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* Judge Roger Vinson issued a seven day stay on his ruling that put the kibosh on Obama’s health care reform. The Barenaked Ladies accomplished a lot in one week, but I’m not sure the DOJ can do the same. [Bloomberg]

* What’s an essential tool to help you get through the second semester of 1L at an unaccredited law school? If you’re from Texas, an AK-47. [Boston Globe]

* “Ray Charles could see that those signatures were doctored.” Probably not what you want to hear from the judge during your public corruption trial. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

* Can you call someone an “asswipe nasty lying hosebag thief” on Twitter and get away with it? We’ll never know, because Twitter-twatter Courtney Love has settled her defamation lawsuit for $430K. [The Hollywood Reporter]

* A Bank of America attorney defected to Simpson Thacher as a financial services regulations partner. I guess it wasn’t such a bank of opportunity for her. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Do you have a constitutional right to give yourself cancer on a park bench? This guy thinks so, and he’ll probably be smoking through a stoma before he gives up the fight. [St. Louis Today]

* WWAD (What Would Alito Do)? He’d probably do this: Oregon and 44 other states are trying to put a football field in between funeral services and the Westboro Whackadoos. [Statesman Journal]

There’s poor, there’s broke, and then there’s whatever you would call the economic state of current law students. They are up against it, and they know it.

It’s particularly tough on 3Ls. We’re in March, so graduating law students without jobs lined up are about to get kicked out of school and on to the street (or “mother’s basement” or “youth hostel” or whatever). So right now is about the time when these kids really start to freak out.

At one law school, fear and angst are reaching a fever pitch, over the most trivial of things. The soon-to-be graduates are having a conniption over having to pay $136 to rent a cap and gown for graduation.

Yep, some of these kids took on tens of thousands of dollars in order to go to law school, but now — at the end — they’re making a stand over a hundred bucks…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Students So Broke They Can’t Afford to Look Decent at Graduation?”

* Wesley Snipes wants the Supreme Court to review his conviction. Or maybe he’s just doing research because he wants the lead role in a Clarence Thomas biopic: The Silence. [TaxProf Blog]

* Congratulations to David Rivkin of Debevoise & Plimpton — a man who I remember as having great seats at Shea Stadium — for scoring one for the Americans. [Am Law Daily]

* Speaking of Debevoise, I probably could have used these tips on how to resign gracefully from my former firm. Instead, I think I stood up in the middle of a conference room and started shouting, “give us, us free.” [Corporette]

* Why do law school administrators act like telling the truth is one option among many, instead of a professional responsibility? [Vault]

* You can pick up a sex slave at the Super Bowl? [Change Makers]

* Doesn’t New York State understand that judges are kind of important? [New York Personal Injury Law Blog]

* Honestly, do you think that the diversity rationale for affirmative action also justifies having a preference for white males in some situations? [The Volokh Conspiracy]

* Ha ha. Northwestern college kids need to see a live sex act in order to learn. [Reuters]

* If you’re on Facebook — and who isn’t? — feel free to “like” Above the Law. We’ll be getting busy on FB in the weeks ahead (like we already are on Twitter, @ATLblog). [Facebook]

Southwestern Bell payphone with new AT&T signage

Not human enough to warrant 'personal privacy'

There’s some good news this week for those people whose blood boils at the mention of Citizens United. The Supreme Court proved that it is not always sympathetic to the rights of corporations — and is even willing to have some fun at their expense.

Chief Justice John Roberts penned a tongue-in-cheek opinion lambasting AT&T lawyers’ legal reasoning that has Dahlia Lithwick at Slate asking whether Roberts is the funniest justice ever. (Cue a scowl here from the legions of Scalia lovers in the audience.)

The case at the heart of the hilarity is FCC v. AT&T. The telephone company was involved in a billing practices investigation in 2004, in which it paid a $500,000 fine but admitted no wrongdoing. Some clever rivals at CompTel — a trade association representing some of AT&T’s competitors — wanted to take advantage of FOIA to get documents from the investigation and find out more about AT&T’s inner workings and alleged wrongdoing.

AT&T claimed protection under the Freedom of Information Act’s “personal privacy” exemption. A lower court was sympathetic to AT&T: “Corporations, like human beings, face public embarrassment, harassment and stigma” when they get involved with investigations by authorities. In other words: artificial persons have feelings too!

The Supreme Court did not agree. John Roberts whipped out a can of dictionary definitions to explain why corporations aren’t entitled to “personal privacy.”

Read on at Forbes….

Still shocked that yesterday our attorney lost to a pro se litigant that was immediately taken into custody after the verdict for drinking in court, being drunk while in court and blowing a .13!!!

Facebook status update of a person who works for a tow truck company who watched something horrible happen.

Here’s some good news for lawyers who enjoy blogging or instant-messenger services like Gchat. It’s right in the headline of this here National Law Journal story: Smiley face, snark, don’t render law grad unfit to practice.

Many of us get snarky in our personal writing, and many of us employ emoticons in email messages or Gchat exchanges. As litigators well know, sometimes a cold transcript doesn’t adequately convey tone. For this reason, I’ve even seen federal judges use winking smiley-face emoticons in email messages.

But you shouldn’t use smiley faces in documents you file with the court — even the super-icky courts that hear traffic appeals (yes, they exist). This is a lesson that Marilyn Ringstaff, a 2006 graduate of John Marshall Law School, learned the hard way….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Would-Be-Lawyer of the Day: Don’t Put ☺ in a Court Filing”

If work is slow and you need a good chunk of hours to meet your billable target or to be eligible for a bonus, what’s your best bet for boosting your billables? 

According to the 884 respondents to Tuesday’s survey, pro bono work.  About 68% of respondents say their firms give billable credit for at least some pro bono hours.  On the other hand, only 12% of respondents say that their firms count client/business development activities as billable time, although another 15% report that these hours may affect bonus decisions.

What are some of the other popular billable activities?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Career Center Survey Results: What Counts as Billable Time”

Ray Carey

You don’t see this everyday. Raymond Carey, a 57-year-old white male partner at Foley & Lardner, is suing the firm, alleging that it paid him less than it would have paid a “female, non-Caucasian, younger partner.”

Sadly, it appears the only evidence Carey has for his claims is that he wasn’t paid as much as he feels he was promised. That’s disappointing. When women, gays, or minorities make discrimination claims, there are usually juicy tidbits about inappropriate jokes and statements made to the alleged victim. But I just read through a 63-page complaint and there wasn’t a single alleged “cracker” joke. Apparently nobody at Foley told Carey he needed to show “more bulge.”

But hey, if the brother’s not getting paid as much as other people in his office, maybe he has a point. And even if you don’t find the complaint particularly salacious, one of Carey’s attached exhibits is the Foley & Lardner partnership agreement….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Old White Man Sues Firm, Alleging Racial, Gender, and Age Discrimination”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

We all know that it is only a matter of time before we are replaced by computers. As Elie explained a few weeks ago, the legal community is already predicting how computers can do the work of junior associates. I guess we can breathe a momentary sigh of relief after Rep. Rush Holt showed Watson who is boss. But I personally have been preparing for this day since 1985, when I first learned about Vicki from Small Wonder.

With the writing on the wall, it seems like there is no better time for us to embrace our computer brethren. And small law firms should be leading the charge.

My firm is not at the bleeding edge of legal technology. There are mid-level associates who still insist on dictating their briefs. We only recently converted to using Microsoft Word. Mark-ups are old-school (i.e., a red pen is used to mark-up a paper copy). And all associates are expected to be conversant in Morse Code. As an aside, this has actually come in handy when I send out my daily S.O.S.

But there are some small law firms doing big things with technology….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Small Firms and Big Technology”

Paul Hastings is throwing cash around. At least, that’s the impression it’s trying to give off. Unlike the firms that announced regular bonuses back in December and spring bonuses in the new year, Paul Hastings held off on a December bonus announcement and is only now coming out with its full bonus package.

And Paul Hastings isn’t a straight lockstep firm. Paul Hastings lists some bonus amounts available to the top-performing associates, but because of various merit factors, most associates will not be receiving those top figures, and some are not eligible for a bonus at all.

So while there is money flying all around the Paul Hastings bonus memo, it’s hard to tell how much of it will stick to real Paul Hastings associates…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Paul Hastings Consolidates Regular and Spring Bonus News Into One Money Orgy Announcement”

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

Here are two stories, from nearly thirty years apart. They’re bookends on the subject of why standard of review counts.

Travel back with me, if you will, to the summer of 1983. I’m ten minutes out of law school, and I’ve just arrived in the chambers of Judge Dorothy W. Nelson of the Ninth Circuit, for whom I’ll clerk. Our wise and sagacious predecessor-clerks — out of law school for an entire year! — are introducing us to the job. (We overlapped for one week.)

One of my predecessor-clerks, John Danforth, asked the new group: “Do you think standard of review matters in appeals?”

I knew the answer, and I was about to pop off: “Of course not! Once you convince the court that your side is right, the judges will do whatever it takes to rule in favor of your client. Standard of review is just a silly lawyers’ game.”

Fortunately, Danforth talks quickly. Before I was able to make a fool of myself, he said: “Standard of review decides cases. It decides cases. That’s the most important thing I’ve learned in a year of clerking. Standard of review makes all the difference in the world.”

Why?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: ‘Standard of Review Decides Cases’”

* Two and a half men no more: now that Charlie Sheen’s kids have been taken away, it looks like he’s down to just half a man. That’s okay, though, because he’s got tiger blood. [Washington Post]

* At this point, you’d think that the feds would let you do just about anything to grow the economy. Not so, though, when the thing you want to grow it with is pot. [New York Times]

* What’s the easiest way to get the FBI to install a secret tracking device in your car? By being a Muslim, apparently. [CNN Justice]

* If you’re a judge presiding over a case where a MLB team is the defendant, you probably shouldn’t wear the team’s gear outside court – and if you do, don’t get caught, because that’s not kosher. [New York Daily News]

* Groupon should be sued for their obnoxious commercials, but they’re actually being sued for selling “gift certificates.” Oops, someone should tell the plaintiff that Groupon sells “vouchers.” [NBC Chicago]

* Guys, next time you feel the urge to photoshop a little girl’s face onto the body of a naked woman, just don’t. It’s not sexy for normal people, and it’s not a form of free speech. [New York Law Journal]

* Senior Ninth Circuit Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall, R.I.P. [Los Angeles Times]

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