Public Interest

128294720808907500callmahlawyur.jpgEarlier this month, an ATL / Lateral Link survey found that 86% of you were talking about politics in the workplace. And 18% of you reported that a fellow associate had tried to convince you to vote for their favorite candidate.

But are politics just seeping into your workplace, or will you be taking your profession to the polls? As the Obama campaign recruits lawyers to join the world’s largest law firm next week and the McCain campaign recruits its own Legal Response Team, how are you and your firms planning to spend the day?

Will you be policing the polls for pro bono — or billable — credit?

Update: This survey is now closed. Click here for the results.

Justin Bernold is a Director at Lateral Link, the sponsor of this Associate Life Survey.

Mother Teresa.jpgA recent bar passer sent this query into Freakonomics:

I recently passed the bar and am currently applying for jobs. My main concern is bringing out the most charitable result. Should I work in the nonprofit section where my services are passed directly along to the most needy, or should I get the high-paying firm job and donate the difference in my salary to charity?

A certain Harvard Law School grad might say, “Do the right thing at every moment” — and avoid the Big Bad Law Firm. But Freakonomics blogger Stephen Dubner seems more skeptical of public interest work:

I am not so convinced that working for a nonprofit means that one’s “services are passed directly along to the most needy.” Here’s one reason why.

One Freakonomics commenter’s response to the question of “public interest v. Biglaw”: neither.

If you want to make the most “charitable result”, you’re too late. Lawyers rarely add any value to the economy (after all, this IS an economics blog). Lawyers don’t make anything but they consume large amounts of capital, both human and financial. Had you wanted to be a net contributor to society, an MBA or engineering degree or medical degree or some such would have been the way to go or even just start a small business. This would allow you to actually produce something of value. A law degree only allows you to add friction to the economy….

Scrap the law degree, start a company, get rich, buy a big house and a big boat, give generously when you can and do what Buffett and Gates are doing, give it all away when you’re finished. Nothing wrong with that at all. That would be a life well lived.

ATL readers, what do you advise?
Our Daily Bleg: How Can You Maximize Your Charity? [Freakonomics / NYT]
Earlier: Working in Biglaw = Killing Babies?

Seattle swingers.jpgWhere is the Institute for Justice when you need it? Or maybe the Pacific Legal Foundation?
A libertarian public interest organization needs to defend two victims of intrusive government regulation. From the Seattle Times:

Regan “Draco” Lane-Smith and “Naughty” Nonah Elliston outfitted their six-bedroom rental house with 15 mattresses, bondage crosses and sex swings. They built elaborate sets in their backyard for taking erotic photos. And they promoted the Hardwood Cabin online.

Up to 60 guests at a time came to mingle, sunbathe nude by the pool and have sex with fellow swingers and fetishists, Elliston said. Parties were frequent enough that the couple’s laundry service was cycling through 50 bedsheets a week.

But the couple shut down the sex club last month when they were cited for running a business without a license and threatened with fines of up to $513 a day.

So it was the commercial component that got them in trouble. A post-bar-exam orgy, or some German prison role playing, would have been just fine.
There are legal connections to this story in addition to the licensing and zoning issues. Read more, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Needed: Pro Bono Representation for the ‘Hardwood Cabin’”

Great Depression 2 Dorothea Lange Migrant Mother Above the Law blog.JPG* “Are we headed for another Great Depression?” [McClatchy]
* Quelle surprise: Bear Stearns shareholder lawsuit (filed in S.D.N.Y. by Coughlin Stoia). [Bloomberg; WSJ Law Blog (PDF of complaint)]
* Speaking of Bear Stearns, here are some law firms losing out on BSC business. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Tenth Circuit reverses convictions of former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio. [AP]
* Harvard Law School will pay the 3L tuition of future students who agree to work for nonprofit organizations or government for five years following graduation. [New York Times via Tax Prof Blog; Harvard Law School (news release)]
* Settlement in Paul McCartney-Heather Mills divorce (more on this later). [Legal Week]
* SCOTUS to hear Second Amendment / D.C. gun control case today (more on this later too). [New York Times; Reuters]

Martin Luther King Jr Dr Rev.jpgToday we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the pioneering civil rights leader. Dr. King’s birthday was actually on January 15th, but the holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year.
Many of you are not in the office today, in honor of the holiday. If you’re not at work, we hope that you are enjoying the day off. (We are around, but will be posting less than usual.)
If you are looking for something to do, we suggest that you treat today as an opportunity for public service. You can look up a service project in your area at MLKDay.gov.
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
Blawg Review #143 [Public Defender Stuff via Blawg Review]
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service [MLKDay.gov]

James Sandman James J Sandman Jim Sandman Above the Law Blog.jpgRemember James Sandman? Oh no, you don’t? Well, surely you remember the Arnold & Porter partner’s infamous essay, The High Price of Escalating Associate Salaries, which he wrote while president of the D.C. bar.

Jim Sandman’s article, dishing out harsh criticism of law firm associate pay raises, did not endear him to ATL readers. In a near comments clusterf**k, he was condemned as the greediest of greedy Biglaw partners (along with other epithets not fit for printing here).

Well, maybe Sandman has gotten a bad rap. After all, he was public-spirited enough to serve as president of the D.C. bar. When we met him at this party, one of many charitable functions he attends, he didn’t have horns growing out of his head.

And now we hear that he’s leaving his lucrative partnership, to toil in the considerably less profitable precincts of the D.C. public school system. He’s accepted a position as General Counsel for the District of Columbia Public Schools, and he’ll also be a member of Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s senior leadership team to the DC School Board.

Read the A&P memo announcing Sandman’s departure, from firm chairman Thomas Milch, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: Jim Sandman Isn’t as Greedy as You Thought”

Legal Aid Society New York Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgIn the discussion about Peter Barta, the Legal Aid lawyer who allegedly made secret videotapes of his female colleagues getting dressed in the office, one question keeps coming up, again and again.
This comment is representative:

“[C]an someone explain why people are getting dressed/undressed at the Legal Aid office in the first place?”

We were curious ourselves. So we undertook an ATL investigation, contacting a few sources with firsthand knowledge.
If you’re curious, the results of our investigation appear after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “More Than You Ever Cared To Know About Legal Aid Lawyers and Their Attire”

syringe lethal injection death penalty Above the Law legal tabloid.jpgSupreme Court clerkships, Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships… Who cares?
We’ve unearthed a credential that is far more bad-ass. From a tipster:

I was forwarded this notice about a fellowship opportunity. Who wouldn’t want to have Recipient of Lethal Injection Fellowship on their résumé?

If your curiosity is piqued, read more after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “This Fellowship Is To Die For”

Are you here in Washington, DC? And are you by any chance free this evening? If so, then please consider attending Banding Together 2007. It’s a battle of ten D.C. law firm bands — good stuff. And even if you have doubts about the music, remember: it’s for a good cause!

Kirkland & Ellis partner Walter Lohmann, chair of the firm’s diversity committee, contacted ATL with this information….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ATL Public Service Announcement: Banding Together 2007″

One Day's Work 1 Day's Work Abovethelaw Above the Law online legal tabloid blog.jpgWe can’t publish all (or even most) of the announcements like this that we receive. But since we give those Harvard Law School kids such a hard time, airing lots of their dirty laundry, we figure we might as well do something nice for them for a change.
We pass along this announcement, on behalf of an HLS organization aimed at encouraging charitable giving:

I am writing on behalf of a Harvard Law School organization called One Day’s Work. The organization started this spring and the concept is simple: encourage law students around the country to pledge one day’s summer salary at either a law firm or public interest legal job to a charitable cause. We thought that with your extensive coverage of law firm salaries, you might be interested in giving us some attention and helping to promote this worthy effort.

Students can pledge and get more information at our website, http://www.OneDaysWork.org. To date, over 65 law students have pledged nearly $40,000 to the effort. These students represent over 40 firms and public interest/government organizations. Additionally, while the group started at Harvard, students from law schools across the country have joined in the effort. About half of the participants are from Harvard, but participants thus far have come from over a dozen other schools.

While the group’s name gives a suggested donation amount – and your readers, of all people, should know what a summer associate in a major American city makes in a given day – the goal is really to promote a culture of giving. As such, we just ask students to give what they feel comfortable with. One Day’s Work does not advocate any specific charitable cause or organization, but the website does feature seven charities that we’ve chosen to highlight.

The efforts of One Day’s Work will culminate on June 27—the “Day” from which students are pledging their earnings.

June 27 is fast approaching. So please visit their site and sign up, while you still can!
1 Day’s Work [official website]

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