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Earlier this week, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced this year’s roster of MacArthur Fellowship recipients — the winners of the so-called “Genius Grants.” According to the Foundation, it awards the prestigious grants to those who “have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction. There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.” MacArthur fellows receive $625,000 stipends, with no strings attached . . . except, you know, continuing to be brilliant.

Past MacArthur Genius Grant winners include minds as diverse as paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould; computer scientist and physicist Stephen Wolfram; writers like Cormac McCarthy, David Foster Wallace, Susan Sontag, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; filmmaker Errol Morris; cognitive scientist Amos Tversky; dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp; philosopher Richard Rorty; drummer and jazz composer Max Roach; statistician Persi Diaconis; literary critic Harold Bloom; and composer John Zorn. Basically, it’s a hell of a fantasy dinner-party guest list.

One of this year’s MacArthur geniuses is a lawyer. Who is it?

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Jill Kelley

* With a government shutdown looming, the Supreme Court will likely go about business as usual. In fact, Justice Alito is rolling his eyes at the mere concept of closing the Court’s doors as we speak. [SCOTUSblog]

* But in the meantime, both the Department of Justice and the federal judiciary are hunkering down and waiting for the collapse of law and order thanks to all of our petulant politicians in Washington, D.C. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Justice Scalia thinks the NSA’s surveillance programs may come before SCOTUS for an examination of a “right of privacy that comes from penumbras and emanations, blah blah blah, garbage.” [Associated Press]

* Perhaps it’s due to the “hangover from the collapse of the markets in 2008,” but white-collar defense practices are on the rise in Biglaw, and the firms’ leaders could not be happier. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* Another law school ranking just means there’s another way for Yale to whoop Harvard’s ass. Now we know that Lat’s alma mater is slightly better at producing law deans than Elie’s. [National Law Journal]

* A motion to dismiss has been filed, and now Jill Kelley, the Florida socialite who assisted in bringing about the end of General David Petraeus’s career in the CIA, is watching her legal case unravel. [CNN]

Scrooge McDuck: he is the 1 percent (but not a lawyer).

Becoming a millionaire a few months after graduating from law school is pretty amazing. But can you imagine being a billionaire?

Wouldn’t it be nice to be a member of the Forbes 400, the richest people in the United States? Then you can party on a yacht with models and bottles donate $20 million to the law school that helped launch you along the path of professional success.

We’ve written before about the lawyers and law school graduates on the Forbes 400. Earlier this month, the magazine released the latest rankings, and lawyers made a strong showing.

But there aren’t as many lawyers on the list as there used to be. What happened?

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Reasonable minds can disagree on how to reform law school, but here’s one thing that almost everyone can agree upon: the tuition is too darn high. In an ideal world, legal education would be much more affordable. Not everyone has wealthy parents who insist on paying for college and graduate school.

Alas, we’re probably not going to see major change on that front anytime soon. As long as the federal government keeps the loan money flowing, law schools have little incentive to lower tuition.

So, at least for now, we’ll have to settle for more modest measures at controlling cost. For example, law schools can and should devote greater resources to scholarships, which lower the effective price tag of a J.D. degree.

One leading law school just received a gigantic gift — which it’s putting towards scholarships, to its credit. Which law school is on the receiving end of this largesse, and how much is it getting?

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I’ve liked working in law and am taking the LSAT next month despite law school being mostly a really poor decision (especially for someone like me who doesn’t like debt).

– Meghan, a young American woman working at a boutique law firm in Istanbul, Turkey, discussing her plans for the future in an interview with Mike Dang of The Billfold. Meghan claims that if she doesn’t perform well on the LSAT, she won’t apply to law school.

My professor is rich. I’m not.

– a response submitted after Professor Lisa Mazzie of Marquette Law tasked her students with coming up with a six-word story to describe law school.

(Readers, are you up to the challenge? Give us your own six-word stories about law school in the comments.)

These days, when we speak about new lawyers, we tend to focus less on the mere accomplishment of graduating from law school, mainly because the only admissions requirement at some institutions is a pulse, and more on sobering topics like incredibly high student debt loads and rampant joblessness. This is the “new normal” for law school graduates, and it isn’t as appealing as deans would have you believe.

Given the fact that the market for legal employment dropped out from underneath those who graduated between 2009 and 2011 (and continues to falter to this day), servicing high amounts of law school debt is more difficult than ever before. Declaring bankruptcy isn’t a real option for many, and enrolling in income-based repayment is a temporary solution that has been called a ticking time bomb. You just can’t win.

Unwelcome debt situations usually go hand in hand with law degrees, and they can happen to the best of us — even those who were once lauded as geniuses, like Andrew Carmichael Post. In America, even if you graduate from college at 17, enroll in law school at 18, and pass one of the most difficult bar exams in the nation at 22, you’ll still be saddled with unmanageable debt — in this case, to the tune of $215,000.

How in the world will Post be able to shoulder such a heavy debt burden?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “If A Boy Genius Can’t Escape His Six-Figure Law School Debt, How Can You?”

* Will adjudicate for food? With a little more than one week until the end of the fiscal year, the federal judiciary is facing down a “worst-case scenario” with respect to its budget. [National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* An unremarkable percentage of firms are led by women lawyers, but Kim Koopersmith of Akin Gump awaits a day when being a first woman in law won’t be “newsworthy.” [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* Law firm merger mania, Heartland edition: Stinson Morrison Hecker did the do-si-do with Leonard Street & Deinard and will promenade home as Stinson Leonard Street in January. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Hearts are breaking on either side of the nationwide same-sex marriage debate, and county clerks are bearing the brunt of all the complaints. When will all states “bit[e] the bullet” and legalize it? [Reuters]

* “The last time I went into court, I was wearing something that I got at Goodwill.” It turns out even geniuses are stupid enough to rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in law school debt. [Los Angeles Times]

Andrew Kravis, recent Columbia Law School grad and new millionaire.

Congratulations to Andrew Kravis. He graduated from Columbia Law School this past May, but he’s already earned enough money to pay off all his student loans.

And no, he doesn’t work at a hedge fund or private equity firm. He doesn’t even work in Biglaw. He’s a public interest lawyer, about to start a fellowship at Lambda Legal, the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization working for LGBT civil rights. He was honored upon graduating from CLS as one of two students “who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in the furtherance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.”

So how did this outstanding do-gooder also do so well? How did he earn enough money to pay off all his student loans, and then some — a cool $2.6 million, to be exact?

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Each year, Corporate Counsel compiles a list of the law firms that Fortune 100 companies use as outside counsel. This year, to change things up a bit, it seems like the list has been expanded to cover the entire Fortune 500. From Apple to Yahoo, and every billion-dollar company in between, these corporate clients expect nothing short of the best in terms of legal representation when dealing with high-stakes litigation and deals. If you’re looking to line your firm’s pockets, you better head to the RFP line when these companies seek lawyers.

Up until last year, only the most prominent Biglaw firms (like Cleary, Davis Polk, Cravath, and Simpson Thacher) topped the list of those that had the pleasure of doing business with the country’s biggest companies. Things changed rapidly, however, when Big Business tried to cash in on deals for legal services. The firms that were willing to cave to the pressure of providing alternative fee arrangements won in a big way, and the rest were left in the dust.

Have these prestigious firms changed their ways? Is Corporate America again willing to open its fat wallet for them? Let’s find out…

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