Jonathan B. Wilson

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Jonathan Wilson is an Atlanta attorney with more than 19 years of experience guiding growing private and public companies.  He currently serves as the outside general counsel of several companies and is the former general counsel of (NASDAQ: WWWW) and EasyLink Services (NASDAQ: ESIC).  He is also the founding chair of the Renewable Energy Committee of the American Bar Association's Public Utility Section.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Global Poverty Gap
Samuelson's column today is worth reading.  The debate over the relative contributions of culture and policy to the economic development of nations is important if we're to understand the factors needed to drive down global poverty.
Samuelson's exegesis of Gregory Clark's "A Farewell to Alms" describes how Clark emphasizes the role of culture:
"There is no simple economic medicine that will guarantee growth, and even complicated economic surgery offers no clear prospect of relief for societies afflicted with poverty," he writes. Various forms of foreign assistance "may disappear into the pockets of Western consultants and the corrupt rulers of these societies." Because some societies encourage growth and some don't, the gap between the richest nations and the poorest is actually greater today (50-1) than in 1800 (4-1), Clark estimates.
Clark's view, as described here, is a 180-degree departure from the geographic determinism espoused by Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel.  I am not sure that Samuelson's conclusion, however, that poverty cannot be fought because cultures are unchangeable necessarily follows from Clark's argument.
As Burke would agree, cultures are living and dynamic things.  Cultures that foster the values that spur economic growth tend to flourish and those that don't tend to die.
Cultures that flounder, though, have the opportunity to change.  I would hold out China and India as examples.
While China is (very) far from a model society it has changed over the last fifty years (in fits and starts) towards a restrained version of capitalism that encourages some levels of individual initiative and entrepreneurship.  Its rate of economic growth is atmospheric today, and may not be sustainable, but is a marked departure from the China of the mid-twentieth centurey.
India is perhaps an even better example with a cultural background that is somewhat more complex than China's with its overlay of British colonial rule.  But, from an economic backwater 50 years ago India has emerged as an economic powerhouse that is rapidly fueling higher standards of living for its people.  Indian values of entrepreneurship, hard work and self-improvement are paying off for the Indian people and those values will tend to perpetuate themselves.
The challenge for those who would fight global poverty, then, is the question of how to balance external programs that foster economic development with the more subtle art of introducing catalysts of cultural change that will create the soil of individual risk-taking and entrepreneurship needed for national economic development. 
12:48 pm edt 

FISA Immunity for Telcos
Two former attorneys general and a former director of the FBI and the CIA argue that Congress should extend immunity to Telcos that complied with national security letters after September 11. 
They're right of course.  From the perspective of in-house counsel at a telecommunications provider, when faced with the choice between complying with an NSL or spending company resources to make theoretical arguments for privacy on behalf of customers prudent in-house counsel will almost always come out in favor of compliance. 
It's sad, though, the Congress has to take action to reach an outcome that should have been obvious from the start.  It's also sad that even if Congress does the right thing, the plaintiffs attorneys who brought litigation against the telcos for complying with NSLs will not be required to reimburse them for the millions in attorneys' fees and expense they've already spent defending themselves. 
7:33 am edt 

Friday, October 12, 2007

Banning Billable Hours
The Shepherd Law Group in Boston has banned billable hours except for those clients who expressly want to be billed by the hour. 
Although the firm is a boutique this move demonstrates a trend that is long overdue.  Billing by the hour is a technique that is easy for law firms to administer but generally not efficient for clients.  Task-based and value-based billing is difficult to manage and often requires difficult conversations between client and attorney at the outset of representations, but should deliver better results to business and corporate clients.
7:58 am edt 

As you can tell, I've been on hiatus for awhile as we've been working to close the merger between my company,, and Website Pros.  The merger closed September 30th and now that the dust has begun to settle, I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things.
7:54 am edt 

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Jonathan B. Wilson is an Atlanta attorney at the law firm of Taylor English Duma LLP.  Jonathan B. Wilson provides legal advice to investors, companies and business executives involving corporate law, securities law, SEC matters, intellectual property, website and Internet legal issues, start-ups, limited liability companies, partnerships, 1934 Act matters, outsourcing, strategic alliance agreements, contracts, and other matters of importance to growing private and publicly-traded companies.