Federal Government

Here at Above the Law, we try to pay attention to every sector of legal employment. We often find ourselves skewed rather heavily toward Biglaw, but as we all know, not everyone wants to work in Biglaw — including some of the people who are ensconced in high-paying Biglaw jobs themselves.

Imagine a place where you won’t be shackled to the billable hour. Imagine a place where you’ll get all government holidays off without having to worry about showing up just for the sake of appearances. Imagine a place where your clients are people, not corporate entities. If that seems nice to you, it’s because it is.

Today, we’re going to open the floodgates for the members of our audience, prospective law students in particular, who aspire to some day work in government and public interest jobs. Which law schools should you be considering if you’d like to have the best odds of reaching your goal?

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Looking back, the part of last week’s arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court that stands out most for me is the last hour (DOMA merits) — a fitting finale to two days of historic argument on same-sex marriage.

The way things unfolded, the last hour is why we all came. It is why people slept on the sidewalk for days. It is why Americans tuned in and logged on for updates. It is why the attorneys signed up to argue.

We were there to discuss the future of marriage in this country, how different people see it, and where state and federal governments fit in.

The Prop 8 argument went to those core issues the day before, but in fits and starts. A muddy hybrid of standing and merits.

The last hour of DOMA went there and stayed there. Merits were the only thing on the menu, and we ate it up….

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Looking at my notes from today’s United States v. Windsor argument on DOMA at the U.S. Supreme Court, “$Q” is everywhere. That’s my shorthand for “money quote.” The merits part of the argument was $Q after $Q, moments that made an impact, in some cases if only to show where a justice might be headed.

Here are five. Look forward to bringing you more in-depth analysis of the argument in the next couple of days.

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Given the Government’s conduct in this case, the court orders the Government to show cause why it should not be sanctioned under this court’s inherent authority. It seems that sanctions may be needed to motivate VA in the future to treat its commitments and representations to this court and opposing counsel with the seriousness to which they are entitled.

– Judge S. Jay Plager, reprimanding counsel for the Department of Veterans Affairs in National Organization of Veterans Advocates, Inc. v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (Fed. Cir. Mar 21, 2013), a case concerning the due process rights of veterans seeking benefits.

‘This sequester thing is going great’ — said no one outside of Washington.

Yesterday, we talked about how an austerity budget in Detroit has led to a broken justice system in Detroit. In fairness, nobody much cares about that story because, well, it’s Detroit and f**k ‘em.

But I wonder if people will care when Detroit’s style of “we can’t afford this” justice comes to a courthouse near you.

While it looks like lawmakers will come to a compromise that will avoid a government shut down (for another couple of months), it looks like that deal will keep the sequester in place.

The sequester, of course, was designed to be a TERRIBLE IDEA that has a serious deleterious impact on our country. But I guess since the sequester didn’t stop anybody from watching fat people diving into swimming pools, Congress isn’t really motivated to do anything about it.

And our system of justice gets crappier still….

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* The Senate approved a bill that will keep the government running through September, and it will likely pass in the House, but much of the sequester is still in place. I think we’re supposed to be excited about this. Uh… yay? [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Douglas Arnsten, the former Crowell & Moring associate who embezzled $10.7M in client funds and spent it at fancy restaurants and strip clubs, has been officially disbarred in New York. But he was just trying to support single moms. Sigh. [Am Law Daily]

* Sorry, folks, but you’re going to have to continue taking the LSAT in order to get into law school because the ABA says so. Drop that $118 into the burgeoning money pit that is law school, stat! [National Law Journal]

* For all of that work allegedly spent trying to protect their yield rate, UVA Law didn’t even make the Top 10 list of the most popular schools. You might be surprised at some of the schools here. [U.S. News & World Report]

* You must remember that time when the University of Texas Law School Foundation authorized $5.5M in forgivable loans to faculty. Well, now the regents are calling for a probe. Yikes! [San Antonio Express-News]

Before the series of arbitrary budget cuts known as the “sequester” dropped, I made a few predictions for how this fiscal debacle would affect the legal profession. Now, a few weeks into this policy, we have a couple of real life impacts to talk about.

First, if you’re a lawyer for a government agency, surprise! You may not be able to ethically defend your agency against furlough appeals.

Second, some administrative law judges have been grounded. In the context of the Labor Department claims, that means claimants are having their trials undermined if not outright halted by the sequester….

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‘They tried to make me go to rehab, and I said… sure, it’s better than going to jail!’

* President Obama nominated Thomas Perez, the head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, to be the next secretary of labor. Republicans, of course, are all butthurtt, calling this a “needlessly divisive nomination.” [New York Times]

* Let’s get ready to RUMBLE! Be prepared to see some legal heavyweights next week when the Prop 8 and DOMA cases are argued before the Supreme Court, including Paul Clement and Ted Olson. [National Law Journal]

* How appropriate that Justice Scalia should break out the Spanglish for an Arizona voter registration law that requires proof of U.S. citizenship. Our beloved Wise Latina probably wasn’t too thrilled by this. [New York Times]

* To promote pay equity in law firms, the ABA is encouraging bar groups to hold conferences on the topic. The question on everyone’s minds, of course, is whether those conferences are billable. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Law schools aren’t the only places where transparency is lacking. Jeh Johnson, the DOD’s former general counsel, thinks the secrecy swirling around drone strikes is bad for the government. [At War / New York Times]

* The members of Debevoise’s displaced trusts and estates practice team have been picked up by Loeb & Loeb. Enjoy your new home, and your new — presumably lower — compensation package. [Am Law Daily]

* Lindsay Lohan took a plea deal yesterday, and instead of going to jail, she’ll be going to rehab to be kept under lock and key for 90 days. I’d say this is bad for her career, but who are we kidding? [Los Angeles Times]

* Casey Anthony’s trustee just answered my prayers. He wants the ex-MILF to sell her story to pay off her debts. I demand that LiLo be cast in the role! She’s the only one broken enough to pull it off. [Washington Post]

* If you hate the government and you hate lawyers more, then you’ll love this. In the past five years, the feds have awarded $3.3 billion to more than 4,700 vendors for legal work. [National Law Journal]

* A year and a half after he was nominated for a Federal Circuit judgeship, and more than a year after his hearing, the Senate finally decided to confirm Richard Taranto. How kind. [Blog of Legal Times]

* Pretty pretty please? Zvi Goffer and Michael Kimmelman would really really like it if the Second Circuit could overturn their insider trading convictions due to unfairness. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* The U.S. News law school rankings are often criticized, and here’s why: if survey respondents “were asked about Princeton Law School, it would appear in the top 20. But it doesn’t exist.” [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* Nevermind the fact that law school applications are down, but Northwestern Law is doing the “responsible thing” and reducing the size of its incoming class — and raising tuition by 3% to boot. [Wall Street Journal]

* Jason Rapert, the Arkansas senator who passed a fetal-heartbeat abortion ban in his state, says he “has no time” for anyone who says it’s unconstitutional. To paraphrase, ain’t nobody got time for that. [New York Times]

Kevin Ring in happier times.

Full disclosure: Former Jack Abramoff associate Kevin Ring, whose criminal conviction was recently upheld by the D.C. Circuit, is a friend of mine.  We grew up in the same town and have known one another for decades. In no way is what follows unbiased or objective in any sense.  That said, I know that I’m right and the case against Kevin Ring was simply, unambiguously wrong.  Not to say that there was no ambiguity as to whether he broke a law — there was a tiny bit of that. But under no sane system of justice would Kevin be going to federal prison. Though he almost certainly is, pending a request for en banc rehearing from the D.C. Circuit followed by a Hail Mary filing for a writ of certiorari.

We can all stipulate that Jack Abramoff is one of the sleaziest and most repellent characters to besmirch the legal profession in decades.  (My favorite Abramoff moment: the time he tried convince his rabbi to bestow upon him  a fake, back-datedScholar of Talmudic Studies” award, so he could get in the Cosmos Club.)

Anyway, Abramoff was Kevin’s boss for three and a half years, during the final period of which they were both partners at Greenberg Traurig.  In the words of the judge at his sentencing hearing, Kevin was a “cog” in the Abramoff operation, a “second-tier level” administrator of the firm’s lobbying team.  I won’t try to spin Kevin’s time as a lobbyist as some honorable endeavor.  I couldn’t. Generally speaking, lobbyists are regarded by most of us as only slightly less distasteful than the politicians whose favor they are trying to curry.  But that does not make them criminals….

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