July 2014

Oh, I remember the first time somebody threatened to throw me in jail because I didn’t pay a debt. I was young and stupid, but not ignorant and fearful. I said, “Debtor’s prisons were outlawed!” (I didn’t know that from law school, I knew that from AP History.) The debt collector stammered and said, “Well, we can still get you in trouble.” Since I was already “in trouble” what with $150,000 in principal outstanding, I instructed the collector to contact me via mail and hung up.

Debt collectors are like bullies: punch them in the mouth, and well, they don’t “go away,” but they stop getting all up in your face.

Eventually, a summons came in the mail, and I responded, and yada yada, I’m still not in jail. The key is that “I responded.” I’ve made a lot of mistakes with my debts over the years, but I haven’t made a lot of mistakes with “courts.” See, courts matter. Debt collectors with hard-ons do not.

Keep that in mind as your read this story about a cancer survivor who got thrown in jail after failing to pay a medical debt that she didn’t even actually owe….

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Thus far, the story of Dewey & LeBoeuf has been told primarily from the perspective of lawyers. On the whole, the coverage has been quite partner-focused, centered on which partners are defecting to which rival law firms. There has been some discussion, but not a huge amount, of the plight of associates.

There has been even less discussion of the support staff. But if Dewey goes under, staffers will also lose their jobs. And in this day and age of law firms slashing staff, secretaries and paralegals may have a harder time finding new positions than attorneys.

Here is one paralegal’s perspective on what’s going on at D&L….

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Jennifer Hudson

* Low prices. Every day. On everything. Except bribes. The NYT handed the feds an FCPA case against Wal-Mart on a platter, but the discount superstore might soon have a SOX problem to worry about. [Reuters]

* The John Edwards campaign finance trial is already off to a dramatic start. It seems that the prosecution’s key witness is just as shady as the former presidential candidate is alleged to be. [Boston Herald]

* Career services offices might not know how to find law students jobs at small law firms, but luckily, it seems like they’re finding them just fine on their own. At least in New York. [New York Law Journal]

* An “abuse of process”? Looks like it’s time to #OccupyTwitter. A New York judge has approved a subpoena for tweets belonging to an Occupy Wall Street protester. [Bloomberg]

* And I am telling you, I’m not going — to help your case. Yesterday, Jennifer Hudson testified at the trial of the man accused of killing her relatives. Wonder if she took some tips from her fiancé, David Otunga. [CNN]

* “I decided to become a kidney donor to my boss, and she took my heart.” A lesson in why you should reconsider donating organs to your boss: you might get fired before the wound heals. [New York Post]

Here at Above the Law, we frequently sound gloomy notes about going to law school. In the past week or so, for example, we’ve written about one recent law school grad on food stamps and another one with almost no employed classmates. We’ve discussed the bleak market for legal jobs and the crushing burden of student loan debt.

As I’ve said before, our criticism of law school does not spring from malice. Rather, we want people to make an informed decision about whether to invest three (or more) years of time, and $100,000 (or more) in money, in pursuit of a law degree.

In today’s post, we’d like to talk about the other side of the coin: law school success stories. Let’s hear from people who went to law school and have no regrets — or even view going to law school as the best decision they ever made. Perhaps you might be one of them?

We’ll prime the pump with a few law school success stories, to get the conversation going….

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* Employees from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office boxed each other for charity this weekend. Not to be outdone, employees in the Bronx District Attorney’s office beat up charity workers for money this weekend. [Wall Street Journal]

* And today’s dumbest criminal on Earth award goes to the guy who tried to sell pot to his probation officer. [New York Daily News]

* Don’t you dare make me defend John Edwards just because I believe the law shouldn’t be up in people’s bedrooms. Our obsession with the private lives of our public leaders is wrong, but Edwards is like a dirty whore with his own reality series. [Slate]

* Christ, I know you can’t hear me, but I only did what you wanted me to. [BBC]

* Oh, we make fun of the young and the skill-less, but to a law school dean, their funeral baked meats do coldly furnish forth the marriage tables. [Gawker]

* Sports agent super fight. [Sports Agent Blog]

* Actually, the “Noble” Peace Prize sounds like exactly the kind of prize I’d get. There’d be no money or prestige attached to it, and instead of Stockholm, I’d have to show up in Swindon, and somebody would pat me on the shoulder and say, “Good show old chap.” [Law and More]

* If more lawyers wrote like poets, more judges would act like asshole literary critics who miss the sense of the thing for a pedantic review of the underlying language. Oh wait… [What About Clients via Blawg Review]

* Don’t forget to vote in or Law Revue Contest. Voting closes at midnight tonight and as of this writing, 25 votes separate the excellent entries from Columbia and George Washington. [Above the Law]

Once you pay for a house, a car and child care, it’s not that much money. You feel like regular middle-class people.

Stefan Baugh, a former Katten Muchin Rosenman partner, who quit his job to start a private equity firm and make more money.

(Baugh gives more explanation of his #firstworldproblems, after the jump…)

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Well, I’m back in New York. It’s cold, it’s rainy, there’s no barbecue, and I’ve been sober for hours. Austin, I miss you already.

But I wasn’t in Austin to have tremendous fun, good food, and become introduced to this new concept of “closing” that doesn’t really exist in NYC. There was a conference to attend, and I’m here to report on how to get a job at a small law firm.

Because chances are, the career counselors at your law school aren’t really going to be able to help you.

At NALP 2012, I attended a panel called: “Raising Your School’s Profile in the Land of Opportunity: The Smaller Firm Market.” I figured the room would be overflowing, considering smaller firms are the only firms where hiring is on the rise. But the panel was just regularly attended, not “holy God, missing this would be a dereliction of my duty” attended (only panels with the words “social media” in the name needed overflow seating). The presenters were knowledgeable, and the attendees were eager to learn, but it seems that way too many schools are still stuck in a Biglaw or bust model that isn’t responding to the new hiring realities for most students….

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It is the dream of many a young attorney to appear in front of the Supreme Court of the United States and argue the most important legal cases of the day.

To achieve career success like that of, say, Carter Phillips, who has argued dozens of cases in front of the nine, is a lofty aspiration, to say the least.

But there are other ways of appearing in front of a Supreme Court justice that might leave you with the bitter taste of bile in your mouth. At least one law student knows what we mean by that, quite literally….

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Last week, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this photo:

Let’s have a look at what our readers came up with, and then vote on the finalists….

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This week, I was introduced to an IP lawyer. Yawn. Another IP lawyer churning out trademark and copyright applications. Meeting one of them these days is no different than going to a lawyer cocktail hour and meeting yet another “commercial litigator.” (Translated: “I do general irrelevant crap. Where’s the guy with those little spinach things?”)

But I quickly saw in his email that this wasn’t just another IP lawyer:

“My area of practice is intellectual property, but with a twist: I represent technology companies in transactions involving the licensure, commercial exploitation and/or research & development of technologies — that is about 50% of my practice. The other 50% is representing digital marketing agencies, digital production companies, and related businesses in all of their IP and corporate needs. I handle a great deal of work in the area of data privacy rules & regulations, compliance with FTC rules for digital advertising, and matters involving outsourced technology transactions.”

Interesting. Next step is meeting this guy face to face, mainly so I can understand what that email just said. I realize he doesn’t want referrals from every guy in his garage with the next great invention, but although I think I know, I want to learn how and from where he gets his referrals, and how he built his practice.

There’s been a lot written about niche practices. A lot of it has been written by non-practicing lawyers, or those with a niche that they’ve had for five minutes. Although today’s kids would rather hear from those idiots than someone who’s been doing it themselves for a while, I’ll do what I do every week, and offer some advice that may make you less miserable, and cause you to think differently about your practice….

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