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Month: May 2011

Employment Law, 40 years ago

Employment Law, 40 years ago

When Nolo was founded in 1971, employment law was still in its infancy – or, as the Carpenters sang a few months earlier, it had “only just begun.” Although courts and legislatures had recognized the rights of union members for decades, the idea of rights for individual employees came later. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, passed only seven years earlier in 1964, outlawed discrimination in the workplace for the first time. Before that landmark law, it was still…

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Legal Paperwork: Time for a 50-State Standard

Legal Paperwork: Time for a 50-State Standard

Each of our 50 states requires different legal forms to accomplish the same routine, often-repeated tasks such as uncontested divorces, name changes, and stepparent adoptions. This bureaucratic balkanization makes about as much economic sense as it would for every state to require a different width for its railroad tracks. The American legal system’s failure to agree on a national standard for routine forms results in hundreds of millions of consumer dollars down the courthouse drain. Why does it cost us so…

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Eliminate Bias Against People Who Represent Themselves in Court

Eliminate Bias Against People Who Represent Themselves in Court

During my many years of working with Nolo, I have spoken with loads of competent people, including many who excelled in demanding occupations — physicians, architects, teachers, dentists, inventors, physicists — who felt they were treated like not very bright children by clerks and judges. Lawyers and judges, of course, typically claim that legal self-helpers are sadly mistaken when they report condescending treatment. Their point of view would be worthy of consideration if they didn’t almost universally start their argument…

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Criminal Justice Is Everyone’s Business

Criminal Justice Is Everyone’s Business

I wondered whether the good folks at Nolo had lost it when they proposed in the mid-1990’s that I write a book about criminal law and processes. Nolo was the leading self-help law book publisher, and very few criminal defendants represent themselves.  This is almost always a good thing, and a book trying to expand the population of pro se defendants would have done more harm than good. So how did I (along with my co-author and former student Sara…

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Small Claims Court: Big Ideas for Reform

Small Claims Court: Big Ideas for Reform

Small claims court is our legal system’s best kept secret. Especially when combined with a mediation program that encourages people to settle their cases outside the courtroom, the small claims system offers high-quality justice at a reasonable cost. But unrealistically low dollar limits and restrictions on the types of cases allowed in small claims court hobble its usefulness. So, what can be done to fix the small claims system? Glad you asked. Small Claims, Big Benefits Small claims court offers…

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