Education / Schools

Amanda Bynes

* “[T]he ‘superstar’ model of Supreme Court advocacy marketing is prevailing”: recent Supreme Court litigation has been dominated by Biglaw and boutiques, and five of them handled about half of last term’s cases. [WSJ Law Blog]

* It’s not a “done deal” yet, but Albany Law School is in serious talks with the University at Albany to form an affiliation by the end of the year. There’s been no word on whether Albany Law would remain a stand-alone school under the yet-to-be inked arrangement. [Albany Business Review]

* The dismissal of lawsuits concerning allegedly deceptive employment statistics at several Chicago-area law schools was affirmed by an Illinois appeals court. ::insert sad trombone here:: [National Law Journal]

* If you’re still thinking about applying to law school for some reason, you might find these tips on what not to write in a personal statement to be useful. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* Amanda Bynes, one of our favorite fading starlets who was already on probation, was arrested this weekend on a DUI charge after stopping her car in the middle of an intersection. [Los Angeles Times]

One would imagine that a law school would be prepared to manage an unimpeachable quasi-judicial proceeding. If anything, a bunch of lawyers idealistic enough to turn their backs on private practice to preach from an ivory tower would bend over to expand the bounds of fairness in some kind of hippie Bill of Rights love-in. Law school court would be like Hair with more procedural safeguards and hopefully much less nudity.

That wasn’t the case last year, when a law school convened an Honor Board to prosecute a student for cheating on her exams. Now, that student is suing the school in federal court, alleging due process violations and breach of contract arising out of the investigation and prosecution of her case.

Is she guilty of an infraction or not? We can’t pass judgment on that from the pleadings alone. We can, however, troll this law school for its pretty terrible grasp on how the justice system is supposed to work….

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Justice Sonia Sotomayor

[A friend] called me and said, “Sonia, come to Princeton. You have to go to an Ivy League school.”

And I said, “What’s an Ivy League school?”

I was a good student. But I wouldn’t even have known to apply, because I came from a world where that wasn’t part of the expectations. And that’s true of a lot of kids in a lot of neighborhoods.

– Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in comments made about her decision to apply to Princeton University and later Yale Law School, during an appearance earlier this week at the University of Tulsa College of Law. Sotomayor went on to say that she wouldn’t be where she is now if it weren’t for affirmative action.

Kent W. Easter

* The justices of Supreme Court of the United States will discuss gay marriage cases from five states during their “long conference” at the end of the month. Which ones will they decide to take? Help us, Justice AMK! [National Law Journal]

* This law school is having some troubles adjusting to the “new normal.” Not only is its administration planning back-to-back tuition hikes, but it’s asking the state for help with its deficits. Yikes, that’s not good. [The Republic]

* This Gonzaga Law professor thinks that playing poker is part of having a balanced life. He might not come home with much after his games, but “it’s better than a kick in the head.” [Spokesman-Review]

* Remember Kent W. Easter, the Biglaw partner who was accused of planting drugs in a school volunteer’s car? During his recent retrial, he was convicted of false imprisonment by fraud and deceit. [OC Weekly]

* Following a “marathon trial marked by screams, tears, vomit, anger,” Oscar Pistorius has been found negligent, but not guilty of premeditated murder. Expect a final verdict tomorrow, perhaps. [USA Today]

With the kids heading back to school, it’s a good time to think about how education is changing — especially for lawyers. Our profession prizes continued education, and of course mandates it for those lawyers who otherwise would be too focused on billing or finding clients to learn. Both the way lawyers learn and for some the way they teach have been completely changed by technology. It may be trite at this point, but this is really the golden age of access to information and learning opportunities for everyone, lawyers included.

While on balance the development of the technology that has created the current state of information access has been a wonderful human achievement, there are downsides. Information overload can be paralyzing, and the speed at which information can be found and deployed creates stresses for those required to keep up. But if someone wants to learn something new, they can. And more than ever, for free.

As easy as it is to learn using today’s technological resources, that same technology has changed how a lawyer can teach others just as dramatically. When I gave my first CLE less than ten years ago, it was for lawyers within my firm, in one of the conference rooms, perhaps with some lawyers from other offices “joining” by speakerphone. For many years in Biglaw, that was how CLE was given and consumed. The biggest differences between sessions was the speaker and the size of the conference room. That changed over time, as firms started subscribing to audio or even video recordings of CLE from outside providers. With that development, it became easier than ever for lawyers to “consume” their CLE, often at group lunches sponsored by the firm. “Come for the food, stay for the CLE,” or something like that. Those lunches were a good way to make a dent in CLE requirements, especially if you aimed to get to one every month or two.

As busy as Biglaw lawyers often are, it was not uncommon for my colleagues and me to encounter a “CLE scramble” as registration deadlines approached….

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Won’t somebody please think of the children?

That quote comes from the contemptible Helen Lovejoy and probably a bunch of other sanctimonious folks trying to dupe the public into backing some BS agenda armed with the logical fallacy of an emotional appeal. The devil of it is these empty emotional pleas are so convincing to a lot of people. Sadly, lawyers aren’t above pulling this card to snowjob judges and the media.[1]

After the Vergara v. California decision there was a brief volley of commentary before everyone moved on to the next big event. The decision struck California’s teacher tenure law as unconstitutional because granting tenure to experienced teachers could possibly, maybe mean that a “bad” teacher couldn’t be fired fast enough. The decision earned the praise of a bi-partisan peanut gallery from the dwindling posse of Republicans in California to Secretary of Education and NBA Celebrity All-Star MVP Arne Duncan.

Everyone seems to want in on the “education would be peachy if it weren’t for the teachers” movement — including a metric s**t ton of Biglaw bigwigs. Gibson Dunn’s Ted Boutrous and Randy Mastro spearheaded the Vergara case. Ted Olson advised. David Boies is the chair of the Partnership for Educational Justice, a group fronted by former CNN anchor Campbell Brown bringing a similar lawsuit in New York fronted by Kirkland’s Jay Lefkowitzpro bono, of course. Now even Professor Larry Tribe is in the mix.

Stop the sanctimonious love-in. They aren’t championing children, they’re either starstruck or shilling or both. I mean, the Republicans have always wanted to kill unions because it’s easier to gut public schools for fun and profit. Democrats have jumped on board more recently because they want to suck up to tech billionaires like Bill Gates who preach that fixing the public education system that they never really participated in themselves is as simple as building an internet browser (which it is, if you want Internet Explorer).[2]

And all these legal luminaries throwing their reputations behind this effort just highlights how flimsy it is, as a matter of law and policy….

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A mother and daughter are giving interviews to anybody who will listen about behavior that actually should be very embarrassing to them if they had any sense of shame. Here are the facts that the family really wants you to know.

* 15-year-old Miranda Larkin was the new girl in school who didn’t know the dress code, which specified that skirts be no more than three inches above the knee.
* Mother Dianna Larkin allowed her daughter to go to school in a skirt “closer to four inches” above the knee.
* Busted for a dress code violation, Miranda Larkin was made to wear a “shame suit” of sweat pants and a large T-Shirt that read “Dress Code Violation.”
* Crying ensued.
* The Larkins are now threatening to sue the school, alleging FERPA violations, and saying ridiculous things like “[T]his is not about punishing kids. This is about humiliation.”

Dude, your daughter is in high school. The only punishment she understands is humiliation…

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Is the Supreme Court ready for its close-up?

* Most Americans want Supreme Court proceedings on video. Because C-SPAN is so popular. [Legal Times]

* It was bound to happen at some point. Eastern District of Louisiana Judge Martin Feldman, who you might remember from lifting the Gulf of Mexico drilling moratorium while holding thousands in oil drilling assets (which he sold the morning that he issued his decision), became the first judge since Windsor to uphold a ban on same-sex marriage as constitutional. [National Law Journal]

* Need white-collar representation? Milbank has Apps for that. Specifically, Antonia Apps, the federal prosecutor who took a leading role in the SAC Capital Advisors insider trading case, is decamping to Milbank. [Reuters]

* “What’s it like to be the lawyer for Mark Cuban or Jerry Jones? Depends if you’re winning.” I don’t know about that, Jerry Jones seems to be getting pretty used to accepting failure. [Dallas Business Journal]

* Gibson Dunn has left New York’s teacher tenure battle, leaving the job of gutting public education in the state to Kirkland & Ellis. [New York Law Journal]

* A professor carrying a concealed handgun shot himself in the foot. But remember the answer to school shootings is making sure all the teachers are armed. [TaxProf Blog]

* More Squire Patton Boggs defections: At least a dozen members of the IP group have bolted the newly-merged firm to open a D.C. office for Porzio, Bromberg & Newman. [Washington Post]

Yes, there are going to be a lot of Simpsons references this week.

Moving on, it’s back to school time, which means campus brick-and-mortar bookstores all across the country are actually seeing some business. Forcing students to buy physical books is a good business to be in. The utility of running a textbook scam can be explained in one helpful chart:

You can blame your professors for this. Every student can get every case they need with a complimentary legal search password (thanks to our advertisers), yet professors still assign reading from casebooks. Even more incredibly, professors still write casebooks! And then those casebook publishers go out of their way to rip off students with multiple editions. There was even a cockamamie plan to prevent casebook resale that had to be beaten back by public outrage.

But, professors can also help students avoid unnecessary and costly book fees. Faculty members at one school fought back against their administration on behalf of their students…

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Just as the Egyptians marked the passage of time by the flooding of the Nile Delta, Above the Law can mark time by the release of the annual law school rankings by U.S. News. Or, more precisely, to the deluge of “get off my lawn” complaints from crusty old deans complaining that the rankings are useless and should be entirely ignored. Unless their school made a significant leap. Culling the public statements of these “butthurt deans” is such a joyous task we’ve labeled it a parade.

They proclaim that the rankings are “not accurate” and unreliable because they constantly shift and that students can receive an excellent education regardless of a dismal ranking. Every time a law school drops, a Communications grad toiling in an administrative office gets his wings.

Some people work really hard explaining how no ranking of this kind could have any value. After all, no one gets as worked up about the rankings for undergraduate institutions. Or B-schools, or even med schools. Isn’t that proof that all these rankings are arbitrary?

Well, it turns out you really, really, should be paying attention to law school rankings, and here’s the evidence to prove it….

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