April 2009

pirate ship.jpg* Kenya has emerged as the chosen venue to try piracy cases. This article is worth it just for the quotes from the Kenyan piracy lawyer. Just try to imagine how much cooler your life would be if you were a Kenyan Piracy lawyer instead of a Biglaw associate. [The New York Times]

* Florida Judge Thomas Stringer worked for years to establish himself as a trusted, competent man. “then last spring, the well-respected, married judge suddenly found his face splashed beside that of a troubled exotic dancer in a kimono,” including here at ATL, of course. Amazing. [The Associated Press]

* Attorney General Eric Holder dodged alternating attacks on Capitol Hill Thursday, with some Congressman telling him to release more documents on Bush-era torture, and some telling him to stop releasing them. [CNN]

champagne glasses small.jpg

Voting has ended for last week’s Couple of the Month polls, so it’s time to announce the winners. The January poll was extremely close; the February and March crowns were captured decisively by couples associated with the Obama machine and the Kennedy dynasty, respectively.

Check out the results, after the jump.

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US News logo.JPGNow that the new U.S. News rankings are out, we want to bring the strength of the full Above the Law community to bear on the discussion of the best law schools.

Every year, people warn prospective students against making decisions based solely on the rankings. To help students gather as much information as possible in case they do want to think about bucking the list and choosing a lower-ranked school, we’ll be posting a series of open threads around closely-ranked schools.

We hope the threads will help prospective students think about information that cannot be easily codified by sortable data, and will allow alumni to share the hard-earned & intimate knowledge of their schools that doesn’t come in brochures. For example, it’s rumored that students at this year’s #1 school have a tendency not to wipe the toilet seat.

Let’s start at the proverbial top. According to the rankings, the top five law schools in the nation are:

1. Yale
2. Harvard
3. Stanford
4. Columbia
5. NYU

We know we have readers that got into a number of these schools. Said readers, we invite you to share enlightenment in the comments about how you decided on which school to grace with your presence.

After the jump, we pull together some other things about the top five.

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loyola chicago school law.gifLaw school students with graduation less than a month away are understandably stressed. Finals loom. The Bar Exam soon awaits them. Law firms do not. They have mountains of debt, and law firms are telling them to go away for a year (with a paralegal-sized salary, if they’re lucky).

It seems like some 3Ls are going into serious meltdown mode. Earlier this week, a University of San Francisco gunner sent out a school-wide email of fury after being passed over for graduation speaker.

Now, we have another such email. This time, a 3L from Loyola University Chicago School of Law has snapped. Like many others, this student is looking back on the last three years of law school and asking, “Was it worth it?” When it comes to the business law course Accounting for Lawyers, the answer, according to this student, is a resounding “NO.”

The student wrote to Dean David Yellen, cc’ing members of the class:

After yesterday’s disaster of a panel discussion on the financial crisis of the nation, I am so angry, I can’t even sleep.

I am officially giving notice that I will refuse to answer any exam question that goes beyond the bounds of the course description and I fully expect to graduate 5 days later. I will be encouraging my fellow 3L’s to do the same. Should this letter or my course of action be answered by any negative action that would affect my graduating law school, I will send an open letter the the entire Chicago legal community explaining to the potential employers of future Loyola Law grads that professors at Loyola School of Law are given free reign to teach whatever they want despite the school’s official course catalog and descriptions.

That sounds like blackmail to me… though probably undermined considerably by this post. The letter writer goes on to lambaste the Accounting class and the professor who taught it, accusing him of “defraud[ing] students,” “misrepresent[ing] this class [with the] course description,” and “wast[ing] the proportionate amount of my tuition dollars (approx $3000).”

Read on, after the jump.

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Notes from the Breadline Roxana St Thomas.jpgEd. note: Welcome to the latest installment of “Notes from the Breadline,” a column by a laid-off lawyer in New York. Prior columns are collected here. You can reach Roxana St. Thomas by email (at [email protected]), follow her on Twitter, or find her on Facebook.

In last week’s installment of Notes from the Breadline, I enumerated a few of the reasons why I thought that hanging out the proverbial shingle was not right for me. You may further recall that the commentariat came ou, in force, to point out the infirmities in my position. (I know I do.)

“Who knew that the question of whether to venture into solo practice would be such a divisive one?” I asked Lat, pulling the remnants of virtual rotten tomatoes from my hair. “You would think that I had insulted Susan Boyle. What am I missing?”

As we talked about the (numerous) ideas proffered by readers, Lat stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Well, Roxana,” he said, referring to the suggestion of several commenters, “in light of recent events, you might want to think twice about advertising on Craigslist.”

He paused for a moment to take a sip of coffee (which runs, hot and cold, from a spigot in his office). “But, while I agree that hanging out a shingle isn’t for everyone, perhaps this whole idea deserves a second look. Maybe you need to talk to a professional.”

“What are you trying to say?” I asked pointedly.

“Hehe,” he chuckled. “What I meant is that maybe you should get another perspective.”

Lat was right: I needed to gather more information before categorically ruling out anything, whether it was the possibility of striking out on my own or one of the countless other ideas I had entertained. But who could I talk to?

After asking around and conducting a bit of due diligence, I reached out to Ari Kaplan, a writer and former practicing attorney who has become something of a professional development guru.

Like many of us, Ari was an associate at a Biglaw firm (McDermott Will & Emery), for much of his career. While he was busy toiling away, billing hours, and scrambling to keep his head above water through various cycles of boom and bust, he was also consistently churning out articles on an assortment of topics. Ari estimates that, while he was a practicing attorney, he wrote about 120 articles for publication.

These efforts eventually led him to write a book, The Opportunity Maker: Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career, which was published last year. Ari now works full-time as a professional writer and speaker.

Read about Ari’s professional journey, and his insights for Roxana on hers, after the jump.

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Lindsay Harrison front steps SCOTUS.jpgLindsay Harrison at One First Street. Photo by Patrice Gilbert.

Earlier this year, we conducted an interview of Lindsay C. Harrison, an associate in the Washington office of Jenner & Block. In January, Lindsay had the privilege of arguing before the United States Supreme Court — in her first oral argument ever. We chatted with her about the argument she presented in what was then Nken v. Mukasey and is now Nken v. Holder: what she wore, how she prepared, who was mean to her at argument.

This morning, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case. And even though Lindsay took the “liberal” position, she prevailed — by a 7-2 margin, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the Court. Congratulations, Lindsay!

Here’s a summary of the decision, from the ABA Journal:

A court of appeals retains its traditional authority to grant stays in deportation cases, despite a 1996 statute that limited the circumstances in which courts may block the removal of aliens, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in a 7-2 opinion…..

The government had argued that a provision in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 limited the circumstances in which stays could be granted. The Supreme Court disagreed, saying the statutory provision — on injunctions blocking the removal of aliens — leaves intact the court’s traditional authority to grant stays….

Harrison says the decision is “a critical victory” for [Jean Marc] Nken. “It’s a case that could really literally mean life or death for my client,” she says. “If he were deported while his appeal was pending, he is likely to be killed or jailed or tortured in Cameroon.”

As Lindsay told us in our earlier interview, she and her colleagues at Jenner in D.C. have devoted hundreds — by now, thousands — of hours to the case (pro bono). It looks like the Chicago office of Jenner isn’t the only one that can burn the midnight oil.

(Digression: One tipster is skeptical of the claim that Jenner’s office in Chicago is busy round-the-clock: “Amusing article about a condo owner who can’t sleep because her new next door neighbor, Jenner & Block, leaves its lights on all the time. Every lawyer in Chicago knows that Jenner is faking it — it’s like the guy who slips into the office on Sunday for two minutes, just to be seen by anyone who happens to be there.”)

This afternoon, we caught up with Lindsay Harrison over the phone. Our interview, after the jump.

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scalia come and find me above the law.jpgBack in January, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a speaker at the Institute of American and Talmudic Law’s midwinter conference on privacy issues. Sitting in the New York office of Weil Gotshal, Scalia told attendees that privacy was not that important to him.

From the Associated Press (available cached only):

Discussions of privacy rights in the digital era should distinguish between such confidential data as medical records and information that might be personal but is easy to find out, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Wednesday.

Considering every fact about someone’s life private is “extraordinary,” he said, noting that data such as addresses have long been discernible, even if technology has made them easier to find.

“Every single datum about my life is private? That’s silly,” Scalia [said].

Well, Fordham Law Professor Joel Reidenberg interpreted that as a challenge. He gave the fifteen students in his Information Privacy Law class a special assignment this semester: Track down everything available on the Web about Antonin Scalia to compile a dossier on him.

Find out what they found out, after the jump.

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Video Professor and USC.JPG* David Lat was on television today, trying to explain attorneys’ pain to the masses. [Fox Business News]

* Did you forget Administrative Professionals’ Day? We did too. [The Glass Hammer]

* Georgia State is very, very proud of its new U.S. News ranking. [Law School Headlines]

* Are public universities disproportionately burdened by FOIA requests? We should ask the students at Michigan Law. [Blackbook Legal]

* Susan Boyle can teach lawyers (and GW Law students) an important lesson on how to use low expectations to their advantage. [New York Personal Injury Law Blog]

* Law reviews are working together to form one behemoth of a website for legal scholarship. [TaxProf Blog]

* Syracuse University College of Law administrators apparently just finished watching Jerry McGuire for the 20th time and decided to finally do something about it. [Sports Agent Blog]

* USC begs students to try its product. [Litination]

UT Austin school of law logo.JPGWe’ve got another new program from a law school that is trying to help its students weather the difficult job market. The University of Texas School of Law is initiating the “Long Career Launch Program.” The goal of the program is to help Texas graduates find public interest work:

The University of Texas School of Law (UT Law) is proud to announce the Long Career Launch Program, which is designed to make it financially possible for our recent graduates to obtain legal work experience in unpaid internships while they are awaiting bar results and looking for permanent employment. Graduates who are selected to participate in the Program, which is generously funded by a grant from the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Foundation, will receive a $6,000 stipend to support work in an unpaid legal internship with a government agency or a 501(c)(3) public interest organization.

Unfortunately, the program only extends to internships lasting between August and November 2009. That is not quite enough time to help students that have been deferred until January 2010, and it is a woefully inadequate amount of time for students who have been deferred all the way until the fall of 2010.

But it is something.

Perhaps the most important part of the program is that it encourages public interest organizations to contact UT directly and post their job openings with the school. Ideally, this will lessen the transaction costs for UT law students trying to find appropriate public interest organizations so they can get their deferral stipend.

The Texas march on the top-14 continues.

Earlier: Northwestern Law Gets ‘Proactive’

UCLA: The Latest Law School To Help Deferred Students

outsourcing biglaw aba tsunami.gifWhenever we talk about outsourcing, a number of commenters disparage the quality of work provided by less expensive, foreign lawyers. But jingoistic rhetoric isn’t going to do anything to stop the movement of legal work offshore. Indian lawyers scored a major victory yesterday, as a suit against Sacha Baron Cohen was tossed out of L.A. Superior Court.

The suit alleged that Cohen (performing as Ali G) suggested he had sex with a woman (who is referred to as “Jane Doe” in the lawsuit) during an “interview” with Gore Vidal. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Friedman threw out the suit. He ruled:

No reasonable person could consider the statements made by Ali G on the program to be factual. To the contrary, it is obvious that the Ali G character is absurd, and all his statements are gibberish and intended as comedy. The actor, Sacha Baron Cohen, never strays from the Ali G character, who is dressed in a ridiculous outfit and speaks in the exaggerated manner of a rap artist. Ali G’s statements are similarly absurd. For example, prior to the reference to Plaintiff, while ‘interviewing’ the author Gore Vidal, Ali G refers to the Constitution of the United States as having been written on two tablets, clearly intended to confuse the Constitution with the Ten Commandments. Altogether, the program is obviously a spoof of a serious interview program. No reasonable person could think otherwise.

It’s an important victory for comedy performers. But who did the lion’s share of the legal grunt work on the case? That would be an Indian law firm under the supervision of SmithDehn.

More details after the jump.

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