Screw-Ups

What would it be like it Elmo wrote your law school exams?

I was starting to wonder if we might get through all of finals period without a major exam screw-up. Imagine the competence.

Don’t worry, we didn’t make it. And as Ned Ryerson might say, this first testing mishap of the season is a doozy. It’s one thing for a professor to blast his own exam by lazily reusing a question set from a prior exam. But this guy put the entire answer in with the testing materials given to his students.

That’s one way of making finals easier….

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When people in the legal profession screw up in major ways, we are there to chronicle the action, providing entertainment and education (in terms of what not to do). For example, sometimes lawyers volunteer to enlarge the size of opposing counsel’s a-holes — and get canned. Sometimes lawyers bill for 29 hours in a day and get taken to task. Sometimes lawyers blush when they accidentally request a trial “on all the c**ts”.

These things do happen, but they’re usually one-time occurrences that would otherwise be missed by the members of the legal community, if not for our coverage here at Above the Law.

On the other side of the coin, when you screw up so many times that a federal judge feels the need to publicly excoriate you with the ultimate insult — by comparing your work to that of a pro se litigant — maybe it’s time to hang your head in shame for the rest of your days…

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The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Legal secretaries and other support staffers aren’t the only folks getting exiled from Biglaw. Partners who lie on their résumés are getting shown the door too.

In the prestige-soaked precincts of Biglaw, the pressure to inflate one’s credentials is understandable. Once you’re above a certain threshold, the quality of legal work can be hard to judge. In other fields of endeavor, you either can do it or you can’t — write code for a specific program, execute a triple Lutz, surgically reattach a severed hand (my dad can do this, in case you ever need his services).

In law, many people can write a brief or negotiate a contract. It then becomes a matter of how well you can do these things — and pedigree inevitably colors the evaluation of the legal services rendered.

In light of all this, a lawyer’s lying on his CV might be understandable — but it’s still a firing offense. A Biglaw partner learned this lesson the hard way….

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Have you ever sent an email to the wrong person? I remember sending co-defendant’s counsel a random musing about my office because Microsoft Exchange autocompleted the address to the name partner I was working with rather than the associate sitting down the hall with the same first name. Thankfully, my musing was not damaging or uniquely embarrassing.

The same cannot be said of this lawyer. After a state supreme court heard oral argument on his case, he wrote the lawyers who argued the case and questioned the wisdom of the jurists.

But, of course, he also sent it to the court’s chief justice….

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Look, typos happen. No matter how vigilant a proofer is, a typo will eventually slip through. Anyone can type “they it is” or “raceism” once in awhile.[1] As long as the meaning is still clear, there’s not a reason to harp on the person unless you’re just a petty person desperate to use another person’s misplacement of a letter as an affirmation of your life.

So I don’t want to lay scorn on the lawyer or paralegal or court clerk who committed this error. But when a typo in the very title of the filing creates a slur, it’s snicker-worthy.

Here’s a filing that opposes summary judgment “on all the c**ts” of the complaint….

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There’s no better way to introduce this story than by reprinting the opening paragraph of the Sixth Circuit opinion by Judge Raymond Kethledge (citation omitted):

There are good reasons not to call an opponent’s argument “ridiculous,” which is what State Farm calls Barbara Bennett’s principal argument here. The reasons include civility; the near-certainty that overstatement will only push the reader away (especially when, as here, the hyperbole begins on page one of the brief); and that, even where the record supports an extreme modifier, “the better practice is usually to lay out the facts and let the court reach its own conclusions.” But here the biggest reason is more simple: the argument that State Farm derides as ridiculous is instead correct.

Trolls. So. Hard.

Want to know the argument that set off the panel? “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is there… with a detailed explanation!

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‘Congratulations on your offer! Take your time deciding.’

The weather here in New York is turning nice and crisp; Sunday is the first day of fall. But because on-campus interviewing gets underway earlier and earlier, “fall recruiting” is almost over for many law students. Those who are lucky enough to be fielding multiple offers for 2014 summer associate positions are now deciding where to go.

But some students are still making up their minds. And one leading law firm wants them to decide faster — or else….

UPDATE (5:40 p.m.): We’ve added comment from the firm below.

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By now, many of you have heard about or seen the video of a Clifford Chance “trainee lawyer” making some unfortunate remarks that could be construed as his views about the practice of law. The video has received coverage on both sides of the Atlantic, and it could cause the young lawyer to lose his training contract with the firm — i.e., his job.

But should it? Let’s check out the clip, which gives new meaning to the term “Downfall Video,” and discuss its career implications for the trainee in question….

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We’re in the middle of law firm interview season. We’ve offered you both cheerful and depressing takes on the summer associate recruiting process.

Speaking of depressing things, interviews are frequently followed by rejection. Trust me, I know; I’ve received many rejections over the years. I recently contributed one of my “favorite” rejection letters to an online compilation (see page 27 of the pamphlet, or page 15 of the PDF, reprinted with the permission of Justice Scalia).

That was a kind and gracious rejection letter, which is what you’d expect from a genteel institution like the U.S. Supreme Court. When Biglaw firms turn your dreams to shame, they aren’t quite as nice….

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The day after the July 2013 bar exam concluded nationwide, we broke the news about a young woman of Muslim faith who was taken to task by a proctor over her religious headwear, a hijab. The proctor didn’t approach the examinee before testing on the Massachusetts exam started, or even during the lunch break — instead, the proctor passed her a note during the morning session of the exam, instructing her to remove her headscarf (even though the examinee had already received approval to wear it).

To interrupt someone during the bar exam and break their concentration over something that could’ve been taken care of when testing was not in session is not only incredibly rude, but also incredibly stupid. This is a professional exam that will determine if and when a person will be able to start their legal career. Why do something that could put their chances of passing in jeopardy? On top of that, why do something that could make it look like this was religiously motivated? This was a bad move on many levels.

From the Council on American-Islamic Relations to legal academics to the internet at large, people were upset about the way that the incident unfolded. Now the state is doing something about it…

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