Legal Research

Homework is hard.

Are you out of work and unable to get even the document review companies to look your way? Did you graduate from a lower-ranked law school and want the opportunity to prove you could have played with the big kids at a T14 school? Or maybe you just always thought elite law schools should work more like football teams in the South. Well, you’re in luck, because a T14 1L has taken to Craigslist seeking an experienced attorney (or at least a 2L/3L) to go ahead and tackle his or her homework assignment.

Once again, Craigslist found a way to lower the bar on the outlook for the legal market.

Go ahead and keep reading if you want to know where to send in your résumé. We won’t judge…

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Have you seen this over the last few days?

* Were you using Westlaw last week and saw this image? Here’s why… [Westlaw]

* A federal judge is charged with DUI. And there’s video of the arrest! [American Press]

* A heartwrenching poem from a law professor about discrimination. Wait, it’s not about race or gender discrimination but about not getting tenure as a legal writing professor. Yeah, that makes sense. [TaxProf Blog]

* Criminal defense lawyers are part-counselor, listening to the woes of their clients. Should basic instruction in therapy be part of professional training? [Katz Justice]

* The collapse of legal industry could be happening again, this time to the medical profession. [The Atlantic]

* Jeez, I had no idea that the paralegal industry is enjoying such a surge in hiring. I guess it makes sense… you get all the drudgery work of a young lawyer at half the cost. [George Washington University]

* A new DOJ report confirms what we all expected: Montana law enforcement officials are kind of terrible at prosecuting sexual assault cases. [Jezebel]

“Playing Lecture Bingo gets 20 minutes in the corner”

The actual practice of law is much more rigorous than law school. Law school is basically college with lucrative summer jobs and crippling debt. Drinking every day, last-minute cramming, and generally winging it on exams are not out of place. That said, continuing the college-honed approach to my class work in no way conflicted with my understanding of proper professional behavior. I could slap together a paper for “Law and Super Mario Bros.”[1] or whatever seminar I was in and immediately shift gears to drafting well-researched and meticulously prepared memos for partners for my summer gig.

So while ATL is on record as a proponent of encouraging law schools to offer more concrete professional training, it’s not necessary to make class run like a day in the office of the worst partner or in the courtroom of a judicial diva.

That’s why, even though justified as an effort to train students to succeed in the persnickety world of trial practice, we really don’t need this professor’s three-and-a-half pages of single-spaced rules drenched in condescension….

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Ronan Farrow: a former Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree turned contest judge.

Since 2012, the list-loving folks at Forbes have been publishing “30 Under 30″ compilations for various fields of endeavor. The 2014 lists just came out, and they include, of course, a 30 Under 30 for law and public policy. We noted the news in yesterday’s Non-Sequiturs.

Such lists generate great traffic, but they also exhibit a somewhat arbitrary character that can be criticized, even mocked. The New Yorker, for example, took inspiration from Forbes to create 3 Under 3: Entrepreneurs, Intellectuals, Toddlers.

A list of notable legal eagles under 30 presents additional problems. Unlike, say, sports or the arts, where people over 30 might already be “over the hill,” law doesn’t lend itself to super-young prodigies. As Miguel Morales of Forbes points out in introducing the list, “It’s never easy for FORBES staffers to sniff out the 30 best and brightest Millennials making an impact on their fields. In law and public policy, where most people are barely out of law school by 30, let alone blazing trails in their fields, the task sometimes felt farcical.”

Whether it’s farcical or not, we know you want to see the list. Let’s have a peek, shall we?

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* Antonin Scalia thinks the State of the Union is a “childish spectacle.” I mean, if it was so important, the Founders would have put it in the Constitution, right? [New York Daily News]

* Does your son or daughter want to be Barack Obama when they grow up? Here are complete instructions to building your own play drone! [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Snickers bars are not tax deductible? Damn you H&R Block!!! [Tax Prof Blog]

* Yesterday I mused about needing a ranking for the rankings. PrawfsBlawg points out that there is such a ranking. My dreams of glory are dashed yet again. [PrawfsBlawg]

* It turns out recruiters are just as unimpressed with your legal research skills as your non-law friends. [Monster]

* Allegedly, Nestle’s does not play well with others. [Courthouse News Service]

* Is it just me or is giving the Republican response like being named the Madden cover athlete? Now let’s all watch Marco Rubio realize he needs water in super slow motion. [Deadspin]

Ah, the Bluebook. Some people love it, but even more people despise it. If you ask my colleague Elie Mystal about the Bluebook, he’ll tell you that it’s the only book in the world he’d actually consider burning in public. Even federal judges hate the Bluebook. In fact, when we held a poll about whether use of the Bluebook should be abolished, 51% of our readers agreed that it should be banished.

All that being said, is it any wonder that a student from a law school in Virginia is raging against the law review’s upcoming Bluebook exam? Several law students have written to us about this student’s “guerilla campaign” against the school’s annual exercise in “academic hazing,” and they have even provided us with copies of this kid’s manifesto. (Yeah, he’s got one.)

Who is this revolutionary, and why does he think the school’s Bluebook exam needs to go?

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Tom Wallerstein

Over the last few years, the legal market has changed dramatically. We live in a buyer’s market in which the clients hold the upper hand and can demand financial concessions from their attorneys that go beyond lower hourly rates.

This good news for clients might sound like bad news for lawyers. If lawyers can’t charge as much, they likely won’t make as much. But although greater price competition might lower revenue for some firms, it surely presents an opportunity for others. Small law firms often compete with bigger firms on price, and increased client sensitivity to legal fees can be a marketing boon to firms that can undercut their competition (with the familiar caveat, of course, that the smaller firm must be able to provide the resources and quality required by the particular matter).

The changing market invites, if not demands, lawyers to offer concessions for clients. Happily, many of the concessions have relatively little impact on the firm’s bottom line, but can garner significant goodwill with clients. For example….

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Where would lawyers be without open (and absurdly expensive) access to Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis for legal research? They’d have to trudge down to the closest law library and read real books made of paper. They’d have to head over to the courthouse and pull actual files with non-electronic documents inside of them. In a time where legal texts are used solely for decorative bookshelf purposes, that is just too much to ask.

But that is the behavior that two lawyers would expect of their professional colleagues. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, they claim that the legal database providers have been engaging in “unabashed wholesale copying of thousands of copyright-protected works created by, and owned by, the attorneys and law firms who authored them.”

Do they have any chance of winning their class action copyright suit?

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The great thing about free stuff is that it is free. Nobody cares what kind of plastic junk they’re getting as long as it’s free. Why do sports fans go nuts over t-shirt cannons, even though the shirts are ugly as hell and always XXL? Duh, because they’re free.

To me, it seems logical that no one has any right to complain when free stuff is taken away, or when it turns out to be a major letdown.

If you want a crummy T-shirt so badly, go buy one. If you want to go to Starbucks, don’t complain that your aunt Maggie didn’t give you a big enough gift card for Christmas. Just go buy your coffee.

Judging from a recent LexisNexis online promotion geared toward law students, though, it seems I might be in the minority. On its Facebook page, Lexis has been advertising “challenges” for law students. Supposedly, the first 1,000 students to complete each challenge win 1,000 “Lexis points,” which are similar to credit card rewards points.

Tragically, some computer problems caused students to have trouble accessing and submitting their answers earlier this week. A tidal wave of law school students became enraged and took to Lexis’s Facebook with their fury. Woe to he who angers law students….

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Welcome to the latest edition of Above the Law’s Grammer Pole of the Weak, a column where we turn questions of legal writing and English grammar and usage over to our readers for discussion and debate.

Last week, we found out that only 29% of our readers lie back and think of England when dealing with punctuation and quotation marks. Makes you proud to be an American, doesn’t it?

This week, we turn to a hotly-debated issue among legal professionals: the use of the Bluebook. At least one federal judge hates it, joining hundreds upon thousands of law students to date.

Should we consider putting the Bluebook on the backburner in our legal writing?

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