Charity

The ruins of a house on the outskirts of Tacloban, capital of Leyte.

Law firms and the legal profession have a long and distinguished tradition of contributing to the public interest. Earlier today, we highlighted five Biglaw firms that are pro bono all-stars.

Most pro bono cases involve clients and causes here in the United States. But in today’s increasingly global world, law firms look beyond borders when it comes to helping the needy.

Yesterday we commended Skadden for its generous support of Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts in my ancestral homeland of the Philippines. And today we recognize several other law firms that have joined in this worthy cause….

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The Empire State Building, lit up with the colors of the Philippine flag to show support for Typhoon Haiyan victims. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Navarrete.)

When disaster strikes, lawyers are there (and not just to hand out their business cards). Lawyers and their law firms have responded swiftly and generously in the wake of natural disasters, giving of their time and treasure to help the victims of calamities around the world.

Lawyers and their law firms, especially Biglaw firms, have come to the aid of people affected by Hurricane Sandy, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and earthquakes in Haiti and China. We have chronicled and commended these efforts in Above the Law over the years.

In light of this track record, it should come as no surprise that one of the world’s top law firms is giving generously to support relief efforts in the Philippines, my ancestral homeland, where thousands have died due to Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda). Which firm, and how much is it giving?

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Another day, another law school food story. I think after we do the D.C. trivia night, we should head to the Southwest and have a law school chili cook off. Loser has to eat their law dean.

This story isn’t about law students stealing food, it’s ostensibly about students giving food away. Or at least they were trying to. The law students were trying to raise money for hungry people… but they did that in the most Western, decadent way possible…

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Reasonable minds can disagree on how to reform law school, but here’s one thing that almost everyone can agree upon: the tuition is too darn high. In an ideal world, legal education would be much more affordable. Not everyone has wealthy parents who insist on paying for college and graduate school.

Alas, we’re probably not going to see major change on that front anytime soon. As long as the federal government keeps the loan money flowing, law schools have little incentive to lower tuition.

So, at least for now, we’ll have to settle for more modest measures at controlling cost. For example, law schools can and should devote greater resources to scholarships, which lower the effective price tag of a J.D. degree.

One leading law school just received a gigantic gift — which it’s putting towards scholarships, to its credit. Which law school is on the receiving end of this largesse, and how much is it getting?

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Whenever a law school solicits money from its recent graduates, it ends badly. Almost always. The best a law school can hope for is for the recipient to throw away the solicitation or delete the email. More often, the mere request can bring up bad memories and harden the ill will that recent graduates have toward their law schools (unless the request for donations happens to hit the inboxes of the few financially secure recent law grads).

Law schools aren’t even playing the long game anymore. If law schools keep their tuition manageable and help their students find jobs, then they will produce happy graduates who might feel lifelong allegiance to their schools. But instead of cultivating golden little eggs, law schools are all too happy to slay their gaggle of students with unreasonable costs and poor post-graduate options. Schools take the short-term money even while souring their students on the law school experience.

Of course, “sour” law graduates make for some funny emails. Check out how this class of 2010 graduate responded to his school’s alumni giving request. And if you want to copy and paste it into an email to your law school, I don’t think anybody would object….

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Chris Christie has an idea for Warren Buffett.

* How can you tout your achievements in a cover letter without sounding like a tool? Here are some pointers from Professor Eugene Volokh. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* The “unbundling” of legal services is a big buzzword when talking about the direction of the profession. But Jordan Furlong has a question: should lawyers and law firms start thinking about “rebundling”? [Law21.ca]

* Benchslap of the day earlier this month: the Fourth Circuit smacks around some saucy AUSAs. [Legal Blog Watch]

* “[P]ublic drunkenness is not illegal in NYC.” (Elie will be glad to hear this.) [Gothamist]

* How will SCOTUS rule on the Stolen Valor Act? Mike Sacks reads the oral argument tea leaves. [Huffington Post]

* Chris Christie to Warren Buffett: if you want to pay more in taxes, “just write a check and shut up.” [Dealbreaker]

* A Harvard Law School student, Matthew Schoenfeld, stands up for a good cause. [Harvard Law School News]

Jeremy Lin

The wife of an Upper West Side lawyer paid $42,388 in an intense online auction so that her husband could meet Jeremy Lin — and take home his game-worn jersey.

– the going price for a meet-and-greet session with New York Knicks star Jeremy Lin, along with his game-worn jersey, was noted in a New York Post article about the CharityBuzz.com prize that Pamela Schecter won for her husband, attorney Mitchell Schecter. The estimated value of the prize was $3,200.

Romney shows what he thinks the ideal effective tax rate should be for people who have good hair.

If you are a wealthy American who pays the top regular income tax rate of 35%, you have terrible, awful lawyers.

Mitt Romney does not have terrible lawyers.

The news of the day is that GOP frontrunner Romney released the previous two years of his tax returns. Romney’s 2010 adjusted gross income was $21,661,344. His estimated AGI for 2011 is $20,901,075. If all of that income was taxed at the highest tax rate, Romney would be paying around $7 million in federal taxes. But only true idiots and Republicans trying to scare people in election years actually believe that wealthy people pay anything approaching a 35% income tax in this country. Instead, Romney’s effective tax rate was about 14% in 2010 and is estimated to be around 15% in 2011. My effective tax rate was higher than Mitt Romney’s in 2010, and I don’t even get to like firing people.

But Romney is trying to spin his tax returns as an example of how “complicated” that tax code is. And the mainstream media is overwhelmed and helping to push that line. But these taxes are not complicated for a tax lawyer — and when you make $20 million a year, you can afford some good ones, so doing your taxes is about as complicated as writing a check for legal fees…

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We’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of the “PC Police” at Northwestern Law School. The school seems to have a number of students who are easily offended. Some of the kids there overreact at the slightest provocation.

Do you want to see how they react when something actually offensive happens?

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