Elie Mystal

Elie Mystal joined ATL in 2008 by winning the ATL Idol Contest. Prior to joining ATL, Elie wrote about politics and popular culture at City Hall News and the New York Press. Elie received a degree in Government from Harvard University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He was formerly a litigator at Debevoise & Plimpton but quit the legal profession to pursue a career as an online provocateur. He's written editorials for the New York Daily News and the New York Times, and he has appeared on both MSNBC and Fox News without having to lie about his politics to either news organization.

Posts by Elie Mystal

Does your school offer Law and Finger Painting? I bet they would if you asked.

Don’t look now, but spring is right around the corner. Spring semester, that is. For 3Ls around the country, just a few classes stand between them and graduation into one of the worst legal job markets.

Ever since President Obama suggested that the third year of law school could be cut, we’ve heard a lot of law professors talk about how essential the third year of law school is. You can take clinics! You can become “practice ready”!

Sure, you can do those things. But it’s unlikely that you are going to take any course in your last semester of school that will help you get a job when you graduate. Why would you do that? You can be unemployed just as easily taking small, low-stress classes that won’t screw up your GPA on your way out of the door.

Every school has its own selection of ridiculous upper-class electives, but I’d like to focus on how the big boys do it. The Ivy League law schools have been setting the standard for legal education for generations. Their students (for the most part) have jobs waiting for them on the other side of graduation. I’ve put together a full course schedule for an Ivy-educated 3L. Please feel free to send this to any professor who thinks that the third year is too important to lose…

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The kind of person who makes the rules about lawyer advertising through text messages.

When I find myself pontificating on lawyer propriety, you know things are bad. But a new ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court leaves me with no choice. Ohio has decided that it’s okay for lawyers to text message accident victims to advertise their services.

Can you imagine sitting in a hospital, recovering from injuries, and then getting a text message from an unknown number: “R U OK? I can get U $$$. I sue ppl 4 U!”

We live in a world where the Ohio Supreme Court said that such solicitations are “helpful.” In other news, we live in a world where old judges who don’t know what the f**k they’re talking about get to make the rules about technology they don’t understand….

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So, here’s a statement: “It is not a crime in Canada to sell sex for money.” Guess who said it? Well, that would be Beverley McLachlin, the current Chief Justice of Canada.

Well, you know what they say: you don’t pay a prostitute for sex, you pay her to leave afterwards.

Joking aside, Justice McLachlin struck down a swath of Canadian anti-prostitution laws, and gave the government a year to come up with more tailored restrictions. “Parliament has the power to regulate against nuisances, but not at the cost of the health, safety and lives of prostitutes.”

Are you kidding me? We’re over here arguing over whether inbred, homophobic nutjobs can say they’re inbred, homophobic nutjobs, while Canada is busy de-criminalizing prostitution? The best argument in favor of global warming is that it might make Canada warm enough to be inhabited sometime in the future.

Some women’s groups have a problem with this decision, for reasons honestly passing understanding…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Umm… Did Anybody Notice That Prostitution Is Like ‘Not Illegal’ And Stuff In Canada?”

This punishment is more harsh than anything the ABA will do to a law school.

Jokes about basketball aside, the ABA’s decision to censure and fine the University of Kansas School of Law is bewildering. I mean, I get why the ABA would want to punish Kansas; the school did something that is kind of obviously wrong. But what’s confusing is that KU’s infraction is just a different form of what law schools do every day.

Why is the ABA singling out Kansas Law as opposed to 50 or 100 other schools? Well, as clear as I can tell, it’s because KU didn’t ask permission before it bamboozled foreign students.

Of course, luckily for Kansas, the penalties from the ABA are so toothless that KU will probably barely notice the hypocrisy….

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* Kansas Law School has been fined and censured by the ABA for recruiting violations surrounding Andrew Wiggins. Wait, no, I got that wrong. KU Law started an LL.M. program without asking, which I’m sure they did only because Wiggins is from Canada. [Topeka Capital-Journal]

* The proposed merger between Patton Boggs and Locke Lord has been called off. Fingers crossed that Bendini Lambert is the next target for Locke Lord. [Am Law Daily]

* Mayor Bloomberg swears at his last set of judges. I mean swears “in.” Man, who gets up this early? [NYC.gov]

* President Obama commutes the sentences of eight inmates convicted of crack-cocaine offenses. [New York Times]

* New Mexico is Breaking Gay. [Bloomberg]

* Did EA know Battlefield 4 would kind of suck before they released it? [Techspot]

* So evidently R. Kelly isn’t “trapped” in the closet, so much as he’s hiding there waiting for your daughter to come home. [The Root]

* Here’s your homework for today: everybody has to go find a dispirited Duck Dynasty fan and patiently explain to him or her the difference between a government infringement on free speech and a network momentarily suspending a bigot. You’re not allowed to punch the fans, you can only use words, and if necessary, hand gestures. [Huffington Post]

* An inside look at the jury deliberations in the recent insider trading trial of Michael Steinberg of SAC Capital. [New York Times]

Earlier this week, we mentioned the ridiculous argument from a University of Tennessee law professor, Lucy Jewel, that law degrees confer non-economic benefits like “cultural cachet,” which make a law degree valuable to people who risk financial ruin to get it.

Professor Jewel writes: “Every graduation, when I see the beaming smiles from my students’ family members, I do not think about the fact that they are getting a degree from a so-called fourth-tier toilet law school; I see people who have achieved a dream (albeit at great financial expense) and obtained a credential that signifies membership in a powerful profession.”

Guys… I just can’t. I can’t keep beating back every stupid argument that any law professor can come up with to defend the systemic price-gouging of American law students. I am just one man and they are many. I have never in my life confronted a group of educated people so eager to justify the precise manner in which they economically take advantage of students — kids, really — too stupid to know any better. At this point, if a law professor took candy from a baby she’d say she did it to help the kid save on dental bills.

You want talk about the non-economic benefits of going to law school? FINE! Let’s talk about the social and cultural “cachet” you’ll get, and see if it’s worth all the CASH you won’t ever be seeing again…

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In response to the declining number of J.D. applicants, law schools are getting creative. The ABA is getting creative. Law schools are desperate to come up with “innovative” offers to entice prospective applicants and encourage them take the plunge into an expensive education with uncertain job prospects.

Well, except for price. Nobody wants to “innovate” on price. Nobody wants to come up with creative or radical approaches to significantly cut the cost of legal education to bring it in line with the actual salary prospects of new graduates. They’ll come up with ridiculous curriculum overhauls to try to make the useless third year seem like something worth paying for, but they won’t lop a year off of the tuition people are expected to pay. If anything, law schools are more likely to try to tack a year onto the J.D. experience, at full price, instead of getting serious about debt reduction.

Today, we’ve got a school that will be offering a “hybrid-online” J.D. It’s the first time ever the ABA has granted a variance (an accreditation exception to a non-traditional program) to a school that allows it to teach half of the credit hours online. In the stodgy world of legal education, “online” sounds new and exciting and reformed-minded.

But when it comes to price: somebody get Admiral Ackbar on the holo because… IT’S A TRAP.

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Roommate disputes with normal people are distressing. There are fights and recriminations, there are passive-aggressive maneuvers, there are stolen Cheerios and girlfriends.

Roommate disputes with lawyer people can include all of the above, but they almost always include dense, pedantic arguing. It’s like how in the wild, all the little cubs will play-fight each other to prepare for adulthood, only much, much less cool. It’s very annoying, not just because you have to fight about everything (“Sunday is your day to take out that trash”), but also because law students will drop legal-sounding terms into their arguments (“Yes, but pursuant to our agreement, my duty only vests if you have executed trash removal on Saturday night, which you did not, in the instant case.”). You think I’m joking, but live with other law students for a couple of months and tell me how long it takes before you attempt to murder them.

God forbid multiple law roommates end up disputing the correct interpretation or application of a lease agreement. Honestly, I’d rather wrestle for food with a bear than fight with a bunch of law roomies over something in the lease. Don’t believe me? Check out this seven-page email thread about the legal and metaphysical consequences of taking care of a friend’s rabbit….

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There’s an email going around from Thomas Guernsey, the new dean of Thomas Jefferson School of Law. In a letter to the alumni, Guernsey admits that some of the school’s policies have been unhelpful to current and former students. It then lists various reforms that the school is looking at.

But let’s not start licking TJSL’s popsicle just yet. Guernsey’s reforms do not address Thomas Jefferson’s fundamental price problem. The school costs way too much for the meager job prospects it provides. And it’s possible that Guernsey just doesn’t understand that or, more likely, simply isn’t willing to admit that. He says, “I do not know how Thomas Jefferson became the whipping boy for critics of legal education.”

I don’t know if that is supposed to mean “Thomas Jefferson is clearly a great school undeserving of all this hate,” which would be demonstrably false. Or if he simply means “Thomas Jefferson is no worse than 50 or so other ‘accredited’ ABA schools in the way it uses the misplaced hope of its students to turn a quick profit,” which is also probably false, but less obviously so.

Still, this is about as much honesty as we can expect from a person in Guernsey’s position. Anything more and he would have had to end with, “And so we’re shutting down, sorry about all that stuff we did.”

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Some guy on Twitter was complaining that Above the Law focuses too much on the negative side of going to law school. Apparently this person mistakes us for a law school admissions office — people who ignore facts when they don’t fit their happy-clappy narrative. We do bring you some law school success stories when we hear of good ones. Do you know why those stories are “news”? Because law schools are so effective at leading people down a path of career frustration and financial ruin that when somebody beats the odds, it’s mildly noteworthy.

Law school is a good investment for some, and a terrible one for many. We say that all the time. The problem is that law schools do not give people enough information to assess whether or not they should go. The problem is that some law schools actively mislead people who are trying to make a sound decision. The problem is that even when law school “works out,” the tuition charged often vastly outstrips the value of the degree.

Sure, some people will succeed despite the high cost, misleading information, and weak job market. Law schools want you to think that those successful people are the norm, but really they are the outliers. (And, given the events of today, I guess I have to say that the folks who contemplate suicide are also outliers.)

This guy who recently bared his underachieving soul to Business Insider is the norm. This guy making $45,000 while carrying $200,000 of law school debt has the kind of life law students should prepare themselves for, regardless of what the admissions brochures and the guy on Twitter who made everything work out will tell you….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Lack of Law School Transparency Claims Another Victim”

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