Paralegals

* The people at the Department of Justice really don’t want you to see Osama bin Laden’s death photos, but don’t they realize that the internet needs pics or it didn’t happen? [Blog of Legal Times]

* Déjà vu: Hustler Magazine’s nude photo spread of Nancy Benoit was back on the Eleventh Circuit’s docket this week. The porn purveyors face damages of $0, $250K, or $19.6M — what’ll it be? [ABC News]

* Poor Justice Clarence Thomas. He used to be such a “lonely kid.” Maybe that’s why he doesn’t talk much at SCOTUS these days, but he gives beautiful speeches outside the courtroom. [Worcester Telegram & Gazette]

* Cooley Law’s Temple building in Lansing was evacuated due to smoke, but no fire. It was probably just all of the hot air the administrators blow up students’ asses about their employment prospects. [MLive.com]

* This has got to be some kind of a first. Crawford Shaw, a lawyer, is withdrawing a client’s claim to a multi-million dollar lottery ticket because he can’t be bothered to argue about it. [Reuters]

* I’m going to Disney World prison! Bonnie Sweeten, the paralegal who faked her own abduction, has been sentenced to eight years for stealing more than $1M (half of which came from her law firm). [Daily Mail]

Your bonus is freedom.

Here at Above the Law, we spend a lot of time talking about bonuses to associates working in Biglaw firms. As you might have noticed from our bonus coverage over the past month or so, the size of these payouts is underwhelming to many who are receiving them.

But that coverage only deals with those few, those happy few, who are lucky enough to receive any type of bonus whatsoever. For many in and around Biglaw, their bonus this year will be $0. Their spring bonus will not exist. And they won’t even have Cravath to blame for it.

We’re talking about paralegals. We’re talking about secretaries. We’re talking about government lawyers and law clerks and a bunch of other people who worked really hard in 2011 and might get no bonus at all.

We feel your pain….

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'Who needs cash? We have these nifty red hats!'

Over the weekend, I had dinner with a friend of mine who used to work as a paralegal at a small law firm. She told me about how one year, for the holidays, all the lawyers chipped in to get her a gift certificate to a spa, so she could get herself a massage.

I said it sounded like a nice gesture. This was not the reaction my friend was going for in telling the story; she viewed the gift as an insult. Her view: Christmastime is the time to show me the money.

I can understand that perspective for secretaries or administrative assistants. As we’ve discussed before, if you’re an attorney you should give your secretary a holiday gift that’s either cash or a cash equivalent (like an AmEx or Visa gift card). As a legal secretary once told us, “if you decide on giving gift certificates [to specific stores], I sincerely hope your next bonus will be paid in the same currency.”

But paralegals, at least at large firms — my friend who got the massage certificate worked at a small firm — are a trickier proposition. Over the course of a year in Biglaw, a lawyer might work with many different paralegals, on a wide range of matters. Are you expected to give gifts to all of them?

So what should a lawyer do with respect to holiday gifts for paralegals? And, of course, what’s the “going rate” for holiday gifts for secretaries in 2011?

Let’s conduct some reader polls, and open up the comments for discussion….

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New course offering at Miami area law schools.

Many of you will be outraged by this story, and many more of you will pretend to be outraged by this story if it comes up in front of your wife or girlfriend. And the story is outrageous. It’s sexist and clearly unethical.

But… doesn’t hiring strippers to pose as paralegals and then sending them into jail to “service” your defendants / clients sound like the most natural business strategy in the world? Supply, meet some serious demand.

Hey, rich corporate clients get this treatment all the time. I don’t just mean that figuratively. I’m sure that there have been lawyers who literally brought their clients to a strip club after they closed the deal on their representation. We all know that firms put the prettiest secretaries on the floors clients see, while the floors with associates who share offices are staffed by hagravens. T&A has been used to secure clients probably since we moved out of the state of nature.

Lawyers in the great city of Miami are just taking this natural service and extending to to criminal defendants. What’s so wrong with that?

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* We suspected as much: it appears that the “poop tattoo” story is, er, “full of crap.” [The Smoking Gun]

* What’s the first Michael Jackson lyric that Conrad Murray will hear in jail from his fellow prisoners? My vote: “I want to love you, pretty young thing.” [Hollywood Reporter]

* Herman Cain wants the media to get off his d*ck about his alleged extramarital affairs. He’s got plenty of other women who he’s “never acted inappropriately with” for that. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Anyone can be a law student stripper if they try hard enough, but it takes a special kind of gal to pose as a paralegal and strip for prisoners. [Riptide 2.0 / Miami New Times]

* Corporate socialism and you: a business primer for New York, courtesy of David Cay Johnston. [Reuters]

* The “first ever” original jurisdiction standings? An interesting read if you’re a con law nerd. [Odd Clauses Watch]

* After bopping her on the head with a hatchet, you can be damn sure that your neighbor is never going to let you borrow a cup of sugar again. [Legal Juice]

* Pennsylvania may have new child abuse reporting requirements by the year’s end. Apparently the key to efficiency in state government is to sully the reputation of the state’s pride and joy. [CNN]

* “There is always room for a good law school, regardless of the climate.” Say hello to Peter C. Alexander, the founding dean at the Indiana Tech law school that nobody wants. [Journal Gazette]

* The hunt for the remains of Mercer Law grad Lauren Giddings is playing out like an episode of Scooby Doo. Will the gang be able to investigate at Old Man Jenkins’s Browning’s farm? [Macon Telegraph]

* A paralegal-cum-prisoner is suing over his soy-based diet, saying it’s cruel and unusual punishment. He’s doing life for child sexual battery, so I say bring on the soy! [New York Times]

* Lat once said that lawyers are like cockroaches: you can’t kill them. Probably why this lawyer bugged out when he saw his creepy-crawly brethren on an AirTran flight. [New York Daily News]

A bright, 23-year-old woman is thinking of going to law school. Should she do it?

Let’s learn about the particulars of her case….

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Without paralegals, legal assistants, legal secretaries, clerks, and receptionists, the entire Biglaw model could come to a screeching halt. Speaking as a former legal assistant and full-time law clerk, I know this for a fact.

For some attorneys, if members of the support staff weren’t there to assist, important letters would go unwritten, coffee mugs would go unfilled, pleadings would go unproofread, and envelopes would go unlicked. So attorneys, always treat staff members graciously and respectfully — you never know when you’ll need them to get you out of a bind.

All that being said, we were a little bit shocked when we learned about what is allegedly happening at one of the world’s largest law firms, Baker & McKenzie. Apparently some members of the support staff aren’t getting the kind of support they need….

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Many law school graduates are wondering how they can make themselves more marketable in light of their dismal job prospects. Hell, even graduates from elite law schools are having trouble finding jobs these days.

What can these would-be lawyers do to help themselves land a respectable job?

Some of these people are actually so desperate they believe that getting even more legal education will solve their employment woes. Maybe, just maybe, they think, an LLM from a better school will help them wipe the sub-T14 sludge off their résumés. Of course, money is no object, because really, after throwing $150,000 at a wall and hoping that it sticks, another couple thousand dollars is just a drop in the bucket.

But don’t sign up for that LLM just yet, because the masterminds at the University of Texas School of Law may have a solution for you. Education is the key, but it’s not the kind of education that you’d expect….

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A paralegal at work (via the Bureau of Labor Statistics page on paralegals).

One week ago, in our advice column, Pls Hndle Thx, Marin and Elie tackled the topic of paralegal education. The question presented: the usefulness of an Associate in Arts (A.A.) degree in Paralegal Studies in securing gainful employment as a paralegal.

For the record, Pls Hndle Thx should not be viewed as a straight-up advice column. Rather, PHT represents Above the Law’s irreverent reinterpretation of the conventional advice column, and the “advice” offered therein should be taken with (more than) a grain of salt. Alas, judging from some of the reader comments and blogosphere reactions, Marin and Elie’s comments were taken seriously — and viewed as insulting to paralegals, which was definitely not their intent.

Based on the intense reaction (and traffic) to that controversial column, however, we learned that many people are interested in a more serious story about how educational credentials will affect the search for paralegal positions. Here it is….

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