Screw-Ups

Brian Schroeder

No, this post isn’t about Elie and his continuing struggles with debt. It’s an update on Brian Schroeder, the Harvard Law School graduate who set fire to a memorial housing the remains of unidentified 9/11 victims, on Halloween 2009 (after a night of heavy drinking).

As you may recall, Schroeder previously pleaded guilty to criminal charges in connection with the fire. He received no jail time but was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and pay restitution.

Now there’s a problem with Schroeder’s ability to pay restitution, which could potentially land him in the slammer….

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Bar exams are underway all across this great nation. It’s an exciting time for the next crop of young lawyers (at least “exciting” in the sense that being trapped in a mall while zombies swarm around trying to eat your brains is certainly not dull).

In Tennessee, where the bar exam starts tomorrow, the state Board of Law Examiners has found a way to make things even more exciting for test takers. Over the weekend, a rumor surfaced that the grading for the July bar exam would be different than the grading for previous tests.

How? In what way? What would it affect? What does it mean?

I’d like to imagine every Tennessee test taker trying to ask those questions at the exact same time all at once, thereby providing the first direct evidence that we must be living in a universe with more than four dimensions.

Alas, the change turned out to be a minor one — to the extent that any “change” can be called minor, when you only learn about it the day before the bar exam…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Everybody Whose State Did NOT Make A Last Minute Change In Bar Exam Grading, Step Forward. Not So Fast, Tennessee.”

Mistakes happen. Take, for example, the current eyesore in Pioneer Court on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. Sculptor J. Seward Johnson’s “Forever Marilyn” is a 26-foot-tall, 34,000-pound sculpture depicting the image of Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch. The sculpture has been described as “creepy schlock from a fifth-rate sculptor that blights a first-rate public art collection.” One author seeking to answer the question of what is wrong with the sculpture concluded “pretty much everything,” including that it is sexist, kitschy, and has nothing to do with Chicago. Even @ebertchicago (aka Roger Ebert) is tweeting about this terrible sculpture.

More important than the mistake, however, is how one corrects the problem (except maybe with Marilyn, yuck). Don’t believe me? Check out any of your friends’ favorite quotations on Facebook, and at least one of them will have an inspirational gem.

With summer here, bringing with it a possible loss of focus (and fantasies about being outside), I decided to ask a team of experts how they recover from making mistakes in their practice.

Find out what they do, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Size Matters: To err is human, but you are a lawyer.”

You realize we live in a society that puts more warning labels on cigarettes than guns.

It’s still a very challenging economy for recent law school graduates. The class of 2011 has just hit the market and many of them are still without jobs. For the class of 2010 — well, if it hasn’t happened by now you have to start wondering if it is ever going to happen.

But there’s a job opening in Miami, thanks to a spectacularly boneheaded move by a member of the class of 2010. Apparently, a 2010 GULC grad got drunk and fired his gun in the parking garage of a condominium.

He wasn’t arrested, but he will resign, because you can’t get drunk and shoot off your gun and still be a Miami prosecutor…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawyer of the Day: Georgetown Law Grad Pulls Trigger, May Have Shot Career In The Foot”

The Mandarin Oriental in Boston.

Some readers have issues with the often irreverent commenters here at Above the Law. While ATL commenters sometimes say hurtful or offensive things, like anonymous commenters all over the internet, they also provide significant value. They serve as copy editors, highlighting our typographical mistakes; they work as tipsters, pointing us in the direction of news stories; and they function as fact checkers, identifying errors in reporting.

Relying upon the estimable Boston Globe, we recently reported that Henry Rosen, a real estate lawyer at Choate Hall & Stewart, purchased a fabulous $13 million penthouse condominium. But a commenter came along and disputed that: “[Rosen's] just a straw — he purchased it as trustee for a trust.”

After seeing this comment, we raised the issue with the Boston Globe reporter who wrote the original story. And as it turns out, Henry Rosen is not the real party in interest. He is not the true purchaser of the prime penthouse at the Mandarin Oriental in Boston.

Let’s look at the Globe’s correction….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Think A Lawyer Can Afford a $13 Million Condo? Think Again.”

There’s a reason why people get crotchety when they get old. People forget about things that went right in their professional lives; that’s like water off a duck. But people remember things that got screwed up; that’s what sticks in their craws.

You personally are not necessarily incompetent. But you’re tarred by the ghosts of incompetents past. When your elder — a partner, a boss, a client, whoever — asks you to do something, the boss assumes that you won’t do it. The boss doesn’t assume this because she knows that you’re irresponsible; she assumes it because the clown she asked to do something six months ago was irresponsible, and she has to hedge against you being an irresponsible clown, too.

How do you prove that you’re not irresponsible?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Inside Straight: The Ghosts Of Incompetents Past”

'How do I get these stupid marks to disappear from my document?'

Over the last few weeks, I’ve written about some über expensive and embarrassing examples of lawyers making technological mistakes.

Those stories involved sexily scandalous blunders, but they were relatively extreme scenarios. (If turning over thousands of privileged documents happens regularly at your firm, may God help you.)

More frequently, firm employees deal with little technological snafus that are just annoying, pointless, and a waste of time. In a world where attorneys might literally be working themselves to death, every second of the day counts. It’s when people can’t handle mundane, seriously easy computer tasks that daily tasks become inefficient and infuriating.

Keep reading for some true stories of the technologically challenged….

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A wise man once said: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

I think of this whenever there are claims of attorneys royally screwing up e-discovery. It’s easy to indulge in some schadenfreude and say, “What suckers!” But truthfully, many firms — even the big, prestigious ones — are more vulnerable than they’d like to admit.

This month, McDermott Will & Emery ended up in the bright, unpleasant spotlight, because a former client sued the firm for malpractice.

Why, you might ask? The firm allegedly botched a client’s e-discovery.

Keep reading to see how the Am Law 100 firm became the e-discovery dunce du jour….

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For attorneys, missing deadlines is a big no-no. BIG no-no. A Goodyear blimp-sized no-no. People have literally died because of blown deadlines. Cases worth millions of dollars get tossed out because of missed deadlines, even if someone has a decent excuse.

That being so, I do not envy the lawyer who had to tell his client that the 4th Circuit shut down their lawsuit because he didn’t know how to use his Microsoft calendar.

More about the difference between “excusable neglect” and this run-of-the-mill bonehead mistakes after the jump…

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Let’s say that instead of taking on huge debts while I was in law school, I had taken up a wicked cocaine habit. Let’s say I had done loads and loads of blow from 2000 to 2007 and then went into a 12-step program. If I had been lucky enough to avoid an overdose or jail, you could argue that things would be better for me right now — even if I had a really serious cocaine problem where I spent my all my disposable income on the drug, and even if I put a good job and a good marriage straight up my nose. If I had been through all that and then wrote an essay about the highs and the lows of doing cocaine throughout my legal career, if I was telling kids that they could overcome a wicked cocaine habit even though the consequences were severe, if I was truthfully telling people that even though I’m trying to stay clean and sober now I’m not “ashamed” of my past life, I’d have nearly everybody in my corner.

Instead, I didn’t have a cocaine habit in law school and beyond. I defaulted on my student debts.

Really, the smart thing to do would have been to default on all my loans, then blame it on the cocaine that I was “powerless” to stop. But instead of playing the victim, I marshaled what autonomous power I had and chose not to pay back my loans in a timely manner. I decided to go down on my own terms, not the terms set out for me in a promissory note.

That seems to be what has really pissed everybody off…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Kids, Get High Off Drugs, Not Debt. It’s More Fun And People Are Nicer To You When It’s Time To Recover.”

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