Public Interest

... a damn about law students.

Back in May, we noted that New York would be implementing a new prerequisite for admission to the state’s bar: all would-be attorneys must complete 50 hours of pro bono work before being allowed to practice in the Empire State.

This initiative was Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s latest attempt to mete out justice for all, but it was not well received by all sides. Some have likened the pro bono requirement to indentured servitude; others have thrown up their hands in frustration and called the move “utterly wrongheaded.”

At first, it seemed like only in-state bar examinees and law schools had reason to worry. Now, out-of-state law schools are stepping up to the plate to complain about Lippman’s requirement. Details for the rule’s implementation still haven’t been drafted — in fact, out-of-state schools weren’t even invited when the Chief Judge’s advisory committee last met in July. Law schools and law graduates alike have been kept in an uneasy waiting period while all of the minutiae get worked out.

But for out-of-state law schools, the worst part of this waiting period is the uncertainty about whether this pro bono requirement will come at a cost to students….

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* Roger Clemens was found not guilty on charges of lying to Congress about using steroids. [New York Times]

* Why did the ABA Journal kill a feature story on mentoring by Dan Hull and Scott Greenfield? The world may never know, and the world may never see the story. [Simple Justice]

* Q: What does a male lawyer do when his female secretary gives him a nice little Father’s Day gift? A: Freak out because random acts of kindness are so unusual, and then write a letter to a New York Times advice columnist. [New York Times]

* If you’ll be in D.C. this Thursday, June 21, check out this battle of the law firm bands — a fun event that we’ve covered before, as well as a fundraiser for a worthy cause. [Banding Together 2012]

* ATL readers are awesome. You guys have already been a huge help to this court reporter who almost died when he fell into the Chicago River. The family is still taking donations, and now there’s a PayPal link, so it’s even easier to lend a hand to Andrew Pitts and his family. [Kruse Reporters Blog]

* A closer look at the continuing rapid progress of predictive coding (or, as skeptics would say, our new computer overlords) in legal discovery. [WSJ Law Blog]

* New York’s “hot dog hooker,” Ms. Catherine Scalia (no, not that Scalia), was sentenced to jail. Maybe she should have deigned to sell chocolate milkshakes instead. [Gothamist]

We don’t hear often enough about attorneys trying to do good for the world. Sex scandals, violence, and dirty politics are much more common to hear about than attorneys working to advance the public interest.

So it’s particularly unfortunate that we have to write about an Australian defense lawyer at the International Criminal cCourt in the context of her involuntary detainment in Libya, that fun little African country known for its leader’s kooky costumes.

Without further ado, let’s learn more about the detained Australian, Melinda Taylor (and see a photo of the beautiful young attorney)…

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* Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan apologized before a Senate panel for his agency’s prostitution scandal. We bet that you’d be “deeply disappointed” too if your employees were caught stiffing a hooker on her bill. [Miami Herald]

* Day four of jury deliberations in the John Edwards campaign finance trial closed yesterday without a verdict. The former presidential candidate is probably just waiting to pack it in, get this jury declared hung, and call it a day. [CNN]

* “This case is maybe something like a near disaster for Oracle.” A jury ruled unanimously that Google didn’t infringe Oracle’s Java patents in developing its Android software. Maybe they weren’t evil after all. [Bloomberg]

* A record low of 41% of Americans call themselves “pro choice” when it comes to abortions, and only a little more than half think it should be legal under “certain circumstances.” What is this, Roe v. World? [Reuters]

* Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman put together a task force to make recommendations on how to implement New York’s new pro bono prerequisite. Please let them take law school clinic hours. [Corporate Counsel]

* Remember the lawyer who sued his posh fitness club over its failure to provide free breakfast? Not only is his suit now toast, but he also has to fork over some cash to the club’s lawyers. [New York Daily News]

... except when it's forced upon us.

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of the New York Court of Appeals announced yesterday that a new bar admission hurdle would be foisted upon would-be lawyers in the state, in the form of a 50-hour pro bono requirement.

Apparently poor people in the Empire State have been having trouble securing legal services, so what better way to assist them than to force similarly situated people to come to their aid? Instead of relying upon existing attorneys to lend a helping hand to those in need, Judge Lippman has chosen to force the task upon those who have no choice but to obey.

Chief Judge Lippman had a good idea, but it’s a bit misplaced. Let’s discuss what the new pro bono requirement means for you, and delve into what others are saying about it….

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Friday night, I attended the first ever Innocence Project of Florida dinner. I was invited by a close, personal Twitter follower board member, and upon acceptance, asked by someone in one of my Google+ circles the Incoming Chair of the Innocence of Project of Florida to turn over a fairly large amount of cash to be a co-sponsor. Apparently, while Holland & Knight was receiving an award for their thousands of hours helping to free the wrongfully convicted, money for the dinner wasn’t pouring in from the establishment. Maybe next year.

As lawyer-type dinners go, it was a little different — poor lawyers representing alleged violent criminals mixed with Biglaw lawyers who spent the last decade doing the same, as well as three dozen judges, the elected state attorney, the appointed United States Attorney, and a slew of law students. Also in the crowd were a half-dozen exonerees. The exonerees included James Bain, who served more time than any other exoneree — 35 years for a crime he didn’t commit. He went to jail when I was four years old, and got out as I was planning a trip for my 40th birthday.

The night had its share of speeches and awards. One of the awards went to lawyer Marty McClain, whose client, Juan Melendez, was there among the suits wearing a t-shirt. Juan spent 17 years, eight months, and one day on death row before being exonerated. Marty’s other client, Frank Lee Smith, couldn’t make it because he died of cancer on death row before being exonerated. At his table was Marty’s high school buddy, actor Tony Shalhoub, who looked like a stalking fan taking pictures on his phone when his lawyer-friend was honored for being poor and a hero. While people were asking Shalhoub for pictures and autographs, he was busy being enamored with Marty….

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Anybody can say no to crack, but I know Superheroes who wouldn't turn down $160K.

It’s a story so common that it’s almost a cliché to bring it up. Idealistic young people show up at law school full of commitment to the public interest or something similar, time passes, and three years later they’re all heading off to S&C, to Proskauer, to the best Biglaw job they can find. Or they clerk for a year and then go to one of these firms. If they don’t get teaching jobs, you’ll see them sharing offices in the highest-paying law firm they can find.

It happens all the time. And, for the most part, it always happens for the same reason: money. Oh, individuals will tell themselves they gave up on their low-paying dreams for all sorts of reasons. But they’re just trying to make themselves feel better. It’s always about the money. ALWAYS.

Trust me, if it wasn’t always about the money, I would not be able to guarantee a traffic spike whenever I put “bonus” in a headline. Or whenever I write about law firms paying first-year associates more than $160K.

Right now, at Harvard Law School, there is a group of students trying to push back on this transformation of idealistic Harvard Law students into materialistic lawyer drones. It’s a really nice, heartfelt effort, one that we don’t see nearly enough of on campus.

I’m going to be sad when reality wears them out like a Colombian prostitute on some Secret Service agents….

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

You’re different. You disdain the crass blandishments of Biglaw. You have a soul. Let the giant firms seduce your naïve classmates with their shameless wheedling. You’re made of sterner stuff.

Your ultimate goal? Something better. A place where you might actually do good. Few lawyers receive that opportunity. Many, exposed to goodness, would burst into flames.

That’s why you’re taking the high road, escaping the pervasive cynicism and greed. You’ve got your sights set on a not-for-profit institution, dedicated to the promise of a better tomorrow.

Will it work? Can a lawyer escape pervasive cynicism and greed?

Seems unlikely….

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Over the past few days, we’ve been documenting debonair d-bag Tucker Max and his failed attempt to donate $500,000 to Planned Parenthood. Whether or not you think the organization should have accepted his money, you’ve got to at least give the man a hand for trying to do some good in this world — no matter his intentions.

That being said, another organization that is certainly worthy of Max’s half-million has stepped up to the plate. This organization wants Max’s money badly, so badly, in fact, that its executives have turned around to take it like a desperate dog in heat.

Which organization are we talking about? None other than PETA….

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Tucker Max

We recently wrote about world-renowned d-bag Tucker Max, and his attempt to donate $500,000 to Planned Parenthood of Texas. The organization’s executives snubbed their noses at Max’s half-million because they didn’t “feel it would be appropriate, given . . . [his] body of work.” This happened in August of 2011, but rejection hurts, even when you’re a hardcore bro. Max was unable to abort his frustration with the situation, and almost fittingly, he waited just about the length of a full-term pregnancy to reveal the dirty details of what went down.

But why did he wait so long to start spreading the news about this injustice? Wouldn’t the women of Texas have wanted to know about this sooner? Maybe it’s because he was scamming us all along….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Trials and Tribulations of Tucker Max: Did He Try to Pull a Fast One on Planned Parenthood?”

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