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I’ve never met you, but I assume that you’re incompetent.

I realize that sounds a bit harsh, but it’s time someone told you the truth.

Some people assume that strangers are competent. One of my colleagues in our Law Department said to me recently: “Outside counsel says we won’t have much liability in that case.”

I naturally asked, “Is he right?”

She was shocked: “He’s a partner at a well-respected firm. We hired him. I assume he’s competent.”

That got us to talking. My colleague gives strangers the benefit of the doubt; she assumes that people are competent until they prove otherwise. I’m exactly the opposite: When I meet you, my working assumption is that you’re inept. Over time, there’s a chance you’ll convince me that I’m wrong. (But probably not.)

Why do I assume that all new people I meet are incompetent?

No, that’s too easy. Here’s the better question: Why am I right to assume that everyone’s incompetent, and why is that a helpful way to go through life?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Overcoming The Presumption Of Incompetence”

The LSAT’s fate come August?

* NO, NO, NO, NOTORIOUS! Previously unpublished documents from the Clinton White House have been released, and it looks like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was criticized for her “laconic” nature. Not cool, Bill. [Legal Times]

* Document review jobs aren’t going anywhere, folks. Exhibit A: Winston & Strawn’s e-discovery practice is bringing in the big bucks, earning the firm more than $20 million in revenue last year. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* More lawyers are being treated for substance abuse for drugs and alcohol than ever before. In fact, a founding partner of Farella Braun + Martel, one of California’s largest firms, was once a “functioning alcoholic.” [Am Law Daily]

* A Florida jury apparently set on “sending a message” to tobacco companies awarded $23.6 billion in punitive damages to a chain smoker’s widow against RJ Reynolds. That was a costly message. [Reuters]

* June 2014 marked the fewest people who sat for the LSAT in 14 years, but it may get even lower if a new ABA proposal which would allow the test to be waived for 10% of students passes. [Central Florida Future]

* Dan Markel, FSU Law prof, criminal law theorist, and PrawfsBlawg founder, RIP. [Tallahassee Democrat]

We posed this question earlier today. The answer, according to a recent news report, is yes.

The past few months have been bumpy for Bingham. In February, we reported on falling profits, partner defections, and staff layoffs. In June, we covered additional partner departures. (By the way, the two “unidentified partners” who went to Skadden turned out to be tax partners Rajiv Madan and Christopher Bowers; they left Bingham due to a client conflict.)

In recent weeks, Bingham conducted a management shake-up. And now comes word that it might be looking for a merger partner.

Keep reading for our review of the reports, plus an internal email that just went around the firm commenting on the speculation….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Is Bingham Experiencing The Urge To Merge?”

* Latter-day Dan Fielding seems to have used his office to meet the ladies: alleged to have had an affair with and then impregnate a woman he prosecuted. When she raised the issue with his wife, he filed a motion to revoke her probation. This is all terrible, but the weirdest part was having to have her defense counsel in the bedroom the whole time. [Lexington Herald-Leader]

* Woman shot a guy because he didn’t ejaculate enough. The most dreaded words in that neighborhood must be, “Omar’s not comin’ yo.” [Detroit Free Press]

* What caused the child immigration crisis at the border? Turns out it was Free Slurpee Day. Who knew? [CNBC]

* Overcommunication is a virtue. Did you hear that? Overcommunication is a good thing. It really is. You should overcommunicate. It’s good. [What About Clients?]

* Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III thinks the criminal justice system is just super. As far as innocent people going to jail, them’s the breaks. [Wrongful Convictions Blog]

* A guy’s guide to lawyerly fashion. It misses my personal pet peeve: use collar stays! Seriously, how do people not know this? [Attorney at Work]

* There were a record number of data breaches in New York last year. The problem is the persistent use of 12345 as a password. [Information Law Group]

Hop in the DeLorean and travel back in time with us.

In our two most recent Flashback Friday posts, we looked at associate compensation in the 1990s. Today we’ll take a break from that topic and mix it up a bit. (We’ll return to cover associate comp in the remaining batch of legal markets at some point in the future.)

Last week we looked at associate pay in New York in the 1990s. Let’s stay in that city and that decade and examine another subject: NYC’s top law firms, circa 1991.

Some of these firms remain on top today. And some of them are six feet under….

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Ed note: Today’s LSAT advice comes from our friends at Blueprint LSAT Prep, featuring live LSAT classes across the country and the online LSAT course Blueprint: The Movie — which are now open for enrollment for the 2014 September LSAT.

Taking the LSAT has apparently gone out of style. LSAC just released the numbers from the June 2014 LSAT, and only 21,802 law school hopefuls took the test. That’s down 9.1% from June of last year, and down 33.9% from the June LSAT’s peak in 2010. The last time so few took the June LSAT, Bill Clinton was president and Beyoncé was known primarily as a member of Destiny’s Child.

The continued decline in the number of LSAT takers is good news for aspiring lawyers as it’s likely that the number of law school applicants will similarly continue to decline. That, in turn, means less competition in law school admissions. Perhaps more importantly, there’s likely to be less competition for legal jobs in a few years, as that decline in law school applicants translates into fewer law school graduates.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Warner introduced a bipartisan student loan bill yesterday aimed at reducing default rates. The bill, called the “Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act,” would limit all student loan repayment to 10% of discretionary income.

The plan is terrible for the poorest students. Currently, the federal income-based repayment program, called Pay as You Earn or PAYE, also requires 10% of discretionary income, but it calculates “discretionary” at 150% of the poverty line. The Rubio/Warner plan kicks in at $10,000… which is a lot less than 150% of the poverty line.

Also under PAYE, if you have more than $57,500 of debt after 20 years of repayment, PAYE forgives your loan. Under Dynamic Repayment, that goal post is moved to 30 years out. I guess the upside is that under Dynamic Repayment, there’s a better chance that you’ll die still owing money.

Again, if you are poor, this new plan isn’t great. But since when do Republicans or even Democrats care about the truly poor?

Continue reading on Above the Law Redline…

Judge Stephanie Domitrovich

Do you even ethics bro?

– Language on a t-shirt depicting Judge Stephanie Domitrovich, worn by a man at the Erie County Courthouse yesterday. The man was asked to leave. Judge Domitrovich is currently facing ethics charges having to do with her alleged “unpatient, undignified and discourteous” treatment of parties.

Keith Lee

Yesterday I went for a run, my usual 5k. I had given some thought to going farther than normal but when I got to the point where I could keep going, the trail crossing over the creek was flooded. I was stymied. Guess I’ll be sticking to 5k. Time to turn around.

I made it two steps before I stopped. Was I really going to let some water stop me from pushing myself? Give up at the first obstacle I came across? I pivoted and made my way through the woods away from the trail and towards the road.

I had to run a few blocks on the road away from my usual route to get to a different bridge over the creek. Then back to the trail and on my way — 10k instead of 5. Double my regular run. My lungs burned, legs tired. I felt great. And I almost didn’t do it because there was a trickle of water in my way….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Choose The Difficult Path”

During a time when demand for legal services is flat, average revenue per lawyer is down, and managing partners’ overall confidence in the market is slipping, the proper keeping of time for all of those billable hours generated by toiling associates has never been more important. For better or worse, law firms are desperately trying to incentivize associates to submit their hours on time.

As we mentioned way back in 2010, “Time keeping is more accurate when you do it every day (as opposed to trying to recreate your days at the end of the week or month). Firms are struggling to collect from their clients. And, for what it’s worth, billing hours is part of the job for attorneys.”

Another part of an attorney’s job is the ability to follow rules. One Biglaw firm just rolled out a new time entry policy, and if its associates don’t follow these rules, they can expect some pretty negative consequences when bonus season comes around…

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You know, when it comes to publicity rights, that expansion of law that masturbates celebrity egos like no other, I can laugh it off when we hear from the likes of Lindsay LohanKatherine Heigl, and Dan Snyder. I mean, sure they’re famous and rich, but they still probably deserve that famous Hitchhiker’s Guide designation of “mostly harmless.” That their attacks on anyone who dares make even the barest reference to their holy visages typically fail usually serves as enough mental closure in my mind to keep the dogs from barking in my head at night.

Manuel Noriega, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal and his lawsuit against Activision over his portrayal in a Call of Duty game just makes me angry…

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Well, you’ve got to hand it to them: if we’re going to say that corporations are people, then we need to start subjecting them to criminal sanctions for committing victimless crimes. It’s only fair. So it’s heartening this morning to see that the government has secured an indictment — based on a 9-year investigation — of a major corporation for dealing drugs. Welcome to personhood in America!

And this is not some pharma company trying to get America hooked on the new Prozac. We’re talking about a non-pharma company peddling illegal drugs and getting called out on it by the feds….

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