Disasters / Emergencies

The East Coast clean-up from Hurricane Sandy is well underway. When reached for comment, the city of New Orleans said, “Clean-up? You guys need a wet-vac and you’ll be fine.”

In all fairness, you just have to look at the news to see how Sandy hammered the Northeast, especially New Jersey. Havoc abounds, and law schools in the Garden State are not immune from the disaster…

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Unless you are working on fixing this, you might not be ‘essential’ today.

I was feeling pretty goddamn sorry for myself yesterday afternoon. I was working when it felt like everybody else on the Eastern seaboard had the day off. I wanted to sit in bed and watch Homeland instead of writing whatever the hell I wrote yesterday. I couldn’t even get a pizza delivered. When New York City immigrants aren’t out there trying to make a buck, you know things are shut down.

But then a crane nearly fell down and I realized that a bunch of people were “remoting in” and trying to work or appear to be work, and it made me feel better. Who are these clients that needed “service” yesterday? What the hell do they want today? Honestly, the worst part about being a lawyer with clients is that I believe “client” is Greek for “unreasonable omega-hole.”

Did you work yesterday? What is your firm’s “storm plan” to keep you billing hours instead of taking A DAY OR TWO off? There are some fun stories about Cravath’s and Orrick’s emergency keep working plans. Let’s take a look and take a poll to see who is really working today…

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Flooding in Wildwood, New Jersey.

As we mentioned earlier today, we’ll be operating normally here at Above the Law, notwithstanding Hurricane Sandy. Our physical offices, at the corner of Broadway and Houston in Manhattan, are closed. But your four editors — Elie, Staci, Chris, and myself — will be working diligently from our homes to keep you informed and entertained during Frankenstorm.

It seems that we won’t be alone in telecommuting today. Encouraging (or even ordering) employees to stay home, but suggesting that they work remotely if they can, seems to be a common response to the storm.

Here is information — including many UPDATES — about how various courts, government offices, law firms, and law schools are responding to Hurricane Sandy….

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I didn’t mean to interrupt, you were saying something about ‘clean’ coal?

Hurricane Sandy — a.k.a. “Frankenstorm”, because it’s greater than the sum of its parts (and there’s the suggestion that storms like this are growing bigger and stronger because of man messing around with forces he doesn’t fully understand) — is coming. It’s basically a hurricane that’s merging with a Nor’easter that will make it rain, and not in the fun way. The federal government is closed. The New York Stock Exchange is closed. The McDonald’s next to my apartment is closed — Sandy has already cost me a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit.

Don’t worry about me, I’ve got a three-day supply of alcohol and hot pockets. Hopefully you are all similarly prepared for 36 hours of sustained hype wind and rain. Size does matter with Sandy (if “Sandy” sounds a bit mundane, know that the next one will be “Tony”). We might not get a lot of CGI worthy images out of this storm, but the length of this storm could cause a lot of damage.

One thing that is still open: the Supreme Court of the United States. Yes, because the nation might be able to survive without mass transit or the stock exchange, but old men don’t take a day off from sitting in judgment. Reuters reports that the Court prides itself on working when everybody else takes shelter from a storm: “In 1996, when a major snowstorm closed the federal government and brought Washington, D.C., to a near standstill, court arguments went on. Then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a Wisconsin native undeterred by snow and ruled by a strong sense of punctuality, made sure business that January 8 began on schedule.”

UPDATE (12:00 PM): According to SCOTUSblog (based on a press release from the Court), the Court has now cancelled arguments for Tuesday. So, the case of Sandy v. SCOTUS has been decided 9-0 in favor of the people who might have had to put their lives at risk to cover the proceedings.

Let’s look at some of the other things in and around the legal world that are still open along the Eastern seaboard….

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At least Casey Anthony knows her new venue motion is laughable.

* Hurricane Sandy is set to arrive today, so batten down the hatches, folks! Everything’s closing down for the storm, but please feel free to email us, if your law school or law firm is encouraging you to work. [Washington Post]

* Thanks to the SCOTUS decision in Citizens United, companies can now recommend how their employees should vote, which is “no different from telling your children: ‘Eat your spinach. It’s good for you.’” [New York Times]

* Biglaw firms are re-negotiating their office space leases in an effort to save money. While some firms have already sealed their new real estate deals, others are still on the prowl — but which ones? [Am Law Daily]

* The University of St. Thomas School of Law has a new dean, and it certainly seems like he’s willing to make some waves to help his students. The first step for Robert Vischer? Reducing tuition. [National Law Journal]

* “I don’t think her popularity has improved since the [murder] verdict.” That’s probably why Casey Anthony’s lawyers are desperately trying to get a new venue for Zenaida Gonzalez’s defamation case. [Orlando Sentinel]

* A man divorced his formerly fugly wife (she had $100K in plastic surgery to correct her looks), sued her for luring him into marriage her under false pretenses, and won. Don’t worry, girls, this happened in China. [FOX]

The Italian town of L’Aquila. Yeah, it’s the scientists’ fault a town built like this suffered from an earthquake.

The Italian government has a long and storied history of being distrustful and ignorant of science. Who can forget the tragedy of Galileo Galilei, the famous Italian scientist and astronomer who died under house arrest because he tried to figure things out instead of saying, “Meh, God is unknowable.”

Of course, an Italian would probably say “Suvvia! A lot has changed since the 1630s.” Then he’d look at all the women wearing tight jeans and applaud America’s rape prevention campaign.

Sure, the Italian legal system may have evolved to the point where it’s not arresting people for using telescopes and math, but it still has a long way to go before it shows a competent understanding of modern science.

In fact, it’s probably too much to ask Italian courts to understand science. I think the industrialized world would be happy if we could just get Italy to stop convicting scientists for doing their jobs….

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* Arizona’s immigration law is heading to the Supreme Court today. Meanwhile, former Senator Dennis DeConcini lobbed the worst insult ever against his state. How embarrassing for you, Arizona. [New York Times]

* Will Wal-Mart regret not disclosing its bribery investigation sooner? Not when the delay saved millions in criminal fines. What Wal-Mart will regret is being forced into disclosure by the NYT narcs. [Corporate Counsel]

* Delete all the oil from ocean, and then maybe we’ll care about this. A former BP employee was charged with obstruction of justice for deleting texts having to do with the Deepwater Horizon disaster. [Bloomberg]

* The Tennessee Board of Law Examiners has granted Duncan Law an extension on its bid for ABA accreditation. Woohoo, five more years of allowing students to “negligently enroll.” [Knoxville News Sentinel]

* “Once you cross the six-figure mark, you think, what’s a few thousand dollars more?” You’re doing it wrong: you’re supposed to be bragging about a six-figure salary, not a six-figure debt obligation. [Baltimore Sun]

* New Jersey residents don’t always have the great pleasure of nearly being killed by two high-speed Lamborghinis, but when they do, they prefer that police officers be suspended and sue over it. [ABC News]

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed, but here we are. It’s December 31st, New Year’s Eve. The weather is turning cold, the Republican presidential contest is heating up, and it’s time to review this year’s biggest stories on Above the Law.

Consistent with past practice, we will refrain from offering our subjective judgments on the most important stories of the year. Instead, just as we did back in 2010 and 2009, we’ll identify the ten biggest stories of the past year as decided by you, our readers. With the help of our friends at Google Analytics, we’ve compiled a list of our top ten posts for 2011, based on traffic.

In terms of overall topics, the most popular category page for the year was Law Schools, for the second year in a row. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the year was an eventful one for the legal academy. It would be fair to describe 2011 as an annus horribilis for the law school world, with various forces laying siege to the ivory tower. The attackers include not just unemployed lawyers turned scambloggers, but the mainstream media, led by David Segal of the New York Times; plaintiffs’ lawyers, who have already sued several law schools (and have announced plans to sue at least 15 more in 2012); and even a tenured law professor calling for reform (Paul Campos, currently in the lead for 2011 Lawyer of the Year).

The second most-popular category at ATL: Biglaw. Although we’ve expanded our small-firm and in-house coverage dramatically here at Above the Law, adding multiple columnists in each space, our coverage of large law firms still draws major traffic and drives discussions.

Now, on to the ten most popular individual posts on Above the Law in 2011….

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Those blinking lights are important. Seriously.

I’ve been writing about electronic discovery for almost three years now. I’ve learned that most of the time, it’s not worth trying to interest non-attorneys in the subject. My friends’, family’s, and girlfriend’s eyes glaze over pretty quickly when I started mentioning the EDRM model or document review.

So when I saw the story early this morning about big e-discovery news in the litigation following a tragic plane crash, at first I thought I had misread something.

On February 12, 2009, Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed near Buffalo Niagara International Airport in New York, killing 50 people. Later that year, authorities blamed pilot error for the crash. Unsurprisingly, families of the victims have sued the airline for failing to provide trained, capable, and rested pilots. This week, attorneys for the families released internal company e-mails that appear to show Colgan knew the pilot of the doomed flight was having serious problems.

What do the e-mails have to say?

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* Hey, Preet Bharara, even Lady Gaga can read your poker face when you’re going all in on an allegation of Full Tilt Ponzi. Maybe Lederer and Ferguson will finally fold. [Wall Street Journal]

* You know what this country really needs? More doctors who don’t believe in science. Another stem cell research case is going up to the D.C. Circuit. [Bloomberg]

* The last 9/11 wrongful death suit has been settled. Lessons learned: airport screeners might not know what Mace is, but they sure can lift and separate your balls. [New York Times]

* Cooley Law held a groundbreaking ceremony for its new campus. We’re good at surviving natural disasters, but a tsunami of unemployed lawyers might break this profession. [Miami Herald]

* A group of drag queens in Florida got busted for thieving the essentials — bras, boas, and butt pads. As RuPaul would say, you better work. Or steal. You know, whatever. [New York Daily News]

* Guys in my high school middle school used to have the ACLU file lawsuits over breathalyzer tests all the time. It was no big deal. [MSNBC]

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