For Saudi women in Kansas City, driving isn’t ‘a big issue’

Rick Montgomery wrote: "When she recently obtained a Missouri driver’s license, college student Shrouk Alburj wasn’t thinking of liberation. She was thinking: I need the wheels.

Her native Saudi Arabia is the world’s only country that bars women from driving. But as a movement quietly builds back home to issue licenses to women, Alburj and other Saudi women studying in Kansas City say they’re puzzled by the attention that Americans have given the subject.

 . . . 

Weigh 3 Factors Before Pursuing an Accelerated B.A.-J.D. Program

The University of Kansas is one of several schools now offering a joint degree that allows students to earn a Bachelor's degree and a law degree in six years. 

Delece Smith Barrow wrote: "Kansas is one of a few schools that allow students to complete undergraduate and law school in six years. The American Bar Association does not keep count, but legal education experts say fewer than 20 schools in the United States could give students this option.

 . . . 

These programs move at a grueling pace, and that's not for everyone, experts say.

Why We Still March on Washington

KU law professor Derrick Darby argues that fifty years after the March on Washington, racial divisions persist.

Darby wrote: 

"Fifty years later, as a Pew Center report reveals, these racial disparities persist and Americans remain deeply divided by race, class, and politics on how we view them and how they should be addressed. Blacks and whites do not see eye-to-eye nor do the rich and the poor nor do Democrats and Republicans.

...

KU professor: Potential reward of Iran deal worth risk

KU Law professor Raj Bhala expressed optimism that Iran will avoid expanding its nuclear weapons program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. His view counters that of U.S. Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, who harbor reservations about the deal.

Tim Carpenter wrote: "A law professor at The University of Kansas stood apart from U.S. senators representing Kansas by expressing optimism about a deal granting Iran temporary relief from crippling economic sanctions in return for curbing expansion of a nuclear weapon program.

Professor's article traces technological changes to the law office

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

LAWRENCE – If not for Herman Melville, most of us probably would have no idea what a scrivener is. And if not for the advance of technology, Bartleby and his colleagues might still have similar jobs today.

Michael Hoeflich, John H. and John M. Kane Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Kansas School of Law, has published an article exploring the history of the scrivener in the American legal office and how advancing technology not only eliminated the profession but changed the way law is practiced. Hoeflich authored “From Scriveners to Typewriters: Document Production in the Nineteenth Century Law Office,” for The Green Bag, “An Entertaining Journal of Law.”

As Melville spelled out in his famous short story “Bartleby the Scrivener” the titular profession was paramount to business in the legal office of the day. Not only did they copy, proofread and verify accuracy of legal documents, they held a respected, well-paid position and were sometimes considered as important to the office as the lawyer. The article will eventually be a chapter in an upcoming book.

“I’m very interested in the everyday practice of law, what the management involves and the history of the business,” Hoeflich said. “I thought it would be interesting to see how the practice of law has evolved in the United States and what we can learn from it.”

Just as they do today, law offices of the past produced a large amount of documents. Without the scrivener the multiple copies would not have been made, and files would not have been kept. However, copying and writing documents by hand was a tedious and time-consuming method. Hoeflich’s research shows that by the early 19th century primitive copying devices such as “copy presses” began to appear in law offices. As the century progressed early versions of typewriters took precedence. The devices were nothing short of revolutionary in the legal office, not only making document production faster, but ushering in social change and shifting power dynamics within the office.

“Scriveners were very quickly replaced by typists,” Hoeflich said. “And typists were almost all women. Now why would that be the case? It’s because typists were paid much less. It was also the introduction of women in the American law office.”

Where a good scrivener could produce about 30 words per minute, a good typist could produce about 100. The result was increased speed, efficiency and a healthier bottom line. Hoeflich argues it also placed much more importance on the lawyer. The typewriter, along with carbon paper, which allowed production of several documents simultaneously, drastically changed the law office by the beginning of the 20th century and also ushered in the appearance of what became an office staple: the rolltop desk. Hoeflich’s article includes multiple historical ads promoting the desks which offered new ways to store files and featured typewriter bays.

“The items that are now antiques truly were revolutionary and did change how law was practiced, just as computers and new technologies are doing now,” Hoeflich said.

The article goes on to explore how the technology advances and phasing out of scriveners increased profits and changed workflow, and how the resulting social changes in law offices related to and reflected those happening in broader society. The article will be a chapter in an upcoming book that explores numerous angles of legal history, including how 19th century lawyers dressed, decorated their offices, found clients and used family connections to form business. Hoeflich said he enjoys studying legal and social history much in the way that genealogists enjoy learning about their familial past. What happened in years past can not only offer lessons about how and why we got where we are, he says, but provide perspective on how current practices and trends can shape the future.

“Professional history to some degree is like individual memory,” Hoeflich said. “While we might not be doomed to repeat it, we can certainly learn lessons from it.”

Professor examining potential laws to regulate de-extinction

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

LAWRENCE — Science has a way of catching up with fantasy. While movies like “Jurassic Park” brought dinosaurs back to life, few imagined that the day might come when extinct creatures could be revived. But the possibility of such revival is not only real, it’s getting closer all the time. A University of Kansas law professor is part of a group of scholars working to propose legal framework to address the myriad questions “de-extinction” will bring to the table.

Andrew Torrance, professor of law and Docking Faculty Scholar at KU’s School of Law, recently took part in a de-extinction conference at Stanford University and is crafting suggestions for potential law to deal with the controversial science as it becomes reality.

“I have a weakness for exactly this kind of project,” Torrance said. “It’s very cool from a scientific perspective, plus I think I was like every kid growing up who thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if I could see a dinosaur some day?’”

While dinosaurs won’t be revived — the fossils are too old and contain no usable DNA — other more recently extinct creatures such as woolly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers and passenger pigeons could potentially be revived. The biotechnology is mostly in place. What’s not in place is law to address questions such as who would own such revived creatures, how their habitat would be governed, international relations among countries housing such creatures and who would be responsible for potential damages among others. Torrance, who holds a doctorate in biology and law degree from Harvard University, was part of the Harvard conference to address the legality of such matters. Other scholars addressed the ethical and philosophical questions.

“The basic science is already there. You have to somehow get a full genome, which is not a trivial problem, but a lot of those breakthroughs have been made,” Torrance said. “In some ways, though, the technology is not as important as the ethical and legal questions. If you resurrected a mammoth, would you set it loose in Times Square? And who would be liable for the damage it caused?”

Torrance advocates for developing a legal framework to address de-extinction before it’s common practice and says there are precedents that can be used to start the process. At the conference he cited the Endangered Species Act, a popular bipartisan law/legislation that allows for protection of endangered species. The law and its implications must be considered in respect to de-extinction he said, as the incentive to protect endangered creatures might wane if people believe they can simply bring it back in a generation or two.

“It changes the idea of what endangerment means. And it changes the meaning of extinction,” Torrance said. “If a creature can be brought back, was it ever really extinct?”

Torrance also addressed the question of how revived species would affect current ecosystems. He cites numerous laws that are in place to deal with invasive species. The United States and international laws have addressed such questions in many cases, and similar efforts would need to be made to address potential damage or changes revived species could have on modern ecosystems.

Genetic modification is another question domestic and international lawmakers will need to consider, Torrance said. In the United States genetic modification is commonly accepted especially among crops such as corn and wheat, but it is not as freely accepted in other nations. International treaties such as the Cartagena Protocol allow nations to suspend normal trading rules to prevent genetically modified products from entering their country if they object to their presence. Such treaties would need to be considered for revived species, especially considering that many animals tend to migrate or spread across borders, Torrance said.

The first several generations of revived species would almost certainly be genetically modified by definition, he said, especially if scientists need to borrow DNA, even in small amounts, from species related to those being revived.

Torrance and colleagues will continue to craft scholarly articles and policy recommendations for consideration by lawmakers. The time to act is now, Torrance said, because the science will be in place eventually, whether the law is ready.

“I think law is at its worst when it’s reacting,” Torrance said.

By working together proactively, scientists, lawmakers and the public can craft regulations that would prevent many potential problems as well as avoid heavy-handed regulations that would stifle innovation.

“De-extinction is something we do need to regulate, but in proportion to the potential risk it could create,” Torrance said. “The law will react one way or another. I think it would be best if it reacts in a way that’s both beneficial to the science and public interest and in a way that keeps costs minimal.”

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