Participation in the legal system is demanding, not well compensated ($15/day!) and disruptive.  I would not want, could not afford to and would be completely stressed out by sitting on a jury for eight weeks. 

However, it wasn’t me in the jury box so, along with my close litigator friend who advised me on the finer points,  I sat back to enjoy Day 2 of Oracle v. Google.  The Peninsula giants faced off in the United States District Court for Northern California and conducted a very well executed trial.

Very well executed.  Excuse my pop culture references but if you've never seen a trial, you're apt to imagine courtroom scenes from shows like Law & Order.  This trial dwarfed any set from that show.  Where the TV attorneys are seated at a picnic tables before the judge, the cliques of Oracle and Google attorneys sat at tables from  Harry Potter's  dining hall scenes.  

A bank of technology experts orchestrated evidence so that, at the mere mention of a line from a deposition, the corresponding video footage appeared on a monitor positioned for each juror and on large screens provided for the room. 

The attorneys were prepared and poised.  Judge Alsup ran an efficient courtroom, moving the proceedings along briskly but also with very gentle conversations with the jury, making sure they kept up.

And so on and so on.  As members of the public, we don't have to pay an admission fee to observe these proceedings.  As litigants, we don't have to pay the system to participate and, unlike our European counterparts, each side almost always pay their own legal bills.  (For better or worse, anyone can file a claim.)

The fact that we all have access to trials every day in every county, even for a dispute of this scale, motivated me to write this blog post, to encourage visiting once in a while.  See your tax dollars at work.

On the other hand, the fact that we pluck strangers out of their lives, hand them expert level information that they previously held no inclination to research on their own, have them make decisions on it, to then potentially and very possibly significantly impact the lives of other people . . ..  It’s mad.

It might have worked better in simpler times, over disputes involving relateable subject matter like wayward chicken and property lines.    

I know.  This is a technology case; I'm an IP attorney.  Wayward chicken???  

The details are clear enough in the news reports.  As interesting as this case is from legal and technological perspectives, it also illustrates our wider struggle to keep up with Life, which, as ever, outpaces our processes. 

Everyone in that room, even the Oracle attorneys, has used Google.  This case exemplifies how we can have familiarity of a subject matter, yet not the expertise to judge it.  In a world of ever-expanding knowledge, this is going to continue as information grows specialized.  We have learned from the unprecedented transparency encouraged in every sector of our economy.  As consumers, we are already more sophisticated than we were a mere five years ago but jury duty is a very important pop quiz with high stakes.

Can we keep up with the challenge?  

In any case, from what I’ve read of the trial so far, the jury verdicts are confusing.  Given what we know of our system, though, it’s not that surprising.

Monday, April 30, 2012

What Does Motion to Dismiss Cancer Mean?

I joined Roger Royse in his efforts to raise money and awareness for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS)!  The organization raises money and awareness about the cancers that occur in our blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes.  As part of its fundraising campaign, LLS sponsors a contest for Man or Woman of the Year where people earn the title by raising the most funds.  Win or lose, all the proceeds go towards LLS.

Roger's campaign offers many different types of events so there's bound to be something you will find interesting:

This small contribution will be to organize the 5k Run/Walk to take place on May 26, 2012 at 9:00 am in Palo Alto.  It will be a fun event for a good cause (and good for your health!) so please register at the link below.  And spread the word!

Working on this race every day, I consider the many non-attorney volunteers and participants who generously donate their time, so here follows an explanation of the legal parlance in "Motion to Dismiss Cancer" -- our campaign title.

Most sense that the title is part pun or double entendre.  At one level, everyone appreciates that "Motion" refers to the forward momentum for this worthy cause.  Also, for this event, it connotes running or walking.

What may not be so apparent to non-litigators is how a motion functions in its legal setting.  And what does it mean to ask for something to be "dismissed"?

Unlike the fast paced film and television dramas, a case moves toward trial in stages, by way of legal briefs or motions written and argued by the lawyers.  By then, the parties have delegated communications to their attorneys and they, in turn, churn the case through the legal process by communicating with the judge.  These communications are formal, written and carefully researched.  

Often, the first motion a court decides is a motion to dismiss.  This is how the defendant formally asks the judge to dismiss the complain.  If this happens, the case and all its complications and costs disappear.

So Motion to Dismiss Cancer is the playful notion that cancer can be similarly tossed out.  Except, we aren't asking a judge; we're asking each other.  A motion requires work and constant effort in both of its meanings but collectively, in numbers that are bigger and more powerful than the biggest and most powerful law firms, we can do it.  Together, we can move forward the research and development required to eliminate these ailments.  In our campaign, we'll have fun along the way too.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Back to Blogging!

It's been a long time since I've posted an update.  It's not that I haven't been active: Check out my facebook page, find me on LinkedIn, read my tweets, etc. etc.  If you're closer to me, you've emailed, called, texted, instant messaged or connected through gchat or skype.

Doesn't that underscore the amount of activity we are now responsible for?  Whew!  It is a good explanation for why we never seem to have enough time in a day to complete a to-do list.

I remember the days when I would eagerly await the mail.  I was always an avid letter writer who, at any given time, worked on a draft to someone in my head.  At the next opportunity, I wrote it down and sent it out.  I kept track of letters and waited for the responses.  The ones to Korea would take longer but the ones to Massachusetts could respond within a week!  

Eventually, the mail truck rumbled to the end of the driveway and it was like the lottery--sometimes a reply appeared, sometimes not.  

Fast forward to today: It is entirely possible to have 200 messages awaiting a response.  Business email messages demand answers and clients need feedback.  Bills, invoices, complaints, praise, you name it, it's in there.  Even if there is some spam or marketing, you still have to sift through those items to get to what you need.  Can you imagine 200 pieces of mail in your mailbox?

So now, in place of those one or two reminders your brain carried around, we now carry the uneasy feeling of having batches and batches of unread messages.  Or updates or blog posts or unfinished chats . . .. 

It's really amazing.  Of course, it is draining and time consuming and incredibly distracting but also amazing.  We can communicate instantly with someone in Korea!  Sharing information has never been easier as we all forward links to interesting articles or broadcasts.  We send whatever crosses our minds as they occur.  Gone are the days of drafting long letters and in their place we send rounds and rounds of paragraphs or sentences.

And it has all changed within such a short period of time.  Scientists have only begun research on how we humans have adjusted, if we have at all.  

In the meantime, there's a nice social contract out there that recognizes this new chapter in our human experiment.  Generally, it seems most everyone agrees that the methods of communication are more art than science.  Like art, we respect other people's methods and, most importantly, different speeds.  It is how, if we message someone respectable and they do not reply right away, we ascribe a delay to a robust schedule and not an inherent flaw like laziness.  (Although, the busy probably do deserve a few lazy days.)
Thank goodness, right?  Otherwise, we'd all end up raving maniacs anxiously awaiting  responses and overwhelmed by the pressure to respond instantly. 

It is immensely comforting to think that, while we utilize hard edged technology to deliver our messages, we exercise the gentleness of our squishy humanity to manage it. 
I'm going to rely on that grace to apologize for the delay in posting and promise to do so more frequently in the future.  

Thank you!  :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Volunteering, Inspiration, Community . . ..

One of the most compelling reasons to participate in a community organization is the perspective it provides.  Recently, I volunteered to write a short article on Judge Sakuma, who passed away in late January.  

Before this assignment, I'd never heard of Judge Sakuma. How that was possible, I do not know!  His inspiring life story reads like an action drama movie.  
Mamoru Sakuma was the first Japanese American to be named to the  Sacramento County bench.  It all started in 1918, when Judge Sakuma was born in Oroville, a city 70 miles north of Sacramento.  His parents were first generation Japanese immigrants who ran a small business in the neighborhood.  
Judge Sakuma attended UC Berkeley and graduated with a degree in political science.  He was accepted to study law at UC Hastings.  I remember not loving my first year of law school but I'd do it five times over rather than have it interrupted by a war and have my family interned
Incredibly, Judge Sakuma left law school while the government relocated his family to Tule Lake at the California-Oregon border.  If you've ever moved, you know how inconvenient and unappealing it is.   Imagine being forced to move and not knowing when you'd return or to what.  
Instead of moping about missing Criminal Procedure with his class, he enlisted with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an all-Asian American unit that earned the distinction of becoming the most decorated military unit in U.S. history.  
Then, he returned from service, went back to UC Hastings and earned his JD in 1949.
It's as if he wanted to be my hero by passing the bar and then opening his own practice!  In 1950, he opened an office in Sacramento as a litigator whose practice included civil and criminal matters.
Governor Pat Brown appointed Judge Sakuma to Municipal Court in 1963.  The next year, he was elected to serve on the Superior Court.  Twenty one years later, in 1984, he retired from the bench and then . . . returned to private practice for the following 20 years. 

By the time he retired in 2005,  he totaled more than 400 trials in state and federal courtrooms and argued before both the California and U.S. supreme courts.

The last line of my article reads: "Judge Sakuma’s professional and personal life decisions challenged anti-Japanese sentiments and, ultimately, his contributions paved the way to better the legal and social climate we enjoy today."  Not many people have the opportunity to make such a large contribution to history.

Researching his life was uplifting.  As you can see from my remarks, my imagination connected with the details of his life.  That's the beauty of remembering history and the giants that paved the way for us.  We see all the accomplishments framed by hardship compelling us to keep going too.

And the inspiration would not stop!  Civil Rights attorney Dale Minami, Judge Hom and the State Bar's own Ruthe Ashley graciously contributed to the article, heartening readers by representing the strength that has developed since Judge Sakuma's early days.

He passed away this year on January 29, 2011.  At 92, he left a legacy of distinguished service and was, by all accounts, gracious and amiable as well.

Volunteering seems like extra "work" at times but believe me, sometimes you receive much more in return.  

The short biography was written for AABA's January/February issue:  Thanks to Dale Minami for the suggestion!  

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tip Five: Diversify Your Educational Events

While in Korea, I had the option to either enroll in a language class or work towards a black belt. I really wanted to learn Korean so . . . I signed up for the martial arts class.

It might have seemed as if the obvious choice was to join a university program but the actual result would have been regular conversations in English. It was the common language of my international classmates so while the lessons would be in Korean, all of the lunchtime gossip would have been in English.

So instead, I chose to keep a grammar book in my bag but hit the real world. Martial arts classes forced conversation and listening comprehension. After all, the meta-lesson was to not end up in the hospital. The motivation to communicate was immediate and profound: when the content of the conversation would prevent my skull from breaking, it garnered one hundred percent attention. There was no room for shyness when asking for clarification either.

Networking diversification is also important when choosing events. It may seem logical to attend career fairs if you want to find a job or to attend technology mixers if you are looking for technology opportunities. However, at a certain point, you have to stop preparing and take your education out for a test drive. Like grammar, knowledge is no use unless you use it.

There's no better way to test your preparation than to have it jump into a inter-disciplinary setting. When you are an expert in cloud computing, attend a mobile technology or global economy event.

Networking outside your field can generate better leads as well. In a room full of job seekers, you are going to meet other job seekers. If anyone finds a lead, she or he is likely to keep it instead of sharing.

Attending an entrepreneur's event might be a better resource for an engineer in transition. In a room full of CEOs, an engineer stands out. In addition, the conversation might be more relaxed since the competition is greatly diminished.

There are no guarantees but at the very least, you will have learned something new, seen a new perspective and met new people.

This post concludes the series Five Pointers for Attending Professional Education Events. These days, a job search or client development is not about sending out 1,000 letters. No one considers the task to be concluded in four weeks. It is a long process so it helps to plan well, be organized but most of all invest yourself in the process. You will have better success when you project a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Hopefully, these pointers are helpful and will remind you that the living and learning is a life long process.

Fourth: Volunteer

Volunteer?? You just wanted to find a job or get more clients, not more work!

Imagine yourself at the office and there is a knock at the door (or a tap on the low wall of your cubicle divider). You open the door (or look up) and the person promptly asks you for a job; or, if you are not presently hiring, whether you know someone who is. The person waits.

Even if you really wanted to help this person, two questions immediately come to mind: a) “Who are you?” and b) “How should I know?” Even if you were a famous, wealthy, well connected executive, these are the questions in your mind.

If, however, that person rolled up his sleeves and worked alongside you on a couple of projects, you’d evaluate him in a different light. He gives you a sample of his work ethic, energy level and, even better, helps make your life easier. By volunteering, you’ll let them know who you are and they will develop a sense of how they can help you.

There is only one step required to execute this plan: tell someone. But, before you do, please prepare yourself. You might be enthusiastic (desperate) for inclusion in this group but if you want to be at your best, you have to make sure everyone gets along. Here are some tips:

Survey the groups you’ve visited and choose one or two:
Do you like the subjects? Do you want to learn more?
Do you like the organizers? Do you emulate them?

Research the organization.

Chances are, even if you have attended a cluster of events, you probably missed out on basic information like its founding, mission statement or even past events. Figure out where you might fit in their grand scheme.

Then make the leap and tell an organizer about your interest. By the way, when you do, keep it simple. You are not there to solve its problems, whatever you happen to perceive them to be. Why? Because at this point, you won’t have the experience to know whether they even consider low turnout/bad food/boring speaker to BE a problem. If you want to make improvements, keep it to yourself and roll out your grand plan later after you’re better educated and have earned trust.

Everyone can volunteer and every organization needs volunteers. even if you have no skills in the profession, if you’ve lived with people in a society and have planned at least one outing to a movie or the beach, you are prepared.

Volunteer options, from least to most involved:

Check in: Meet everyone, be visible
Write for publications: Get your name out there, learn as you write
Planning (logistics): First contact with speakers, befriend staff
Generate event ideas
Organize an entire event
Join the board

Revisiting our hypothetical about a stranger knocking at your door, when you volunteer, you’re no longer a stranger. And, since you’ve proven yourself, your contacts will not only be happy to think of you for future opportunities, they will be more likely to recommend you to others in their network.

Third: Follow Through With Your Contacts

(Written on October 7, 2010, published by DYP Advisors)

Our favorite Hollywood story is about the sudden discovery: you meet a highly placed executive, strike up a great conversation and — cue music — you’re hired and tucked into a corner office with great views. Role credits.

Unfortunately, that’s what we consider a happy ending. In science fiction, this is the scary plot, the one where there is instant categorization, allocation and minimal human contact. But yes, it sure is easier. In any case, statistically speaking, it’s definitely one thing: irrelevant to your networking efforts because the chances of that happening are slim. So when you network, prepare for a lot of follow up. It’s not as easy as making first contact (exchanging business cards) but this is where the magic happens.

First, contact the person soon after the event. There is so much going on in our busy lives that it will be more difficult for you and for the recipient to remember each other afterwards. If you met multiple people, it’s even more difficult.

Second, to the extent that you can remember, personalize the message. Mention a unique point in your conversation, to not only show you were paying attention, but it will jog his or her memory into remembering you. And remember: “personalize” the message by commenting on the conversation, not appearances. The word is personalize, not personal. No one appreciates a conversation that suddenly becomes too close.

Third, schedule a meeting. Invite the person to coffee or a meeting. Accommodate as much as you can as to location and time.

Fourth, respect everyone’s time. Say what you have to say, be direct, be friendly and then release your captive. Everyone remembers that free feeling fondly.

Fifth, follow up the follow up. It’s just simple good manners to send thanks. No one expects hand written notes anymore. An email message suffices. If you are both tech savvy and use your social networking for business, you can go that route as well. By the way, if they are not tech savvy or use their accounts personally, do not bother. Not everyone uses facebook as broadly as you might and it could be seen as an intrusion into family/social space. More than that, they might not check their account often so your note will be neglected. Stick to email first.
Slowly, you’ll meet people, learn about them, remember them and recommend them to each other. Business develops and the entire process becomes dynamic: you have a network! When we daydreamed about our Hollywood ending, it was a passive role. Everyone I know who organizes events hopes that the audience will be engaging, interesting individuals who connect with each other. In real life, everyone roots for the heroine and you’ll know her because she is the one writing her own script!