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Police don't pay judgments against them, article says | A bulletproof business suit? Is that legal?

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Corrected: When University of Denver law professor Nancy Leong teaches criminal procedure, she always arranges for a police officer to come to class.

“I remember one time in particular when a student asked an officer whether the officer would be more unhappy if evidence he found was excluded from trial on Fourth Amendment grounds, or if he faced personal liability in a civil damages suit under section 1983 for a Fourth Amendment violation,” Leong wrote at Jotwell. “With absolutely no hesitation, the officer said that he would be much more unhappy if he had evidence excluded in a criminal case, and that he simply didn’t worry about section 1983 because an occasional lawsuit was par for the course.” She and her students found that surprising.

Leong says that response makes more sense to her after reading an upcoming paper in the New York University Law Review. According to the data in the paper, police officers who are named in lawsuits are virtually always indemnified. “Officers contributed to judgments in just 0.44 percent of the 8,600 civil rights settlements and judgments to plaintiffs, and their contributions amounted to a mere 0.02 percent of the $760 million that states, cities, and counties paid out in these cases. And even in cases involving punitive damages—where the officers’ conduct was presumably most egregious—officers paid only 0.005 percent of the $3.8 million in punitive damages judgments entered against them.”

Courts don’t seem to realize this when they rule on monetary claims, Leong wrote, but they should. “The contours of the doctrines of qualified immunity, municipal liability, and punitive damages, among others, have evolved as they have in part because courts have assumed that at least some of the time officers pay out of their own pockets when they are sued. So [the author’s] striking empirical evidence to the contrary should prompt courts to rethink these doctrines and litigators to re-examine their strategies.”

Bespoke—and bulletproof

Canadian blog Precedent took note of a demonstration at a Toronto gun club of a bulletproof business suit. While the suit’s lining is thin, it contains multiple layers of materials that were developed by a company in the states for the U.S. Special Forces. The suit costs $20,000, and menswear retailer Garrison Bespoke expects to sell one a month.

“It’s like something from a James Bond movie: stylish, badass, and depending on the province, you may need a license to wear it,” Daniel Fish wrote.

Garrison Bespoke is fine to sell the suits in Ontario. But in British Columbia or Manitoba, a license is required to sell body armor; and in Alberta, buyers of such an item would need a permit unless they were from an exempted group, such as police officers.

Calgary, Alberta, lawyer Michael Bates told Precedent he thinks judges and lawyers who receive threats in the province should be able to buy a bulletproof garment. “They shouldn’t have to get the government’s permission to take a step to do something which is protective of themselves or their family.”

In the United States, according to federal law, it is unlawful for individuals who have been convicted of certain felonies to buy, own or possess body armor.

How do you solve a problem like BigLaw?

Last week, Canadian law firm consultant Jordan Furlong wrote a post questioning why law firms like Greenberg Traurig are creating a class of lawyer-employees who will never become partners–rather than, say, using legal process outsourcing firms.

A flurry of posts at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog subsequently followed, with three additional bloggers contributing to the debate.

“What is wrong with hiring talented lawyers to be valued, potentially long-term employees and not future owners?” Akin Gump pricing director Toby Brown wrote at 3 Geeks. “True—firms need to nurture future owners, but doing it under a false pretense that every associate could or should some day be an owner is part of the problem. The history of this approach has shown that not many make it to that level. And it appears that even fewer may make it in the future. But is that bad?”

The associate model indeed doesn’t work well for the 21st century, Furlong responded in a follow-up post at Law21. “But describing this as a strategic shift may be giving law firms too much credit: in most cases, the driving force behind these moves is to reduce personnel costs and compress the ownership pool in order to increase partner profits on a short-term basis.”

Knowledge management specialist Ryan McClead posits that the whole partnership business model is the problem. At a panel he recently attended, even though two of the three panelists were partners in their law firms, they “all agreed that partnership is a terrible business model and no one would build a firm that way today if given the choice.”

Consultant Susan Hackett thinks McClead and Furlong are dead on, and puts a fine point on it. “As Jordan notes, in larger firms, the partnership model doesn’t motivate behaviors as it might have been envisioned to do in a smaller firm environment. Instead, it creates a super-class of owners whose sole common ground is the maintenance of the status quo and rewarding short-term financial returns.”

In what might be the last entry in this debate, Brown says the partnership model is not the problem. “What this is is a management (and leadership) problem. Law firm owners seem to think they should have a say in every management and operational decision. No matter the business model, a successful company will not give every owner business decision authority. …

“In a slight admission of some validity to the bitch about the partnership business model, it may be conducive to poor management decision making. However, I have seen firms using LLC or professional corporation models with all of the exact same problems. The only difference is they call owners shareholders instead of partners.”

Updated at 12:45 p.m. to correctly state Leong’s law school affiliation.

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