Law Schools

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Commonwealth v. Ung: The Defendant Takes the Stand”

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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'Judge Tacha, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.'

Here’s a new mini-trend: federal judges leaving the bench to lead law schools.

In 2007, David F. Levi stepped down as chief judge of the Eastern District of California, to assume the deanship of Duke Law School.

Today, Pepperdine University School of Law announced that Judge Deanell Reece Tacha — who has served on the Tenth Circuit for over 25 years, including a term as chief judge (2001-2007) — will be the school’s new dean, effective June 1.

Judge Tacha follows in the footsteps of another federal judge: former D.C. Circuit Judge Ken Starr, of Whitewater / Monica Lewinsky fame. Judge Starr served as Pepperdine Law’s dean until he left last year for the presidency of Baylor University.

How are students reacting to news of Judge Tacha’s appointment?

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I don’t know how long they’ve been doing this, but I’ve just learned that Cornell offers a “Pre-Law Summer” program aimed at undergraduates who want to know more about becoming a lawyer. Cornell is charging almost $5,000 ($4,970 to be exact) for an “intensive, six-week program taught in New York City.” The program promises to give students an “unparalleled chance to develop an accurate picture of the realities, rewards, and challenges of being a lawyer today.”

(Oh, did I mention that the price tag doesn’t include housing or food in New York City for six weeks? I should have mentioned that.)

You know, I’m not even going to blame Cornell. If you have college students (or parents of college students) who are desperate to give you $5,000, you take it. In related news, if anybody wants to pay me $5,000 to watch me eat a sandwich, you know where to reach me.

But here at Above the Law, we believe in equal access. For all of the people who don’t have $5,000 for the “Pre-Law Summer,” we’re going to give you all the information you could have gotten from the program in one post, in the middle of February, for free!

Don’t say we never did anything for ya….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Just Read ATL for Six Weeks Instead of Doing Cornell’s ‘Pre-Law Summer’; We Won’t Charge You Five Large”

If Kanye West were here, he’d say: “The Stanford Board of Trustees doesn’t care about law students.”

Tuition is going up across the Stanford University system. That’s not surprising. We’ve said many times that tuition is “recession proof”; it just keeps going up, regardless of the job market for degree holders.

But Stanford is almost going out of its way to hurt its law students. While the rest of the university will endure a 3.5% tuition hike for the 2011-2012 academic year, Stanford Law School will receive a special 5.75% tuition hike. The law school currently charges $44,880 in tuition alone. Once you include books and other living expenses, the suggested budget for a Stanford Law student is $71,535 per year.

According to the school, that’s a bargain. The school should be charging way more. Why? “Because they can,” said one Stanford Law student we heard from.

When considering how much a Stanford J.D. should cost, the school admits that it’s not looking at the market value of a law degree — it’s simply looking at how much other schools charge for their degree programs, and making tuition decisions accordingly.

Yes, this is more evidence that the price of a law degree has become completely disassociated from the value of a law degree. But it’s also evidence that when the chips are down, Maryland Law cares a lot more about the future success of its students than Stanford…

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* Hey Elie, check this out: “Money Tips for Young Lawyers.” The top tip: “Get on top of student loans.” [Alpha Consumer / U.S. News & World Report]

* What matters more, experience or grades? [Lawyerist]

* Who should use a legal recruiter — and who shouldn’t? Recruiter Dan Binstock explains. [The Careerist]

* Sports law professor Gabriel Feldman considers some of the legal issues related to a possible NFL lockout. [Huffington Post]

Rep. Christopher Lee (R-NY)

* Ashby Jones asks: Is it time for stricter regulation of law schools and the information they disclose (or don’t disclose)? In other words, “Should Congress gin up the Law Student Truth in Education Act of 2011?” [WSJ Law Blog]

* If you’re interested in the intersection of law and neuroscience, here’s a new blog to check out (by the fabulous Professor Nita Farahany, of Vanderbilt Law). [Law and Biosciences Daily Digest]

* Professor Charles Ogletree is offering a cool new course at HLS: “Race and Justice — The Wire.” [WBUR]

* A married Republican congressman, Christopher Lee, has a new nickname: “The Craigslist Congressman.” His comment on the controversy: “I have to work this out with my wife.” [Gawker]

Please tell me you're not using that thing to actually take notes.

Here at Above the Law we do market research, just like everybody else. Some numbers just came across my desk that I thought some of you might find interesting.

Who needs the Cooley law school rankings? I have a listing of America’s top law schools based on a metric far more important than the number of books in the library: the number of visits to Above the Law….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “More Rankings: Top Law Schools Based On… Visits to Above the Law!”

We are well into February, and there are still law students who haven’t received all of their grades from first semester.

Why? I have no earthly idea. We’ve talked about this problem before: we get that professors really hate spending the time it takes to grade a bunch of exams. It’s boring. It’s arbitrary. It’s annoying to know that no matter how “fairly” you grade, you’ll have at least a few students who can’t handle the truth, waiting in your office to ambush you.

But it’s also your job. It’s your duty, owed to the students who are ruining themselves financially to help pay your salary, to provide them with grades in timely fashion. This is especially true in law school. And it’s especially true in a crappy economy. Law school grades matter, and it’s just cruel to keep students in the dark about them.

Now, if I show you a hundred professors who handed in grades late, you’ll hear a hundred different excuses about why grades were delayed: “I was preparing for a conference,” “My Commodore 64 broke down,” “I was having personal problems” — whatever. We get it; sometimes life intervenes and prevents professors from doing their jobs.

But at NYU Law School, some students are alleging that professorial favoritism is allowing some professors to turn in their grades much later than others…

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As a deeply self-loathing Asian-American, I do not support Asians shooting white people. The white people were nice enough to let us (or our ancestors) into this great country of theirs; the least we can do is show some gratitude.

In addition, as an emasculated Asian male (is that redundant?), I don’t like guns. Of course, I respect the Second Amendment, and I’m not endorsing any specific gun-control legislation. Legal and constitutional questions aside, I just think that guns are icky and scary and bad, and the world would be a better place if nobody had them.

Given all my weird hang-ups about Asians and guns, I probably wouldn’t have made it on to the jury in Commonwealth v. Ung. The criminal trial of (former?) Temple Law student Gerald Ung — a gun-toting Asian accused of shooting Eddie DiDonato, a former Villanova lacrosse captain and the son of a prominent Fox Rothschild partner — got underway in Philadelphia this week.

And Ung’s lawyer, defense attorney Jack McMahon, seems to be standing up for the right of his client to shoot some bros — in self-defense, of course….

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