Pro Bono

* Though she be but little, she is fierce! Under Mary Jo White’s guidance, the Securities and Exchange Committee is now cracking down on financial fraud with a vengeance. [DealBook / New York Times]

* When a Biglaw firm’s chairman skeptically says, “Uh, OK, I mean, maybe,” with regard to a future increased demand for legal work, you know things are bad. We’ll have more on this later today. [New Republic]

* With Detroit’s downfall, vultures are swooping in left and right to snag clients. Firms retained thus far include Weil Gosthal, Arent Fox, Kirkland & Ellis, Winston & Strawn, and Sidley Austin. [Reuters]

* “I’m not a 100% sure this is legal.” Two law professors have come up with a revolutionary way for law students to finance legal education that sounds like it just might work. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Normally when Biglaw firms and legal departments go to court over contested litigation, something’s gone wrong, but this summer, they’re trying to do some good in the world. [National Law Journal]

* Soon, it’ll be known as Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School, but even with a new name, you’re still going to be Cooley, and there’s no recovery from that. [Lansing State Journal]

* In Greenwich, Connecticut, the fact that people buy homes where they want their kids to go to school isn’t a “complicated concept.” The schools’ racial diversity, on the other hand, is. [New York Times]

* Under the leadership of emergency manager Kevyn Orr, Detroit is now the biggest U.S. city to declare bankruptcy in history. Unfortunately, not even the strict Jones Day dress code could save them. [Am Law Daily]

* As one of our columnists David Mowry told us weeks ago, New York wants to close the justice gap by looking to the state’s best untapped resources for pro bono work: in-house counsel. [New York Law Journal]

* It turns out the “new employer survey” to be used by U.S. News is really just the old employer survey that’s been used in the rankings since 1990. How incredibly anticlimactic. [Morse Code / U.S. News & World Report]

* Law schools are officially ready to scrape the bottom of the barrel when it comes to filling their classes. Some are now accepting first-time June LSAT scores for fall admission. [National Law Journal]

* Our managing editor, David Lat, comes to the defense of fictional representations of the law, but seeing as he’s writing a fictional legal novel, we think he’s kind of biased. [Room for Debate / New York Times]

* Mobsters really don’t like rats, and it looks like someone who was planning to testify against Whitey Bulger may have been whacked after having been dropped from the prosecution’s witness list. [CNN]

Driving to court this morning for a pro bono appearance, my Blackberry buzzed with the headline that DOMA had been struck down. Concurrently, the song “Fight the Good Fight” was playing on the radio. Indeed.

In France, there were violent protests in the streets when the issue was up for a vote. Here, some folks give a shrug and a “meh” to today’s news. Later, when the Court effectively struck down Prop 8, people in California began pilgrimages to their local courthouses or civic centers to look into getting married. It is indeed a great day to be an American….

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I wrote last week about my participation on a statewide panel on in-house attorney registration and pro bono work. As stated, Chief Judge Lippman and Judge Graffeo of the New York Court of Appeals, are spearheading the effort to have all New York in-house counsel, who are not admitted in New York, register with the courts. The State Legislature has gone further and has passed legislation making it a felony to fail to so register. In other words, starting November 1 of this year, failure to register can get you a charge of unlicensed practice of law (“UPL”). The resulting comments to this news ranged from snarky to ignorant. My suggestion to those that this upsets would be to suck it up, because the times they are a-changing.

As attorneys admitted in New York, we knew what we were signing up for when we joined the Bar. Pro bono work is a duty, not something to be swept under the rug with a “too busy, sorry.” An estimated 2.3 million people going unrepresented in New York is not only sad, but unnecessary. And law firms can only pick up so much of the slack. They have their own issues with pro bono, but at least give lip service to attempting to assist. In-house counsel are an untapped reservoir of capable attorneys who can at least act as a drop in the bucket of a pool of folks in need of representation…

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Lauren Giddings

* You think you know Justice Clarence Thomas, but you have no idea. Here are several myths about the silent Supreme Court star that he was capable of busting in just this term alone. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* According to the CBO, the immigration reform bill being considered in the Senate would allow eight million immigrants to gain legal status and lower the deficit by billions. But alas, dey still terk er jerbs! [NPR]

* Google is doing its best to try not to be evil by asking the FISA court to ease up on gag orders preventing the internet giant from telling the world about what it’s required to give to the government. [Washington Post]

* Florida firm Becker & Poliakoff will withhold 20% of equity partners’ pay, a move that made some lawyers cry. The firm is apparently planning to save the cash for a rainy day. [Daily Business Review]

* Paul Mannina, an attorney with the Labor Department charged with sexually assaulting a coworker, was found in his cell with his throat slashed. Police are investigating the death. [Washington Post]

* FYI, your aspirational pro bono hours — or complete and utter lack thereof — will now be public record in New York, and you must report them on your biannual registration forms. [New York Law Journal]

* Coming soon to a law school near you: really old books from the 13th century that’ll probably turn into dust if you dare try to read them. You can find this nerdgasm over at Yale Law. [National Law Journal]

* The family of Lauren Giddings, the slain Mercer Law graduate, has filed a $5 million wrongful death suit in federal court against accused killer Stephen McDaniel in the hopes of finding her remains. [Telegraph]

* When SCOTUS cases involve public companies and rulings are misinterpreted, it can lead to some pretty volatile stock performance, as was evidenced by yesterday’s highs and lows for Myriad Genetics of BRCA1 patent fame. [Washington Post]

* The ethics complaint against Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit has been transferred to the D.C. Circuit after receiving a blessing from the Chief Justice of the United States. Uh oh, that’s serious business if Roberts is involved. [Times-Picayune]

* The number of women working in the NLJ 350 is sad. They make up only one-third of all attorneys working in Biglaw, and we’re stuck celebrating the tiniest positive changes. Sigh. [National Law Journal]

* Proskauer Rose’s former CFO, Elly Rosenthal, settled her $10M disability discrimination suit against the firm in anticlimactic fashion, “without costs to any party as against the others.” [Am Law Daily]

* California is obviously trying to one-up New York with this one. In addition to a 50-hour pro bono requirement, they’re pushing for 15 hours of real-world training before bar admission. [The Recorder]

* Try to stop a man from throwing a pie in your husband’s face and in return you’ll be served with your wifely walking papers a few years later. Aww, Rupert Murdoch is such a kind old man. [Bloomberg]

That headline woke some of you up, I am sure. But don’t worry — keep reading for the details.

When a judge “requests” that you attend a function, or to represent an indigent client, or to work on a statewide task force, you don’t say no. Not only is it bad form to refuse such a request, accepting the invitation can get you a seat at a table full of people smarter than you, and might just allow you to have an impact on pending judiciary rules.

I met yesterday with a statewide task force on in-house attorney registration and pro bono work. Chief Judge Lippman and Judge Victoria Graffeo of the New York Court of Appeals are spearheading the effort to have all New York in-house counsel, who are not admitted in New York, register with the courts. The State Legislature has gone further and has passed legislation making it a felony to fail to so register. In other words, failure to register can get you a charge of unlicensed practice of law (“UPL”). The following is excerpted from correspondence with Judge Graffeo…

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Experience doesn’t pay the rent.

The ABA agrees that exploitation of law students and other interns is unacceptable; however, the FLSA uncertainty inhibits law firms from offering students the opportunity to work on pro bono matters in a real-life practice setting. …

Furthermore, in the current economic climate with shrunken employment opportunities for law school graduates, hindering the ability of law students and recent graduates to work side-by-side with experienced lawyers who could provide both strong mentoring and favorable substantive references unnecessarily reduces access for future employment prospects.

Laurel Bellows, president of the American Bar Association, in a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor endorsing the use by private law firms of unpaid law student and graduate labor.

(Absurd and out of touch? I’d say so. Keep reading to see the entire letter.)

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Just take a compliance class, bro.

* This year, like every year before it, SCOTUS is saving the best cases (read: most controversial) for last. We’ll likely see opinions on voting rights, affirmative action, and gay marriage in June. [WSJ Law Blog]

* We know of at least one Biglaw firm that will be putting its increase in gross revenue to work. Boies Schiller is planning to open its first office outside of the United States in the “near-term.” [Am Law Daily]

* If you’d like to get paid under a terrorism insurance policy for your damages in the Boston bombings, you’ll have to wait; the bombings haven’t been certified as acts of terror yet. [National Law Journal]

* Mandatory pro bono work is now required for bar admission in New York, but it’s still not enough to close the justice gap. Now Chief Judge Lippman wants to give non-lawyers a chance to provide legal services. [New York Law Journal]

* Arizona Law recently made the announcement that interim dean Marc Miller has been instated as the school’s permanent dean. What’s not to like about a “new” dean and new tuition cuts? [UANews]

* As many of our readers know, the job market is rough, but apparently if you take some compliance classes in law school, you’ll magically become employable. Great success! [Corporate Counsel]

* Brooklyn Law, do you remember what your old dorm looked like? It’s different now that it’s been transformed into an apartment complex that’s no longer stained with the tears of law students. [Curbed]

Regular readers of this blog know that you cannot discharge student loan obligations through bankruptcy absent a showing of undue hardship. If you go broke borrowing money for expensive cars, houses, and monkeys/butlers, no problem, file for bankruptcy and start over. But if you go broke trying to better yourself through education, the government will make you beg and prove that you are sad and hopeless. Wonderful system we’ve got here.

We’ve also talked about how many people who might be eligible for undue hardship on their student debts don’t even try. The system is daunting and complicated, and I’ve argued that prostrating yourself in front of a bankruptcy court and letting them invade your life to the point of telling you how much you should be spending on your cell phone is not something that comes naturally to people with pride and dignity. This might be hard to understand for people who have never been in this situation, but I’d much rather be a “deadbeat” and have my wages garnished with the discretion on how I spend the rest than have some old judge tell me how much money I should be spending on breakfast.

When trying to get your debts discharged through bankruptcy, there seems to be no limit to what a judge can take into account to see if you are really desperate. But a recent Ninth Circuit opinion upholding a discharge by reversing the district court put one boundary on what a court can look at to determine if you’ve tried to pay your debts in “good faith.”

The court can’t look at your household and suggest that you pimp out your wife. So at least that’s something…

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