March 2011

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

All this perfection crap.

One reader wrote to me to complain. Surely, he said, there’s room in the world for a law firm that does work that’s “good enough for the occasion at a fair price.” Isn’t perfectionism the enemy of the reasonable bill?

That reader is undeniably correct.

Small matters, whether transactional or litigation, may not bear the freight of comprehensive factual or legal research. And lawyers who don’t recognize this — whether they work in-house or at firms — won’t last very long. For many matters, “good enough” is good enough.

But I’m not going to spend much time fretting about this, for three reasons.

First, there’s plenty of mediocrity in the world. Although it may engender outrage to type these words, the average lawyer is . . . well . . . average. You don’t have to search very far to find people who produce average work….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: In Praise Of Mediocrity!”

Time to put down the gavel and hang up the robe.

We recently covered the Third Circuit’s benchslap of Judge John Fullam, an 89-year-old judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In his opinion in United States v. Higdon, issuing a writ of mandamus and directing that the case mishandled by Judge Fullam be reassigned on remand, Chief Judge Theodore McKee had some harsh words for the aged jurist: “Neither this court, nor any other court, can tolerate a situation where a judge decides to follow his/her own custom and concepts of justice rather than the precedent of the applicable appellate court or the United States Supreme Court. Ours is a nation of laws, not judges.”

At the same time, Chief Judge McKee had some kind words for Judge Fullam, praising him as “a very experienced and hard working jurist [who] has devoted decades of service to the federal bench.” In the comments to our post, some readers interpreted the combination of statements — criticism for Judge Fullam’s mishandling of one case, but compliments for his “decades of service” — as the Third Circuit trying to nudge Judge Fullam into retirement.

Well, it seems to have worked — and it’s apparently the culmination of a long-running effort to get Judge Fullam off the bench….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: Judge Fullam, Benchslapped and Elderly, Is Stepping Down”

Lobsang Sangay could be the new leader of the Tibetan government in exile.

I’m not a hippie, but I have attended a Free Tibet rally (it was college, I was experimenting). I support a free Tibet, in that American way of admonishing China while in no way depriving myself of any Chinese products or consumer markets. My dog is a Tibetan breed (Lhasa Apso). I spent a not-insignificant amount of time trying to add a Tibetan motif to her playthings, until I realized I was engaged in the dumbest anthropomorphism of all time. I think it’s cool when the Dalai Lama makes cameo appearances, like in the movie 2012.

All of this is by way of saying that the ongoing Tibetan occupation and oppression seems bad but doesn’t really make the list of top ten unacceptable world situations that somehow are allowed to continue.

And if I may be so bold, I think some of that has to do with the Dalai Lama himself. He seems nice, thoughtful, and at peace. The very picture of a 20th-century saint. But maybe it’s time to turn up the volume? More rending of garments and fiery speeches?

The Dalai Lama wants to step down and relinquish his political leadership to focus on his spiritual mission. And right now the front-runner to replace him is currently a fellow at Harvard Law School.

Surely an HLS man will be more skilled at the bitching and moaning I’m looking for from 21st century exiles…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From The Dalai Lama To A Harvard Law Fellow? Free Tibet Movement Could Get Hardcore.”

* Conky the Robot says the word of the day at the Barry Bonds trial yesterday was…syringe. AAAAHHHH!!!!!! [ESPN]

* Robert George, a prominent Boston defense attorney, stands accused of money laundering. Forget prison for a second; what is he going to do with 40 subscriptions to Vibe? [Boston Globe]

* Lilo rejected a plea bargain in her jewel heist case yesterday. Bit of a tangent, but what do you think Lindsay smells like? I bet she smells like freckles. [ABA Journal]

* “Bingham, Touched for the very first time… by Madonna.” [Am Law Daily]

* Lloyd Blankfein testified in the Rajabba case and (you will not believe this) shook… Rajabba’s …hand. OMG. [Reuters]

* Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, prosecutor Ismael R. Ozanne is going to put the whole system on trial. [Bloomberg]

* The Supreme Court grappled with the question of whether poor people are entitled to legal representation in cases where they face jail time for failure to pay child support. On a related note, here is video of Shawn Kemp dunking on Alton Lister’s head. [New York Times]

* Dov Charney, world-renowned maker of leggings and sweatbands, once again stands accused of being a creep. [Los Angeles Times]

And now things get interesting. As we continue to run through the U.S. News 2012 law school rankings, we get to a crucial set of schools. The schools in this batch are certainly top tier, but they’re not “top 14″; for the most part, though, they charge like top 14 schools (especially the private ones).

So this is the batch of schools where we usually hear questions like: Should I go to this school at full price, or a much lower-ranked school for free? And our answer is usually, “How much lower-ranked are we talking about?”

The bottom line is that when people get into schools like Duke, or Penn, they are going to end up going to that school. But when people get into some of the schools on this list, they do seriously consider other options. Should I retake the LSAT, score better and apply again? How much financial aid am I getting? What’s the job market like in the [secondary market] this school is located in, just in case I get stuck there? Is it worth it to go into this much debt for a degree from that school?

These factors should come into play no matter which law school you get accepted to, but at this point on the U.S. News list, cost factors take on increased importance…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Open Thread: 2012 U.S. News Law School Rankings (16 – 30)”

* Were you skeptical of all the law schools reporting to U.S. News that the median private-sector starting salary for their graduates is $160,000? Forbes explains why your skepticism is warranted. [Forbes via Constitutional Daily]

* On a related note, if you want to be a millionaire, you should definitely go to college. Law school? Not so much. [CNNMoney.com]

* Ninth Circuit to LGBT community: no gay marriage for you — yet. Request to vacate stay DENIED. [Poliglot / Metro Weekly]

* Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio is suing his former defense lawyers, claiming that he was improperly charged for expenses like attorney underwear. If I had a client like Nacchio, I’d need new boxers too. [Bloomberg]

* Georgetown Law’s outgoing SBA president, William Broderick-Villa, is worried about GULC’s U.S. News ranking: “I do not like sharing the #14 spot with Texas one bit…. I’ve heard students tell me for awhile they fear that Texas will overtake us. And Texas is hungry.” [Georgetown Law Weekly (Google Cache)]

* An update on the partner who, when called out for blowing a deadline, threw his secretary and former associate under the bus (previously discussed here). SFL asks: “What happened to old-fashioned groveling?” [South Florida Lawyers]

* Congrats to my friend and law school classmate, Dan Stein, who has left the S.D.N.Y. U.S. Attorney’s Office (where he headed the public corruption unit) and joined Richards Kibbe & Orbe. [Richards Kibbe & Orbe]

Negrodamus sees a future where only people who actually want to be lawyers go to law school.

A reader sent in an encouraging list from the New York Times. Well, encouraging to me and others who want the demand for legal education to decrease to levels the legal economy can sustain.

According to this story, the Times asked 18 high school seniors in San Diego to predict their futures over the next ten years. None of them saw themselves as lawyers. They saw themselves as doctors and nurses and scientists, but not attorneys….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “In Five Years, Will the Endless March Of New Lawyers Finally Stop?”

Read the Asia Chronicles if you're interested in living and working in Hong Kong.

This week in sponsored content: an interesting look at the Hong Kong housing market, by Alexis Lamb of the Asia Chronicles. Finding a flat in HK these days poses quite the challenge.

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Small Firms, Big Lawyers, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

Seriously. Why? I don’t mean in a “because I couldn’t get a BigLaw job” way. I mean, “Why are you practicing law in a small firm?” And if you’re looking for work in a small firm, why? In fact, I really want to know why you’re a lawyer in the first place.

More importantly, your clients want to know. They might not realize it, and they probably will never ask you, but deep down, they want to know why. Why do they want to know? Because why you do what you do is what attracts clients; it’s what makes them want to work with you.

I can already hear you scoffing: “My clients work with me because I’m a good lawyer, or because they like me, or because they have a history with my firm, or because I’m so freakin’ good-looking.” Maybe so. Maybe that’s why they started working with you. But that’s not why they’ll stay with you. They’ll stay with you because of why you do what you do. So you need to figure out your why.

But how do you find your why? This guy can help you….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: Why Are You a Small-Firm Lawyer?”

Greco is a menace to his clients and a scofflaw with respect to appellate procedure. The district court may wish to consider whether he should remain a member of its bar. Would-be clients should consider how Greco has treated [his clients] Lee, Washington, and Moore.

– Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit, benchslapping attorney Michael J. Greco in Lee v. Cook County.

(Additional gems from the opinion — this is just the tip of the iceberg — appear after the jump.)

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Quote(s) of the Day: Oh, professionalism is overrated.
(Or: Mess with the Easterbrook, you get the horns.)

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