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A law professor from Minnesota is not having a very good start to his summer break. As we previously mentioned in the Memorial Day Docket, a William Mitchell College of Law professor, Peter Erlinder, 62, traveled to Rwanda last month to help with the legal defense of Victoire Ingabire, an opposition leader running against current-President Paul Kagame in the central African country’s August elections.

Erlinder, who previously defended a Rwandan accused of genocide during the International Criminal Tribunals in 2003, was arrested within a week of his arrival for denying that genocide occurred there. (If you need a history lesson here, watch Hotel Rwanda.) From the Associated Press:

Erlinder is accused of violating Rwanda’s laws against minimizing the genocide in which more than 500,000 Rwandans, the vast majority of them ethnic Tutsis, were massacred by Hutus in 100 days. Erlinder doesn’t deny massive violence happened but contends it’s inaccurate to blame just one side.

Erlinder’s views are generally controversial. See, e.g., this open letter he wrote about Darfur (via the WSJ).

Erlinder could face up to 25 years in prison. His defenders say his arrest has more to do with his efforts on behalf of an opposition candidate than his views on genocide. But the Rwandan government has a different view:

[Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin] Ngoga’s office compared Rwanda’s laws to those in some European countries against denying the Holocaust.

“We understand that human rights activists schooled in the U.S. Bill of Rights may find this objectionable,” government spokeswoman Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement. “But for Rwandans — schooled in the tragedy of the 1994 genocide and who long for peace — Mr. Erlinder’s arrest is an act of justice.”

How did Erlinder get into this mess? We corresponded with his daughter, who shed some light on the situation….

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thank you post it note.JPGA quick word of thanks to this week’s advertisers on Above the Law:

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Ed. note: This post is written by Will Meyerhofer, a Biglaw attorney turned psychotherapist, whom we profiled. A former Sullivan & Cromwell associate, he holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work. He blogs at The People’s Therapist.

Here’s a letter I received recently. Yes, it’s real, but I’ve removed anything identifiable to protect the sender:

Hi Will,

I read your thoughts of the legal profession on Above the Law and thought you neatly summarized my situation. I wish I was the type of person who could expel all the anger but instead I feel my self esteem disintegrating. It’s starting to become apparent to my co-workers (i.e. I cry at work). There’s one other female associate in my office and she’s going through the same thing. My problem is I believe the negative things my bosses tell me. I explained this to my boss (when he asked why we were crying) and promised him I would try to develop better coping skills. How do I make myself not care when he goes off on me?

For better or worse, this letter is typical; I hear a lot of stories like this.

An institute director I used to work with, a grizzled veteran of the therapy trenches, used to tell patients he wished he could make the world a better place, but he couldn’t. He could only better prepare them to deal with the world the way it is.

That’s how I feel about law firms. They can be brutal, and I can’t do much about that. But there are ways to deal.

My advice to this woman is to stop acting like a baby bird….

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We’re nearing the mid-way point of 2010. By popular demand, it’s time to check in on how people are doing for billable hours. We mentioned yesterday that in-house counsel are not looking to raise the billables of outside counsel, so we wanted to take the temperature of the community.

We did this survey last year in August. At the time, a majority of you said that you were on track to bill less than 2,000 hours.

Luckily, that was a snapshot of the sad and pathetic 2009. We are now well into the awesome and great 2010. RECOVERY SECURE … right?

So how are you doing on hours this year? Take the survey below and share you thoughts in the comments. We’ll do a follow up later this week on how you and your peers are doing.

Here’s hoping many of you are on track for that 1,900 – 2,100 hour sweet spot. We don’t want you to burn out, or get fired…

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* Here’s a nice primer on the legal landscape faced by BP, already confronting some 150 civil lawsuits, as well as governmental investigation. [New York Times]

* Despite condemnation from the White House and a possible federal lawsuit brought by the Justice Department, Arizona’s tough new immigration law enjoys popular support among the American electorate. [ABA Journal]

* Alleged racial discrimination by private social clubs in Kentucky has spawned litigation and political controversy. [Washington Post]

* Former New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, now at Wachtell Lipton, has stepped down from his role as special master in a racial discrimination lawsuit brought by minority firefighters in NYC. His replacement: former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White. [City Room / New York Times]

* Conan O’Brien sings the legal blues — and mentions his mother, a former corporate partner at Ropes & Gray in Boston. [Am Law Daily]

* Just like Elie, Christopher Hitchens has some strong feelings about the Justice Department’s siding with the Vatican in a case now before the Supreme Court. [Slate via WSJ Law Blog]

We gave you this photo before the holiday weekend:

We asked for creative and hilarious caption submissions. You did not disappoint.

This is the first caption contest we’ve run since instituting the new comment system. We have taken your “likes” into account in choosing our finalists. Check out the top ten, and vote for the best one, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Caption Contest: Legal Lexus Nexus Finalists”

* Al and Tipper Gore are getting separated. So far, there’s no hint of scandal. It’s refreshing to think that a man and a woman can just grow apart after 40 years of marriage without one of them having to carry on an illicit affair for the end to become clear. [Politico]

* This jackass tried to punk Kash over the weekend. I hope I never meet him, I don’t feel like buying a prosthetic limb to replace the foot I’d break off in his ass. [True/Slant]

* If you paid attention to David Souter’s speech at Harvard’s commencement, apparently you received quite an old-school defense of judicial activism. [AOL: Politics Daily]

* Here are five excellent tips for new Biglaw lawyers looking to retain a bit of their sanity. [TechnoLawyer]

* The list of things that are like war seems to keep growing — apparently, trial law is now on said list. I want to do something that is not like war. Are there professions that are like sitting on a beach with a good book and drinks that are expecting rain? [Underdog]

* I understand how to spin the colossal failure of “quit Facebook day” as a victory. I learned the trick during the million man march. [PC World]

* Speaking of quit Facebook day, this week’s Blawg Review takes a look a privacy concerns from the perspective of a lawyer down under. [Freedom to Differ via Blawg Review]

It’s June 1st. Summer is upon us! Yay.

So how are you doing for hours? As much as we talk about merit-based compensation and alternative fee arrangements — surprise — billable hours are still here and still very, very important.

But if in-house attorneys have anything to say about it, your hours will be low this year…

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Earlier this year, in one of its many format changes, Facebook forced users to make their profile info more public via Community Pages. Facebook created pages based on users’ lists of interests, jobs, and favorite things to help people find others “who share similar interests and experiences.”

So if you, for example, listed “document review” as something you like, you’d be a member of this page. And maybe this page too.

One issue discussed in some circles was the potential trademark violation in Facebook’s automatically creating and populating Community pages for businesses and brands. Another issue picked up by the National Law Journal was that some of the Community Pages created aren’t very flattering to law firms.

If you listed your employment as “Slave” at Skadden Arps, for example, you’re responsible for this page:

What are some of the other interesting law firm-affiliated Community Pages on Facebook?

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If you can only name one Supreme Court Justice, let’s hope that it’s Anthony Kennedy. It’s his world now, we’re all just along for the ride.

Today’s big Supreme Court ruling was the case of Berghuis v. Thompkins. At issue was whether a suspect’s silence constituted a waiver of his right to remain silent.

Yes, you read that correctly. There was actually an open question as to whether remaining silent waives your right to do so. More importantly, it does! One must speak in order to be protected by a right guaranteed to you in the Constitution.

Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion for the 5-4 majority…

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If you’ve ever had an alcohol problem or even if you’ve been out on an epic bender, the death of Ted Koppel’s son is pretty much your worst nightmare. From the New York Post:

Andrew Koppel, 40, of Rockaway Park, Queens, was declared dead at around 1:30 a.m. after paramedics were called to the rundown apartment in what a law-enforcement source called a “s- – - building” on 180th Street at Audubon Avenue, where he had been found unconscious and not breathing in a bedroom, the sources said.

Koppel — who was an attorney for the city Housing Authority — was a slobbering mess when he was brought to the apartment at around 11 p.m.

Deaths like these always make me think about how rampant alcoholism is in the legal profession and in the country generally. According to reports, this last time alcohol got the best of Andrew Koppel was not the first time…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “City Housing Attorney Andrew Koppel — ‘A Slobbering Mess’ — Found Dead”

We occasionally write about famous law school students here at Above the Law, such as Georgetown rising-3Ls Kaavya Viswanathan (aka the alleged Harvard plagiarist) and Top Model Sara Hallmark, and Southwestern 1L Jerry O’Connell (now on sabbatical).

Sometimes, a law school is graced by the presence of a famous classmate and fellow students are completely unaware of their good luck — if, for example, that law student is huge overseas but little-known on this shore.

When Lee So-eun got into Northwestern Law School, it was national news in South Korea. From the Chosun in June 2009:

Singer Lee So-eun has been accepted at a number of law schools in the United States. Lee’s management on Wednesday said the singer, who debuted as a high schooler in 1998, received offers from Northwestern, Cornell, Georgetown and Notre Dame.

Lee had been preparing for U.S. law school since she graduated with a degree in English Literature from Korea University in 2007. She has chosen Northwestern University Law School in Chicago. “I plan to leave for the U.S. in July, and want to focus on international and human rights law,” she said.

So what did she give up to go to law school?

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