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American Bar Association

ABA Section of Business Law

Business Law Today

Snap Judgments
By Heather Brewer
Lawyers dating lawyers?
Thanks to a new lawyers-only online dating service, courting could take on a new meaning for single lawyers more used to looking at legal pads than looking for love.

LawyersInLove.com, a new Web site designed to turn legal eagles into love birds, already has 1,500 eligible members since going online last year, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Site founder and U.S. Justice Department lawyer Elena Albamonte says she came up with the idea for the site after realizing lawyers were her type.

"I was on some of those other dating sites," she says. "And when I actually ended up dating lawyers, by fluke, it was easier to talk to them. We had more in common."

That epiphany led Albamonte to set up her site, which signed up 1,000 members for prospective legal lovers in one four-month period.

While Albamonte, a single herself, won't use her site's service because of a conflict of interest, she's still made it her mission to turn legalese into the language of love.
Writing like a lawyer
A Virginia lawyer wants his colleagues to use their red pens to write a new chapter in the law books — a clearer, simpler chapter.

Thomas E. Spahn has written a "Checklist for How Not to 'Write Like a Lawyer,'" which includes tips such as using "shorter, more familiar words" instead of reverting to "longer more arcane ones." Of course, the use of the word arcane makes it look like Spahn may need to listen to his own advice.

However, Spahn further advises legal writers to opt for sentences that are "simple, direct and clear," using active voice and strong verbs.

As part of his checklist, Spahn suggests lawyers ask themselves, "Have I placed my subjects and verbs together at the beginning of my sentences?" And for that one he definitely gets a check.
Big or small business?
The latest pick to head up the Small Business Administration is causing a big stir in Washington as advocacy groups question the choice of ServiceMaster exec Steven Preston to be the new director. He comes straight from the big-business world of corporate America, according to U.S. News & World Report.

"He doesn't come from small business and he's never owned a small business," says National Black Chamber of Commerce President Harry Alford.

The Bush administration, however, is quick to back up its nominee, saying Preston is a "results-oriented executive who has improved customer service, employee satisfaction and operation efficiency at his company."

Preston will especially need those customer service skills if he is to make a go of leading the SBA, which under the Bush administration has seen its budget slashed by a third in five years.
Regulations, shmegulations
Business is booming for law firms — especially for those who meet their bottom line by navigating clients through the murky waters of corporate regulation in a post-Enron world.

A recent survey by the Robert Half Legal staffing service found that 55 percent of lawyers expect to add personnel in the coming year. Those lawyers also expect the most growth in legal personnel to happen in the areas of "ethics and corporate governance."

"In corporate legal departments, ongoing regulatory requirements, corporate expansion — both organic and through mergers and acquisitions — and a larger business advisory role for in-house counsel are creating demand for experienced lawyers," says Robert Half Legal Executive Director Charles Volkert. "More companies are looking to their lawyers to not only handle legal and regulatory issues, but also to consider overall business objectives and identify potential revenue opportunities with minimal risk."

Behind corporate governance, litigation and intellectual property law are expected to be the fastest growing specialties in the biz.
Following the Yanks
Decades after the Big Mac crossed the pond, American style is making another splash in Europe as the states introduce the Old World to the new way of colossal corporate pay rates.

European execs last year saw a British lord raking in $18.5 million from BP, a Dutch exec taking home $13.4 million, and a French construction tycoon pocketing a $22-million "compensation and severance payment."

"Here in France, greed has been legalized," says Pierre-Henri LeRoy, part of the French firm Proxinvest. "Executives compare themselves to the market in the U.S., not India, when they plan their compensation."

Of course sky-high American CEO paychecks still tower over that of their European counterparts. However, the New York Times reports, the recent increases on the continent could never have happened in that corporate climate five years ago.

"This is the first time I've seen this gap closing in 30 years, and it is closing quite a lot," says John Viney of London's Zygos Partnership executive search firm.
It's a male thing
People don't think a woman's place is in the board room and, as a result, potential investors are keeping their cash for male-run companies, according to a recent survey conducted by two Washington University business school researchers.

U.S. News & World Report says that the survey of 222 mostly male MBA students found that when presented with identical bio information for fictional male and female CEOs, the MBA students felt the male CEOs were more experienced and more competent.

The students also were willing to invest 50 percent of their capital into the fictional companies run by the male CEOs they'd read about. By contrast, the students were only willing to invest 18 percent of their capital in the woman-run companies.

"Studies have been done on a glass-ceiling effect," says study co-author Judi McLean Parks, "but this shows there might be a green ceiling, too, in the ability to get money."
Friends take care of friends
The boys at the club house may be deciding how much to pay their favorite members of the boys club as they hit the greens or sip martinis, the New York Times reports.

In fact such chumminess may be the explanation for Home Depot chief Robert L. Nardelli's ever-climbing salary even as the company's stock dips. Nardelli has taken in $245 million since he took the post five years ago; at the same time the home-repair megastore's stock has fallen 12 percent.

It seems that Home Depot board members have personal ties thicker than a board room's leather chairs. Of the six-member board, two have ties to GE where Nardelli used to work and three sat on other boards with Home Depot's lead director. What's more, nearly all of the board members have held chief executive positions and are then, the Times reports, more likely to say yes to high pay for other execs.

"When you have a situation like this where it is so incestuous, it creates uncertainty about whether Nardelli's pay is a reflection of these relationships or from his performance," says the University of California Professor Jesse M. Fried, who has written extensively about executive pay.

It is also probably difficult for board members to decide who's going to buy the first round of drinks after the 18th hole.

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