Public Interest

Here at Above the Law, there’s been a long-running debate between our editors over the benefits of going to law school. As most of our readers know, Lat is in favor of going to law school, and Elie is usually against it. My own views fall somewhere in the middle.

And regardless of the brand name quality of the law schools we attended, we can each express our opinions about the costs and benefits of going to law school because we’ve been there ourselves.

But what happens when someone who didn’t attend law school — someone who apparently doesn’t even know how long law school lasts — starts giving out career advice to prospective law students?

Ridiculousness, and lots of it….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Best Worst Person to Take Law School Advice From Is Someone Who Didn’t Attend Law School”

[A] rush to open the practice of law to unschooled, unregulated nonlawyers is not the solution [to the justice gap]. This would cause grave harm to clients. Even matters that appear simple, such as uncontested divorces, involve myriad legal rights and responsibilities. If the case is not handled by a professional with appropriate legal training, a person can suffer serious long-term consequences affecting loved ones or financial security.

William T. “Bill” Robinson III, president of the American Bar Association (ABA), in a letter to the editor of the New York Times. Robinson’s letter responds to an NYT staff editorial arguing that “allow[ing] nonlawyers into the mix” could help address the justice gap, i.e., low-income Americans’ need for legal services.

Lawyers like to complain about the billable hours requirements at their firms. A common question seems to be what will count and what won’t. In this line of work, time is money, and many associates want to know if they’re wasting their time.

If the firm makes you go to a professional development event, are you losing out on hours? If you get wrangled into doing pro bono work, are your weekly billables for paid clients going to plummet? And will that ultimately get reflected in your bonus check?

Yesterday, we lamented the fact that we often report on depressing news about the state of the legal profession in this country. Today, we actually have some good news. Jenner & Block realized that their lawyers shouldn’t be toiling away in their dungeons offices and forgoing pro bono opportunities in order to meet their billable hours requirements.

The firm remembered that this profession is supposed to be about helping the less fortunate, and it has adjusted its policies accordingly….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “And the Associates Rejoiced: Now Almost Everything Is Billable at Jenner & Block”

State bar associations could help address [low-income Americans' need for legal services] by requiring lawyers to report their pro bono service — such disclosure would likely increase many lawyers’ service to the recommended 3 percent to 5 percent of their paid work. Another step is to allow nonlawyers into the mix. The American Bar Association has insisted that only lawyers can provide legal services, but there are many things nonlawyers should be able to handle, like processing uncontested divorces.

– a New York Times staff editorial entitled Addressing the Justice Gap, which offers several proposals for reform of the legal profession. You can read the full piece here.

Under new management?

There has been a lot of talk in the media lately about how law schools are failing to adequately prepare recent graduates for the working world. Because after having your nose in a book for three years, let’s face it, you probably don’t know how to do “useful things with the law” that would actually help a client.

Law schools have also been under fire for their apparently inability to employ recent graduates in the legal work force. While some law schools are simply gaming their employment numbers, others are creating temporary employment opportunities so their graduates can be employed at graduation.

And in the spirit of killing two birds with one stone, law schools may soon have a solution for both of these problems. Instead of inventing temporary jobs to make you “practice-ready,” they might invent a whole law firm….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Can’t Get a Job? Lacking Lawyer Skills? Try Working for Your School’s Law Firm”

Layoffs at law firms have slowed to a trickle (although we still hear the occasional rumor; email us with your tips). In the public sector, however, layoffs continue — and may even accelerate, as state governments and the federal government grapple with contentious budget issues.

Today brings word of major layoffs in Connecticut. In a just-issued report, Judge Barbara Quinn, Chief Court Administrator, laid out some serious cuts to positions in the judicial branch.

How serious? This may be hard to believe, but the number of jobs being axed exceeds the February 2009 bloodbath at Latham & Watkins….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: The Connecticut State Judiciary”

Reema Bajaj: pretty and professional.

I have previously expressed my belief in the innocence of Reema N. Bajaj, the 25-year-old lawyer who has been charged with prostitution. This Illinois solo practitioner didn’t strike me as a prostitute — and some who know her personally concur. A classmate of Bajaj from Northern Illinois University College of Law expressed his shock at the charges, and college students whom Bajaj taught described a caring and considerate teacher — an unlikely lawbreaker.

But, in fairness to the prosecution, evidence does exist that could be construed as supporting the charges. And some of this evidence is rather salacious — to wit, photographs of Reema Bajaj’s bajayjay.

If you have delicate sensibilities, please stop reading here. If you have a stomach for somewhat scandalous (but still safe for work) material, however, you may continue….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “All Rise! Reema Bajaj’s Bajayjay Is Now In Session”

Joseph Flom

Back in February, Joseph Flom — name partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and one of the nation’s most successful and prominent lawyers — passed away, at the age of 87. During his life, Flom earned well-deserved renown as an attorney, philanthropist, and mentor. He was also a wonderful father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, many times over.

Joe Flom, R.I.P. — and R.I.C.H. As you might expect from the name partner of one of the world’s largest and most lucrative law firms, Flom left behind a vast fortune.

It might seem tacky to talk about this. But that hasn’t stopped us before given Flom’s commitment to charity, it’s actually heartwarming to see all of the worthy causes that will be receiving much-needed funds from the Flom estate.

So how much are we talking about? And who are beneficiaries of his will?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How Much Was Joe Flom Worth? Some Clues From His Will”

Incoming summer associates, would you donate one day of your summer salary to help other students at your school who did not get summer jobs? Would you donate that money for a pro bono or public interest cause? Would you donate that money so your law school could fund the pro bono interests of other students?

Or am I giving you a false choice? Is it offensive to suggest that your law school needs one cent of your hard-won salary to fund public interest programs that should be covered by your tuition?

These are the questions facing students at one law school, thanks to an interesting donation request from the school’s administration. This isn’t a public interest auction like you’ll see at many law schools, where students with extra cash can bid on items, and auction proceeds are used to fund public interest fellowships. Rather, this is a direct request for a redistribution of income.

And I’m not sure if this is laudable or monstrous…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Should Working Students Pay for Their Pro Bono Classmates?”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Size Matters, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

I have written this column from many places: my parents’ couch, my local Starbucks, my bed, etc. I have yet to try it from atop a soapbox, but here goes.

It is common knowledge that the need for pro bono services is increasing as funding for pro bono organizations is decreasing (or ceasing altogether). As explained by ABA President Stephen Zack, in a letter opposing cuts to funding for the Legal Services Corporation, “[f]inancially, many Americans are still hanging on by their fingernails. The worst thing that could happen is to lose the place people can turn to when their money woes create legal problems.”

Similarly, as explained by Esther Lardent, President of the Pro Bono Institute, in her address at the 2011 Annual Seminar and Forum on In-House Pro Bono, with regard to the impact of the economic downturn, “for pro bono . . . the worst is yet to come.” Lardent explains that the loss of funding to pro bono organizations has posed a “justice crisis,” and the need for legal assistance will increase.

So, as a result of the economy, more people need legal aid, but fewer legal aid organizations are able to meet those needs. Clearly if these people are to be served, private lawyers are going to need to take the laboring oar — and they have. According to Lardent, pro bono hours performed by major law firms increased in 2009 (2010 data is not yet available).

What about small law firms?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: Good Deeds Can Come In Small Packages”

Page 6 of 131...2345678910...13