Conferences / Symposia

If you’re like me, you’re happily ensconced (hmm, where have I seen that before…?) in your company’s diversity and inclusion efforts. Your company may have a Diversity Committee in place and may have implemented diverse hiring and retention practices. They may hold trainings and events intended to promote awareness. Your legal department may even encourage outside counsel to staff minority and women attorneys on matters. All good stuff.

What else is there? Last week, I attended a day-long regional meeting for a fantastic nonprofit diversity organization. Although the fees to attend their conferences and meetings (which include CLE) are hundreds of dollars, in-house counsel get to attend them for free. You just need to pay a $59 shipping and handling fee. Wait, scratch that last part. (Been watching way too many infomercials lately.)

So, which organization was this, and what great tips did I leave with on how in-house counsel can further their companies’ diversity initiatives?

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If there was ever a place where your self-esteem could be crushed just by stepping into an airport, Los Angeles is it. Being a New Yorker, I had the high-minded misconception that New York was the mecca of beautiful people, especially in summer. Wrong. I’ll end this tangent with the statement that I saw more perfectly tanned, toned, muscular, and ridiculously in shape people in the 15 minutes it took me to walk to baggage claim in LAX, than I have in my entire time in the Big Apple.

I was in L.A. to present at ACC’s Corporate Counsel University (“CCU”). CCU is a two-day nuts to bolt immersion program for folks who are new to in-house positions. It’s relatively small compared with the Annual Meeting, 200 or so attendees, but I have enjoyed presenting at this conference more than any other, because I can so readily identify with being new to in-house and feeling overwhelmed about how much I did not know….

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The Snooki Defense

* Aw, come on, Mort, Dewey really have to pay you $61M? In case you missed it last night, the only thing that made the former vice chairman’s departure memo dramatic was the insane amount that he claims he’s owed. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Congratulations to Jacqueline H. Nguyen on her confirmation to the Ninth Circuit. She’s the first Asian American woman to sit on a federal appellate court, so she’s earned our judicial diva title (in a good way). You go girl! [Los Angeles Times]

* Google might’ve infringed upon Oracle’s copyrights, but a jury couldn’t decide if it constituted fair use. Sorry, Judge Alsup, but with that kind of a decision, you can bet your ass that there’ll be an appeal. [New York Times]

* A Harvard Law professor has come to Elizabeth Warren’s defense, claiming that an alleged affirmative action advantage played no role in her hiring. And besides, even if it did, it only played 1/32 of a role. [Boston Herald]

* Classes at Cooley Law’s Tampa Bay campus began last night. Unsurprisingly, the inaugural class is double the size originally projected, because everyone wants to attend the second-best school in the nation. [MLive]

* Albany Law will be having a three-day conference on the legal implications of the Civil War. This could be a little more exciting if presenters wore reenactment garb and did battle when it was over. [National Law Journal]

* Jury selection is underway in a second degree murder trial that will forever be known as the case where a defendant first raised the “Snooki Defense.” He didn’t kill his wife… but her spray tan did. [CBS Miami]

Well, I’m back in New York. It’s cold, it’s rainy, there’s no barbecue, and I’ve been sober for hours. Austin, I miss you already.

But I wasn’t in Austin to have tremendous fun, good food, and become introduced to this new concept of “closing” that doesn’t really exist in NYC. There was a conference to attend, and I’m here to report on how to get a job at a small law firm.

Because chances are, the career counselors at your law school aren’t really going to be able to help you.

At NALP 2012, I attended a panel called: “Raising Your School’s Profile in the Land of Opportunity: The Smaller Firm Market.” I figured the room would be overflowing, considering smaller firms are the only firms where hiring is on the rise. But the panel was just regularly attended, not “holy God, missing this would be a dereliction of my duty” attended (only panels with the words “social media” in the name needed overflow seating). The presenters were knowledgeable, and the attendees were eager to learn, but it seems that way too many schools are still stuck in a Biglaw or bust model that isn’t responding to the new hiring realities for most students….

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This is Elie Mystal, coming to you live from Austin, Texas, and the 2012 conference of the National Association of Law Placement. It’s my favorite annual conference, because every year, NALP just gets all the law school career services officers and all the law firm recruiters in a room, and tells them all the trends in legal hiring. We’re not talking about anecdotal evidence or law firm spin. It’s the one time each year we get to look at some hard numbers.

And in case you live under a rock, let me tell that every year since the recession, the numbers get more and more terrible. Looking at some of these statistics is as close as you can come to physically witnessing a dream die a horrible, mangled death.

This year, the numbers are worse than ever! And that’s the good news. NALP’s Executive Director, Jim Leipold, thinks that we’ve probably “hit the bottom” in terms of new associate hiring, with the class of 2011 suffering the absolute nadir of this process. While he doesn’t know if things will get significantly better any time soon, he figures they pretty much can’t get any worse.

Yay!

Does anybody want to hear the bad news?

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LegalTech New York finished up earlier this week. I survived with only a minor case of technology loop, although my iPhone was begging for mercy by the end.

The conference was frenetic, to say the least. There was a lot going on, regarding a cornucopia of technological topics and tools to help lawyers. As expected, the biggest hype revolved around predictive coding and computer-assisted review.

The legal technology world has been buzzing about this stuff for a while now, and we have covered it on these pages several times before. (Here and here, for starters). At the conference, attendees got to hear from the naysayers, the enthusiasts, and everyone in between. Several panels helped explain exactly what the technology means on a practical level. And no, cyborgs will not be stealing all the contract attorney jobs any time soon.

One of this week’s highlights was a lunchtime panel featuring two prominent attorneys and a New York magistrate judge. The discussion helped clarify, demystify, and define the terms that have been making headlines (even in the New York Times) for a good part of the past year. Is computer-assisted review as scary as it seems? Of course not.

Let’s see what the panelists — and at least one irate audience member — had to say….

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So, I’ve been in New York for a few days now. I’ve eaten pizza the way you are supposed to, I’ve spent a lot of time underground, and I’ve stayed out drinking until 4 a.m. Just the usual stuff people do here.

But I didn’t fly 3,000 miles just for Fat Sal’s. I’m spending this week at LegalTech, a seriously huge conference centered around, you guessed it, legal technology.

On Monday afternoon, everyone was caffeinated, and the halls of the New York Hilton were crowded. I attended my first panel yesterday morning: “Global Trends in Law and Technology.” The panelists covered some familiar topics, and the discussion revealed an important shift in the way attorneys relate to technology.

The times they are a-changin’….

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Judge Andrew Peck

Keyword searching is absolutely terrible, in terms of statistical responsiveness.

– Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck (S.D.N.Y.), in a panel today at the LegalTech conference. He spoke alongside Wachtell Lipton counsel Maura Grossman and Jackson Lewis partner Ralph Losey, on a panel that aimed to demystify cutting-edge, computer-assisted e-discovery technology. Peck is a vocal proponent of computer-assisted discovery and predictive coding. He is not a fan of the slightly older keyword-searching technology.

(A few minutes later, Losey had another strong opinion to add. See what was said, after the jump.)

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Plaintiffs’ lawyers in class action cases: are they heroes, or villains? Do they make too much in fees, leaving the classes they represent high and dry? Or could it be argued that they make too little for the work that they do?

Let’s discuss….

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Let a thousand law schools bloom?

Critics of the current legal-education model, including my colleague Elie Mystal, have accused the American Bar Association of failing to uphold sufficiently stringent accreditation standards. ABA-accredited law schools proliferate, even though thousands of law school graduates find themselves unemployed or underemployed.

The ABA was recently chided by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity for various alleged deficiencies in the ABA’s exercise of its accreditation power (for example, failure to consider student-loan default rates in assessing programs). Politicians such as Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Tom Coburn (R-OK) have also raised questions about whether there are too many law schools and law school graduates, especially in light of the still-challenging legal job market.

In light of this debate, I was eager to attend a panel at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention on the subject of law school accreditation….

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