Christmas

Over the summer, the Texas Legislature passed the “Merry Christmas Law.” With the first Yuletide under the new law now upon us, folks are revisiting the law’s wisdom or lack thereof. The law provides that a “school district may educate students about the history of traditional winter celebrations, and allow students and district staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including: (1) “Merry Christmas”; (2) “Happy Hanukkah”; and (3) “happy holidays” [ . . . ] A school district may display on school property scenes or symbols associated with traditional winter celebrations, including a menorah or a Christmas image such as a nativity scene or Christmas tree, if the display includes a scene or symbol of: (1) more than one religion; or (2) one religion and at least one secular scene or symbol.” The law also provides that any displays may not include “a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief.”

Admittedly, this sort of law at first sounds a bit like a legislative resolution saying, “Can we all just agree once and for all that America is seriously the greatest country ever and Jesus totally loves us best?” There’s a problem, though, with commentators who “find it hard to believe any Christmas-observing child feels deprived of the holiday spirit in school, especially in Texas.” The problem is that some Texas schoolchildren have, indeed, had their rights infringed upon by school officials. Many liberals respond as though laws like this and the outrage that inspires them are silly. But ask Jonathan Morgan, and he’ll tell you that it’s not so silly…

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Who says lawyers and law firms are humor-impaired? A Canadian litigation firm, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP, has been winning publicity and props for its clever holiday card based on the troubles of Rob Ford, the Toronto mayor who has admitted to smoking crack.

This reminded us: it’s time for Above the Law’s fifth annual holiday card contest! This favorite feature is fun for the whole family, and it’s perfectly legal too.

We are a legal website, so of course there are rules. Read carefully; failure to follow them to the letter will result in disqualification. Here they are:

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‘Who needs a bonus? We have these nifty red hats!’

The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.

We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in….

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* Let’s be honest, if it wasn’t for 9/11, we’d already be allowed to leave our cellphones on during flights because before 9/11 we weren’t beaten and cowed by the rights abusing airline industry. [The Legal Satyricon]

* “The Child Support Lady” is the lady that helps Dads avoid paying child support by representing fathers. I think I’d prefer the child support lady who helps Dads avoid paying child support by passing out condoms. [Miami Herald]

* Check out his warning label on a doormat. [Overlawyered]

* Christmas isn’t a deadweight economic loss, because sometimes people surprise you. [Daily Beast]

* And now for the obligatory “look how lawyers would ruin Christmas if they could” posts. First, the oldie but goodie. [Tax Prof Blog]

* And now here’s an issue spotter about Santa Claus. [Constitutional Daily]

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The season of law firm holiday parties, for starters. And, better yet, bonuses. This year, Santa Cravath stuffed stockings with a goodly amount of cash.

But the parties and paychecks pale in comparison to what’s about to get underway: Above the Law’s fourth annual holiday card contest!

Last year, Haynes and Boone, a frequent finalist in the contest, took home top honors. Will they repeat in 2012, will a prior winner reemerge, or will a totally fresh face grab the Christmas card crown?

Read on — and read carefully, counselors — for the official contest rules….

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It’s December, and you know what that means: it’s time to deck the halls with boughs of holly, and offer jobs to law students that will make them fa-la-la-la-laugh their indebted little asses off.

It’s been a while since we last wrote about the ridiculous jobs law professors try to pawn off on students, but at least this one isn’t offering up an adventures in babysitting gig. No, this time, a law professor caught a whiff of the holiday spirit, and is offering students the chance to get involved with their very own holly jolly Christmas.

Perhaps the eggnog this law prof was drinking had a little too much whiskey in it, because you’d have to be drunk to think it was a good idea to offer up a job that offers no legal experience whatsoever….

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* Allowing abortions only in cases where the life of the mother is at stake doesn’t actually protect the life of the mother. [Slate]

* Chief Justice Roberts decided that living in a glass house shouldn’t prevent him from throwing a few stones. [Atlantic]

* It’s that time of year when we start seeing lists of things to buy for the lawyers in your life. [Constitutional Daily]

* You realize that people aren’t actually going to pay these loans back, you know. [Economix / New York Times]

* Wow, there was a whole day in New York City where nobody got shot, stabbed, or raped. [Reuters]

* While you contemplate living in a dangerous city, check out this list of most dangerous campuses. [Business Insider]

* Hopefully you guys have noticed Above the Law in the News category on the ABA Blawg 100, but don’t forget to look at all the different sections and vote for your favorite sites. [ABA Journal]

For those that have clients and spend their days surrounded by real people, I have some advice about year-end planning. I don’t care if you do or do not do any of this stuff, I can only tell you that it’s what I do and have done for years. Obviously, if you are part of the (“man, I hope all these idiot consultants are right”) future of law, much of it won’t apply to you.

If you’ve made some money this year, meet with your accountant.

One of my recent posts here was about my relationship with my accountant. I hope you have one, and I hope you set a lunch or meeting in your office or coffee shop in the next two weeks to discuss year-end tax planning. Next spring is a bad time to learn that you could have done some things to save yourself having to pay Uncle Sam more money. (By the way, for those of you getting a refund, you have bigger problems.)

If you’re not desperate for cash and you have clients that owe you money, consider telling them to pay in January.

What lawyer does this? You Biglaw folks have to try and collect before year’s end, so that leaves us small guys to give early Christmas gifts to our clients by telling them, yes, you will have money for that flat-screen you can’t afford, just pay your bill by January 15. Trying to get money out of clients during the holidays (read: after Thanksgiving) just makes you the one that is crushing the client’s mellow. Plus, relevant to point one here, you’ll be able to decrease your income for 2012….

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If you’ve been representing someone in a knock-down, drag-out, decade-long divorce action, with no end in sight, it’s understandable that you’d be a little pissed off. And while some attorneys prefer to write “not so sincere” letters calling opposing counsel “a**holes,” others find more creative ways to channel their anger for the sake of poetic justice.

And while poetry may be the best way to make passive-aggressive complaints about your case, the next time you’re considering writing a four-page, 60-line email riffing on a classic holiday poem, you might want to consider your audience. Some people might not be fans of your rhyme scheme….

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If you have watched political campaigns all of your life, or if you are just a student of modern political history, you’ll notice that the poor are rarely talked about on the campaign trail. We can talk about the rich (or at least our so-called envy of them), and the middle class is like the pretty girl in school who thinks she’s well-liked but really everybody just wants to screw. But you rarely hear candidates talk anymore about any kind of national commitment or shared responsibility to help the poor and destitute. (John Edwards tried for a minute, but… see screwing analogy above.)

Our politicians apparently concern themselves with helping only those people who have “worked hard” and “played by the rules.” We have Reagan to thank for that.

But what about the “undeserving” poor? What about the lazy, the shiftless, the ignorant masses yearning to just get by? Is it right that we consign them to backbreaking poverty simply because they don’t vote and they’re easy to pick on? I went to Catholic school just long enough to learn that we’re supposed to have compassion for all of God’s children, not just the people whom it’s easy to put into a campaign commercial.

I’m just talking, of course. Other than giving a dollar to the occasional panhandler, I’m unwilling to get any skin in the game to actually help the truly disadvantaged in this country. Why? Well, I don’t want to end up getting taken advantage of, like the woman who let homeless people stay in her house for Christmas and now can’t get them to leave….

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