Public Interest

Andrew Kravis, recent Columbia Law School grad and new millionaire.

Congratulations to Andrew Kravis. He graduated from Columbia Law School this past May, but he’s already earned enough money to pay off all his student loans.

And no, he doesn’t work at a hedge fund or private equity firm. He doesn’t even work in Biglaw. He’s a public interest lawyer, about to start a fellowship at Lambda Legal, the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization working for LGBT civil rights. He was honored upon graduating from CLS as one of two students “who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in the furtherance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights.”

So how did this outstanding do-gooder also do so well? How did he earn enough money to pay off all his student loans, and then some — a cool $2.6 million, to be exact?

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Make it rain, law schools!

* With the Supreme Court’s term winding quickly to a close, it’s likely that conservative justices will write for the majority in some of the most closely watched and controversial cases. Uh oh. [Washington Post]

* Judge Edward Korman, the man who slapped around the FDA like it owed him money in a ruling over access to the morning-after pill, is actually a very soft-spoken, kind-hearted fellow. [New York Times]

* Wherein a Chicago Law professor and a Vedder Price partner argue that instead of cutting law school down to two years, financial aid should be given out like candy. Hey, whatever works. [Bloomberg]

* Brooklyn Law’s got a whole lot of drama these days: Their president is stepping down, their dean is apparently still a full-time partner at Patton Boggs, and a law professor is suing over alleged ABA violations. [New York Law Journal]

* That’s not the only New York-area law school awash in scandal. Chen Guangcheng has received the boot from NYU Law due to alleged harm done to the school’s relationship with China. [New York Times]

* When questioned about the need for his school, Indiana Tech’s dean says the lawyer oversupply and lack of jobs don’t matter. It’s about the quality of the graduate. Good luck with that! [Journal Gazette]

* This came too soon (that’s what she said). The alleged porn purveyors at Prenda Law will close up shop thanks to the costly litigation surrounding their copyright trolling. [Law & Disorder / Ars Technica]

* Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hassan won’t be allowed to use a “defense of others” strategy in his murder trial, because not only does it fail as a matter of law, but it’s also ridiculous. [Associated Press]

* Harvard Law grad Cate Edwards, daughter of disgraced pol John Edwards, took a dramatic step away from her father’s tabloid-esque pubic interests by opening her own public interest firm. [WJLA ABC 7]

* Judge Thomas Jackson, well-known for his antitrust ruling against Microsoft, RIP. [New York Times]

Here at Above the Law, we try to pay attention to every sector of legal employment. We often find ourselves skewed rather heavily toward Biglaw, but as we all know, not everyone wants to work in Biglaw — including some of the people who are ensconced in high-paying Biglaw jobs themselves.

Imagine a place where you won’t be shackled to the billable hour. Imagine a place where you’ll get all government holidays off without having to worry about showing up just for the sake of appearances. Imagine a place where your clients are people, not corporate entities. If that seems nice to you, it’s because it is.

Today, we’re going to open the floodgates for the members of our audience, prospective law students in particular, who aspire to some day work in government and public interest jobs. Which law schools should you be considering if you’d like to have the best odds of reaching your goal?

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* Celebrated litigator David Boies thinks the Supreme Court is going to rule in favor of gay marriage in a united front — which is helpful, since in March he’s arguing in favor of gay marriage in the Prop 8 case. [USA Today]

* “What we had to do was do more with less.” Archer & Greiner had to lay off 14 attorneys and 27 staffers thanks to the firm’s rapid overexpansion via mergers. This is why we can’t have nice things. [New Jersey Law Journal]

* In New York / Concrete jungle where dreams are made of / There’s nothing you can’t do / Now you’re in New York / Law deans will try to inspire you / But rankings will ruin you / Hear it for New York! [New York Law Journal]

* If you’d like to save the world by working a public-interest job, you’d better consider Penn Law. Its LRAP now covers all IBR loan payments over 10 years for a total savings of up to $140,000. [National Law Journal]

* But then again, if you’re not interested in public-interest work, you can always get a temp job, where you’ll allegedly make as much as “a mid-level associate at a small or medium firm.” [U.S. News & World Report]

* Because Lindsay Lohan’s lawyer was called out by a judge for a performance that was almost as piss poor in his client’s in Liz & Dick, he contacted a local firm to step in and assist him. [L.A. Now / Los Angeles Times]

Ah, UVA Law School. I’ll be the first to admit that we’re often a little harsh on this particular law school, but that’s only because it’s so damn easy to do. When we write about UVA Law, the jokes virtually write themselves.

Some of the very best scandals around have come from this law school — from alleged sodomizers to transcript thieves to racial raconteurs to Confederate celebrants, we’ve literally seen it all from UVA Law.

But let me tell you, it’s a rare day when we’re able to tell students from this school to pop their collars with pride, and we actually mean it without a hint of sarcasm. Today we’re going to congratulate a student from UVA for an accomplishment that everyone with student loan debt wishes they could achieve.

This young woman appeared on live television and was handed thousands of dollars to pay off her loans, just for being a decent human being. How much was she able to walk away with?

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Later today, Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in President Barack Obama for Obama’s second term as President of the United States. Hopefully they’ll get it right this time.

President Obama, of course, is the first African-American to serve as POTUS. His election and recent reelection show how much progress our nation has made over the years in terms of racial equality and justice.

Much of that progress can be attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the pioneering civil rights leader whose birthday remember today. Dr. King was born on January 15, 1929, and the holiday in his honor is observed on the third Monday of January.

In honor of the holiday, we don’t plan on publishing much (if anything) today. Feel free to scroll back through the archives and read stories you might have missed from last week.

If you’re looking for something to do, you can use today for public service. Look up service projects in your area at MLKDay.gov. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!

UPDATE (11:00 AM): As noted in the comments, today’s ceremonial swearing-in will be the second one for President Obama’s second term. He was formally sworn in yesterday “because the official start of his second term landed on Sunday. The Constitution says the president’s term expires on Jan. 20 at noon.”

As law firm associates and partners rejoice over their bonuses and profits, we urge you to keep in mind the importance of giving back this holiday season. The law firm of Skadden Arps certainly does, through its support of the Skadden Fellowships. It’s fitting that word of the new Skadden Fellows always comes out around this time of year.

In case you’re not familiar with it, the Skadden Fellowship program has been described as “a legal Peace Corps.” It was established in 1988, in honor of Skadden’s 40th anniversary as a law firm, and it supports graduating law students committed to public interest work as they embark upon specific projects at sponsoring organizations.

How many fellowships were awarded this year? Which law schools do the fellows come from?

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An awning taken down by Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy hit the legal world hard, as we’ve chronicled in these pages. And many lawyers and legal employers are still feeling its effects — quite literally. If you work at one prominent downtown law firm, for example, we hope you’re wearing thermal underwear.

As we mentioned on Friday, some individuals have been exploiting the Superstorm Sandy crisis to take advantage of others. The Justice Department and the SEC have issued warnings about various “Sandy scams.”

On the opposite end of the decency spectrum, some lawyers and law firms are stepping up to the plate and supporting Hurricane Sandy relief and recovery efforts. Let’s see what they’re doing — and give them some well-deserved kudos for their work….

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One of the ironies in life that I joke about with students is you work four times as hard to get a quarter of the money in public interest.

Alexa Shabecoff, Assistant Dean for Public Service at Harvard Law School, commenting on the limited public interest opportunities available for students in comparison with the school’s enormous Early Interview Program for private firms.

Admit it: when you applied to law school, your admissions essay was probably about your desire to help some poor, disadvantaged group of people. You walked in the door bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to conquer the world one unpaid public interest internship at a time.

If by some chance you weren’t convinced to give up on your dreams of helping the disenfranchised, now that you’ve graduated, you’ve probably realized that this whole “public interest” thing isn’t exactly working out so well for you. After all, servicing six figures of debt is no easy task on a $45K salary, even with school-sponsored loan repayment assistance programs (if your school has one). As it turns out, now you’re one of those poor, disadvantaged people.

This leads to a very relevant question that was recently raised by the National Association for Law Placement: should you even consider pursuing a public interest career path after graduating from law school? Is it really worth it? Let’s take a look at some salary figures and find out….

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