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Legal Week: Staff complaints force red-faced A&O into Facebook U-turn

Allen & Overy (A&O) has been forced into an embarrassing climb-down after the firm’s IT department was bombarded with staff complaints following a firmwide ban on social networking website Facebook.

IT chiefs took the decision to block access to the website due to concerns that staff downloading videos from the site would compromise the performance of A&O’s IT systems.

However, a series of complaints from staff across the firm led IT director Dave Burwell to email the entire London office on Tuesday (22 May) saying the ban had been lifted.

He said: “Given that there has been a strong reaction to the blocking and that Facebook is used by many people for networking – for business purposes as well as social – we are going to open up access to the site again.”

A spokesman confirmed that staff will now be allowed to access the site as long as they do not view videos. Burwell stressed that while the decision “flies in the face of [A&O's] normal policy”, it was made because the site has business benefits as well as social uses.

Facebook consists of a number of interlinking networks and allows individual users to ‘poke’ one another, share personal information and upload photographs. The A&O network on Facebook currently has 732 members.
Legal Week

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Starting A Law Firm

Toronto Lawyer Gary Wise has an excellent post on the challenges of a startup solo practice, see Starting A Law Firm.

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News: Lawmakers Make New Bid to Pass Law Protecting Reporters

A Virginia lawmaker is supporting an effort to pass a federal shield law to protect reporters from being forced to reveal their sources.

The bill is cosponsored by Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate. It would write into federal law the protection for reporters now granted by 32 states and the District of Columbia.

Advocates of the bill supported by Virginia Democratic Representative Rick Boucher say it will give government whistle-blowers more reason to reveal corruption when they know that reporters will be shielded in most cases from prosecutors' efforts to reveal information.

But Boucher says there would be exceptions.

For example, a judge could require a reporter to reveal a source to prevent imminent death or harm to national security.

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AP: Changes urged for student privacy law

WASHINGTON - A lawmaker who also is a child psychologist wants Congress to better define when a university can release students' mental health information to their parents.

Last week's massacre at Virginia Tech shows the need for such legislation, said Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa.

Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho, 23, went on a shooting spree in a dormitory and classroom building on campus, killing 32 people and himself. It is unclear what, if any, contact the university had with Cho's parents — even after a professor removed him from class for violent writing and disruptive behavior.

Murphy said he would introduce a bill that would allow a university to notify a student's parents without fear of violating privacy laws if that student is deemed to be at risk of committing suicide, homicide or physical assault.

The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 allows access to records in case of an emergency or to protect the health of a student. Parents also can be notified if the student consents.

But the law is written too vaguely, Murphy said in a letter to House colleagues.

"There are many examples where information was not released to parents or guardians regarding a student's mental health, which led to miscommunications and withholding of vital information that would have prevented suicides, assaults and other crimes," Murphy said.

A magistrate ordered Cho in December 2005 to have an evaluation at a private psychiatric hospital after two women complained about annoying calls from him, and an acquaintance reported he might be suicidal. An initial evaluation found probable cause that Cho was a danger to himself or others as a result of mental illness.

David Shern, president of Mental Health America, an advocacy group for people with mental illness, said Murphy's plan sounds reasonable, but he would like to see the specifics.
Yahoo! News