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Raise your hand if you’re tired of the debate over the value of a legal education. Yeah, me too.

Well, sorry to disappoint you, but the debate rolls on. A prominent law school dean and one of his colleagues took to the pages of the New York Times to once again defend the law school ivory tower from its critics.

Who are we talking about, and what are their arguments?

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Is the grass greener at another law firm?

I had the pleasure of spending much of last week in Seattle, for the 2014 Annual Education Conference of the Association for Legal Career Professionals (aka NALP). On Thursday afternoon, my colleague Brian Dalton and I, along with Guy Alvarez of Good2bSocial, gave a well-attended presentation on new media strategies that work.

I unfortunately had to leave the conference early to speak at another symposium (the Marquette Law conference on law clerks). But while at NALP, I did attend a number of informative panels, centered around two topics: (1) lateral hiring at law firms and (2) federal judicial clerkships.

Here are some themes that emerged from the three lateral hiring panels I attended:

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If you recall, back in the darkest days of the recession, we covered the topic of rescinded offers quite frequently. Now that the legal profession is in a slow recovery, it’s a rare occurrence.

But not today.

We’ve got news of a Biglaw firm that recently decided to axe half of its incoming associate class, just weeks before graduation. Lovely.

Which firm is making its would-be associates scramble for new jobs? Could it be yours?

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I think the class of 2011 will historically come to be seen as the bottom of the market.

Jim Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), in comments made during the group’s 2014 conference in Seattle, Washington. Recall that the overall employment rate for the class of 2011 was just 85.6 percent — the lowest since 1994 — with less than half finding jobs in private practice.

Katherine Heigl

* A three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit seemed a bit torn as to the constitutionality of Utah’s same-sex marriage ban during oral arguments yesterday. This one could be a contender to go all the way to the Supremes. [New York Times]

* Another concussion lawsuit has been filed against the National Hockey League by a group of former players, this time alleging a culture of “extreme violence.” The pleadings are a bit… odd. We’ll have more on this later today. [Bloomberg]

* “We’re not going back to 2006 anytime soon,” says NALP executive director Jim Leipold. The legal sector lost lots of jobs in the recession, and they’re not likely to come back. Happy Friday! [National Law Journal]

* It’s never too soon to start writing your law school application essay. Please try not to bore the admissions officers — make sure you have a “compelling” topic. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* Katherine Heigl (remember her?) probably needed some cash, so she filed a $6M lawsuit against Duane Reade for posting a picture of her carrying one of the drugstore’s bags on Twitter. [Hollywood Reporter]

This probably isn’t a surprise, but the market still sucks for newly minted lawyers. The ABA has published the employment data it gathered from affiliated law schools, and the best way to spin this is as a “modest uptick.”

So if you’re a 0L super psyched about going to a subpar law school, this is cold, hard data that should terrify you. Terrify you even more than the indebtedness stats. Except you’re not going to be deterred, because you think you’re the exception. Like the high school girl convinced that Jimmy isn’t going to cheat on her like he did his last five girlfriends. Good luck, kid.

For the rest of us, let’s take the temperature of the legal market while we await the law school press releases telling us it’s not so bad.

And, hey, it looks like there may be one tiny ray of hope in these numbers. Don’t worry, I did say “tiny”…

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Ed. note: Please welcome Shannon Achimalbe to Above the Law. Shannon will be writing about the journey from solo practice to a larger law firm.

Some time ago, I met with a consultant to discuss how I could improve and expand my solo practice. I told him my future goals: to be recognized as an expert in my areas of practice, make lots of money, and have free time for my personal life. He said I could accomplish these goals, but it would depend on how much time and effort I put in. He then told me that I would need to “invest” money in marketing, blogging, networking events, and joining various organizations. I would also need to make plans to upgrade my office and get a staff. Finally, he told me to pick a religion, because I’d be praying often.

But when I looked at the projected costs to accomplish my goals along with the non-guarantee of success, I hesitated. A flurry of questions went through my head: Who do I need to connect with and hire? What niches are marketable and enjoyable? When would I start to see a return on my investment? Where are my potential clients?  How many more networking events do I have to attend? Why am I doing this? Am I going to enjoy doing this? When I found myself asking that last question, I knew it was time to look at other options…

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Ed. note: Please welcome Above the Law’s new poet-in-residence, Qui Tam. You can read the rest of his law-related poetry over here.

In football, a lateral pass by definition cannot go forward. I thought about that in the merry-go-round lateral market of the mid 00s; a whole lot of sideways movement and shuffling around, most of it just trying to put off a little longer the oncoming inevitability of a bone-crunching tackle in the form of Biglaw up and out. Two lateral experiences…

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I recently had dinner with the dean of a law school. To give you a sense of this person’s perspective, I’ll say that he (or she, but I’ll use the masculine) is responsible for a law school that U.S. News ranks somewhere between 50 and 100. His school has thus been hammered by the Great Recession and the decrease in applications to law school, but the school is not (yet) thinking of turning out the lights.

I didn’t actually pry into what was happening at his school. He simply volunteered that his life was far different now than it had been a very few years ago. I guess that’s no surprise, given the tumult of the times.

Anyway, what are law school deans doing these days?

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Duke: national champions when it comes to law school softball.

* According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the legal sector added 2,300 jobs in 2014. Our sincere condolences go out to all those who are still “too overqualified but too under-experienced,” all at the same time, to get hired. [Am Law Daily]

* This lawyer protested jury duty by emailing the judge to say she’d “blame the plaintiff” for making her work nights and weekends for her client, but she can only blame herself for having to spend the night in jail. Oopsie! [Daily Report (reg. req.)]

* “Would it be great if all unpaid internships paid really well? Sure. It would also be great if my dog made breakfast for me every morning, but I am not going to file a lawsuit over it.” Yep. [Los Angeles Times]

* The law school transparency movement has come quite far since its inception, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. Encourage your school to hurry up and “publish what it has at its fingertips.” [Law.com]

* UVA Law held its Softball Invitational this weekend. A Duke Law dude emailed us to say his school sucks at basketball, but it’s awesome at law school softball. Sweet accomplishment, brah. [Newsplex]

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