May 2011

There are very few people that change your life. Dick Ebersol changed mine. He brought me to NBC a few weeks after I was cut by the Bengals. He saved me from a life of torts.

Cris Collinsworth — an NFL analyst for NBC, who went to law school in preparation for a post-NFL career — speaking about Dick Ebersol, who recently resigned as chairman of NBC Sports.

I’m telling you, the tide is turning against the American Bar Association and the weakness the organization shows when it comes to regulating law schools. People are starting to figure out that major American law schools purposely mislead prospective students about post-graduate outcomes. People are starting to figure out that the ABA hasn’t done enough to stop this practice. And people are starting to try to hold the ABA accountable for its failure to hold law schools accountable.

It’s not just former and current law students who are demanding changes. Right now the ABA is dealing with a U.S. senator who wants action from the organization.

That’s right, Senator Barbara Boxer is once again urging the ABA to do its job….

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I’m a huge Red Sox fan. (That noise you just heard were all the Yankees fans skipping ahead to the comment section. Don’t wait, guys. I’ll be right there.) This season began with the highest expectations, after the Sox won the offseason by acquiring superstars Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford and by rebuilding their bullpen. Experts and fans alike were predicting a 100-win season (their first since 1946) and a nonstop flight to the World Series. Instead, the team got off to a horrific start, going 0–6 and 2–10. Since then, they’ve begun to turn it around, finally reaching .500 on May 15. Now they’re just half a game out of first place in the tight AL East.

Part of the reason for this turnaround has been excellent pitching. Jon Lester, the young lefthanded cancer survivor, sits atop the American League leaderboard with a 6–1 record; no AL pitcher has more wins. Josh Beckett, the veteran star rebounding off a couple down years, is 3–1.

Now just looking at wins, you’d think that Lester is outperforming Beckett. But you’d be wrong, because win totals tell you very little about how a pitcher is performing. Just as looking at hours-billed totals tell you very little about how a small-firm lawyer is performing.

Better ways to measure performance (for pitchers and lawyers), after the jump.…

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I get that the legal profession has a drinking problem, if you will, but today we have an example of how a law school should not go about keeping young, would-be lawyers off the bottle.

Imagine you are a 1L. You just finished your first set of finals of your first year of law school, and so you decide to party a little bit. So you knock back a few beers on campus before heading out to whatever bar you are going to. It’s a time to celebrate, it’s a time to let your hair down. Maybe you get a little bit more drunk than you intended, maybe you have a beer (gasp) outside, but whatever — finals are done!

Did I say anything “unacceptable” above?

If you think that there’s no harm in the foregoing scenario, then boy do I have a law school for you to avoid. Apparently the administration at one law school was so freaked out by drinking on campus after first semester finals that the assistant dean of students felt compelled to send around an entire email reminding students of the school’s alcohol policy (reprinted in full below). We’re just getting this email now — it appears students wanted to be away for the summer before slamming their administration — but its existence is still shocking.

Somebody should ask Franklin Roosevelt if it makes sense to have draconian anti-alcohol policies during a recessionary environment…

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Justice Kennedy says: 'Open Sesame.'

It’s late May, so we’re entering the home stretch of the Supreme Court Term. Over the next few weeks, the Court will be handing down opinions in the most contentious, closely divided cases.

One such opinion came down today: Brown v. Plata (formerly Schwarzenegger v. Plata). In this high-profile case, a three-judge district court issued an order that directed the State of California to reduce its prison population — e.g., by releasing prisoners (as many as 46,000, at the time of the order) — in order to address problems with overcrowding and poor health care for inmates.

When SCOTUS granted cert, I thought that it did so in order to summarily reverse. Federal judges running penal institutions, ordering tens of thousands of convicted criminals to be let out onto the streets? The district court’s order reeked of the kind of Ninth Circuit liberal activism that doesn’t sit well with the Roberts Court. (Note that one of the members of the three-judge panel was the notoriously left-wing Judge Stephen Reinhardt.)

Well, I was wrong. The Court just affirmed, 5-4, in an opinion by (who else?) Justice Anthony Kennedy.

There were two dissents, by Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito. Justice Scalia’s opinion in particular contains some stinging (but ultimately ineffectual) benchslaps….

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Well, there’s really nothing else to talk about this morning. Jezebel reports that a defense attorney has written a motion objecting to the people seated at the plaintiff’s table. Well, one person in particular — a “large breasted woman” who is seated next to plaintiff’s counsel.

Is there a law against having large-breasted women hang out with you? Of course not; this is America!

But since this motion is one of the most sexist things you are likely to come across, let’s give it a closer look…

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Several readers have sent e-mails asking for advice on how to deliver bad news to clients.

Here’s proof that, if ye shall ask, ye may receive.

Think first about the “bad news” that you’re delivering. You’re not a physician, so you’re not looking a person in the eye and explaining that he or she has just six months to live. That’s really bad news, and that’s hard to deliver. Your job is easy.

Even in the universe of bad news delivered by lawyers, if you’re working with a corporate client, you’re probably getting off easy. You’re not reporting to the client that “the Supreme Court just rejected the application for a stay of your execution” or “the appellate court just affirmed the conviction, so you’ll be doing the time.” The bad news that civil litigators are delivering to corporate clients just isn’t that significant. So calm down.

I’m also ruling out other bad news that folks deliver to, or receive from, in-house counsel. I’m not thinking about telling employees that they’ve been laid off or fired or delivering unhappy performance reviews. I’m not thinking about how you deliver bad news to your own law firm or to a court. And I’m ruling out situations where the bad news results from your own error, rather than an adverse decision by a court. (It’s much harder to tell a client, for example, “I blew the statute of limitations, and your claim is now time-barred,” than it is to tell a client, say, “The court denied our motion for summary judgment.”) So maybe I’m cheating here, by limiting the discussion, but the optimal way to deliver bad news will vary with the situation.

So what’s the best way to deliver news of an adverse judicial decision to a corporate client?

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* Indiana’s ban on Planned Parenthood funding means a change in providers, not in services, for women on Medicaid. The only problem is that the new provider is a coat hanger. [New York Times]

* Utah’s new law against being sexy is being fought by an attorney who looks like he just wants to keep those damn hookers off his lawn. [Washington Post]

* You’d think that with a giant clock around his neck, Flavor FLAAAAAAAV would know that it’s time to help a brother out on his fried chicken restaurant debt. [Businessweek]

* Would you want a woman referred to as a “square tit Grinch” stripping at your club? Apparently Scores does, and they’re willing to sue over it. [New York Daily News]

* Jersey Shore’s latest lawsuit is The Situation v. The Confrontation. The courts might want to think about consolidating these ridiculous lawsuits to In re The Retardation. [National Ledger]

* The release of The Hangover: Part II may be delayed thanks to a copyright infringement claim. When reached for comment, Mike Tyson said: “I want your heart! I want to eat your children!” [Daily Mail]

* With his cast of drug-addled celebrity clientele, Martin Singer could start a new realty television show. We’ll call it Suing with the Stars. Celebrity Rehab is already taken. [New York Times]

Johnathan Perkins

Today is Commencement at UVA Law School. Congratulations to all of the UVA students who will soon become UVA alumni. You’ve worked hard for your law degrees, and you deserve commendation.

(Hopefully you have jobs lined up. Or at least other talents that can help you make a living — and pay back your student loans.)

Is Johnathan Perkins, the 3L who famously (or infamously) admitted making up a story about how he was racially profiled and harassed by university police, going to receive a J.D. degree from UVA Law — today, or in the future?

Let’s discuss. We have some evidence….

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Judge Rae Lee Chabot

Society has a deal with judges. We don’t pay them very well — but, in exchange for salaries that are much lower than what they could earn in the private sector, they get to do whatever they heck they want. And get to be addressed as “Your Honor,” and wear really cool black robes.

One of the perks of judicial office is that it isn’t a nine-to-five job. Judges don’t have to punch a time clock; they come and go as they please. Court isn’t court until the judge takes the bench.

As long as a judge is reasonably current with his docket, he should be left alone. There is no face-time requirement for judges. (Sure, judges have to be on the bench for trials and oral arguments and such — but that’s not “face-time,” since the judge’s presence is actually necessary for the proceedings.)

In light of all this, I’m puzzled by the controversy over Judge Rae Lee Chabot. Judge Chabot has served on the Oakland County Circuit Court in Michigan for over 10 years.

Sure, the allegations about how she spends her days are amusing — and we’ll name her our Judge of the Day, just for the heck of it. But is there really a problem here?

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