Law Schools

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.

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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?

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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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'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….

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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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