Money

Since the Great Recession, it’s far too often that the public hears tales of horror about lawyers drowning in debt. We think it’s time for a change of pace. There are plenty of lawyers out there who have really made it financially — in case you’re mistaken, these people aren’t millionaires, they’re billionaires. These people would laugh at the thought of people suffering under the weight of six puny figures of law school loans.

As luck would have it, there’s a way to keep track of these luxurious creatures. Earlier this week, Forbes released its annual list of the richest people in America, the Forbes 400. Each year, we pore over the list to find the wealthiest lawyers, and in 2014, legal eagles continue to make a strong showing.

Which lawyers made the list this year? Keep reading to find out…

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Tracy Morgan

* Weil Gotshal is tired of winnowing its workers, so this time around, the firm is relinquishing some of its real estate. The firm will have the same address as usual, but its space will be smaller — 20 percent smaller. [WSJ Law Blog]

* It’s not just leaders of Biglaw firms who are looking to downsize. Leaders of midsize firms are trying to do the same thing, but with their management responsibilities instead of their people. Charming. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

* Lawyers are typically stereotyped by the uninformed as being some of the richest people in America. As luck would have it, some lawyers are the richest people in America. Which ones? We’ll have more on this later. [Am Law Daily]

* “If I could redo a year ago, I would still go. Just because I know that [law school] still opens doors.” We’ve got a correction: Silly 2L, Columbia Law — not law school in general — still opens doors. [USA Today]

* Tracy Morgan has spoken out for the first time since his tragic accident this summer, but only after Wal-Mart blamed him for getting hurt in the first place. It’s a rollback on pure class. [New York Daily News]

Law school can ruin your life if you are not careful. It’s very expensive and the rewards are far from guaranteed. And even if you reap those rewards, you might not like what you’ve become.

But if you do everything wrong, law school becomes just a tragicomic microcosm of poor planning and bad luck.

Forbes has an article up about a woman who is $350,000 in debt and living at the poverty line. Oh, but she has a law degree, and people who haven’t been paying attention are surprised by that…

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

If there was one decision I would overrule, it would be Citizens United. I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be.

– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, explaining the reasons why she thinks Citizens United was one of the worst Supreme Court decisions of recent times, after being asked her opinion in a wide-ranging interview with Jeffrey Rosen of the New Republic.

(What do you think is the worst SCOTUS ruling in recent memory? Tell us.)

Hallelujah and rejoice, for there are new Biglaw rankings upon us. Today, the American Lawyer magazine announced its Global 100, a ranking of the world’s 100 largest law firms in terms of total revenue. As we learned from the 2014 Am Law 100, the super-rich among the world’s Biglaw firms are only getting richer, and the latest rankings serve only as confirmation of this fact.

Last year, there were some surprising moves among the top 10 global firms, with DLA Piper swooping in to steal Baker & McKenzie’s thunder as the top-grossing firm in the world. Did the global mega-firm manage to reclaim its glory in the Global 100?

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She’s not a porn star, she’s a law student. We could see where you might be confused by that one.

* Now that we know Eric Holder is resigning, there’s been speculation as to where he’ll go next. The obvious choice is a return to Covington & Burling, but he could still surprise everyone. [National Law Journal]

* “Judicial campaign cash is burning a hole in the Constitution.” State court judges are pumping money into their election campaigns, and some have been left to wonder about its true price. [New York Times]

* Details have emerged as to conditions that must be met for Bingham McCutchen’s proposed merger with Morgan Lewis: partner promises, de-equitizations, and forgivable loans, oh my! [Reuters (sub. req.)]

* In the wake of Dean Makau Mutua’s decision to step down at Buffalo Law, a “deep rift” among faculty has been brought to light. The school’s future doesn’t seem as “bright” as we were once told. [Buffalo News]

* A former law student who was falsely identified as a porn star on the radio had her day in court and pulled out a win. Here’s the money shot: she’s walking away with $1 million in damages. [Kansas City Star]

Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Bad Therapist: A Romance, is available on Amazon, as are his previous books, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist and Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

My client — a second year corporate associate working in a foreign office — compared remaining at her Biglaw firm to eating cockroaches.

“You know, on one of those reality game shows where they dare you to eat a bucket of cockroaches and they’ll pay you a million bucks if you do.”

I requested she elaborate.

“My point is, at some juncture you stop and think — and this is probably a rational part of your brain: Hell, for a million bucks, I’ll do it. I mean, for a million bucks, you’ll do anything, so long as you can get it over with in a minute or two. The plan is to keep repeating in your head a million dollars a million dollars a million dollars until — bingo! — all done, and you’re rich.”

Alas, there’s a wrinkle…

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Every firm has its big book partners.  And the size of the book doesn’t always correlate in an obvious way to the skills of the lawyer, or even to relationships.  There are other ways to get rich…

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* The lawyers fighting against marriage equality say “[w]hether [they] win or lose in lower courts doesn’t matter that much,” because everything will be up to the Supreme Court at the end of the day — but so far, they mostly lose. [National Law Journal]

* On the other side of the coin, the lawyers fighting in favor of marriage equality are sounding more and more like used car salesmen, always bragging about the quality of their “vehicles” just to get their cases in front of the justices. [New York Times]

* In the meantime, Justice Kagan officiated her first same-sex wedding this weekend for one of her former clerks. Only the women of SCOTUS, sans Sotomayor, have performed such ceremonies. [Huffington Post]

* In a landmark decision, Arab Bank PLC was found liable for supporting Hamas in a civil terrorism-finance case. There will be a second trial to determine damages, but the bank plans to appeal. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Here’s advice for those of you considering reapplying to law school during a time of educational crisis: rewrite your app in crayon, you’ll probably get in. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

Early last week, we broke the news that the Thomas Jefferson School of Law had missed a payment on its revenue bonds, triggering a default event under its current Loan Agreement. Luckily for the school, it was able to strike a deal with its bondholders to delay the unseemly business of ceasing its operations, at least until October 17, 2014. In the interim, TJSL is discussing “various potential structures and restructuring alternatives” with its bondholders, and is “confident” that it will be able to reach an accord in the near future.

When we last checked in with this overly optimistic law school, TJSL was hoping that it would be able to “continue to prosper” after settling up with its creditors. But how is the law school supposed to reach this happy fate when its credit rating with Standard & Poor’s keeps getting downgraded lower and lower?

Perhaps it’s time for Thomas Jefferson Law to remove its rose-colored glasses and embrace the fact that it shares the same financial woes as its own namesake. Will the school die in debt like our former president?

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