23 Making the Legal Sausage: rd
Annual Bench Bar Conference
The Past, Present, and Future of the Law
ttendees of the 23rd Annual Bench Bar Conference were treated this year to a wide variety of perspectives on the past, present and future of legal practice in the United States and beyond. Perhaps fitting the theme of “Making the Legal Sausage,” several plenary and breakout sessions surveyed the inner-workings of what goes into “the law.” The day’s first plenary session featured an exciting discussion from Professor Nicholas Vincent of the University of East Anglia in England. Professor Vincent wasted no time drawing the crowd in to the beginnings of English law: the Magna Carta. The professor, who has written dozens of books and over a hundred articles on the charter, provided a brief review of the Magna Carta, noting that seventeen states have text of the document somewhere in their state constitutions, but, alas, Ohio is not one of them. He began by dispelling a somewhat common belief that the concepts of democracy, liberty, trial by jury, presumption of innocence, and habeas corpus all find their roots in Magna Carta. In fact, these terms do not appear in the original document. The beginning chapter of Magna Carta history brought listeners to the reign of King John, who signed Magna Carta during the “Interdict,” or essentially a six-year strike in church services by the Roman Catholic Church brought about by John’s failure to recognize the papal appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury. For good measure, the Pope also excommunicated John. Unrest was brewing between King John’s barons and the King, who meanwhile during the Interdict had, according to Pro-
Dayton Bar Briefs February 2016
fessor Vincent, taken to kidnapping priests’ wives, then taxing the priests for their safe return. John sealed Magna Carta in 1215 at Runnymede, a point symbolically significant as the place where four countries touch each other, providing a neutral location. Over the next hundred or so years, Magna Carta would be issued and reissued when further disputes arose between the crown and the barons, who sought maintenance of feudal rights and upholding of the nation’s laws. Magna Carta has also had a somewhat uneasy welcome in other nations. Professor Vincent noted an example of when visiting Beijing, Magna Carta could not be published publicly, but had to be shown only in the British Embassy. Vincent provided much to think about regarding the development of Magna Carta, and in turn its impact on our nation of laws. After breakout sessions featuring insights and commentary from several members of our judiciary, the next plenary featured Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French for a presentation looking “Behind the Red Curtain.” After recovering from my initial disappointment that there’s in fact nothing but a wall behind the Court’s actual red curtain, I settled in for an insightful discussion on the inner workings of the court, covering everything from the order the justices discuss cases when in conference (by seniority) to which justice ends up physically writing the opinion (one word: marbles). Justice French provided several other practice tips helpful to anyone planning to appear before the Court.
The third plenary session, looking to the future of law, featured Professor William Henderson of Indiana University. Appropriately, the discussion centered on Richard Susskind’s theory of a “paradigm shift” occurring in the practice of law. Essentially, the theory holds that the delivery of legal services will change as the internet features increasingly more prominently in providing information of all kinds to its users. The old law firm models will be increasingly besieged by nimbler, leaner providers of legal services. The conversation provided a helpful guide to emerging trends and may have served for some as a wake-up call to the changing landscapes of the profession. In all, it was a memorable day that covered a broad swath of where the legal profession has been, is currently, and will go tomorrow. A welldeserved “Thank you” goes to this year’s co-chairs, Judge Adkins and Terry W. Posey, Jr. By Matthew T. Crawford Esq. DBA Editorial Board Doll, Jansen & Ford