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Everybody loves law school rankings, but these are special. These rankings are not based on a formula developed in secret by statisticians or prestige gurus. These rankings are put together by you. By us. By the mass of humanity that makes up the general mob. These rankings are crowdsourced.

The Conglomerate is putting together rankings based on what we think. But they’re not going with a straight popular vote. Instead, they’ve got a brilliant set up where they ask you to make a series of comparisons. Which law school do you think is better: SMU or Maryland? The rankings are based on answers to almost 200 questions like that.

I only answered 20 questions, but I’ll do the rest as soon as I get a free moment. It’s fun. Widener or Arkansas? Connecticut or Hastings? Screw what U.S. News thinks, what do you think?

And the results so far are pretty cool too…

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

“No surprises.”

When you interview for an in-house job as head of litigation, that’s what everyone — CEO, CFO, General Counsel — is likely to say: “All we want is to know in advance what’s happening. Don’t hit us with last minute litigation surprises.”

That characterization is only half true. Half the job is what you would actually expect, and why someone would actually pay money for a person to do this gig: Half the job is to minimize liability. That task, at least, requires a law degree and a little bit of skill.

But, remarkably, the other half of the job — avoiding surprises — is the aspect that seemingly draws the ire of the folks who run the joint. And that task is one that the kid down the block ought to be able to do with about fifteen minutes of training: How hard can it be to avoid surprises?

Piece of cake, right? Just track developments in all of the pending cases, estimate settlement values or likely verdicts, and flood the C-suites with information. Put together a calendar of every major event in every major case over the coming six months. Winning cases can occasionally be hard, but just tracking them? Nothing to it.

Remarkably, that isn’t true. There are five main reasons why it’s hard merely to track cases (and their values) and thus to avoid surprises, and outside counsel are responsible for three of the five….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: The Sins of Outside Counsel — Creating Surprises”

* Modesty reared its ugly head after Jersey Shore’s JWoWW discovered that she might not be able to cash in on her naked photos. [New York Law Journal]

* Which is Mayor Bloomberg more pissed about — that some more ice melt could’ve saved a life, or that it could’ve saved $20 million? [Wall Street Journal]

* No more time outs for federal prosecutors behaving badly. Thanks to Eric Holder, they’ll be subject to a much swifter spanking. [USA Today]

* You really can get anything on Groupon, even legal services. What you can’t get is your dignity back after peddling coupons for cash. [ABA Journal]

* A lawsuit that’s sure to balloon into notoriety. If copying Jeff Koons is wrong, then I don’t want to be copyright. [New York Times]

* Failing the bar exam is one thing, but failing to sell your law degree on eBay is quite another. Resume Goddess did both. [Out of the Storm News]

* R. Sargent Shriver, former Fried Frank name partner, R.I.P. [Associated Press]

Two people from my high school got into the same college I did. We were all in the top 10 of our class, but none of us were in the top 5. One was a white guy who was a brilliant piano player. The other was a white girl who excelled at sports. Then there was me. I had the “does lots of activities” application. You know the type of d-bag kid I’m talking about: debate this, mock trial that, sports, school plays, bands.

Also, I’m black. Do you think that might have had something to do with it? I hope it did, since it seems to me that my race is at least as much of a factor in what I may add to an incoming college class as whether I could play the piano or dominate in field hockey.

Of course, saying race can be a factor in college admissions is controversial. A certain segment of the population gets all bent out of sorts when a “deserving” white student potentially gets “passed over” because a college official gave a person of color “extra points” when making up the entering class of students.

I find these arguments totally irrational. If the top five students from my high school were passed over — three Jews and two Asians (you know, the real victims of affirmative action, if there are any) — then who exactly “took” their spots? Me, or the sports chick? And if an Asian guy “takes” my spot, but I bump down the piano player who didn’t score as well as I did, and the piano player takes the spot of some poor Hispanic kid who has never seen a piano in real life, would everybody say that we all got what we deserved?

Coming up with an effective way to balance all of the relevant factors in college admissions is hard. But when race is involved, people don’t want to deal with “hard,” and they don’t want to hear “complicated.” They want simple rules and a few platitudes they can recite on television. After yesterday’s Fifth Circuit decision upholding affirmative action at the University of Texas, the only question is whether the Supreme Court has the will and intellectual rigor to think through something hard, or whether the majority will want to fall back on truisms and clichés…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Fifth Circuit Upholds Affirmative Action, But Is It Begging for SCOTUS Intervention?”

* What is the difference between abortion and infanticide? [WSJ Law Blog]

* The House votes to repeal Obamacare. [Politico]

* Today’s decision by the Supreme Court in NASA v. Nelson dodges a big constitutional question — much to the chagrin of Justices Scalia and Thomas. [SCOTUSblog]

* Just like Monica Goodling, Danielle Chiesi admits to “crossing the line.” This afternoon Chiesi pleaded guilty to charges arising out of the Galleon Group insider trading ring. [Dealbreaker]

* Speaking of Wall Street-watching, check out this neat new website, ProxyMonitor.org. As James Copland of the Manhattan Group explains, the site’s comprehensive database of shareholder proposals sheds light on trends in corporate governance. [Point of Law; Proxy Monitor]

* Professor Glenn Reynolds wonders if his fellow Yale Law School graduate, Rep. David Wu (D-OR), has “undergone some sort of personality change.” [Instapundit]

* Congratulations to Amy Chua: she can haz her own internet meme. [BuzzFeed]

* Texas attorneys, you should pay attention to this proposed rule change. [Infamy or Praise]

In 2010, music superstar Lady Gaga earned an estimated $64 million. Meanwhile, legal superstar Lady Kaga — aka Justice Elena Kagan, of the United States Supreme Court — earned considerably less.

For the part of 2010, the Divine Miss K served as Solicitor General, earning an annual salary of $165,300. After her confirmation as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, she got a raise, to $213,900 a year — a healthy income, but less than the base salary of a fifth-year associate in a law firm (or the total compensation in 2010, bonus included, of a fourth-year associate). Her income as a justice is also much less than her salary of $437,299 as Harvard Law School dean.

Still, even though Justice Kagan might not be filthy rich, she has done well for herself. At the time of her nomination to SCOTUS, she reported a net worth of around $1.8 million. Given this rosy financial picture, as well as her six-figure income and great job security — it’s rare for a federal judge to be impeached, Judge Porteous notwithstanding — it’s not surprising that Her Honor was recently spotted checking out some pretty pricey D.C. digs.

Where was she looking? And what seems to be her homebuying budget?

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Last month, the Boston Globe reported on an arbitrator’s finding that Goodwin Procter overcharged a real estate client by more than $540,000. (We mentioned the Globe story here and here.)

Alas, some claim that Goodwin isn’t letting that extra gravy trickle down to its associates….

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Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to advice@abovethelaw.com.

Dear ATL:

I work in a fairly specialized litigation sub-field in a suburban market. The bar of attorneys who do what I do around where I am is therefore a pretty small and cutthroat group that hasn’t exactly emphasized “civility” in recent years.

I found out that a lawyer who’s one of my firm’s regular adversaries recently died. It wasn’t a big surprise; he’d been sick and in the hospital for some time, plus he was pushing 65-70. The thing is, he was (and his law partner still is) a gigantic asshole. He’d engage in frivolous tactics to rack up billables and then cut clients loose as soon as they couldn’t pay anymore. He’d insult other lawyers, including judges, in correspondence and at depositions. He’d condescend to women and junior attorneys. He even once wrote a smear piece about my firm as an op-ed in the local bar newsletter.

All this is to say, I know one shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but I’m not exactly grieving. There’s going to be a memorial service, but I’m not exactly sure what to do in this situation. Should I go and at least make an appearance, and duck out at the earliest opportunity? Would it be bad form not to go, because the legal community in my practice area is so small? Should I just send a card? Or should I go and secretly gloat?

– Left Behind

Dear Left Behind,

When it comes to death and funerals, there is no right or wrong. People grieve in their own way, and sometimes not at all, particularly if the deceased was a truly horrible person…

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The record in such cases, although voluminous, often fails to precisely reflect the relationships between the parties and to include the documents (particularly with respect to who owns the loan) that are necessary to evaluate the claims. Such failures are a disservice to both the parties and the court, and, in other circumstances, may undermine a party’s claim or defense. Were I forced to delve fully into the merits of this case, I am not certain that it would be possible to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

— Chief Judge Joseph Goodwin (S.D.W.Va.), writing about recent cases involving the home loan industry, in Delebreau v. Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC.

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, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy, is available on Amazon.

I was chuckling with a client the other day about the insanity of trying to please a partner with a piece of written work.

The trick, she said – I’ve heard this before – is to adopt the voice of the partner. That’s what he wants – something that sounds like him. It doesn’t matter if your style is better than his. He wants to hear himself.

My client can imitate the writing styles of five partners. That includes whatever quirks – run-on sentences, rudeness, biting sarcasm, unnecessary adjectives, circuitous explanations – capture that partner’s unique gift. It’s a piece of cake: assemble substance, add ventriloquy, and voila! – a happy partner…

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What kind of world are we living in where people post their 1L grades on Facebook? I guess that after years of status updates about your latest biological function, you can fool yourself into thinking that people actually care about your Civ Pro grade. The world is full of navel-gazers.

Companion question: What kind of world are we living in where people get “offended” because somebody posted his 1L grades on Facebook? I know law schools are hyper-competitive places, but at the end of the day, the only thing you can control is your own academic performance. Getting mad because somebody is boasting about his grades is a colossal waste of energy — energy better spent studying for the current semester (or at least trying to steal his girlfriend). Don’t get mad, get even.

I’m not really on either side of the current ridiculousness going down at Boston University School of Law over one guy’s Facebook page. You see, I live in a world where it’s perfectly acceptable to kind of hate everybody….

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