March 2011

If you want something versatile, buy a Swiss Army Knife.

Raise your hand if one of your reasons for going to law school was that somebody told you a law degree was “versatile” and that you can do a whole bunch of things with a J.D.

Keep your hand up if time and the recession have proven that “versatility” thing to be a complete load of BS.

Now extend one special finger if you blame somebody at your law school for filling your head with misleading platitudes about all the options you get when you go to law school.

If you are flipping the bird at thin air, maybe you should have gone to the University of Washington Law School School of Law. They at least give students subtle clues….

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* Ex-Marc Jacobs International CFO is suing the company for allegedly making him look at gay porn. Wait, you can sue people for that? [Fashionista]

* Monty, the Yale Law School Therapy Dog, is already being billed out to the max. How long before Monty develops a superiority complex and a coke habit? [NPR]

* Judge Judy was rushed to the hospital, but she’s okay. Phew, for a second I thought I was going to have to start watching Judge Joe Brown. [New York Post]

* The Bronx Zoo cobra has been recaptured. I thought the Dred Scott decision had been overturned, but apparently cobra wars have just begun. [Village Voice]

* Why would I need to drink a “Raging Bitch” when I could just go to Michigan and marry one? [Legal Blog Watch]

* Wisconsin Democrats don’t want to show up for work, Wisconsin Republicans don’t want to follow the law, and the state is basically a functional anarchy. Is @aaronrodgers12 waiting for a personal invitation to come fix this? Let’s go MVP, you don’t think we give out championship belts just for playing football do you? [WSJ Law Blog]

* The folks at Oyez have developed a new app to help you stay on top of the latest SCOTUS developments. Let’s just hope Scalia doesn’t try to use it while he’s driving. [PocketJustice / Oyez]

* The Above the Law jobs board has some new entries. We’re trying to do our part to help the UVA Law kids. [Above the Law]

In the first four parts of the Career Center “Tip of the Day” series, focused on how junior associates can become more indispensable to their law firms, we covered the importance of taking ownership of your work, becoming an expert in your field, developing effective management strategies, and the knowing the local rules of court and the judge’s chambers rules.

Today’s final tip focuses on developing relationships with clients….

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(Part 5)”

In 2009, a paramedic in Connecticut went home and complained about her boss on Facebook. Then she got fired.

“Love how the company allows a 17 to be a supervisor,” 42-year-old Dawnmarie Souza wrote. A “17” is the code her company, the American Medical Response ambulance service, uses for a psychiatric patient. She also called her boss a “scumbag as usual.” Several people joined in the discussion thread.

Her company’s blogging and Internet posting policy prohibited employees from saying anything negative online about the company or its employees.

The National Labor Relations Board found out about Souza’s plight and filed a complaint against the company. In February, AMR agreed to change its Internet policy, as part of a settlement that fundamentally changes the consequences of poor Facebook judgment….

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Barbara Boxer is taking the gloves off.

Hell. Yeah.

Today, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer called out the American Bar Association and asked the ABA to require law schools to provide accurate post-graduate employment and salary information about their former students. And so now the movement to get law schools to engage in some basic transparency about the value of a legal education just got some political muscle.

What a day.

And the ABA should heed this warning. Those who are ruined in part due to the misleading information spewed out by American law schools are generally a powerless bunch; the ABA can ignore their cries with impunity. But you ignore U.S. senators at your peril. If you want to turn a blind eye to the senior legislative chamber, you best be a President eager to engage in military action. Heck, with the political muscle of a U.S. senator behind it, maybe the mainstream press will start noticing that America’s future lawyers are lied to by legal educators on a daily basis.

You can read the full press release below (which has been blasted out to a number of publications). Law schools, the time for honoring yourselves is almost at an end….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

I have written this column from many places: my parents’ couch, my local Starbucks, my bed, etc. I have yet to try it from atop a soapbox, but here goes.

It is common knowledge that the need for pro bono services is increasing as funding for pro bono organizations is decreasing (or ceasing altogether). As explained by ABA President Stephen Zack, in a letter opposing cuts to funding for the Legal Services Corporation, “[f]inancially, many Americans are still hanging on by their fingernails. The worst thing that could happen is to lose the place people can turn to when their money woes create legal problems.”

Similarly, as explained by Esther Lardent, President of the Pro Bono Institute, in her address at the 2011 Annual Seminar and Forum on In-House Pro Bono, with regard to the impact of the economic downturn, “for pro bono . . . the worst is yet to come.” Lardent explains that the loss of funding to pro bono organizations has posed a “justice crisis,” and the need for legal assistance will increase.

So, as a result of the economy, more people need legal aid, but fewer legal aid organizations are able to meet those needs. Clearly if these people are to be served, private lawyers are going to need to take the laboring oar — and they have. According to Lardent, pro bono hours performed by major law firms increased in 2009 (2010 data is not yet available).

What about small law firms?

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

Diversity matters. It matters for reasons of social justice. It matters because folks are tracking it, and it can be important to look good on those scales. It matters for reasons of trial strategy, because our defense team should look at least slightly like our jurors. In particular types of cases, diversity may be a terribly important consideration. Employers may, for example, want an African-American to defend a race discrimination case. (Or, in my old product liability life, we may have wanted women to defend breast implant or hormone replacement therapy cases. Or we may have looked for female expert witnesses for those cases. Pandering, thy name is litigator!)

Law firms know this, and those that are able now stress their commitment to diversity. Which brings me to today’s story.

A female colleague and I recently had lunch with folks from a firm that was looking for our business. (You’d be surprised how good I’m getting at those lunches. Whether or not I remember your name the next day is another matter, but I’m becoming a pro at eating.)

The outside lawyers pitched the diversity point fairly aggressively, telling us about their many highly compensated female partners and paying particular attention to my colleague when they did so.

When we left the lunch, my colleague said, “Well, that’s exactly the wrong way to sell diversity.”

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After we announced our special event for law students, We Know What You Should Do This Summer, we heard from a number of our readers from outside New York. These law students, from D.C. and South Carolina and elsewhere, expressed apoplectic anger regret that they wouldn’t be able to attend our NYC event and benefit from the wisdom of our great panelists.

So we’ve decided to make a change. As a web publishing company, we’ve decided to take our event to the web. We’re turning this panel discussion into a webcast — or, more precisely, a series of webcasts — which we will post on Above the Law, accessible for free to all of our readers.

Here’s where we need your help. These webcasts will be providing career advice, with a focus on summer opportunities. To make the webcasts interactive with our readership, we’d like to address the issues that are most relevant to you, our readers. So if you have career questions or requests for advice that you’d like our experts to tackle, please submit them to us by email (subject line: “Event Question”). We will review them and pose selected queries to the panel.

Thanks to the readers who took the time to reach out to us about this; thanks to our sponsor, the Practical Law Company (read more about PLC here); and thanks in advance for your questions to the panel. We look forward to reading them, and to hearing what our panelists have to say.

(And thanks to everyone who originally registered for the in-person event; we’ll be issuing you refunds shortly.)

Yale Law School

We’ve talked about how there’s been a general decrease in law school applications. I’d like to interpret that as a sign that people are being more prudent about making the investment in legal education, but the decline could also be an indicator of more general economic recovery in America.

Hey, if fewer people are applying to the disreputable law schools out there, that’s a good thing. But if fewer people are applying to the best law schools, then dear God, what’s the point?

One of the biggest drops in applications we’ve heard about comes not from some unranked law school, but at Yale Law School. That’s like saying, “I’m going to diet by replacing all my salads with junk food and bacon.”

Why are people staying away from Yale?

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Although Howrey LLP officially dissolved as a partnership as of March 15, some operations continued beyond that date. But at the close of business today, the firm is going into a more complete shutdown, due to a withdrawal of bank financing.

“Last night, we received notice via email that Howrey is closing as of today, because CitiBank refuses to pay the payroll,” one source reported. “CitiBank has also refused to pay our PTO [paid time off], and our pension contributions.”

“Citibank has closed the door on Howrey operations today, more than a month before the May 9th date listed on WARN notices,” a second tipster confirmed. “No PTO, pensions will be paid out.”

UPDATE (6 PM): Citi takes issue with Howrey’s take on events. From a Citi spokesperson: “We are deeply disappointed in Howrey’s mischaracterization of the situation. Citi is not responsible for the employment practices of a client and has acted in a professional manner throughout this process.”

The full Howrey memo, after the jump.

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Firm shutting down today, after Citi pulls plug.

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