Law Schools

I should have written about this days ago, but the pain was still too near to me. The humans have lost to the machines. We might as well start digging towards the Earth’s core, where it’s still warm, and start building our own Zion.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the terrifying story of “Watson.” It’s a computer built by IBM that just kicked Ken Jennings’s ass on Jeopardy. If you are not particularly scientifically inclined, I can see how that might not sound like a big deal. You probably remember Deep Blue beating chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov and think that this kind of thing has been happening for a while.

That’s just what the machines want you to think. Teaching a computer to understand the subtle nuances of trivia — the puns, the innuendos, the ordering of information — is frightening. It’s a lot different than writing an algorithm that allows a machine to work through all possible chess moves and pick the correct one.

It makes you wonder: “What else could a computer be taught to do?” Over at the WSJ Law Blog, Ashby Jones wonders if the answer might be, “Your job”….

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We all know that in this legal economy, 1L grades are critically important. There aren’t enough good jobs to go around, and coming out of your first semester with a strong transcript can really help. This is why some law students flip out over changes (real or perceived) to grading policies or curves.

But getting a bad grade is not the end of the world. Performing well on law school exams is a skill, one that doesn’t come naturally to everybody. And in light of the length of a person’s entire legal career, it’s kind of amazing that people stress out so much over 1L transcripts.

At Columbia Law School, the administration wants first-year students to keep a sense of perspective about their grades. In a very nice gesture, Dean of Students Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin sent the 1Ls a nice message that highlighted some of the poor grades achieved by some Columbia’s own faculty.

The message was clearly “Everything is going to be fine.” But not all Columbia students took it that way…

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The jury verdict in the attempted-murder trial of Temple Law student Gerald Ung came out on Tuesday, but people are still talking about the case.

Some readers have complained about our repeated use of Gerald Ung’s mugshot to illustrate our stories. In yesterday’s linkwrap, we mixed it up a bit, using a more formal photo of Ung.

The other day, a reader sent us a more colorful image of this new celebrity of the legal profession….

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Usually I’m happy to stand with law students against the slings and arrows of outrageous law school administration.

But not this time. This time, instead of a noble law student fighting the good fight, I see an annoying whiner who wants law school to be about teddy bears and rainbows.

A student at the University of Miami School of Law is trying to get the student body to adopt a “Student Bill of Rights.” The proposal lists a number of things that “shall not be violated.” Even though I agree with some of these points, codifying them as “rights” makes me flaccid. We’re talking about law school, not summer camp. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s not supposed to be fair.

We can condemn law schools until the cows come home for inducing students to sign up under false pretenses. But once you matriculate, law schools turn into the warden from Shawshank Redemption: “Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me.”

As a law student, you don’t have any rights….

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Gerald Ung (left) and Eddie DiDonato (right)

Judging from the comments section of our last story about Gerald Ung — which is still active, like a volcano — many of you are still interested in talking about the Temple Law student shooter. Even though Ung was quickly acquitted of all charges arising out of the January 2010 shooting of Edward DiDonato Jr., the trial goes on — in the court of public opinion.

We’ve selected a handful of stories from the avalanche of news and blogosphere coverage that we believe merit your attention. You can check them out — one of them reveals what Gerald Ung’s future plans are, while another has the reaction to the verdict of Eddie DiDonato’s father, a prominent partner at Fox Rothschild — after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Commonwealth v. Ung: A Morning-After Linkwrap”

Gerald Ung (left) and Edward DiDonato Jr. (right)

Well that didn’t take long, did it? The jury in the case of Commonwealth v. Ung began deliberations at 11:32 a.m., and it just returned a verdict of “not guilty,” around 4 p.m. Eastern time. Gerald Ung, the Temple Law student who was charged with attempted murder in connection with a January 2010 shooting in the Old City section of Philadelphia, has been acquitted.

This news might not come as a huge shock. In our reader poll, over 90 percent of you said you’d vote “not guilty” if you were jurors.

Congratulations to Ung — who testified on his own behalf yesterday, arguing that he acted in self-defense — and to Ung’s very fine defense lawyer, the renowned Jack McMahon.

Does this mean that Gerald Ung, 29, gets his life back? Can things go back to normal for him and for the Ung family?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Breaking: Temple Law Student Gerald Ung Found Not Guilty in Shooting”

A little over half an hour ago — shortly before noon, after receiving instructions from Judge Glynnis Hill — a jury of six men and six women began its deliberations in Commonwealth v. Ung, the criminal trial of Temple Law student Gerald Ung. Ung has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, and other offenses, arising out of a January 2010 shooting incident. Ung shot Eddie DiDonato, a former Villanova lacrosse captain and the son of a partner at Fox Rothschild, in what Ung claims was self-defense.

Above the Law readers seem sympathetic to Ung. At the current time, in our reader poll, over 90 percent of you would vote “not guilty” on the main charge of attempted murder. (The poll is still open; you can vote over here.)

How long will the jury deliberate? Will we end up with a hung jury, or an Ung jury, or some convictions?

Stay tuned. We’ll bring you the verdict as soon as we learn of it. (Of course, please feel free to email us or text us (646-820-8477) if you happen to get the news before we do.)

UPDATE: Read about the jury verdict over here.

Jury gets case of student charged in Old City shooting [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Earlier: Commonwealth v. Ung: The Defendant Takes the Stand
Prior ATL coverage of Gerald Ung

Testimony is now over in the trial of Gerald Ung, the Temple Law student facing charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault stemming from a shooting in January 2010. Ung shot Eddie DiDonato, a former Villanova lacrosse captain and the son of a politically connected partner at the Fox Rothschild law firm.

Throughout the trial, Ung’s counsel, renowned Philadelphia defense lawyer Jack McMahon, has argued that his client acted in self-defense. As he said in his opening statement, “This case is about privileged, drunken bullies, four guys, tough guys, big-muscle guys. It’s unfortunate what happened to this young man [DiDonato], but it was their own fault.”

Today Gerald Ung got to drive this point home, in his own words. In a rare move for a criminal defendant, Ung took the stand, testifying for almost two hours.

How did Ung do? Let’s find out — and play the role of jurors, by voting in a reader poll….

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I think we’ve all been waiting for this. Last Wednesday, we picked up a report from the Stanford Daily announcing that students at Stanford Law School would be looking at a 5.75% tuition hike for the 2011 – 2012 academic year. That’s significantly larger than the 3.5% tuition hike for the rest of the university.

Given that most Stanford Law students found out the school was jacking up tuition from the Stanford Daily or Above the Law, I’m not surprised to see a school-wide apology from Stanford Law Dean Larry Kramer. And given the fact that the best reason thus far given for Stanford’s tuition hike reduces to “because we can,” I’m also not surprised to see Dean Kramer working hard to spin the story differently.

Do you find him convincing? Read his email and tell us what you think…

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Gerald Ung (left) and Edward DiDonato Jr. (right)

In response to our last story about Gerald Ung — the Temple Law student now on trial for attempted murder and aggravated assault (among other charges), after shooting Eddie DiDonato, a former Villanova lacrosse captain and the son of a prominent Fox Rothschild partner — some commenters expressed the view that our coverage was too favorable to the prosecution.

Look — we have no dog in this fight. It seems that the part of the post readers found most objectionable was a blockquote from a source who attended the trial, which we reprinted simply because it was from someone actually present in the courtroom. Sadly, Above the Law doesn’t have a Philadelphia bureau. If you’ve been attending the trial and would like to share your thoughts with us, we’d love to hear from you.

Another reason why the earlier story might have seemed more pro-prosecution is that it was describing the prosecution’s side of the case and the early prosecution witnesses. Now that the trial has been going on for several days, a fuller version of events has emerged. This will culminate tomorrow, when defendant Gerald Ung is expected to take the stand. This is not typical — it happens more on TV and in the movies than in real life — but then again, this is not the typical case. Ung’s defense lawyer, Jack McMahon, may be betting on the ability of his client — a law student, presumably intelligent and articulate — to win over the jury.

Let’s learn more about what’s been going on at the trial over the past few days — and hear some juicy tidbits about defense counsel McMahon….

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