Legal Briefing: Toyota Tells Judge Acceleration Lawsuits Are Baseless

Legal Briefing: Toyota Tells Judge Accelleration Lawsuits Are BaselessA daily look at legal news and the business of law:

Toyota Wants Unintended Acceleration Suits Dismissed

Toyota (TM) wants all the "unintended acceleration" lawsuits thrown out, essentially on an "it's all in their heads" theory, reportsBloomberg. Toyota notes that no specific defect has been identified, and says all evidence of the problem is "anecdotal." Frankly, all of the problems being reported of cars suddenly accelerating, having their engines stop suddenly and whatnot, just proves the degree to which cars have been computerized.

I remember seeing this humorous list, If Microsoft Made Cars, something like 15 years ago, and instead of simply funny, it's starting to seem prescient, especially No. 3: "Occasionally your car would just die for no reason, you'd have to restart it. For some strange reason, you would just accept this." I doubt Toyota will win its motion, but all jokes aside, I'm starting to long for the days when new cars were mechanical rather than computational triumphs.

U.S. News and World Report
Law Firm Rankings Are Out

The folks at U.S. News and World Report are compulsive rankers of things, even when solid evidence suggests the rankings are harmful: witness their law school rankings. The magazine's latest foray into list-making is now out, and it ranks law firms -- sort of. The rankings actually involve practice areas, and each area is divided into three tiers, which means that no single firm is ranked No. 1. (Even so, both Sidley Austin and K&L Gates are claiming to be ranked No. 1, based on their rankings within each practice area, reports the ABA Journal.)

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The Wall Street Journal Law Blog laments the lack of a straightforward ranking, if only for the fun of its impact on neurotic attorneys' egos. The WSJ Law Blog also notes that the rankings could have some practical utility: Clients could use them to shop within rankings for the lowest billing rates. Above the Law has good analysis of why the U.S. News team divided up the rankings as they did, and note that clicking on a particular firm and seeing all of its practices ranked together is pretty informative. Moreover, ATL agrees the primary users of these rankings will be clients, not the firms themselves, in contrast to the more industry-targeted American Lawyer or Vault rankings.

I wonder if any firms will start gaming the rankings, the way law schools do. Will an attorney's impact on a practice group's ranking -- individual attorney scores from Best Lawyers are a factor -- affect how much another firm will pay to hire her away? Will firms be able to shift practice groups from one category to another, where they rank more favorably? For example, might a firm turn a franchise law ranking into a corporate law one? Will the relationships that bind clients and firms be able to survive a low ranking, especially if the billing rates for a competing Tier 1 firm are lower or even the same? It all will depend on how seriously clients take the new rankings, and since every company in the Fortune 100 contributed to them, I'm guessing they'll take them fairly seriously.
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