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Conspiracy is probably the most charged offense in the federal courts. At core, its elements are simple (generally). A and B have completed the crime of conspiracy if they (1) have an agreement to do something illegal and (2) some co-conspirator committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. The overt act does not have to be illegal.

So, if Larry says to Doug, “Let’s lie through email to potential investors about how viable our real estate plan is,” then Doug says “That’s a great idea, let’s do it!” and the two put together a letter they would email to potential investors that contains a number of lies about how viable an investment is, they’ve probably conspired to commit wire fraud.

The tricky bit is that the agreement that’s at the core of a conspiracy charge — like many kinds of contracts — can be implied. It’s rare that folks in a conspiracy negotiate the terms of the conspiracy or memorialize it.

So, if Larry and Doug just sit down and work — together — on a letter that lies to investors, one may (depending on the other facts in the case) think that the two have an implied agreement to commit fraud and that they’re guilty of participating in a fraud conspiracy.

The tricky part is when one person says, in essence, it would be really freaking cool to do X (where X is illegal) but doesn’t really mean that she wants to do X.

For example, some people may think that it would be funny to blow a raspberry on Justice Scalia’s belly. But just because Doug tells Larry that it would be cool to blow a raspberry on Justice Scalia’s belly, and Larry then looks up Justice Scalia’s next public appearance, does not necessarily mean that either one of them actually intends to storm Justice Scalia’s security detail just to blow on the Justice’s stomach.

And, of course, a jury is most likely to find that Doug and Larry are guilty the more they’re doing something that the jurors themselves think of as not funny and, in fact, really quite repugnant.

Like kidnapping, killing, and eating women, or trying to foment a jihad….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Attempted Cannibalism and Furthering Jihad: Two Views of Intent in a Criminal Conspiracy”

Lindsay Lohan

* Law firm mergers are on a record-setting pace, with 39 thus far in 2014. Just one “megamerger” was announced in the second quarter (Patton Boggs / Squire Sanders), but hey, we still have half the year ahead of us. [Am Law Daily]

* It hasn’t been a good week for the Thomas M. Cooley Law School. In addition to all of its enrollment woes, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of its defamation suit against Team Strauss/Anziska. [National Law Journal]

* The doctors who spent the month of June evaluating Oscar Pistorius’s mental health found that he was depressed and posed a potential suicide risk. You’d feel the same if you were facing jail time. [CNN]

* Walgreens will give $180,000 to an ex-employee with diabetes as a settlement after the store fired her for eating a $1.39 bag of chips before paying to fend off a low blood sugar attack. [San Francisco Chronicle]

* Lindsay Lohan is suing Rockstar Games over an alleged character likeness in Grand Theft Auto V. To be fair, the character does kind of look like LiLo circa her “Mean Girls” days. [International Business Times]

Bryan A. Garner

This May, Thomson Reuters published the tenth edition of the estimable Black’s Law Dictionary (affiliate link). The most widely cited legal book in the world, Black’s is a must-have for every lawyer and law student.

Henry Campbell Black published the first edition in 1891. Starting with the publication of the seventh edition in 1995, Black’s has been edited by Professor Bryan A. Garner, the noted lexicographer, legal-writing expert, and author of such books as Garner’s Modern American Usage, Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, and Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts (the last two co-authored with Justice Antonin Scalia (affiliate links)).

I met with Garner during his recent visit to New York, where he taught his famous legal-writing course to various law firms and government employers. His voice was hoarse from a summer cold, but he generously soldiered through an interview with the help of some tea. Here’s a (lightly edited and condensed) write-up of our conversation.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Black’s Law Dictionary: An Interview with Bryan A. Garner”

* Politico asked 19 legal experts to evaluate the Supreme Court term. I wonder which 9 justices they thought were most important this term? [Politico]

* One of the girls who stabbed a friend at the supposed behest of the fictional “Slenderman” was deemed incompetent. [Chicago Tribune]

* Have you checked out the logo for Stussy jeans? Because those horsies look awfully familiar to a certain other, more famous jean company. [Los Angeles Intellectual Property Attorney Blog]

* The sad truth for those of you banking on Biglaw careers to pay off your loans? You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. [Law School Lemmings]

* The recent study that created a cumulative ranking of law schools based on LSAT scores, employment, and citations has been updated to account for school-funded jobs. No more gaming the system schools. [The Faculty Lounge]

* Womble Carlyle prevails in the discrimination suit brought by a cancer survivor they fired when her cancer treatment left her weak. What’s with lawyers picking on cancer survivors today? [Triangle Business Journal]

* Mr. Florida Football: July 2014. Check out his stats: 6’1″, 245, 3 murder charges… [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* The next generation wants to change the world. Maybe consider something other than law school. [Law and More]

* The suit between Jerry Only and Danzig (Glenn, not Chris) is heating up with a countersuit. [Metal Sucks]

* Time for another Battle of the Law Firm Bands! This one is in L.A. next Tuesday, July 8, and 11 bands from area law firms and companies are playing, including bands from Latham, Gibson, O’Melveny, and MoFo. It’s for a good cause, so show up. [Family Violence Appellate Project]

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Having personally experienced the lows of depression and the positive energy that comes from blogging and social media, I have to believe the effective use of social media could prevent depression for many lawyers.

In a story outside of law, AP sportswriter John Marshall (@jmarshallap) reported Monday on the positive impact social media is having on a six-time Olympic gold medal winner, Amy Van Dyken (@amyvandyken), just a few weeks after she suffered a life-threatening spinal injury.

Not long after Van Dyken’s first surgery, her husband Tom Rouen, a former punter for the Denver Broncos, placed a cellphone in her hands:

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This is a clear sign of the impending apocalypse. It’s totally insane and it speaks poorly of where we are. We are so enamored with appearance and attractiveness that we are willing to totally disregard that we’re talking [about] somebody who is a criminal, someone who has a long rap sheet and a history of convictions. His current allegations involve weapons possession by somebody who society has deemed should not possess guns. If the allegations against him are true, he appears to be a very, very bad boy.

– Criminal defense attorney Darren Kavinoky, host of Investigation Discovery’s “Deadly Sins,” commenting on the Hollywood modeling agent that Jeremy Meeks signed with after his mugshot went viral.

Of course I took an interest in Jordan Weissmann’s Slate articles saying that now could be the best time to go to law school. He argues that because of the continuing drop in law school applicants and the supposed increase or stabilization in law school recruiting, future graduates have a good chance of getting entry-level positions in law firms or those “corporate positions of distinction.” Despite this, Weissmann warns readers that “most people should not attend law school,” and that “some lower-ranked schools will continue to deliver miserable job prospects for their students.

But Weissmann’s articles — as well as Elie Mystal’s and Joe Patrice’s excellent responses to them — did not adequately address one question that was important to me: How seriously do employers consider experienced attorneys for entry-level legal positions?

Click onwards to read about my personal experience applying to one of these entry-level positions, and my thoughts about the advantages and disadvantages of hiring a newbie versus a veteran….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Back In The Race: Does Experience Matter?”

On Monday, we noted the surprising news of a young partner leaving Wachtell Lipton to start his own boutique firm. Given the rarity of partner departures from the super-lucrative Wachtell, my colleague Staci Zaretsky described the news as “basically like seeing a unicorn.”

Why did Jeremy Goldstein, a 40-year-old partner in the firm’s executive-compensation practice, leave WLRK? The American Lawyer piece about Goldstein’s move painted a happy picture of a lawyer striking out on his own to be more entrepreneurial and to run his own business.

But we wonder if there’s more to this story than meets the eye….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Wachtell Lipton Partner’s Mysterious Departure”

Summer associates, do you think you understand how to avoid that no-offer? For a little fun (while you’re “working” oh-so hard) take the ATL Summer Associate Reality Check and test your historical knowledge of notorious summers who have gone before you. Also, learn what to do — and what *NOT* to do — in order to get that job offer.

(This challenge is brought to you in partnership with our friends at CredSpark.)

Take the ATL Summer Associate Reality Check here.

Get out while you still can!

If you’ve managed to jump onto the speeding “now is a great time to apply to law school” train, then you might want to fling yourself from the tracks, because that thing is about to derail. We’ve got some major news from a law school that’s stereotypically regarded as one of the worst in the country. If you thought things were bad for law schools, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The legal academy has been waiting with bated breath for something like this to happen, and now it finally has. A law school is cutting an entire class year from its enrollment logs at one campus and laying off faculty and staff — all at the same time.

Which law school seems to be in full on disaster mode right now?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Much Maligned Law School Cuts First-Year Class, Announces Layoffs”

Ed. note: Please welcome Above the Law’s guest conversationalist, Zach Abramowitz, of blogcasting platform ReplyAll. You can see some of his other conversations and musings here.

For those lucky enough to get an offer from a Biglaw firm, you’re probably a few weeks into the decadence that is being a summer associate. And most of you are probably enjoying it. Sure, you’ve been told that once you’re a “real lawyer” you won’t spend your days being wined and dined, and your evenings attending concerts and improv classes.

But for those of you who may not think this whole corporate summer camp is all it’s cracked out to be, I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone. There are at least two other people in the world who share your sentiment. So sit back, relax, and enjoy this conversation with my former colleague Ethan Lutske — the one other person I could find willing to go on the record about how being a summer associate sucks. And if anyone asks, just do what you’ve been doing for the last three weeks and bill your time to “Legal Reading.”

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