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

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Kansas Law Censure: ABA Fines School For Trying To Make Money Without Asking Nicely First”

* 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…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “10 Non-Economic Benefits Of Having A Law Degree”

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.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law School To Offer ‘Hybrid’ Online J.D., But The Tuition Will Be Traditional As All Get Out”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “When Living With Law Students Goes Real Wrong”

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.”

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Thomas Jefferson Law School Almost Accepts Responsibility… Almost”

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”

It’s only funny if it’s NOT true.

I really hope this Craigslist post can be filed under “ridiculous hyperbole” as opposed to “true story.”

A person has placed an ad on the Los Angeles Craigslist board with the subject line: “I will literally kill myself if I don’t have a job by New Year’s.” The lawyer then goes on to explain his professional experience and to express his willingness to do anything that carries with it a salary or hourly wage.

I’m not at all sure that threatening extreme action is the best way to secure a position as a trusted advisor capable of exercising discretion under pressure. And I think that history has shown that things like hunger strikes are more effective at engendering sympathy than straight-up threats of self-martyrdom.

But it is a tough market out there, and I suppose this is one way to get at least a few employers to give you a second look….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer Threatens Suicide If No Job Is Secured By New Year’s”

I always tell law students to do as much research as possible before applying to law school, but this might be taking it too far.

A law student joined the school’s new student Facebook page and started going to all the usual 1L social events. The problem is that the law student wasn’t a law student at all. A TA figured out that the student was an imposter and now he’s disappeared.

What kind of person is so hard up for social contact that he’s got to willingly hang out with law students?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Fake Student Infiltrates Top Law School”

(A stock photo of a teen driver — not actually Ethan Couch.)

I’m sure that by now you’ve all heard the story about the wealthy white teenager who killed four people while drunk driving. As we mentioned in yesterday’s Non-Sequiturs, 16-year-old Ethan Couch got off — sentenced to therapy — because the judge agreed that the kid was a victim of “affluenza”: his parents gave him everything he wanted, and he believed that being rich meant that he wouldn’t have to face consequences for his actions.

The kid’s not wrong; the fact that he’s not facing incarceration for killing four people kind of proves the point. A poor white kid would be in jail right now. A rich black kid would be in jail right now. A poor black kid would be picking out items for his last supper right now. Anybody who thinks that this kind of lenience would be given to anybody other than a wealthy white dauphin is wrong and stupid (and probably racist). The rich kid isn’t in jail because rich people don’t suffer the full force of consequences for their actions.

That said… the judge isn’t wrong either. When you have a jerk-off prick of a 16-year-old, as this kid appears to be, it’s probably not his fault. Not really. My outrage isn’t that Couch is getting off, it’s that so many other teens and young people are being incarcerated without this kind of compassion.

Not that there aren’t people who deserve jail time behind this. It’s just that those people are Couch’s parents….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “In Defense Of The Rich White Boy Who Killed Four People And Got Away With It”

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