American Bar Association

Two petitions of possible interest showed up in our inbox today:

1. In favor of student loan forgiveness: This petition, reminiscent of Elie Mystal’s call for a student loan bailout, “strongly encourage[s] Congress and the President to support H. Res. 365, introduced by Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI), seeking student loan forgiveness as a means of economic stimulus.” (We mentioned H.R. 365 in Morning Docket.)

2. In favor of law school transparency: This petition, posted by Professor Paul Campos over at his formerly anonymous blog, calls for “the American Bar Association to require all schools it has accredited to release clear, accurate, and reasonably comprehensive information regarding graduate employment, by for example implementing the proposals outlined in Part III of the Law School Transparency Project’s white paper, A Way Forward: Transparency at U.S. Law Schools.”

We might have more to say about these petitions later. For now, we’ll just pass along the links (and you can argue the merits of these petitions in the comments).

Want a Real Economic Stimulus and Jobs Plan? Forgive Student Loan Debt! [SignOn.org]
Law School Petition [Inside the Law School Scam]

Earlier: Student Loan Bailout. Just Do It.
The Tenured Law Prof Turned ‘Scamblogger’ Reveals Himself

* Some thoughts from our colleague Matt Levine on the Justice Department’s opposition to the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. [Dealbreaker]

* Judge Sam Sparks (W.D. Tex.), king of the benchslap — yes, we already covered his latest handiwork, so no need to email the “kindergarten party” order to us again — has blocked key parts of the Texas sonogram-before-abortion law. [How Appealing]

* Meanwhile, Allen E. Parker Jr., the lawyer on the receiving end of a recent Sam Sparks special in the abortion case, had this to say about His Honor’s saucy order. [Tex Parte Blog]

* Nice work if you can get it: a pair of incoming DLA Piper associates will get paid $145,000 to $160,000 to do pro bono work for a year. [Am Law Daily]

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

* Think you’re tough, NYC lawyers? “A D.C. attorney attacked a man with a live power line — downed by Hurricane Irene — during an altercation in which the lawyer used his car as a battering ram against his alleged victim, police said.” [Georgetown DC Patch]

* The ABA and Senator Chuck Grassley continue to be pen pals. Here is law librarian Mark Giangrande’s take on the ABA’s latest response. [Law Librarian Blog]

* Interesting analysis: “How the Media Treated Mexico’s Mass Murder.” [The Awl]

* I agree with Professor Eugene Volokh: “people are constitutionally entitled to speak the truth about others, even with the goal of trying to get them fired.” [Volokh Conspiracy via Instapundit]

* I found a special friend on OkCupid, but the site wasn’t as helpful to Alyssa Bereznak, who had an unfortunate experience dating a world champion of Magic: The Gathering. [Gizmodo]

* If you’d like to check out Billable Hours: The Movie, here’s your chance (until September 10). [NexTV]

* And if you prefer live entertainment, tomorrow night check out the September 1 showcase of Comedians-at-Law (bios here; maybe you know some of these guys). [Comedians-at-Law]

[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.

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.

Yale Law School

Here at Above the Law, we’ve been discussing problems with the current law school model for quite some time now. My colleague Elie Mystal, for example, has railed against the high cost of law school, the crippling debt taken on by many law students, and the scarcity of jobs waiting for them on the other side.

By now we’re all aware of the problems. What about possible solutions?

In the wake of David Segal’s most recent New York Times exposé on law school shenanigans, the Times’s Room for Debate section solicited perspectives from a number of experts — including yours truly — on whether and how to reform legal education.

The responses are quite interesting. Let’s check them out, shall we?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Broken Law School Model: What Is To Be Done?”

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”

Invisible Unemployed

The new proposals for regulating law schools coming out of the American Bar Association’s Law School Accreditation Committee are not perfect, but they represent a major step in the right direction.

Now if we could only get the entire ABA to see that allowing law schools to provide misinformation to potential students is bad for everybody.

The National Law Journal reports that there are three major changes being proposed by the Accreditation Committee: changes in the way law schools report employment information, dropping the LSAT requirement, and dropping the requirement that law schools retain a tenure system…

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Binghamton University — best known as the alma mater of the great Tony Kornheiser — is looking for a new president. They are in the process of interviewing a number of candidates, and one of those candidates is a lawyer. Jonathan Alger is the senior vice president and general counsel at Rutgers, and he’s on Binghamton’s shortlist.

Just as importantly, Alger sits on the American Bar Association Accreditation Committee. Naturally the people at Binghamton asked him if he would start a new law school if he took over Binghamton.

Since the man’s on the Accreditation Committee, I’m sure conflicts check flags are going up all over the place. But Alger’s answer may surprise you…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Potential President of Binghamton University Makes Sense When Asked About Founding a New Law School”

Protectionism? You betcha!

Bowing to pressure from arguably every unemployed or underemployed American-trained attorney, the American Bar Association has delayed its controversial decision about whether or not to start accrediting foreign law schools. Back in August, we told you that the ABA was thinking about unleashing foreign-educated attorneys upon bar examinations across the country. And apparently on this one rare occasion the ABA chose against flooding the market with even more attorneys when there are not enough jobs to go around.

Should attorneys be openly happy about this blatant protectionism? I don’t know — have you tried to get a job in this market?

The only thing global competition is going to do is push down legal salaries, while having zero effect on the cost of legal education….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “ABA Delays Decision on Whether to Accredit Foreign Law Schools”

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