Letters to the Editor

Making a Case for Casemaker

Posted Apr 1, 2010 4:10 AM CDT

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I was very disappointed by the February lead story (“Wired!”) and its failure to include Casemaker. To ignore 400,000 lawyers who through the 28-member state bar consortium have this member benefit was surprising given the article’s focus on innovation, competition and lower-cost legal research alternatives.

The Casemaker Consortium was the trailblazer in providing lawyers with a low-cost, Web-based legal research alternative. But its true genius was the innovative concept of a consortium model where state bars provide this service as a member benefit.

As of December, Casemaker users totaled 68 percent of our 16,000 members of the Alabama State Bar. We have provided Casemaker to our members for less than five years. To go from 0 percent to 68 percent in this period of time is impressive, to say the least.

Keith B. Norman
Executive Director
Alabama State Bar


WIND IN OUR SAILS

i would like to extend my heartfelt thanks for Kristin Choo’s “The War of Winds,” February. Before starting law school last year at Thomas M. Cooley in Michigan, I worked as a reporter in Orleans County, N.Y., (just outside of Buffalo/Niagara Falls) where foreign wind-energy companies were knocking down the door. I witnessed the problems discussed in the article firsthand; it inspired me to become a lawyer.

This article was the most honest, real depiction of the commercial wind-energy situation I have yet come across.

Nicole Coleman
Pontiac, Mich.


Excellent piece. but while concerns over nuisance impacts are important, so too are the economic impacts and consequences of wind energy development agreements.

Here in Iowa, wind developers have been furiously prospecting for several years, blanketing large areas with contracts that do not fairly compensate landowners for the wind resource being harvested.

Confidentiality clauses and nondisclosure terms are used to discourage landowners from collectively bargaining for more reasonable terms. Long-term agreements without well-crafted inflation adjustments mean land owners will receive less economic value for their wind resource in the future. Oblique crop damage and soil compaction compensation terms can slyly favor the developer. And complex legalese in wind easement agreements often conceals onerous indemnification clauses whereby landowners are betting their ranches and exposing their land to long-term liabilities while operators’ exposures are capped at limits of insurance or contained in thinly capitalized LLCs.

Landowners where wind resources and transmission capacity exist need to form associations so they can bargain collectively with developers and feasibly administer contract enforcement. And when developers and landowners agree to share the wealth with all affected property owners and residents by compensating everyone impacted by the facilities, the nuisance elements are moderated and abatement can be addressed locally without undue legal wrangling or hassle.

Wind energy holds some promises and some heart aches. Neither reflexive opposition nor uncritical acceptance will optimize this opportunity. Only informed, rational and open processes will do that.

Scott G. Buchanan
Algona, Iowa


Another approach to assessing the impact of wind farms is to look at their benefits. If the benefits are small, there is little justification for intruding on the peace and quiet of the fraction of those living around such projects who suffer. Two principal environmental benefits are attributed to wind farms: That the electricity they generate will meaningfully (1) reduce dependence on foreign oil and (2) displace greenhouse gas emis sions from conventional power plants. However, there is little evidence that wind energy can achieve these two goals.

While theoretical emissions reductions of wind power are a bit better than its ability to reduce petroleum use, financial rather than environmental goals are what seem to motivate developers and the small-town governments that would host them.

Gary A. Abraham
Allegany, N.Y.


I’m having a bit of a hard time believing that the parties involved with this story have pure motives. My parents’ farm in Illinois is located near a very large wind farm, and the turbines are extremely quiet.

The couple in this story claim they have difficulty watching TV, but unless these generators are completely different from those I have been exposed to, I would have to conclude that Hal and Judy Graham are being untruthful. I could sit at the base of a generator on a windy day and watch TV without any difficulty.

Although my evidence is anecdotal at best, I have yet to speak with another person living near one of these turbines who claims the noise produced is burdensome. The idea that people may perceive these sounds differently, which was presented in the article, may be true. If some people are particularly sensitive to this nuisance, then wouldn’t cases like Amphitheaters Inc. v. Portland Meadows (Oregon Supreme Court, 1948) be the general rule of law?

Nicholas Coulter
Camden, N.J.


MORE ON LAWYER RATINGS

Regarding “Grade Anxiety,” February: The association did a program, titled “Ranking the Raters/Rating the Rankers: A Forum on Methodologies, Benefits and Value” at the November ABA Law Firm Marketing Strategies Conference. The two-hour program is available to view (at no cost) at the ABA website, lawpractice.org/marketingconference.

Micah Buchdahl
Moorestown, N.J.


Prediction: these sites will proliferate, reduce themselves to the lowest common denominator and become irrelevant, much like the “best lawyers in any field” volumes that have spread around segments of the legal profession in recent years.

Peter Schwabe
San Francisco


HUSH, MONGO

Regarding Jim Mcelhaney’s “Meet Mongo,” February: I love this article. I absolutely love it, because right now I am struggling to keep my Mongo down. Down, Mongo, down!

You see, my Mongo is being challenged by small, painful jabs by my adversary at my “lack of legal abilities.” And I quote: “You see, you see, now that is the reason I am not impressed with your legal abilities.”

Or here is another one: “I understand that you don’t understand, and I even understand what you misunderstand. And, setting aside whether you understand or not ... .”

This article gives me a lot of comfort in knowing that I am doing the right thing by (a) taking my cues from my client, who always speaks from a place of humility; (b) keeping my Mongo under control; and (c) turning my back on my adversary by walking away and refusing to get into a pissing contest with him.

Down, Mongo, down!

P. Betty Tufariello
Mount Sinai, N.Y.

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