Bad Ideas

ShockedI want to continue practicing law.

– Connecticut attorney Ira Mayo, making a plea to avoid a five-year disbarment before disciplinary officials at a hearing last week.

This summer, as punishment for allegedly making “inappropriate sexual overtures” to his female clients and pressuring them for sex, Mayo accepted a lifetime ban on representing women, as well as a four-month suspension. Mayo was previously ordered to stop representing women in family law and domestic violence cases in 2010, but continued to do so in violation of that order. Mayo now claims he thought there would be a grace period for him to wind up his cases with women clients.

In case you weren’t aware, New York’s annual Comic Con — an event for nerds of all ages to salivate over all matters of fictional media — took place this weekend. This year was the largest NYCC ever, with about 151,000 people in attendance, with many of them dressed to the nines in full cosplay gear as their favorite characters.

“What the hell is cosplay?” you might ask. For the uninformed, cosplay (short for “costume play,” according to Wikipedia) is a time for adults to dress up and pretend to play roles from comic books, cartoons, video games, television shows, and even movies. It’s like a Halloween party on crack.

You’d never know it from looking at these wacky people, but some of them are members of the legal profession. From legal assistants to paralegals to lawyers, all sorts of legal professionals are into cosplay, and BuzzFeed was kind enough to unmask some of them for us.

Do you recognize any of these legal professionals?

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Sometimes, firm publicists need to understand that it’s more about shoulda than coulda. Sure, you could put your entirely capable but not necessarily media-trained new chairperson in front of a camera to film an awkward welcome video, but that doesn’t mean you should. The buzzword-driven types probably shouted “New Media!” and “Video is the Future!” or some such and cajoled this lawyer in front of the camera.

What we ended up with are some of the worst line readings since Attack of the Clones….

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Law school can ruin your life if you are not careful. It’s very expensive and the rewards are far from guaranteed. And even if you reap those rewards, you might not like what you’ve become.

But if you do everything wrong, law school becomes just a tragicomic microcosm of poor planning and bad luck.

Forbes has an article up about a woman who is $350,000 in debt and living at the poverty line. Oh, but she has a law degree, and people who haven’t been paying attention are surprised by that…

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Qui Tam: Swag

Law firm swag. Ubiquitous and occasionally useful. Years later I still use a slim thermos that fits in my bike bottle holder, though the firm’s logo has long since worn off. But, I mean, who wants law firm branded stuff anyway?  Maybe a Wachtell tie might be nice, or a Slaughter & May pencil sharpener, but really, the market outside then-current employees is virtually non-existent. Meaning swag is usually a relatively harmless exercise in self-indulgent corporate team building. Usually….

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For months, we talked to counsel about our prospects in the case. He was sanguine:

“There’s nothing to worry about here. The plaintiff put a huge number in its prayer for relief, but you can’t possibly lose that much. Plaintiff’s liability case is thin, and the damages are inflated. You’ll probably win. If you lose, you’d lose no more than $1 million on an average day. On the worst day known to man, you can’t even theoretically lose more than $5 million. I wouldn’t offer more than a couple hundred grand to settle.”

A few months before trial, we ask counsel to put some skin in the game: “It’ll be expensive to try this case, and you feel good about our prospects. We’d like you to propose an alternative fee agreement that aligns your interests with ours. We’d like to pay you less than your ordinary hourly rates in the months leading up to trial, but we’ll give you a success fee if we win. Please think about it, and let us know if you have any ideas.”

A couple of weeks pass, as counsel discusses the case with his firm’s “senior management.” When the alternative fee proposal arrives, the goalposts have miraculously moved! In the course of just two uneventful weeks, our prospects for success have changed entirely!

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When starting out, solo practitioners have to find clients. The traditional way, through networking and advertising, will get mixed results. So some think outside the box and try to find new ways to get people’s attention. Some attorneys have fantasized about setting up a hybrid business combining law and something else.

Law practice can successfully complement other work because of overlap. It is not unusual to see attorney/CPAs practicing in the areas of tax, business, and finance. I have also seen estate planning attorneys double as financial planners. And I have seen too many real estate lawyers work as sales agents or brokers on the side.

But once in a while, someone proposes a business that tries to combine law practice with something that seems totally unrelated, such as clothing sales or a bakery (I know some attorneys who have actually proposed these). These ideas sound crazy and in most cases go no further than that. But a brave few have ran with it. And some are seriously considering it in light of the terrible job market.

While I don’t want to wish ill on someone who is legitimately trying to make a living and taking a risk, I think most legal hybrid business plans are not viable. Not to mention sounding silly. Click onwards to find out why…

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Jodi Arias

I do not believe it is in your best interest … I strongly urge you to reconsider.

– Judge Sherry Stephens, shortly before she granted Jodi Arias’s request to represent herself during the second penalty phase of her murder trial. In April 2013, Arias was convicted of murdering her ex-boyfriend.

When it comes to paying for law school, most of us fill out paperwork to secure shiny loans that haunt us for years to come. But there are a few students who think outside the box. Law school tuition Kickstarter campaigns crop up from time to time. There was also a website set up to sell future income streams in exchange for debt payments. Generally, these efforts to outsource student debt are the work of narcissists unwilling to take personal responsibility and pay for their life decisions.

And then we see something like this:

God asked me to go to Law School for the good of the Kingdom of God. Help me raise $28,500 by 5/1/15!

Well, that’s a horse of another color! It’s not that you want a law degree without having to suffer the consequences of your actions, it’s that God wants it. Nothing reflects the model of Jesus Christ more than getting what you want without suffering at all.

Let’s check out this plea for a free law school education — complete with its own movie trailer!

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Sophie Dalzell

If you’re not familiar with the illustrious modeling and performance work of Sophie Dalzell, the 20-year-old “star” of late-night adult TV, we can summarize it in just one word: boobs.

Alas, it seems the poor girl is now facing legal problems because of her huge assets…

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