⏩ California's gig worker law appears headed for rest of US
Welcome to the FORWARD GC, a digestible newsletter with fresh takes on the legal news you need to start your day. Curated by friends at Lawtrades—a marketplace that help’s GC’s find, hire, and manage freelance legal professionals to scale their legal departments.
👋 to new friends from the Above The Law webinar! We are psyched to have you on board. You can check out the archive or listen to the podcasts here. And I’d love to know what you think, so please feel free to reply to this email.
This week: California’s Prop 22 cleared a legal hurdle and a new case for why lawyers should embrace AI. Plus, a lawsuit over vanilla (yes, that vanilla).
The California measure that legalizes gig economy companies to keep workers as independent contractors just passed a major test, with the state Supreme Court throwing out a challenge.
Prop 22 was crafted to dismantle a state law: California had previously passed legislation to make gig workers employees and allow them some of the benefits given to full-time workers. But Prop 22 passed with 58% of the vote in November, nullifying the law and formalizing the previous independent contractor status of such workers.
That made many ride-sharing drivers and a prominent union unhappy: They sued and alleged Prop 22 prevented lawmakers from doing their job, violating the California Constitution, and were joined in amicus briefs by city attorneys from San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The effects of Prop 22
Prop 22 has inspired more than Uber and Lyft. In response, grocery chains like Albertsons and Vons have replaced full-time delivery staff with gig workers.
Lyft is lobbying to bring Prop 22-esque regulations elsewhere in the United States, forming political action committees in New York and Illinois.
New York attorney Spencer Sheehan has a problem with the likes of Chobani, Wegman’s and Trader Joe’s. He doesn’t believe them when they say they’re putting vanilla in various food items.
As the WSJ reports, it is leading to the legal question of our times: “Is vanilla really vanilla without vanilla beans?”
This all started with a can of A&W: Sheehan was drinking a root beer and saw it contained the phrase “made with aged vanilla.” He didn’t believe it and soon filed a lawsuit.
The food litigation world hasn’t seen anything like it: Experts say usually just a couple dozen complaints over the “all-natural” qualities of food are seen in a year. In the last two years, more than 100 class action lawsuits related to vanilla have been filed.
Pure vanilla vs common vanilla
Vanilla comes from beans growing on rare plants found in countries like Madagascar. Natural vanilla flavor, used by the companies Sheehan has sued, still comes from a plant but not necessarily from vanilla beans. The natural vanilla flavor is about ¼ the cost of the pure vanilla extract from beans.
Sheehan likens the difference between vanilla and natural vanilla flavor to Chanel and knockoff Chanel: “Just because you can’t tell the difference between something real and something fake, that doesn’t make it OK.”
The Verdict: Sheehan is creating change. Although many lawsuits have been dismissed and others not yet heard, one company settled a class action case for $3 million and changed its packaging. Wegman’s has also changed the packaging on one of its vanilla-flavored items after a lawsuit.
Will AI make the life of a lawyer easier? Or will it make lawyers non-essential? A new book, titled AI for Lawyers, is bullish that the future of AI will be a friendly one.
Concerns about an AI takeover are real: Futurists believe support staff, including legal researchers and paralegals, will no longer be necessary in about a decade. Machines will be able to do the research and billing just as effectively.
Lawyers could conceivably be replaced, too: The various client calls and interviews part of nearly every attorney’s job may one day be conducted by AI.
The pro-attorney view
The authors of AI for Lawyers see AI more as an aid than a replacement. They suggest lawyers use AI to better understand clients and to do more research while making fewer mistakes. They cite an example of an attorney who used an AI product while successfully researching a case that helped prevent a client from getting a life sentence.
There’s an ethical part to AI, too: The authors suggest AI will remove biases and lead to more equitability.
AI for Lawyers is not the first work to explain the virtues of AI-based legal work. Plenty of people believe attorneys who correctly use AI will save time and impress more clients.
💌 What else we’re forwarding
ICYMI, the funniest lawyer video you’ll ever see: Let’s just say it involves a cat and a Zoom hearing.
Amazon may have its first group of unionized employees: The tech company-union fervor has spread to Amazon, albeit for a group of warehouse workers, rather than white-collar employees a la Google.
🎧 Music we’re working to
Today we’re listening to the Holum trio—a jazz ensemble that explores an untraditional combination of instruments to create dynamic layers of an improvised sound that is outgoing and accessible. Listen for inspirations from African rhythms, Arabic tonalities, Nordic harmony and European jazz. Hope you enjoy this one.
Borte - Holum trio (34m, light vocals)
Have a great rest of the week!