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You can’t charge exorbitant hourly rates to wealthy clients for routine legal work and still call yourself a “profession” instead of “just another business.” You can’t raise the price of legal eduction to the point where young lawyers have to mortgage their financial futures before they even sit for the bar and still attract cautious and temperate professionals. You can’t advertise on television and twitter, turn courtrooms into a reality shows, Latham careers before they even start, have partners auction themselves to the highest bidder, and outsource legal work product to India because it’s cheaper — and yet still expect to there to be some “professional dignity” involved when somebody dangles the opportunity to make a buck in front of some lean and hungry legal service provider.

In short, you can’t do all of the things the legal profession has done over the past 20 or 30 years and expect to get anything other than a big pile of Shpoonkle.

Shpoonkle is the name of a new website set to launch Monday. The site will allow clients to post their legal problems and receive “bids” from lawyers willing to represent them. The site was dreamed up by a New York Law School grad (one day, we’ll have a story about an NYLS grad who is actually a practicing attorney instead of a cupcake salesman or legal services entrepreneur). And there are already a bunch lawyers who can’t wait to join this race to the bottom…

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Last week we told you about our spring event for law students who want to learn about how to make the most of their summer experience. Like many of the things we do around here, it should be a lot of fun. But it should also be extremely useful — to law students who need to turn their internships into full-time offers, law students who don’t have jobs yet and are exploring all their options, and law students who just want general career advice from a panel of experts.

The panel discussion, entitled We Know What You Should Do This Summer, is taking place on Wednesday, April 6, at 6:30 p.m. It’s being co-sponsored by the Practical Law Company and the ABA Law Student Division, Second Circuit.

Steven Molo

Over the course of this week, we’ll be revealing the other panelists (in addition to David Lat and Elie Mystal). First up is our small-firm partner: Steven Molo, founding partner of the litigation boutique MoloLamken (whose launch we covered here). Before starting MoloLamken, Steve was a prosecutor in Chicago; a partner at Winston & Strawn, where he served on the firm’s Executive Committee; and a partner at Shearman & Sterling. Given the breadth of his career experiences, Steve has a tremendous amount of wisdom to impart.

Get TicketsThere’s a small admission fee (to help us cover the cost of the venue), but we’re extending the $5 DISCOUNT until Friday, March 18, at 11:59 PM, because some people were away on vacation last week and didn’t get a chance to take advantage of the offer. We’ll also be giving away free ATL t-shirts to the next 25 people to sign up (as well as everybody who signed up last week). Just enter the following discount code when registering: Y084BG.

But don’t delay, since seating is limited, and the discount code expires on Friday night. You can get details and register by clicking here (or on the button above). See you on the 6th!

On Friday we posted a photo of a law-related license plate that struck some of you as rather obnoxious. We asked you to send in pictures of additional legally-themed vanity plates, by email (subject line: “Vanity License Plate”).

We received a number of interesting submissions. Check out the first one….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law License Plates: School Spirit?”


Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Small Firms, Big Lawyers, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

Most small law firms are staying away from social media when it comes to marketing, according to a new report from Chicago-based Total Attorneys. The report, which you can see here (a short 6-page PDF), had a section about which marketing methods solos and small firms found most effective. The leading methods were:

  • online directories (17.7%);
  • word of mouth — which isn’t really a method, but more of a thing that happens (15.5%);
  • group-advertising ventures (whatever the hell that is) (13.3%); and
  • Yellow Pages (8.9%).

The takeaway for me from that list is that small-firm lawyers don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to marketing. “Word of mouth” means sit back and hope someone tells someone else to hire me, “group-advertising ventures” sounds like some sort of mail-order scam, and I didn’t know they still printed Yellow Pages. When my daughter asked me what Yellow Pages were, I told her that they were what little kids used to sit on to reach the table. (Sorry, Yellow Pages advertisers. Oh, wait. You’re not reading this because you’re offline.)

But the more-interesting fact to come out of this report is that two-thirds of respondents don’t do social-media marketing at all.…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Small Firms, Big Lawyers: 7 Reasons to Avoid Social Media”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

Bruce MacEwen has been blogging long and well over at Adam Smith, Esq. He typically writes about law firm management, and his target audience is senior lawyers at large firms. Recently, however, MacEwen published a post about an award that Kraft Foods gave to Clifford Chance for innovation in delivering legal services.

Apparently, Clifford Chance helped Kraft’s legal department with its knowledge management issues. Clifford Chance had experience in knowledge management; Kraft did not; Clifford Chance helped Kraft to create a series of blogs and discussion boards in which Kraft’s in-house legal department will share information. MacEwen provides this example:

“Kraft, as you know, is a global consumer food services company . . . which means they generate their own specific variety of legal questions, such as ‘what food-like items are subject to VAT in various countries around the world?’ Food is largely exempt from VAT, non-food subject to it. Kraft sells some products, such as chewing gum, which are on the border.

“If you post that question on a discussion board, and get responses from around the world, you have the beginning of a knowledge base on VAT incidence on quasi-food items. And of course it’s also recorded for posterity, at least in theory never needing to be answered again.”

This type of knowledge management is surely a good idea. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that only one of the two tools that Clifford Chance helped Kraft to create is ultimately going to prove effective. Which one, you ask?

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David Doty

Since Japan is about to sink, drown, or blow up, you might have missed the fact that 32 or so billionaires officially can’t figure out how to share profits with a few hundred millionaires. That’s right, the National Football League — the most successful sports association ever — is in a stage of lockout. The owners and the players can’t agree, and now both sides have lawyered up and are heading to court.

The NFL owners have locked out the players, and the players have asked for an injunction preventing the lockout. Welcome to Brady v. NFL.

Naturally, I’m on the side of the marginally greedy, financially illiterate players over the unimaginably greedy, financially irresponsible owners. Bill Simmons perfectly captures the real core of this fight that the owners are picking with their employees.

And there are all kinds of funky legal issues swirling around the case: the player’s union “sham” decertification, the NFL’s T.V. revenue war chest they should have been sharing with the players all along, and enough Sherman Antitrust Act angles to fill a casebook.

And there’s legal star power: as we mentioned this morning, David Boies has joined the fight on the side of money grubbing owners who would happily sacrifice the long term health of their employees for some more short term profits.

But this morning we should focus on the man who could be “the Decider,” U.S. District Judge David Doty. The man has such a history of frustrating the NFL owner/oligarchs that simply getting the case into his courtroom could force the owners back into negotiating in good faith. We should know more about this guy.

Remember, the 1994 Major League Baseball strike was settled by a judge — and her name is Sonia Sotomayor — only she’s got a better title now. Just saying….

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* Quentin Tarantino is suing his neighbor, Alan Ball, over the “pterodactyl-like screams” of his macaws. How high do you have to be to know what a pterodactyl sounds like? My guess: very. [The Telegraph]

* Connecticut, please don’t let Komirsarjevsky dictate the terms of his guilty plea. Many would sentence this guy to the death penalty quicker than they could pronounce his name. [CNN Justice]

* Textual harassment isn’t as sexy as it sounds, but is definitely applicable to our commentariat. Don’t let nasty comments come back to bite you in your anonymous e-butts. [Naples Daily News]

* A creative argument for wrongful death, but really, the only criminal behavior that’s invited by having a tip jar at Starbucks is the insinuation that the barista actually deserves a tip. [Huffington Post]

* ICE’s Operation Predator helped to nab GW Law professor Richard Lieberman on child sexual exploitation charges. Google’s cached pages > GW Law’s IT department. [Washington Post]

* Football’s greatest might be making bigger plays in the courtroom this year than on the field, but with David Boies on the NFL’s defensive line, it might be a complete shutout. [New York Times]

* A thief made off with a wallet from a “fancy law firm” in Florida. What kind of a “fancy law firm” lets randoms roam its halls? There’s a $1,000 reward if you can identify her, so get to work! [WTSP 10 News]

Devastation from the Japan earthquake.

* How lawyers in Tokyo were affected by the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan. [Am Law Daily]

* Former Judge Jack Camp gets 30 days in prison — even less time than Paris Hilton. That’s some weak sauce. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

* An interesting account, by former Dealbreaker editor (and Skadden lawyer) John Carney, of behind-the-scenes arguments between the SEC and the U.S. Attorney’s Office over Rajat Gupta, pal of Raj Rajaratnam. [NetNet / CNBC]

* A legal loss for the Naked Cowboy — guess his briefs weren’t good enough. [Huffington Post]

Judge Jack Camp

* What should you do if you’re an associate who thinks your firm is going down, a la Howrey? Here are some practical tips. [Vault]

* By the time ex-Sidley associate Tyler Coulson completes his hike across America, “food will cost twice as much! Gasoline will be $5! Charlie Sheen will be running for office in California (and be elected)!” [Funny Business / CNBC]

* Ms. JD’s fourth annual conference on women in law is coming up next month. [Ms. JD]

* As is ATL’s special event for law students, We Know What You Should Do This Summer. [Above the Law]

[I]t is not in anyone’s interest — especially that of prospective students — to have less than accurate data being put out by law schools. It’s creating a crisis of confidence in the law school sector that is unnecessary and we think could be easily fixed.

Specifically, employment after graduation is relevant data that prospective students and other consumers should be entitled to. Many graduate business schools are meticulous about collecting such data, even having it audited. The entire law school sector is perceived to be less than candid because it does not pursue a similar, disciplined approach to data collection and reporting.

– U.S. News editor Brian Kelly, in a letter recently sent to law school deans. As explained by U.S. News rankings czar Bob Morse in a post at Morse Code, U.S. News “agrees with the efforts of Law School Transparency to improve employment information from law schools and make the data more widely available.” (Read more at the WSJ Law Blog and ABA Journal.)

Check out the amusing license plate below, sent to us by a reader in Los Angeles (of course)….

UPDATE (5:45 PM): Our original tipster adds, “Not sure if you can see the ‘Harvard Law Graduate’ brackets….”

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Numerous applicants to law school claim that they want to become lawyers in order to serve the public interest — and some of them are telling the truth. Alas, after burdening themselves with six figures of law school debt, they find it difficult to follow through on their public-interest dreams. The path of least resistance, or at least the path to the fastest repayment of loans, is working for a large law firm.

Working for a prominent law firm is great — lucrative, prestigious, honorable work — provided that it’s actually what you want to be doing (as opposed to, say, public interest work in Nepal). Unfortunately, many who toil in Biglaw do so primarily for the debt-dispelling powers of the paycheck.

Well, if you go to the University of Chicago Law School, you might be able to have your cake and eat it too — i.e., obtain an amazing legal education, work in the public interest, and not find yourself trying to invoke the “undue hardship” exception in bankruptcy.

Let’s learn about some changes that Chicago Law just announced to its LRAP, or Loan Repayment Assistance Program (those wonky Chicago types love their acronyms)….

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A view of Kathmandu (via The Kathmanduo).

On Wednesday we wrote about the great departure email sent out by Brian Emeott, a former corporate associate at Skadden in Chicago. Emeott, a 2004 graduate of Harvard College and 2008 graduate of Harvard Law School, picked up and moved to Kathmandu, Nepal.

Brian’s wife, Claudine Emeott, resigned from her own job in December and moved to Kathmandu in January. She’s in Nepal to advance a worthy cause: as a Kiva Fellow, Claudine is working with a local microfinance institution for three months.

In our original post, we applauded the Emeotts for their sense of adventure. You can follow them at their (excellent) blog, The Kathmanduo, as they “work, write, and photograph [their] way through beloved Nepal.”

Some of our commenters, however, were more skeptical. They wondered (and so did we): How are the Emeotts making this work, in financial terms? Are they trust fund babies?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Skadden Associate Who Picked Up and Moved to Nepal: An Update”

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