Election Financing Methods: Time for a Change, Says Taylor Lincoln of Public Citizen

Public Citizen is a nonprofit organization serving as a voice for the people in the nation's capital, has recently issued a report on political spending in the 2014 elections. The report finds that, of super PACs that spent at least $100,000 in the elections, 45% devoted all of their resources to aiding a single candidate. This result contradicts a key assumption in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that outside spending entities are inherently independent of the candidates or parties they aim to assist. Taylor Lincoln discusses the new report.

Taylor Lincoln

Taylor Lincoln

Lincoln is involved in the Congress Watch division of Public Citizen. He notes that the Citizens United decision seemed to permit standing corporations and unions to expend unlimited amounts from their treasuries. The later development of third party groups getting into political funding “was unavoidable” in the minds of courts considering the matter after the Citizens United decision. The report from Public Citizen was presented at a symposium on campaign finance issues recently held in Washington, D.C.

Taylor says that one of the matters discussed was the bias towards particularly large expenditures by a few large spenders. Participants discussed the problems of advocating for social welfare matters such as raising the minimum wage that are popular with many Americans in opinion polls but that are unpopular with many members of Congress.

The symposium participants also discussed the possibility of more extensive public funding of elections. This is a solution that has worked in isolated cases, in Connecticut in particular. Lincoln suggests that the public is disgusted with the negative advertising in election campaigns. However, he says, we have not reached a point where public disgust is putting pressure on lawmakers to respond and to change the system. It will take a “critical mass” of public pressure to get that done.

Lincoln suggests that public financing of elections would be a big stride forward in improving the electoral process. It would help candidates who do not have access to big money donors to get enough financing to get their message out to voters without having to opt out and spend considerable time and resources in fundraising. And there is a law of diminishing returns in electoral spending. In a state where it takes $5 to $10 million to win an election, spending $50 to $100 million won’t change the results, Lincoln says. Lincoln also suggests that a constitutional amendment may be necessary as an antidote to problems with electoral financing.

Lincoln suggests that a day might come where all candidates who are viable could qualify for enough money to get into the race and get their message out.

Taylor Lincoln is the Director of Research at Congress Watch.  Lincoln has authored or co-authored numerous reports on subjects concerning the civil justice system, political campaign fundraising and spending, consumer product safety, financial reform, health care, regulations in general, and worker safety, among other topics.The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.

How to Get a Law Degree For Less: Professor Jerry Organ Explains His Study Results

A recent study suggests that prospective law students can get an affordable education if they are strategic about their school choice and select a school based on the size of available scholarship awards rather than prestige. That’s the conclusion of Professor Jerry Organ based on his study on law school tuition, reported in the National Law Journal’s story “Study Looks At How to Get a Law Degree For Less.” He discusses his conclusions in this report, which he presented at a recent meeting of the Association of American Law Schools.

Professor Jerome Organ

Professor Jerome Organ

Professor Organ has been looking at the affordability of law schools for several years. His initial results suggested that to him to undertake this detailed study focusing on five LSAT categories and five cost categories to see where students would fit. He notes that he had an excellent research assistant who put together an Excel spreadsheet that involved over 42,000 students from 196 schools. The results are based on some reasonable assumptions.

One thing that the research shows is that the people with the highest LSAT scores are not necessarily paying the highest tuitions. Those who are, Professor Organ points out, are paying to attend certain schools. Student with the highest LSAT scores can get considerably more affordable law degrees if they are willing to attend schools that are not at the top of the law school rankings. “There’s a difference between paying $40,000 to go to a school in the top twenty versus paying $40,000 to go to a school that [ranks down the list].”

Professor Organ notes that the job market for new lawyers has been challenging. It appears that the job market hit the bottom in 2011 and has modestly improved since that time. He suggests that the market will continue to improve not because there are more jobs, but because there are fewer graduates. The decline in enrollment is beginning to affect the job market. The percentage of graduates finding meaningful employment will improve.

But the employment reality has taken a bite out of the pool of prospective law students. Fewer college graduates are viewing law school as an attractive option, given the expense of a legal education and the difficulty in turning that education into a job in a law practice.

One caveat Professor Organ offers is that this study looks at the class of 2010. He does not yet have data on the class of 2012 or later. He believes that his study is accurate for the period in question. However, he suggests that the cost may be going down for some students because of the availability of scholarships to help defray the cost of a legal education.

Jerome M. Organ is a Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas School of Law. He is a graduate of the University of Miami and the Vanderbilt University School of Law. Before his employment with the University of St. Thomas, he practiced law with Foley & Lardner in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and served as a law professor with the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.

Legal Marketing Trends in 2015: Tips from Expert Diana Lauritson

The start of a new year is a good time for lawyers to look at marketing and catch up with marketing trends. Diana Lauritson, president-elect of the Southwest Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, discusses legal marketing in this report.

Diana Lauritson

Diana Lauritson

Lauritson explains that the Legal Marketing Association includes not just law firm marketers, but also people who provide services to lawyers and people who want to learn more about law firm marketing. The association provides networking and learning opportunities.

Content marketing has become a hot term in the legal marketing field. It has become very easy to produce and to share content quickly. The social media provide a wealth of marketing opportunities. The problem, Lauritson suggests, is to get lawyers to think in the long term about the results of blogs and social media posts. The point is not to get one client immediately but to establish a marketing presence.

Having a “digital footprint” is important for lawyers because it will help to get them noticed when people do Google searches and don’t want to go past the first page looking for results. Using keywords and making those keywords visible is important in making content visible both to search engines and to prospective clients. The point is to make it easy for clients to find you. Lawyers who are consistent and persistent will discover that clients find them.

Lauritson notes that referrals are a classic way of getting new clients, but prospective referral clients will probably check the Internet first to see what they can find out about a lawyer or law firm. Lauritson’s group, the Southwest Chapter of the LMA, hosts a panel each year with in-house corporate counsel to explain what they look for in choosing outside counsel. This helps bring home to lawyers the importance of having credible content online.

Google has changed its search algorithm and is now rewarding original content. Facebook has begun to limit overly-promotional posts. Lauritson notes that these changes are occurring before some law firms have even developed Facebook pages. She notes that video content has become a very important part of marketing especially since Google owns YouTube. “We encourage our attorneys to record videos to help them be found by the public.” Videos give clients a great opportunity to view a lawyer and decide if the lawyer would be a good fit. [Note: tax attorney Rob Wood has worked with LBN to develop a prominent video presence.]

Lauritson says that it is extremely important for a lawyer to be perceived as “the expert” in his or her field of practice. A lot of lawyers are active on social media outside of their law firms. It gives lawyers a chance to establish a larger digital presence.

The best way to advertise will depend on a lawyer’s type of practice. A personal injury lawyer will use a different approach from a corporate lawyer, for example. But however it is done, marketing is very important. “Everyone is a brand ambassador.” However a lawyer does the marketing, it is important to market.

Diana Lauritson is the Marketing Manager of Jennings, Strouss & Salmon P.L.C., Phoenix, Arizona. Prior to joining the firm, she served as the Director of Communications and Community Relations for the Arizona Myeloma Network, and previously served as the Government Relations and Public Affairs Liaison for the Border Trade Alliance. Her background in marketing and community relations encompasses a variety of industries including local, state and federal governments, international trade associations, non-profits, and higher education. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.