Money

Thumbs up, managing partners!

April Fools’ Day is a terrible day to be in this business. Every tip that comes in requires an extra layer of scrutiny because even longstanding, trusted sources are trying to troll. It’s really not all that funny to make up false but entirely believable stories and pass them off as real. That’s why the Daily Currant isn’t funny.

Which is why when Citi Private Bank issued its First Quarter report on the confidence of managing partners across the legal landscape and declared that managing partners have a rosy outlook, it earned a double take on this end. After all, wasn’t it just a few months ago that managing partners were telling the American Lawyer that it was all gloom and doom on the horizon?

So is this result real? It is, but the headline isn’t the end of the story….

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About two weeks ago, we reported on a study of the law schools whose graduates earned the highest median starting salaries. The rankings were based on numbers culled from Payscale.com, and if you thought the list looked a bit odd, you weren’t the only ones. “Those median starting salary figures are about as believable as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny,” remarked one of our commenters, while others cried T14 tears over Penn’s mysterious absence from the list.

Wipe your tears, friends, because today we’ve got a new and improved list for you — one with salary numbers delivered straight from the law schools themselves, including the percentage of recent graduates who reported their salaries.

Which schools are on the new list? Keep reading to find out…

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* The NCAA’s president thinks Northwestern’s sports union will be the first case of its kind to be heard by the Supreme Court, and his brain hasn’t even been scrambled by concussions. [Bloomberg]

* “If I’d come up with it, I’d probably be proud of it.” If this Georgia lawyer had used the “my client is too handsome for rape” defense, perhaps there wouldn’t have been a conviction. [Daily Report (reg. req.)]

* A few weeks ago, we wrote about the best law schools for making money. Since then, the rankings were revised due to error. Where does your school stand now? We’ll chat about this today. [Forbes]

* “[L]awyers aren’t retiring or dying nearly fast enough for us to fill their spots.” Perhaps statements like this about the job market wouldn’t be so prevalent if U.S. News told pre-law applicants the truth. [NPR]

* Law students will call you out for your behavior, even if you’re a police officer This one is suing the NYPD for false arrest after questioning their food truck tactics. We’ll have more on this later. [New York Post]

The Associated Press reports today that the indebtedness of over 37 million American graduates now tops $1 trillion. That’s more than the total American debt load from credit cards. It’s more than the debt load associated with car purchases. And somewhere there is probably some politician touting how college is now “affordable” for every child.

And, as usual, the plight of law students in debt is a great case study in how debt is crippling a generation’s ability to generate wealth…

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Jordan Graham and Cody Johnson

* Scared of an audit, were we? With the unsealing of the case against Dewey’s former finance director comes greater insight into what was really going on behind the scenes at the failed firm. [DealBook / New York Times]

* The American Bar Association is willing pay up to $15,000 to organizations that match unemployed law grads with jobs to serve the legal needs of the poor. So, how much do the poor law grads get paid? [National Law Journal]

* Tenure may be “under fire,” but law professors are fighting back — and hard — because law school deans seem unwilling to speak up on their behalf. Let’s face facts though, tenure isn’t going anywhere. [Forbes]

* It figures one of the faces of America’s $1 trillion of outstanding student loan debt is a lawyer. Hey, heavily indebted lawyers make great headlines and even better first paragraphs. [Big Story / Associated Press]

* Jordan Graham, the newlywed who pushed her husband of eight days off a cliff, was sentenced to serve 30 years in prison. Protip: an annulment would’ve been a better option than second-degree murder. [CNN]

Here’s a sentence from a recent Seventh Circuit opinion:

[T]his case shows every sign of being an overzealous prosecution for a technical violation of a criminal regulatory statute — the kind of rigid and severe exercise of law-enforcement discretion that would make Inspector Javert proud.

This was a sentence from the dissent.

Amazingly, though, the majority voted to reverse the conviction. Judge Sykes, who authored the dissent, would have affirmed the conviction — though, presumably, not because she thinks a Javert-like prosecution is a model that the Department of Justice ought to aspire to.

It’s an odd day when such strong language appears in an opinion that supports a court of appeals affirming a district court decision. And this case, United States v. Abair, is odd. (And thank you, Professor Volokh, for pointing the case out!)

Why is the case odd?

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Yesterday, we brought our readers some “startling” statistics about law student debt levels. It seems that average indebtedness for law graduates increased by more than $50,000 between 2004 and 2012, with a typical law student saddled by about $140,000 in loans.

In fairness, those statistics probably weren’t all that startling to our readers — many of them are heavily indebted themselves. In fact, we know that many of them are carrying debt loads that surpass even that six-figure number.

Which law school graduates have the most debt of all? U.S. News has a ranking for that…

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I think we’ve long known that law is a refuge for people who are afraid of numbers. People who are good at math don’t borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars for a shot at winning the bi-modal salary distribution lottery and a job that they’ll most likely hate. I don’t think we needed a longitudinal survey to show that.

But the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth also found that lawyers are more likely to come from relatively rich families, which does surprise me.

Studying law is hard, and your financial success is somewhat directly tied to the amount of hours you work. A banker can earn money in his sleep. A lawyer has only 24 hours in a day to bill. If your family makes a lot of money, aren’t you supposed to get an anthropology degree and work for an NGO? Why would you slum it with the social climbers trying to get into the upper middle class, one deal sheet at a time?

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Some of the study’s more eye-popping statistics pertained to law school students, whose job prospects are famously declining. The level of indebtedness for this group rose by more than $50,000 from 200[4] to 2012, with the typical law student now owing $140,000, the study found — a jump that’s unprecedented in any other field, including medicine.

Molly Hensley-Clancy of BuzzFeed, discussing a recent report by the New America Foundation about the student debt crisis.

As we noted in Morning Docket, there’s a new survey out about corporate America’s legal spending in 2013. As noted by Am Law Daily, the LegalView Index “is based on actual dollars paid by clients, not on surveys of law firms” — so perhaps it’s more reliable than many of the other studies.

What does the survey say? Here are some highlights:

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