July 2014

The crash of the cruise ship Costa Concordia January 13 was a real tragedy. More than a dozen people died, and more are still missing. The overturned ship is still languishing off the Mediterranean coast, like a set from an old disaster movie.

For most people, a tragedy like this might lead to feelings of empathy or shock. For many lawyers, on the other hand, the crash might conjure thought-bubbles full of dollar signs and random vocal outbursts, a la “I’m the king of the world!”

But one New York personal injury lawyer involved in helping real crash victims has become a hero of sorts for turning in a trio of Hungarian scammers allegedly hoping to cash in on the crash.

This guy is awesome. When people hate on attorneys, everyone should remember his name as a defense of the profession. So what exactly did our protagonist do to make him today’s Lawyer of the Day?

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Stephen McDaniel cleans up nicely for court.

Stephen M. McDaniel, the Mercer Law School graduate accused of killing classmate Lauren Giddings, made an appearance in court this morning. As you may recall, Giddings’s decapitated torso was found on June 30 in Macon, Georgia, and thus far, police have been unable to recover the rest of her body.

Last month, we mentioned that Bibb County prosecutors intended to seek the death penalty for McDaniel. Today, in court, the alleged murderer received formal notification of his fate if he is found guilty of the charges levied against him.

McDaniel’s arraignment hearing has been set for February 7, but his lawyers raised some interesting issues today. What sort of motions will they be filing on their client’s behalf?

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This column will be published the day our year-end numbers are made public. Word on the street (and the Street) is that we should beat expectations. If true, that would be a very good thing. This isn’t inside information; it’s been opined and published in several national media outlets, and in any event, I am not on the side of the house that has access to that information. I get the comuniques at the same time as everyone else. Luckily, I’ve been here in times of growth. That said, I have colleagues across town experiencing a very different situation.

The downfall of Eastman Kodak can be attributed to many things, and the failure to exploit its own invention of digital photography is chief among them. However, this isn’t a piece pointing the finger of vision opacity just at Kodak. The statement above this column is attributed to Steve Jobs after he viewed a mock-up graphic user interface (“GUI”) invented in Rochester, New York. The company that invented the prototype failed to capitalize on the invention, and the story goes that Jobs stole/borrowed/utilized the idea. We all know where that led. That same company also invented the computer mouse, and again didn’t capitalize on the invention. Stories like these are legend in the field of technological advancement.

What is it that causes companies, which are often on the cutting edge of technology, to miss opportunities that, in hindsight, seem so obvious?

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Slave trading fort, or law firm recruitment fair?

Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg is one of the most respected law firms in Canada. It’s consistently ranked highly on the Chambers list, and the firm has a low partner-to-associate ratio.

Obviously, if you are going to be a top “Biglaw” firm, even in Canada, a lot of your employees are gong to work hard. Very hard. Sled-dog pulling an “adventurer” around the tundra hard.

Apparently on law school campuses in Canada, people who work at Davies are called “Slavies” because of how hard they work. That’s cute.

So the advertising people at Davies decided to have a little fun with the moniker. Now some people are calling the ad insensitive to, I don’t know, slaves I guess? Canada is weird…

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In a few weeks, we’ll start hearing from prospective law students — i.e., 0Ls — who are already reading Above the Law (smart kids!), and who consult us for advice when choosing between law schools (not such smart kids). Last year, for example, we advised students choosing between such fine law schools as Illinois, Vanderbilt, Michigan, Northwestern, Columbia, Chicago, NYU, and Minnesota (with help from you, our readers; we hosted several reader polls pitting the schools against one another).

When I was a college senior choosing between law schools, I did not employ a very sophisticated approach. I simply picked the law school I got into that was highest in the U.S. News law school rankings.

Even though I have no regrets about my law school pick, my decisionmaking process wasn’t very sound. There are real differences between law schools, in terms of their educational programming, their cost to the student, their location (hai Stanford!), and a whole host of other factors.

Today’s story provides an illustration of the phenomenon. Right now, students at one top law school are in a “near riot” — our tipster’s words, not ours — because they feel they’re being denied the education they’re paying so dearly for….

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A game that nobody wants to play.

Even though serving on a jury is considered an important civic duty, people in this country seem to loathe the mere idea of being forced to do it. After all, because of jury duty, people have to miss work — hell, some people even get fired because of it.

And even though jury duty is something that is required by law, instead of just doing it, people would rather make jokes about others being too dumb to get out of it.

One judge in Indiana is well aware of that fact, and he’s on a mission to get people to serve willingly, lest they be forced to face some embarrassing consequences….

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Proposed new law school at Indiana Tech. Not shown, the solitary confinment chamber for students who call professors obtuse.

Honestly, how many law schools does Indiana need? Two? Five? 317? I just want to know. I just want somebody — Peyton Manning, Mitch Daniels — to tell me how many freaking law schools are required in the great state of Indiana before its legal needs are met.

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, Indiana Tech is moving ahead with plans to open a new law school. Why? Because it can. The school allegedly did a feasibility study that found Indiana was “underserved” by lawyers. No intelligent person can believe it. Asking a university that wants to open a law school whether there is a need for a new law school is like asking a fat person if there is a need for more pie. Indy Tech will be the fifth law school in Indiana and the seventh within a three-hour drive of Fort Wayne. If Fort Wayne needs more access to legal education than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway needs more access to fast cars.

Oh, but Indy Tech has an ingenious way of getting use out of its soon-to-be unemployed law students. Slave legal labor for everybody at Indy Tech…

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SLU Law's Raven Akram

* Time for a Biglaw battle: William Baer of Arnold & Porter is the front runner to take over the DOJ’s antitrust division, but could he lose the spot to one of O’Melveny’s finest, Richard Parker? [Blog of Legal Times]

* It’s about time people remembered there’s no such thing as privacy anymore, but in case you forgot, Google is here to remind you. Say hello to the company’s latest plan for internet domination. [Washington Post]

* Welcome to New Jersey, a lovely place where Governor Chris Christie thinks that gay people are qualified to be state supreme court justices, but completely unqualified for marriage. [Businessweek]

* Indiana Tech is breaking ground on the law school nobody wants, and St. Louis University is moving the law school everyone hopes will attract more NFL cheerleaders. [National Law Journal; St. Louis Business Journal]

* Pamela Anderson has settled a lawsuit over her alleged failure to promote the sale of condominiums. Because people would totally buy a condo after a pair of boobs told them to do it. [Winnipeg Free Press]

* Two men from West Virginia claim that they were sexually assaulted by Andy Dick in a nightclub. The long and short of this lawsuit: Andy Dick has been accused of allegedly acting like Andy Dick. [Toronto Sun]

SCOTUS in the house at SOTU.

President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address this evening, and it was even less exciting than last year (which was less exciting than the year before, when the famous Obama v. Alito showdown over Citizens United took place). Tonight was light on drama — one of the most compelling moments came early on, with the arrival in the chamber of retiring Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — and President Obama’s speech was light on new ideas. Considering that we’re in an election year, with no major legislation likely to pass anytime soon, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Your Above the Law editors covered the speech via Twitter. See @ATLblog, @DavidLat, @ElieNYC, and @StaciZaretsky.

Here’s an open thread for discussion of the address. We’ll get the party started with a few legally oriented highlights, after the jump.

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* Everybody is having a pants party today over these five careers U.S. News thinks you can do with a law degree. But here’s the thing, for every one J.D. holder who fills one of these positions despite their law degree, I can name ten people who have the same job and DIDN’T have to waste three years of their lives and more than $100,000 to get the opportunity. Christ on an opportunity Cross, if I had gone to journalism school instead of law school maybe I’d still have this job and be able to use a comma. [WSJ Law Blog]

* If you don’t have a gavel, you can’t be a judge. No really. Not in Utah. I guess they need visual cues out there. [Salt Lake Tribune]

* Underwear gnomes, funny. Underwear Asians, significantly more disturbing. [Montgomery Media]

* I can’t even keep American kids from pursuing law degrees, there is no way I’m stopping foreign students. [Bar and Bench]

* If you are following us on Twitter during tonight’s stump speech State of the Union, here’s a fun drinking game. [Constitutional Daily]

* Judge Wesley Brown (D. Kansas), the longest-serving federal judge in history, just passed away (at the age of 104) — R.I.P. [Wichita Eagle]

Apparently you guys really like seeing “funny” videos about law students even after I’ve subtlety warned you to manage your expectations. Here’s what I was email bombed with today. Can tomorrow please be the day where we get flooded with naked women or something?

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