The economy seems to be on the mend. Corporate profits are strong, and the Dow is north of 12,000. In the legal world, layoffs are down, bonuses are up, and hiring is way up.
But governments — federal, state, and local — are staggering under mountains of debt. State and local governments have borrowed $2.4 trillion as of mid-2010, and they’ve promised another $3 trillion in retirement benefits.
There is tons of talk out there about a possible wave of municipal bankruptcies. And even if the talk might be overblown, the possibility of default by multiple local governments or even state governments — which might someday get the ability to declare bankruptcy — can’t be ruled out.
If municipal bankruptcies start popping up all over the place, Dewey & LeBoeuf will be ready. The firm just picked up a leading expert in the area….
Accept your offers. It’s wise advice for 2Ls going through fall recruiting, and it’s wise advice for partners of the rapidly unraveling Howrey law firm, most of whom have offers to join Winston & Strawn. Last weekend, Winston made offers to a little over 75 percent of Howrey partners, with responses requested in 21 days.
Yesterday we mentioned that a Howrey partnership conference call took place on Tuesday. During that meeting, firm chairman Robert Ruyak and Winston & Strawn managing partner Thomas Fitzgerald apparently urged Howrey partners with Winston offers to accept them as soon as possible, according to The Recorder.
Many Howrey partners have already left for other firms, as chronicled in these pages. A group of eleven attorneys recently departed for Morgan Lewis, for example.
Of the 200 to 230 Howrey partners who remain, how many are likely to go with Winston?
Ed. note: Welcome to ATL’s new column, Fame Brief. Since Kash has left the building, Marin, ATL’s other lady-in-waiting, will be picking up her celebrity beat and filling you in on the latest celebrity legal shenanigans. Before you fall over yourself to post an annoying comment about how this blog be sinking or how nobody cares about celebrities, consider that our celebrity posts are some of the most popular ones on here. So SOMEBODY out there cares about celebrities….
When I got my first credit card, my dad was afraid I’d go hog wild and buy a suit of armor, sconces, breast implants, decorative fireplace accessories, a foosball table, IVF treatments, a boat and a monstrous “Tuscan villa” McMansion in Towaco, NJ. But at least I’m making payments on these purchases, unlike Joe and Teresa Giudice of the Real Housewives of New Jersey, who filed for Chapter 7 back in October 2009….
I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often. A student is demanding that his law school admit to scamming him out of money in open court.
And why? The student isn’t trying to recover tuition dollars directly from the school. Instead, the student is involved in the arduous process of trying to get his debts discharged through bankruptcy. As we’ve mentioned repeatedly, you can’t discharge student loans through the bankruptcy process absent a showing of undue hardship.
The student is named Kenneth Desormes. The school is Charlotte School of Law. And he wants Charlotte to admit what they did to him…
Are you a bankruptcy attorney who needs to empathize more with your clients — e.g., by declaring bankruptcy yourself? Check out this job posting — which won’t be our Job of the Week anytime soon — courtesy of that gold mine of employment opportunities, Craigslist:
Bankruptcy Attorney Position (Dallas)
Small Consumer Bankruptcy firm in Dallas looking for new associate attorney. 50-60 Hours per week, with some travel to Fort Worth required. Salary: $40,000.
If “travel to Fort Worth” is required, you need to add another zero to that salary. This is not the kind of income that will help you pay off massive educational debt (non-dischargeable in bankruptcy, at least for now).
Last month, New York Times columnist Ron Lieber wrote an interesting piece analyzing whom to blame when students wind up in over their heads in educational debt. This past weekend, he wrote a somewhat more optimistic article, raising the possibility that student loans might become more easy to discharge in bankruptcy.
The status quo in terms of educational debt and bankruptcy is all too familiar to many law students and lawyers:
If you run up big credit card bills buying a new home theater system and can’t pay it off after a few years, bankruptcy judges can get rid of the debt. They may even erase loans from a casino. But if you borrow money to get an education and can’t afford the loan payments after a few years of underemployment, that’s another matter entirely. It’s nearly impossible to get rid of the debt in bankruptcy court, even if it’s a private loan from for-profit lenders like Citibank or the student loan specialist Sallie Mae.
Gambling debts can be discharged in bankruptcy like any other debts, but educational debts are subject to a test that requires the borrower to establish “undue hardship” (very tough to do under existing law). And losing money in a casino is a heck of a lot more fun than three years of law school.
But could changes to this legal regime be on the way?
UPDATE (May 30): Law student responds via YouTube, and shows off his very impressive office.
A law student in Massachusetts is looking for a job. He found a listing on Craigslist to work as a paralegal for a bankruptcy attorney. He applied, got an interview, and got an offer (kind of). But then he got into a spat with the attorney via email, preserved for posterity by The Docket.
The law student interviewed on Monday. On Tuesday, the female attorney sent him a rather candid email:
I have to confess, I am on the fence about offering you a position. This is a thought I had…tell me your thoughts.
The thought was that she would have the law student do a few freelance projects for a month, and if those went well, she would offer him a full-time position. He responded:
I can do any type of Motion, and research. I do not think a 30 day trial period is necessary. I would prefer bring me on full time to show you my capabilities.
That’s really not the right time for a grammatical typo, my law school friend.
In response, the lawyer laid out exactly why she had reservations about him, and wished him “best of luck in [his] job search.” That just made him crankier…
In journalism, there are certain go-to stories that one writes around big events. At Halloween, everyone writes the “most popular costume” story. At Christmas, it’s the “most popular toy” story. At Thanksgiving, it’s the “how the community is giving back” story.
Over the last two years, a recurring event has been “the big bankruptcy.” And it seems that the journalistic go-to is the “how much are the greedy lawyers making off of this” story. We’ve seen it with the GM bankruptcy, the Tribune bankruptcy, and the Chrysler bankruptcy. Yesterday, the New York Times applied the story model to the Lehman bankruptcy, but they got pay czar Kenneth Feinberg to weigh in — and lay into the firms working on the case: Weil, Jones Day, and Milbank.
“It violates any sense of proportion,” says Kenneth Feinberg, the Washington lawyer who serves as the “pay czar” for banks bailed out by the government and whom the court appointed last June to monitor fees associated with the Lehman bankruptcy. The court asked him to participate after concerns were raised in the news media about the soaring fees in the Lehman case.
“Unemployment is over 9 percent, and to be paying first-year associates $500 an hour angers the public,” he observes. “People read about all of this and say that lawyers and the legal system are one more example of Wall Street out of control.”
The article outlines the fees that have outraged — tangential Nationwide Perk Watch: Weil attorneys get limo transport — and the new limits that have been placed on bankruptcy attorneys on the case. No first class for you!
The Supreme Court ruled that a student’s failure to show undue hardship didn’t void a bankruptcy agreement to discharge student debt. It’s a minor victory for student debtors everywhere, and Justice Clarence Thomas did all he could to limit its effect.
The decision came down today in the case of United Student Aid Funds v. Espinosa. Justice Thomas, writing the opinion for a unanimous Court, ruled that a bankruptcy judge should have required trade school student Fransisco Espinoza to show undue hardship before approving the discharge of Espinosa’s student debt. But the error was not serious enough to void the agreement.
SCOTUSblog explains that the holding is very limited:
Today’s ruling in the student loan case is confined primarily to the situation where a discharge of such a debt has become final without the creditor using its option to challenge it at the time. It makes clear that bankruptcy courts may discharge a student loan debt only if they find it is an undue hardship to require payment.
Thomas’s language upholds the notion that undue hardship must be a part of the discharge of student debt …
Hey, have you read Above the Law for like one single minute in the past month? If so, you probably know that we’re having this big blogger conference on March 14th at the Yale Club. Yeah, the Yale Club. You’ll be able to recognize me: I’ll be the only big… blogger guy surreptitiously holding a can of crimson spray-paint.
Speaking of coming, you should come. We’ve got CLE and all that. Click here to buy tickets to get CLE credit for listening to bloggers scream about stuff on the internet.
To refresh your memory, details on the panel that I’m moderating — almost entirely sober, mind you — follow.
My panel is called Blogs as Agents of Change, and we’re going to talk about whether all of these spilled pixels are actually making a difference. You know my view… just ask Lawrence Mitchell, but here are the panelists:
So you spent a considerable amount of time courting, selling and maybe even doing some friendly stalking of that attractive lateral partner candidate with a sizable book. After he or she ignored your emails and didn’t return your calls, a few weeks go by and you read a press release in the legal media announcing the recent move to a competing firm.
Rats. Another one got away from you. You cringe when you consider how much time was spent in meetings that did not bear fruit. Your heart aches when recall how you were led to believe this was a marriage made in heaven.
You have been rejected.
The sting of rejection is painful, even for fancy law firms. But you need to find a way that you can turn this disappointment into a legitimate learning experience.
No, this isn’t a pre-party before we come back next fall for the real thing. This IS the real thing. Quinn Emanuel is pushing the envelope on recruiting. The party is now. This is when you meet the partners and associates face to face. This is when we begin the dance that could land you an offer for your second summer BEFORE school starts in the fall.
First: You come to the party. Second: If you like us, you send your resume after June 1, 2014. Third: If we like each other, you get an offer.
We’re not waiting for fall. We’re not doing the twenty minute thing. This party is the real thing!
We hope you’ll join us, and look forward to meeting you.
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