Bad Ideas

Here’s some good news for lawyers who enjoy blogging or instant-messenger services like Gchat. It’s right in the headline of this here National Law Journal story: Smiley face, snark, don’t render law grad unfit to practice.

Many of us get snarky in our personal writing, and many of us employ emoticons in email messages or Gchat exchanges. As litigators well know, sometimes a cold transcript doesn’t adequately convey tone. For this reason, I’ve even seen federal judges use winking smiley-face emoticons in email messages.

But you shouldn’t use smiley faces in documents you file with the court — even the super-icky courts that hear traffic appeals (yes, they exist). This is a lesson that Marilyn Ringstaff, a 2006 graduate of John Marshall Law School, learned the hard way….

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When you think about it, naming the band "Massa-Bossmans" would have been more ambiguous.

On Friday we wrote about the settlement agreed to by Cure Lounge, a club in Boston that was accused of discriminating against African-American patrons. In the comments, it seemed like some of our Southern readers where all too happy to point out that this example of racist behavior took place in the North.

Lord knows I’ve never said that racism is an exclusively Southern phenomenon. But I’ve met enough Southerners to know that they sometimes feel unfairly maligned just because of their Confederate past. Sure, I could argue that only Southerners would come up with the name like “Lady Antebellum” for a band — and only Southerners would defend that name as “merely” referring to a time before the Civil War, as if I’m supposed to be the idiot who forgets what was happening in the South before the Civil War. But whatever, the point is taken, modern racism exists North and South, East and West, probably in relatively equal “amounts,” if such a thing could be quantified.

But still, you have to give the South credit. When they go for it, they always seems to have more flair. They have a — what’s the word? — one might say “cavalier” way, at least at UVA Law, of going about racial intolerance.

It would be charming, if it wasn’t so damn disgusting…

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Usually I’m happy to stand with law students against the slings and arrows of outrageous law school administration.

But not this time. This time, instead of a noble law student fighting the good fight, I see an annoying whiner who wants law school to be about teddy bears and rainbows.

A student at the University of Miami School of Law is trying to get the student body to adopt a “Student Bill of Rights.” The proposal lists a number of things that “shall not be violated.” Even though I agree with some of these points, codifying them as “rights” makes me flaccid. We’re talking about law school, not summer camp. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s not supposed to be fair.

We can condemn law schools until the cows come home for inducing students to sign up under false pretenses. But once you matriculate, law schools turn into the warden from Shawshank Redemption: “Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me.”

As a law student, you don’t have any rights….

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If you can't do this, there's no point in getting a J.D.

Well, I think we are officially at the point in the legal economy where servicing law school debts is just like servicing an expensive drug habit. The parallels between the two are too great to ignore:

  • Is it something you started because everybody else was doing it?
  • Is it something you initially thought was a harmless way to kill some time?
  • Did somebody make wild claims about how “great” it would be for you to try it?
  • Do you find yourself whoring yourself out in order to make money for it?

In the J.D. context, we usually think of “whoring” as a figurative state. But not for much longer.

We already know that many strippers do what they do in order to get money for their drugs. Now, through the wonders of Craigslist, we’re about to see strippers baring all in order to get money for their educational debts.

Sallie Mae might be just a lending institution now, but she dreams of becoming a madam…

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I love it when crazy people self-identify.

I don’t know where Ray Wolfe goes to law school, and I don’t want to know. This guy seems unhinged and dangerous. You don’t have to take my word for it; you can look at the letters this guy sent to judges in Missouri.

According to court documents, Wolfe was a law student in Massachusetts, but was home in Missouri when he was cited for traffic violations. But there were scheduling conflicts between Wolfe and the Missouri court.

That’s when Wolfe unleashed his crazy. He sent a couple of menacing responses to Missouri judges. The letters were so outrageous that he was convicted on two counts of “tampering with a judicial officer.”

Those convictions were recently upheld in an opinion by the Missouri Court of Appeals — which means we can now all be entertained (and generally horrified) by the apparently unhinged Ray Wolfe….

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Here at Above the Law, we’re still enjoying the awesomeness of 1Ls and 2Ls going to war over the appropriate use of a listserv.

Today we’ve got an email more mundane in subject matter, but no less objectionable. It’s from a 1L (of course), who is trying to “network” with fellow 1Ls.

And it’s written by a 1L at Thomas Jefferson Law School, which had a starring role in the recent, widely read New York Times article on the dangers of going to law school. So our more elitist readers are about to have a field day…

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A dry Cathy Cruz Marrero.

Hopefully everybody had a chance to see “Fountain Lady” before YouTube removed the clip. It’s the kind of thing that made YouTube famous: a woman is texting and walking and she falls right into a fountain at a mall.

It’s funny. And the woman walks away soaked, but unharmed.

Normally, that would be the end of the story. But in a classic example of a person who doesn’t understand how “the internet” works, Fountain Lady Cathy Cruz Marrero has decided to exponentially extend her own embarrassment by hiring a lawyer. She wants to know who allowed her watery tumble to become public, and bring them to justice.

What happens now? Well, unless Cathy Cruz Marrero gets elected president or something, the clip showing her falling into a fountain will be the first thing people see when they Google her name for all time.

And even though YouTube has now removed the clip, I’m about to link to it via any number of mainstream media reports now showing the footage…

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It's a train car, not a conference room.

Here at Above the Law, we’re trying to help you. We write about lawyers who do embarrassing things so that you can learn from their examples. Heck, you should get ethics CLE credit for reading this site.

One of our most widely-used lessons — now part of new employee training at a Wall Street firm, in fact — is the cautionary tale of Acela Bob. Pillsbury Winthrop partner Robert Robbins conducted what should have been a confidential conversation about impending layoffs at his firm — in a loud voice, using his cellphone bluetooth, on a crowded Acela train. An ATL reader heard the whole thing and tipped us off; we wrote it up. Shortly thereafter, Pillsbury — which had not yet admitted to any layoffs — confessed that cuts were coming (and “apologize[d] for the unfortunate manner in which our deliberations about reductions have become public”).

Here’s one lawyer who apparently never heard about Acela Bob, or perhaps forgot the story: James J. Kirk (no relation to Captain James T. Kirk).

This James Kirk is the managing partner of Kelley Drye & Warren — and a man who has no trouble making himself heard….

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Many of you know that the headline is the punchline to an awesome Dave Chappelle joke about black people and chicken. As far as I know, it is the only joke about black people and chicken (fried or otherwise) that is acceptable for white people to retell in 2010 America. I say again, it’s the only joke white people are allowed to make on this subject. (I’ll accept new submissions from African-American comedians — surely Kat Williams has something.) Obviously, if your name is Bill Maher, you are exempt from this rule, but that’s because Maher is pretty much the only white man in America who has figured out how to joke about Obama’s race, and he does so brilliantly.

For all other white people, I think this is a bright-line rule that should be easy to follow. They’re really not that many of them: you can’t make jokes about fried chicken or watermelon, you can’t use the “N”-word, you can’t comment on black women’s hair because you have no freaking idea what you’re dealing with. In exchange, you got a 300-year head start in this country, nobody ever profiles you, and just to be nice we’ll leave you hockey for your own sporting domination. That’s a good deal, right? There are a handful of jokes I can make that you cannot; if you think you’re getting the short end of the stick, call up a single mother living in the Bronx and ask her if she wants to trade.

Really, I didn’t think I had to write down the “no fried chicken jokes” rule. But the law firm of Morgan Hill in Washington State made me realize that sometimes you have to spell things out for people. Every Christmas, they send out their holiday party invitation in the form of a satirical newspaper. The flier contains funny, made-up stories about the big legal news items of the year in Washington.

At least, it’s supposed to be funny. This year, the invitation missed the mark. Badly….

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Maybe Demi Moore - and Ashton Kutcher, not Michael Douglas - will play them in the movie.

Last week, we started hearing about an amazing email making the rounds. In this email message, a male associate at a large law firm allegedly described, in excruciating detail, a supposed sexual encounter with a married female partner at the firm.

Apparently the raunchy email was making like an STD and going viral within the firm. Concerned about this development, the firm tried to crack down on dissemination by distributing a hard-copy memorandum to lawyers and staff, warning them about recent “spam” containing inappropriate language that was being circulated between several firm email accounts. Memo recipients were directed not to forward the “spam” if they received it, and they were also told not to disseminate the paper memo warning of the “spam.”

Meanwhile, the firm’s information-technology team was frantically trying to put the horse back in the barn. Members of the firm’s IT department were working overtime to locate and delete all copies of the email that they could find.

Alas, they didn’t work fast enough. The sexually explicit message — WARNING: stop reading here if such talk might offend you — finally found its blessed way to the Above the Law inbox….

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