Screw-Ups

The source of the Supreme Court’s tech problems?

Ed. note: In honor of Columbus Day (and Canadian Thanksgiving), Above the Law will be on a reduced publication schedule today. We will be back in full force tomorrow.

* The Supreme Court’s new Term is off to a great start: Thanks to a copy machine’s error, we almost missed the surprise cert denials in the gay marriage cases. What kind of screw-ups will this week bring us? [National Law Journal]

* On the other hand, in what’s considered an unsurprising move following its cert denials en masse, the Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriage to begin in Idaho. Congrats to the Gem State. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Jenner & Block’s data privacy practice is making waves in an “uncharted but lucrative field,” and its leader thinks that the “Internet of Things” will help heat up her work soon. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* A future Law & Order: SVU episode? Sanford Rubenstein, a personal injury and civil rights lawyer who’s been described as “[f]lashy, brash and always camera-ready,” is now being accused of rape. [ABC News]

* Yale Law’s most interesting student goes to all of his classes, but never has to study or take any of his finals. It’s not because he’s lucky — it’s because he’s a 93-year-old course auditor. [New Haven Register]

If you think about it, there shouldn’t be any bar exam administrative debacles. Something like ExamSoft should never be allowed to happen. Every state has its own board of law examiners, and these folks simply have to administer and score a test. It’s amazing that every year, at almost every administration of the bar exam, there is some kind of comic failure from those in charge of administering the exam.

Of all the bar exam failures we’ve covered, this one is the most cruel. It’s terrible to tell students that they’ve passed the bar when they actually failed. But telling them the night before the swearing-in ceremony is among the worst things I’ve ever heard….

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The Supreme Court of the United States (photo by Drew Havens).

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an article by Adam Liptak on the increasingly suspect “facts” that the Supreme Court cites in some of its opinions. Whether penned by the justices themselves or the little twits who actually do the heavy lifting on the opinion-writing, opinions from the Court have become a veritable wasteland of dubious figures, outlandish claims, and hardcore pornography. Or, rather, just the first two.

Sex-crazed Stephen Breyer, for instance, is said to have relied on a discontinued blog for a statistic related to public libraries. The blog, wackyliberryfacts.blogspot.com, has two posts since 2008 and both have to do with Michael Hutchence’s death. A good read, if maybe a bit too reliant on incorrect lyrics from Suicide Blonde.

On the right side of the Court (and history…?), coozehound Samuel Alito is said to have cited an unreliable fact about background checks done by employers in a 2011 opinion. The fact? That 47 percent of Americans can’t come up with Joe Biden’s name when asked who our Vice President is. Which, as far as I can tell, is a totally true fact! But its connection to background checks is tenuous, if not downright nonexistent.

Given the fact that our nation’s entire legal edifice threatens to crumble under the weight of a thousand erroneous internet “facts,” we’ve decided to help the Court out. Here are five ways the court can get around the shoddy fact-checking in judicial opinions.

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Court reporters put up with a lot. Not only are they largely condescended to by the often middling attorneys they deal with every day, but they have to listen intently to everything lawyers say all the time. And when they’ve managed to turn around two days worth of testimony into a transcript by mid-morning the next day, they get a courteous nod and a “what took you so long?”

The job really is its own circle of hell. The sort of thing that might make somebody type “I hate my job” over and over and over again instead of keeping up with the proceedings.

But not every court reporter is a martyr deserving of veneration. If, for example, a court reporting service just didn’t prepare transcripts in criminal cases for months on end, they may earn themselves a hearty benchslapping…

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Almost a month after ExamSoft treated us to the biggest bar exam disaster ever, they’ve issued an apology. Well, that’s something. One would have expected this within hours of the debacle that the Internet dubbed #Barghazi. Maybe it was written in July and it’s just taken this long for the ExamSoft software to load it up.

Despite calls that ExamSoft needs to bite the bullet and refund student money over this mishap and pending legal claims, ExamSoft is content to offer a straight-forward “oops, our bad,” and carry on like nothing ever happened.

Is this apology enough? Do the victims of this snafu deserve more?

Are all of you just overreacting?

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If corporations really were people, ExamSoft would have to go into hiding right now. Did you see how every New Yorker suddenly had a farm implement or a rifle to deal with Sharknado 2: The Second One last night? That’s what would happen if Mr. ExamSoft was spotted strolling past a group of bar exam takers.

But ExamSoft isn’t a person, it’s a corporation, a corporation that royally screwed up. YOU HAD ONE JOB, ExamSoft, and you didn’t get it done. In America, you are supposed to be able to get your money back when a business screws up this badly. Kids paid between $100 and $150 for software that not only didn’t work but almost ruined their lives. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t going to cut it.

Unfortunately, “I’m sorry” seems to be the only thing ExamSoft is willing to do at the moment…

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ExamSoft made many bar takers cry last night.

In case you’re not already well aware, last night the legal profession stood witness to the biggest bar exam disaster in history. Bar exam takers nationwide were absolutely enraged — as they rightfully should have been — because ExamSoft’s servers were overrun by thousands of aspiring lawyers trying to upload their essays before their state’s deadline came and went.

Instead of going about their business and exhibiting “forbearance with the situation” as requested by the bane of their collective existence, bar takers flocked to Twitter to shake their virtual fists in anger in tweets directed at ExamSoft.

As you can imagine, there were some very entertaining tweets being sent out. If you love schadenfreude and other people’s pain brings you pleasure, you’ll love this…

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Making life hard is a GIANT understatement. Judging from the dozens of furious emails, text messages, and tweets we’ve received over the past few hours, this appears to be the biggest bar exam debacle in history. It’s certainly the most serious bar disaster I’ve ever covered in the eight years since I started Above the Law. Bar takers around the country are in full-on meltdown mode.

Just like ExamSoft, the apparent source of the problems. An unknown number of bar candidates, but surely numbering into the thousands, cannot upload their completed exams to ExamSoft — despite deadlines for doing so (which vary from state to state).

Keep reading for disaster reports from around the country, plus statements from ExamSoft….

(Please note that we will be UPDATING this post, so refresh your browser for the latest.)

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I’ve never met you, but I assume that you’re incompetent.

I realize that sounds a bit harsh, but it’s time someone told you the truth.

Some people assume that strangers are competent. One of my colleagues in our Law Department said to me recently: “Outside counsel says we won’t have much liability in that case.”

I naturally asked, “Is he right?”

She was shocked: “He’s a partner at a well-respected firm. We hired him. I assume he’s competent.”

That got us to talking. My colleague gives strangers the benefit of the doubt; she assumes that people are competent until they prove otherwise. I’m exactly the opposite: When I meet you, my working assumption is that you’re inept. Over time, there’s a chance you’ll convince me that I’m wrong. (But probably not.)

Why do I assume that all new people I meet are incompetent?

No, that’s too easy. Here’s the better question: Why am I right to assume that everyone’s incompetent, and why is that a helpful way to go through life?

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We give law schools a lot of flak for the way they take massive amounts of money and then have the gall to call us every week asking for donations. What did they do with the original $150K? I guess in my case it was “buy real estate.” But still.

So when I say there’s a law school out there nickel and diming its graduates, I’m not colloquially talking about $150K in tuition. No, I’m using “literally” entirely accurately. They are literally taking dimes and nickels off their alums….

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