March 2008

US News World Report small cover 2009 law school rankings ratings Above the Law blog.jpgTo be perfectly honest, we’re getting tired of writing about the new U.S. News & World Report law school rankings. But judging from the number of comments on our earlier posts — 1,153 and 575, as of this posting — you’re not tired of reading and talking about them. So, onward.
In our last post, we wrote about law schools freaking out over their falling rankings. The schools we specifically mentioned, whose administrators sent out defensive messages to the student body on the subject, were the University of Buffalo (down from 77 to 100), the University of North Carolina (from 36 to 38), the University of Iowa (from 24 to 27), and the University of Minnesota (from 20 to 22).
To this list of law school lamentation, please add Case Western, which went from 53 to 63 (memo posted in the comments, but independently verified by us) [FN1]; and the University of Miami, which fell from 70 to 82. One UM student had harsh criticism of Dean Lynch’s message (PDF):

Here’s Dean Dennis Lynch’s blast to University of Miami students, attempting (complete with a cornucopia of grammatical errors — maybe this is indicative of the problem?) to explain away a nearly 25% drop in the rankings over the last three years (resulting in an institution now perilously teetering on the edge between Tier II purgatory and Tier III oblivion).

I’d direct your attention to his trumpeting of UM’s “ranking” on the oh-so-often cited ‘Law Dragon’ survey. With someone like this in charge — to say nothing of UM’s past glory, like professors getting arrested for soliciting prostitutes — the real wonder is how UM is even ABA accredited, let alone ranked on U.S. News.

Self-hatred much? We love our UM tipsters, but maybe they need to find themselves some good therapists.
Not every administrator at a law school that slipped in the rankings viewed sending out a school-wide email as such a hot idea. From a future law student, who won’t graduate law school until 2011, but who’s already an ATL tipster (call us Socrates — we like to corrupt the youth):

I was at the U of Illinois College of Law admitted students weekend. In the 2009 USN&WR ratings, Illinois Law “fell” from #25 to #27. So, the dean of admissions spent the first 15 minutes of a 30 minute break-out session ostensibly about “Campus Housing Options” talking about the rating decline.

He said that “at some schools, like Minnesota and Iowa, the students are so freaked out about this that the administration sends out emails immediately to calm them down, but we’re not going to do that here, because you know it will be on AboveTheLaw.com in 30 seconds after I hit ‘send.’

Well, we’re not that fast. But thanks for the compliment and shout-out.
More discussion and links, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The U.S. News Rankings: More Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth”

Glenn Close Damages FX Above the Law legal tabloid.jpg* A politically incorrect theory to explain the growing pay gap between male and female JDs. Opines Jane Genova: “No one likes The Professional Woman — not women, not men, not children, not animals, not even The Professional Woman.” [Law and More]
* Thoughts on the ethical and tax considerations of winning an NCAA tournament office pool. [TaxProf Blog]
* Lawsuit of the day last week: verdict reached in the suit brought by ex-Sonnenschein partner Douglas Rosenthal against his former firm. [The BLT: Blog of the Legal Times]
* $21 theft, $1 million bond? [Cincinnati Enquirer]
* Ahoy, mateys. Say hello to Blarrgh Review — aka Blawg Review #153. [Declarations and Exclusions via Blawg Review]

Wall Street Wall St Above the Law blog.jpgDominating today’s news cycle is the Treasury Department’s plan to reform the nation’s system of financial regulation. For some thoughts on the proposal, check out what John Carney has to say over at our sibling site, Dealbreaker (in posts here and here).
This regulatory reform proposal comes at a grim time for Wall Street, characterized by some as “the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.” It feels like we’re at the end of an era. Wall Street profits are sinking fast, venerable investment banks look endangered, and financial-sector layoffs could claim 20,000 more jobs in the next two years, in New York City alone.
This is generally viewed as bad news for Biglaw, considering how much large law firms depend on the financial services industry for work. But could it perhaps be a boon for lawyers, if their standing in the city’s financial pecking order falls at a slower rate than that of Wall Street Masters of the Universe?
A reader drew our attention to this interesting Sunday Times article:

The collapse of a major financial institution is usually an occasion for hand-wringing and tut-tutting over potential job losses, lower consumer spending and missed mortgage payments.

In New York City, it’s also seen as an opportunity. For many of the city’s middle class, especially those in the creative class, who have felt sidelined as the city seemed to become a high-priced playground for Wall Street bankers, the implosion of the brokerage house Bear Stearns raises a tantalizing possibility: participation in an economy they have been largely shut out of.

Wonders our tipster:

“Some New Yorkers seem to be looking forward to the collapse of Wall Street and their huge salaries in the hopes that prices deflate a bit. Does this return lawyers to the top of the financial food chain? Or do those huge partner salaries take a dive along with Wall Street?”

For some law firms and lawyers — e.g., those that are heavily dependent on securitization and structured finance work — the Wall Street retrenchment is definitely unwelcome. But for others, especially those focused on countercyclical practice areas like bankruptcy, the bust could be a boom.
Take a look back at this post, in which one Biglaw partner described the plight of lawyers in New York as follows:

“Face it, [lawyers] have no status. We go to these [elite private] school functions [for our kids], and this well-heeled group looks right through you. They won’t give you the time of day. You’re just one step ahead of the doorman.”

So could there be, for lawyers, a silver lining to this economic cloud? Will lawyers move up a notch or two in the Gotham caste system thanks to the recession? Or are they too closely linked to Wall Street and its sinking fortunes to benefit significantly from any social and economic realignment?
Dumping Our Regulatory Alphabet Soup [Dealbreaker]
Treasury’s Brave New World Of Financial Innovation [Dealbreaker]
You Say Recession, I Say ‘Reservations!’ [New York Times]
Earlier: Pity the Poor Partners?

In the 2009 U.S. News & World Report law school rankings, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law fell from #52 to #55. See here.
It’s a little surprising, since the past year has been good for Cardozo. Their bar passage rate is now the third-highest among New York law schools. One of their graduates is currently clerking for Justice Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court.
And, most importantly, their Law Revue is turning out delightful videos. If you share our love of Project Runway, you’ll enjoy this good-natured spoof (film by Ryan B. Finkel). It’s a little long, and somewhat uneven — but on the whole, it’s well-done and quite fun. The film is expertly put together, with the actual Project Runway footage elegantly interspersed into the fake footage, and the performances — especially those by the Heidi Klum and Chris March impersonators — are hilarious and compelling. Check it out below (plus links to two videos from last year’s show).
So what’s responsible for Cardozo’s USNW&R decline? The booting of littering-and-loitering law students from the fifth-floor faculty lounge? Rampant “expensive umbrella” and iPod theft? Your guesses are welcome.

project law school – cardozo law revue 2008 [YouTube]
Joe in a Book Cardozo Law Revue 2007 [YouTube]
Cardozo Law Revue 2007 Beavis and Butt-for [YouTube]

BarBri 2 bar bri bar exam review course prep course Above the Law Above the Law ATL.jpgSeveral readers have written in to inquire about the status of the BAR/BRI class action litigation. Here’s the latest update on the lawsuit website:

Over 85,000 Claim Forms representing claims for over 120,000 BAR/BRI courses have been received and processed by the Claims Administrator. However, several objectors appealed from the Court’s Order granting final approval of the Settlement. A total of seven Notices of Appeal of the Settlement were filed….

NO CLAIMS CAN BE CALCULATED OR PAID UNTIL THERE HAS BEEN A FINAL RESOLUTION OF ALL APPEALS.

On January 25, 2008 Class Counsel met with attorneys for the objector-appellants and defendants’ counsel under the auspicies of the Ninth Circuit Mediation Program. After a full day of mediation, the parties could not reach a resolution that would allow for a dismissal of the appeals and distribution of the Settlement Fund. Further updates will be posted on this website.

So don’t hold your breath waiting for that check. But for some class members, you may have another source of relief.
Details, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “What’s Up With the Bar/Bri Litigation?”

Spring! Cherry blossoms, opening day, and pedigreed lawyers uniting in marriage. We’re pleased to be back with another installment of Legal Eagle Wedding Watch, featuring these three impressive couples:

1.) Susannah Foster and Kenyon Weaver
2.) Kathleen DeLaney and Courtney Thomas
3.) Heath Kern and Joseph Gibson

More on our finalists, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Legal Eagle Wedding Watch 2.24 and 3.2: Cancún Honeymoon”

Barry Diller IAC InterActive Corp Diane von Furstenberg John Malone Above the Law blog.jpg* Media mogul smackdown: Barry Diller (pictured) prevails over his former mentor, John Malone, in Delaware Chancery Court. [New York Times; Wall Street Journal (subscription) via WSJ Law Blog]
* HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, under DOJ investigation, calls it quits. [AP]
* Questions raised about 9/11 lawyer Peter Napoli, of fen-phen fame (or infamy). [New York Times]
* A round-up of Monday morning action at the Supreme Court. [SCOTUSblog]
* A look back at the inception of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping: Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson wouldn’t sign off on the requests, so they had to be rerouted to AG Ashcroft. [New York Times]
* A preview of the “fleeting expletives” case, by Julie Hilden. [FindLaw via How Appealing]

black hole milky way Above the Law blog.jpgEvery now and then, it’s healthy to be reminded of the triviality of your daily preoccupations. From the New York Times:

[T]wo men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii…. think a giant particle accelerator that will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer might produce a black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth — and maybe the universe.

Scientists say that is very unlikely — though they have done some checking just to make sure.

That’s nice to know.

[Plaintiffs] Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Alas, this valiant effort to save human civilization may be frustrated, thanks to something as pedestrian and technical as…. jurisdiction:

James Gillies, head of communications at CERN, said the laboratory as of yet had no comment on the suit. “It’s hard to see how a district court in Hawaii has jurisdiction over an intergovernmental organization in Europe,” Mr. Gillies said.

And that’s the story of how, for want of personal jurisdiction, mankind was lost.
(For the record, CERN denies that what they’re doing is unsafe, citing multiple scientific reports that have evaluated their activities from a safety standpoint.)
Asking a Judge to Save the World, and Maybe a Whole Lot More [New York Times]

Barack Obama small Senator Barack Hussein Obama Above the Law blog.JPG* Was Barack Obama a “real” law professor at the University of Chicago? Or just a pseudo-prof? [Marc Ambinder / The Atlantic]
* Speaking of Obama, why didn’t he save more for retirement? Professor Mankiw speculates: “Maybe he is expecting vastly higher tax rates in the future, when the accumulated savings will need to be withdrawn and taxed.” [Greg Mankiw via TaxProf Blog]
* Speaking of law profs, should they reveal their political leanings to their students? [PrawfsBlawg]
* The IRS on YouTube. Is “Linda Stiff” her real name? [TaxProf Blog]
* Biglaw jumps on the blogging bandwagon. [Kevin O'Keefe / Real Lawyers Have Blogs]
* We’re all in favor of judicial reform. But will an appointive judiciary yield up fewer Elizabeth Halversons? [Wild Wild Law: Legal Antics and Jurisprudence in Nevada]
* “£295/hr for a junior associate? You mean that 25 year old girl who finished her training contract 3 weeks ago?! If it is true then Geeklawyer is undercharging chronically.” [GeekLawyer]
* Courtesy of Slate, Hillary Death Watch. Today they peg her chances of winning the Democratic nomination at 12 percent. [Slate]
(But don’t forget Monica Crowley’s quip about HRC: “She’s like Glenn Close at the end of Fatal Attraction. You think she’s dead, and then she sits bolt-upright in the bathtub.”)

Samuel Fishman Samuel A Fishman Latham Watkins Above the Law blog.jpgWith respect to our earlier post, about a rumor that Latham & Watkins represents the Church of Scientology, we have our doubts. See this comment (at 2:53 PM).
But here’s some bad news about Latham that appears to be more reliable. From the WSJ Law Blog:

[Samuel A. Fishman (pictured)] has pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and is slated to be sentenced in June….

The criminal information and papers from the U.S. attorney’s office say Fishman, 51 of New Jersey, was a lawyer in the corporate department of a major U.S. law firm with offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia. SEC documents show a Samuel A. Fishman was a lawyer at Latham & Watkins….

The criminal information says that, upon discovering the scheme, the law firm reimbursed its clients hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses. The information says Fishman was the billing partner for a number of the firm’s institutional clients, including clients in banking, utilities, telecommunications and entertainment.

From 1993 through 2005, it says, Fishman mischaracterized on invoices certain expenses, such as non-reimbursable meals and parking fees, as reimbursable expenses, such as photocopying and express mail, amounting to more than $200,000 of mischaracterized expenses. He also sent client invoices that inflated actual costs to the firm, amounting to $100,000 of non-existent expenses, the information says. It says that he also falsely represented personal expenses, such as hotel bills, as reimbursable business expenses.

In case you’re wondering, Samuel Fishman is a 1981 graduate of NYU Law School. See here. Harvard Law School’s two-day winning streak for Lawyer of the Day has been broken.
Update (4:20 PM): Here is the firm’s official statement about the Sam Fishman matter, from David Gordon, managing partner of Latham’s New York office:

“As reflected in the statements from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, our firm discovered the issues relating to Mr. Fishman in 2005, immediately acted to protect our clients fully, and disclosed the matter to appropriate law enforcement authorities. Mr. Fishman resigned from the firm at the time the issues were discovered. Since that time, we have cooperated fully with the investigation.”

Samuel A. Fishman [Latham & Watkins via Archive.org]
Lawyer Pleas in Case Charging that He Bilked Firm and Clients [WSJ Law Blog]
Lawyer at Major Firm Charged with Bilking Firm and Clients [WSJ Law Blog]

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