Conferences / Symposia

Greetings from San Francisco, home of the world champion Giants, surprisingly noisy trolley cars, and the faint smell of cannabis pretty much everywhere. We’re in town to attend Ark Group‘s conference on “The Brave New World of Entry-Level Recruiting,” which examines how the world of law student recruiting by firms has changed (and will continue to evolve) since the onset of the Great Recession. Moderated by Bruce MacEwen, who kicked off the proceedings by framing the day as an opportunity for “frank conversation” between schools and firms, the conference featured an absolute Murderers’ Row of industry thought leaders, including Orrick‘s Ralph Baxter, legal academia’s apostate Paul Campos, NALP’s Jim Leipold, Indiana/Maurer‘s Bill Henderson, three Biglaw hiring partners, and deans from Berkeley, Stanford, and Hastings.

Read on for some highlights and takeaways from yesterday’s conference.

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These are trying times — not just for law students and law graduates, but for law professors as well. Despite occasional (and unfair) depictions of law profs enjoying lives of leisure and six-figure salaries while their unemployed students suffer, legal academics know that their fates are tied to the health of the legal profession as a whole. Law professors have an interest in seeing that law students land jobs. After all, more employed law grads–>more students going to law school–>more tuition dollars to fund faculty positions (and raises, summer research grants, and sabbaticals).

So law professors are turning their considerable talents towards making legal education a more viable long-term enterprise. Let’s hear one professor’s proposal for reform, and another professor’s optimistic take on the future of legal academia and the legal profession more broadly….

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Bill Henderson

It’s kind of like the Hunger Games. You’re just trying to survive.

– an anonymous partner quoted by Professor William Henderson in a presentation today at Unlocking the Law: Building on the Work of Larry Ribstein. Professor Henderson noted that today many partners move laterally not for greater prestige or pay but for sheer survival.

(One factor that’s keeping partners up at night, after the jump.)

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Last week, I wrote about the ACC Annual Meeting. A highlight of that meeting was an interview with Lauren Stevens, linked here. The clip is over an hour long, with the interview starting around eleven minutes in; I can see the tl;dw comments now. Let me give you a summary.

This is a case of an in-house counsel getting prosecuted, twice, for doing her job. We are tasked with protecting our companies zealously. Just like any outside lawyer. And you know what, sometimes we’re the windshield, but most times we’re the bug, to paraphrase Mark Knopfler. This isn’t a fluff piece, it’s a column about stuff getting real, and what can happen to a gatekeeper simply doing her job….

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Let’s talk about two of our favorite topics: money and politics. And the combination of the two, which creates both problems and opportunities for our democracy.

On Saturday I attended an excellent New Yorker Festival panel about politics and money, featuring some impressive speakers:

What did these distinguished and high-powered panelists have to say about the influence of money on our political system?

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Mahbod Moghadam

* VC heavyweight Andressen Horowitz is investing in Rap Genius, the hip-hop brainchild of Stanford Law grad Mahbod Moghadam. Yadadamean? [Rap Genius]

* If your fraternity has to hire a lawyer to hold a press conference to deny allegations of butt-chugging, and an extraordinarily uncomfortable video of the press conference makes its way online… you’re probably up s**t’s creek without a wine bottle paddle. [Outkick the Coverage]

* There’s no crying in baseball, and, in other creepily homoerotic collegiate news, there shall be no drunken teabagging in college football, either. [New Orleans Times-Picayune]

* Professor Richard Sander’s new book (affiliate link) argues that affirmative action actually hurts the students it intends to help. Release the partisan bickering! [The Atlantic via ProfessorBainbridge]

* An interview with law prof Jay Wexler, who also released a book (affiliate link) earlier this year. His is slightly less serious. Absurdist legal humor for the win. Check out this podcast interview, too! [Constitutional Daily]

* The fifth annual She Leads Conference on Women in the Law is this Friday at American University Washington College of Law. Go forth and be educated! [Ms. JD]

* U.S. District Judge Mark Kravitz of Connecticut, RIP. [Connecticut Post]

This column was written in the middle of a swamp in Central Florida. Yes, I speak of Orlando, and specifically, the 47 square miles of property belonging to the Disney Corporation. I am attending the Annual Meeting of the Association of Corporate Counsel, but all my kids know is that Dad disappears for a while each day while they ride, eat, play, swim, etc., to their hearts’ content. I have written before of my membership in ACC and the benefits that I have enjoyed in my five plus years as a member. This week, Lat asked me to report in from the conference, and I was happy to oblige.

As an in-house attorney, there are numerous organizations seeking your membership. Depending on your specialty, there are national and even global organizations to join. However, if your company is like mine, and will cover the cost of a state bar membership and one association, the one to join that is truly comprehensive in scope and resources is ACC….

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[L]aw schools are questioning whether or not they are teaching students the right way, and it seems to me that the bench and the bar can engage in serious discussions with the law schools to advise them whether or not, say for the next 20 years… they have the proper approach for teaching those who will soon be the trustees of the law as active practitioners. That is urgent.

– Justice Anthony Kennedy, speaking this week at the Ninth Circuit’s Judicial Conference in Maui.

(Justice Kennedy’s defense of Hawaii as a conference venue, after the jump.)

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This past week, I was in Chicago for a national conference of professional responsibility lawyers. We usually meet in the same city and at the same time as the ABA, as we have many dual members (no, not at the same time as ABA toy tech show — I’m talking about the ABA meetings where real lawyers discuss law and policy). So although I don’t attend the ABA meetings, those that do come over to our conference and vice versa.

One of the benefits of attending national (real) lawyer conferences as a small-firm lawyer with a real practice (not the social media conferences where broke and unemployed non-practicing lawyers hang out in the vendor hall), is that besides learning something, you have the ability to network and develop relationships that may turn into referrals. I hear lawyers talk about not going to conferences because of the cost. The cost, including transportation, hotel, and conference tuition should usually be no more than $1,000-$1,500. If investing that amount of money in your firm is not worth it, then you are doomed to be nothing. Stop reading now and go work on your internet presence….

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Even people inside the Ivory Tower can tell that legal education needs serious reform.

I just got back from the International Legal Ethics Conference in Banff, Alberta. I feel like I literally just got back, since WestJet made an atrocious decision to detour a direct Calgary to Newark flight — full of people who had already cleared U.S. Customs — to Toronto, where we were trapped on the tarmac for six hours.

In any event, the ILEC conference was full of law professors from just about everywhere. I enjoyed many discussions about how the next generation of lawyers are being trained. I’m happy to report that a lot of the professors I talked to understood that one of the big problems facing American law students is the out-of-control cost of legal education. And I spoke to many American professors who understood that high professorial salaries are partially responsible for the runaway cost of tuition. There were lots of innovative ideas about how to make legal education cheaper for students, and more useful for clients.

Unfortunately, while there are many great ideas out there, the 800-pound gorilla is the restrictive American Bar Association, and it didn’t even have to bother being in the room for everybody to feel its weight. The ABA is perhaps the only organization in the world that doesn’t understand that the American legal education system is horribly flawed.

If the ABA could get a clue, there are a lot of people willing to go into the laboratory and experiment with new ideas. I was at ILEC on a panel about whether or not law should be an undergraduate degree. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but the ABA needs to realize that almost anything is better than the current system.

You don’t have to listen to me, you can listen to the New York Times….

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