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There’s a reason why our weekly column by Law Shucks has been retitled from “This Week in Layoffs” to “This Week in Biglaw.” The pace of law firm layoffs has slowed dramatically. They haven’t stopped completely, and we suspect that many firms are still conducting “stealth layoffs” (which we welcome tips about — just email us). But many firms have stopped cutting, and some are even hiring again. Last month the legal sector added 300 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In terms of the bigger picture, we’re not out of the economic woods just yet — Europe’s economic troubles have led to increased chatter about a possible double-dip recession — but things are definitely improving. Here’s one sign, reported earlier this week by the Associated Press:

One sign of better economic times is when more people start finding jobs. Another is when they feel confident enough to quit them. More people quit their jobs in the past three months than were laid off — a sharp reversal after 15 straight months in which layoffs exceeded voluntary departures, suggesting the job market is finally thawing.

In addition to the strengthening job market, there’s another reason for increased voluntary movement: overwork and discontent among those who managed to hang on to their jobs in the recession….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Coming Law Firm Staffing Shortage?”

Here at Above the Law, we like to provide a service to our readers. Sometimes things happen at a law firm that you just can’t talk about to your colleagues. But you can always tell us.

Last week, we corresponded with a frustrated attorney. Despite the fact that he’s quite senior and has changed firms looking for a better situation, he’s still dealing with the kind of casual disrespect most associates all across the land must suffer:

I sit here today at my new law firm, still disgruntled, I find myself writing a fictitious response to a real email sent to me on Monday by my boss. I actually sent the fictitious email to my brother, for pleasure reading, and not to my boss of course. I thought I would share it with you.

The very real email he received from the partner in question seems innocuous enough:

From: [Redacted]
Sent: Monday
To: [Redacted]

Please let me know if you are licensed in Kansas. I have some work that needs to be done over there.

It’s a harmless enough request, until you learn a little bit more of the backstory that this associate just wishes he could explain to the partner…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Emails to Partners That Can Never Be Sent”

Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to

Dear ATL,

I work in Manhattan and it’s time for me to get a new prescription for my glasses. Some of my friends are saying that I should trade in the glasses for contacts, to make me look young (I’m on the wrong side of 30). But others contend that glasses give me a distinguished look which will help my career. Still others suggest Lasik — though I’m not wild about shooting laser beams into my eyeballs.

What should I do? I’ve been delaying going to the optometrist for weeks while I ponder my options.

Four Eyes

The optician isn’t a needle exchange… you don’t have to surrender your old, dirty glasses in order to procure a clean set of contacts. This is America, you can have both, especially if you have a Flex Spending account.  The real question is whether you should roll up to work in glasses or contacts. Lasik only makes sense if you like paying money for permanent broken blood vessels and blurry night vision.

Gender plays a large role in the answer…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Pls Hndle Thx: Eyes Are the Window to Flex Spending Accounts”

“Hey, are you on the Posse List?”

“The what list?”

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away — seven years ago in the Farragut North area of Washington, DC — the “what?” list was my response when I first heard of the Posse List from a fellow contract attorney on one of my first projects. At the time, I was a newly minted lawyer, who also happened to be broke and unemployed.

“The Posse List,” replied my colleague, handing me a piece of paper. “Here, write down your email.”

Soon after handing over my email address, messages started appearing a couple of times a week in my inbox from The emails contained news about various projects in D.C. that were either about to start or status updates on current ones. It was sort of my own personal “heads up” as to what work was available.

I was lucky to be one of the first few hundred people added to the list. In 2003, very few contract attorneys knew what the Posse List was; by 2005, it was a household name. And today, in the world of e-discovery and legal technology, it is known around the world.

So how did the Posse List attain such a long reach from such humble beginnings?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The ‘What’ List?”

Not that we’re in the business of giving free legal advice, but there are a few things every lawyer should know. Lawyers should know how to handle a traffic stop, for instance. They should know how to handle cops who shout slurs at you from across the street. And of course, lawyers should never snitch.

Some of these lessons come as a shock to laypeople, and even some lawyers who didn’t pay enough attention during Criminal Procedure. But high on the list of things that trained attorneys should never do is submit to a breathalyzer test. You don’t need to be a DUI defense attorney to know that you don’t blow.

The unwritten rule isn’t there to protect drunk drivers (okay, it kind of is there to protect drunks who operate high-speed killing machines); it’s also there to protect innocent people who don’t want to get caught up in the criminal justice system.

An article in today’s Washington Post underscores the point: the breathalyzer simply cannot be trusted, and juries can’t be trusted to know that…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Another Reason You Should Never Blow”

When the U.S. News rankings came out this year, Duke Law School had fallen out of the top ten. But one thing that hadn’t fallen was its Graduates Employed At Graduation statistic. As Elie noted (with skepticism), Duke reported that 100% of its 2008 graduates were employed.

Elie wondered how that was possible given the economic climate in 2008. Though the climate in 2009 was even worse, Duke maintained its perfect score. However, we’re told that Duke will likely not have a 100% in this box for its class of 2010.

As Duke Law News reported, Duke worked hard to ensure its graduates had jobs. While it didn’t go the SMU route of paying employers to “test drive” its graduates, it does now provide stipends to some of its unemployed graduates to allow them to work for a couple months at no cost to employers. Using SMU’s car metaphor, the law school pays for the gas while Dukies and prospective employers take a little spin. Duke calls it “The Bridge to Practice” program.

It started in 2008 — employing the nine graduates who would have otherwise ruined that nice round 100%. The numbers of participants have increased since then, as the economy has worsened.

We interviewed a couple of them about the experience. The escalating numbers and Bridgers’ stories, including how much Duke pays, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Secret to ’100% Employed at Graduation’: Duke’s Bridge to Practice”

We’ve lost every objection so far. Maybe we can win this one.

– Chicago defense attorney Marc Martin, after asking Judge Joan Lefkow to delay the next day’s trial start so that jurors could stay up late watching the Blackhawks (w)in the Stanley Cup game Wednesday night.

* Unhappy investors in Arizona go after the law firm that drafted papers for the company that allegedly swindled them. Greenberg Traurig is hit with a $52 million lawsuit for allegedly aiding a mortgage fund in a $1 billion fraud. [Courthouse News Service]

* Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia’s secret love. [Washington Post]

* A one-year lapse in the estate law means $9 billion is being passed down to heirs in Texas sans taxes. [New York Times]

* Are lawyers happy about the oil spill in the Gulf? [CNN]

* New York Law School professor realizes he is dyslexic. [Huffington Post via ABA Journal]

* A Philadelphia man goes Rocky on his lawyer. Again. []

* David Souter wants America to grow up. [Slate]

* Blind law students sue law schools over their online applications. But not applying to these schools may be for the best. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

Victoria of MTV's Downtown Girls

With job prospects bleak and the allure of fleeting fame high, some lawyers have considered sending their résumés to reality TV show casting companies instead of legal recruiters. But competition is tough in the realm of trashy television, too.

One unemployed New York lawyer is living the reality TV star dream. Meet Victoria. She is one of the stars of Downtown Girls, a new MTV series about hot girls living in TriBeCa. Sounds like a winner!

Let’s take a look at her bio:

An aspiring attorney, Victoria is Shallon’s other roommate, whose eccentric ways provide a source of rattlebrained comic relief. Victoria recently graduated from law school and is currently awaiting the results of her second attempt at the bar exam. Like her roommates, Victoria is also single, and is infamously known as the “queen of the first date.”

Really? You’re going to include the fact that you failed the bar exam in your MTV website bio?

Can it get worse?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Why Unemployed Lawyers Shouldn’t Go On Reality TV Shows — Exhibit A: Victoria, of MTV’s Downtown Girls”

* It’s shocking that the crime of adultery is still on the books in New York, but it’s not surprising that a woman is getting slammed with it. The Hester Prynnes in these situations always get it worse than the Arthur Dimmesdales. [Gothamist]

* Minnesota Congresswoman drafts legislation calling for Professor Erlinder’s immediate release. What’s the point of being a superpower if we can’t get our citizens out of jail when they are being held on ridiculous charges in a foreign country? [Betty McCollum]

* Look, I’m the one who wasn’t drooling over Debrahlee Lorenzana when her manufactured breasts first appeared on my computer screen. But I guess I can understand the reflexive need for women to defend another woman’s right to beg to be stared at then whirl around and complain when men stare. [True/Slant]

* Verily, Monty Python could have come to a more sensible decision than Kennedy did in Berghuis v. Tompkins. [Infamy or Praise]

* The things we chose to care about during a state-sanctioned murder. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Vinson & Elkins associate gets a two book deal. [Tex Parte Blog]

* Whoever is running John McCain’s Twitter feed needs to stop trying to look “hip.” [Josh Blackman's Blog]

Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Left to right: John Michael Farren, Scott Rothstein, Michael Margulies.

For some reason, today brings lots of news about lawyers and the criminal justice system. And we’re not talking about lawyers representing clients, but lawyers who are the clients: John Michael Farren, the former White House lawyer accused of attempting to murder his wife; Scott Rothstein, the Florida attorney who ran a massive Ponzi scheme; and Michael Margulies, the former Lindquist & Vennum partner who misappropriated millions in client money. We’ve decided to hit this rogues’ gallery in a single, omnibus post.

Let’s start with John Michael Farren, the former Bush Administration lawyer and Xerox general counsel charged with attempted murder and first-degree strangulation of his wife, Skadden counsel Mary Margaret Fadden. As reported by the ABA Journal, John Farren has posted $750,000 bail and been released to the “Institute of Living” — which sounds like a fancy spa where you eat seaweed and do yoga, but is actually a mental hospital in Hartford.

The news coverage also reveals that the wealthy couple’s divorce has been finalized. How were their millions distributed?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Trio of Misbehaving Lawyers: Some Updates”

Tough curve ahead.

By this point, you know the drill with grade reform:

A) Law school experiences embarrassing employment outcomes.
B) Administration refuses to admit legal education is ridiculously overpriced given the soft job market.
C) Students demand immediate administrative action to help students find work.
D) Administration has precisely zero ideas on how to help students get jobs.
E) Administration blames its own “tough grading curve” that allegedly “disadvantages” its students.
F) Administration enacts “grade reform.”
G) Students feel momentarily appeased.
H) Employers ask for class ranking and go back to putting 90% of the transcripts they receive from the school in question into the shredder.

Next year, Tulane Law School will make grading easier. Getting a good job with a Tulane Law degree will remain just as difficult as ever…

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