Another Lawyer Email Embarrassment

Another embarrassing lawyer email has been leaked to my inbox (as well as hundreds of others) and ultimately, to the press. In this exchange, a 2004 graduate declines a job offer by burning a bridge, and she just keeps throwing fuel on the fire. The Globe has the email text and some additional cringe worthy statements.
In case you enjoy these kinds of things, you may want to reminisce over past lawyer email debacles. There’s the puppies at Chinese restaurants email, the $45 Christmas lunch reimbursement request, the Jonas Blank email, and (not even going to link to this one) Tucker Max Charity Auction Debacle (not so much of a bad email, but it goes in the list).

Why Zillow is Important

Zillow is the hot new real estate site brought to you by Richard Barton and David Beitel, the founders of Expedia (dot cooommmmm). The concept is to analyze real estate data to generate estimates of property value for any property. Real estate is a industry that has traditionally required expert knowledge and access to specialized resources. Steven Levitt calls this information asymmetry. Real estate brokers have valuation experience and access to private databases; home buyers do not.
Zillow will do for real estate what the major travel sites did for travel. As technology became accessible to the masses, the travel industry could no longer keep the information gateways closed. People got computer training and could punch some travel dates into a computer just as well as a travel agent could. The expertise and access gap between travel agents and everyone else is approaching zero, and it now feels ridiculously inefficient to talk to someone who is entering your information into a computer.
Real estate will undergo the same transition. The popularity of digital cameras and real estate listing sites like craigslist and FSBO sites (NYT Article) are together creating listing databases that contain just as much information as proprietary real estate databases. In Boston, it’s typical to hire a realtor just to rent an apartment. The renter walks into a little run down shop and a guy wearing a Goldshlager shirt runs a query: “let’s see, 3 bedroom apartment in the Fenway area for under $3000… I can show you some places.” That guy gets one month’s rent for hitting “search” and unlocking a couple doors.
In many cases, the buyer (or renter in the example above) will actually have more competence to analyze the potential transaction. For starters, the buyer is more interested than the “expert”. If the information and tools to execute these transactions can also accessed by the buyer, a market-driven system becomes more efficient. Zillow is an important step in the transition.
Zillow will be popular for other reasons. Most significantly, home ownership really is the dream of most US Americans. Those who rent wish they could afford to buy, and those who own want to upgrade (either by improvement or by buying something better). Why does “The Learning Channel” have so much home improvement programming? And why is the Travel Channel always showing shows about “amazing vacation homes”? This is what the public wants – we want to buy homes, improve homes, and obsess over the same. Zillow will help us do that.

Bait and Switch

I’m a bad student – way behind on my self imposed assignment of writing a little book report whenever I finish a book.
Bait and Switch book coverThe last book I read was Bait and Switch from Barbara Ehrenreich. I had read the related Nickel and Dimed a few years ago where Barbara takes on three low-wage jobs and explains how horrible they are. Bait and Switch is the same concept, except that she attempts to get a white-collar job.
Bait and Switch is a great read. Barbara comically describes her adventures through unemployment while maintaining an underlying criticism of corporate culture in the US. We have an assumption in this country that compentent hard-working people will be able to find steady (ie salaried) jobs. In reality, there are certain resume red-flags that are nearly impossible to overcome.

Weather Terms

We’re in the middle of a big snow storm here in Massachusetts today, and I’ve been watching the local news for the entertainment value of excited weather reporters and junior reporters saying things like, “you can hear the wind blowing in the microphone and the sound of tiny ice pellets slamming into my face.”
One thing I’ve heard over and over again now is the definition of a blizzard. The definition involves something about at least three hours of blowing snow and winds over 30 miles per hour. I’m not sure exactly why it’s so important whether today’s storm meets that definition. Maybe it’s a blizzard; maybe it’s not. Who cares? Who made up this definition anyway? One man’s winter storm is another man’s frosty ice-cream treat from DQ. We don’t have a strict definition of snizzle do we?

No More Western Union Telegrams

Western Union is no longer offering telegram service, although the website still has a little “your message here” picture right next to the announcement that says they don’t offer this service.
I’m too young to have ever sent or received a telegram, and I have to wonder whether what Western Union was calling a “telegram” in recent years had anything to do with a telegraph.
I’m amazed that Western Union was offering anything that even resembled a telegram, but I’m also amazed that people are still using fax machines. A fax machine makes a crude scan of a document, dials-up another fax machine as though it were an analog phone, and then slowly transmits the image to another machine. All this usually happens within ten feet of perfectly functioning computer connected to a high speed global network. This is almost as ridiculous as using a cell phone to call Western Union to order a telegram.