Legal Ethics

Judge Emily Dean

Here at Above the Law, we write about judges who bring shame to the judiciary all the time, but the subject of today’s foray into judicial misconduct is a wicked pisser — literally. We know things must get boring out in flyover country, Iowa specifically, but this is just crazy (and sad, but mostly crazy).

Let’s meet a judge who once got so wasted as she attempted to report to work at the courthouse that she later spent three days in an intensive care unit for severe alcohol intoxication…

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* Our columnist Steve Dykstra opines that Roger Goodell is not going to get fired over the Ray Rice investigation/non-investigation. But what we really want to know from Dykstra is his opinion on how badly the West is going to beat the East in this year’s Grey Cup. [Steven Dykstra]

* Apparently, we’ve been banned by Reddit. I think as editors we’ve posted on Reddit maybe 3 times in the last year, so it certainly isn’t our fault. Reddit notes “above the law will no longer be receiving traffic or page views from here,” which I guess is supposed to be a threat. Hey, don’t fault us just because our content is so good. *cue unimaginative trolling* [Reddit]

* A discussion of gutless women. [The Careerist / The American Lawyer]

* MGM might lose the rights to a pair of Clint Eastwood classics. Specifically, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, For a Few Dollars More, and Last Tango in Paris. [Hollywood, Esq. / Hollywood Reporter]

* The winner of the Hofstra Law School Mystery Short Story Contest is “A Prisoner of Time” by Lucian E. Dervan. That sounds like a 1980s Doctor Who episode. [Mulholland Books]

* Beau Brindley pleads not guilty to telling a witness to lie. So, that case is moving right along. [My Fox Chicago]

* Vermont Law School cites children’s story books. [Law School Lemmings]

* D.C. lawyer Jacob McDermott is climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to raise money for LiveStrong. Check out his donation site. [LiveStrong]

‘Hey, everybody! I just wanted to let you know I’m an a-hole!’

Law is a profession that attracts some of the most cunning of linguists modern society has to offer. The ability to speak eloquently about dense legal concepts is an art that takes years to perfect, and is a skill that some lawyers can only hope to someday achieve. Until that time rolls around, other lawyers are happy to roll up their sleeves and employ the usage of a language they’re all fluent in to prove their respective points: sarcasm. It’s the lazy lawyer’s key to success — but it can also serve as his undoing.

Sometimes, being overly sarcastic can earn a lawyer a reputation for being a loveable jokester. Other times, being overly sarcastic can earn a lawyer a seat at his very own disciplinary hearing. For example, asking opposing counsel if he’s “grow[n] a pair” yet would probably land a lawyer in the hot seat.

The subject of today’s foray into ethical lapses definitely grew a pair of his own, because not only was he censured for his over-the-top sarcastic remarks, but he also admitted that he’d been ignoring his work in favor of golf trips and exotic vacations. Fore! Watch out for that legal career hitting the sand trap…

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* David Letterman and CBS got smacked with the latest internship class action. To think, poor Paul Shaffer’s been working for free all those years. [Deadline]

* Class action could be on the horizon over high-frequency trading. [Wall Street Journal]

* Frankly, I don’t know what the problem is. [Washington Post]

* You may have been following the story of Justice Ginsburg’s officiating a wedding in New York this weekend. Well, if so, here’s the Times write-up. [New York Times]

* The federal courts are looking at tightening the word limits on appellate briefs. How do you feel about this move? I’m with the author that “The number of cases where attorneys think they need a word extension is greater than the number of cases that actually warrant one.” [New Mexico Appellate Law Blog]

* Scott Brown, formerly of both Massachusetts and the Senate, is threatening to sue Harvard’s Larry Lessig after Lessig labeled the Nixon Peabody “advisor on governmental affairs” a “lobbyist.” Lessig asks if the campaign preferred he write the more technical, “sold his influence to a DC lobbying firm.” Ha. [Time]

* Fordham professor Susan Scafidi, founder of the Fashion Law Institute and designer Narciso Rodriguez make the case for strong legal protection for fashion designs. [Room for Debate / New York Times]

* On Friday, Keith Lee wrote about a lawyer who billed a client for sanctions. We’ve written before about lawyers billing for the time spent boning their clients. A law professor who teaches professional responsibility asks: “Is billing for sanctions better or worse than billing for sex. I say sanctions. Can we have a survey on this?” Of course you can. Poll after the jump….

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* The Oakland Raiders have settled their cheerleader lawsuit for $1.25 million. Here’s to a season of crippling losses! [SF Gate]

* The death of law schools requires observing the 5 stages of grief. It’s DABDA right? Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Debt, AGAIN! [TaxProf Blog]

* You don’t need permission to change careers… though many law firm hiring departments are giving their implicit permission to a bunch of applicants. [Forbes]

* Justice Kagan stopped in on her old stomping grounds at Harvard Law. [Harvard Gazette]

* LexisNexis went Hollywood with a shout out in the preview for the Veronica Mars movie. Hopefully they’ll remember the little people when they make it big. [Business of Law Blog / LexisNexis]

* So, law professors, how did you spend your summer vacation? Because this Stanford Law instructor spent it finding security flaws in an online educational platform. [Slate]

* A juror who wanted none of the jury process is ordered to serve a timeout. [Missouri Lawyers Weekly]

* It’s not as exciting as his Dating Game appearance, but here is a video of Chief Judge Alex Kozinski riding a carabao. Beyond the jump… [YouTube]

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Keith Lee

Last week I wrote about a complaint I heard from a client after they had been billed for two bottles of water served to them by their former lawyers at a meeting. I got numerous emails from people saying it was one of the most shocking behaviors that they had ever heard, the lowest of the low — a lawyer billing a client for a bottle of water that they had given to the client. When I wrote about it, it was the most egregious thing I had ever heard that a lawyer had billed to their client. But as a lawyer I know often says, “Take your expectations, then put even lower. Try the gutter.”

Less than a week later, there’s something worse in the news. A lawyer got sanctioned for his incompetent representation — then billed the sanctions to the client….

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Photo by: Bernal Saborio

Photo by: Bernal Saborio

In Mindset Matters: Lawyers That Lead Well Are Receptive to Change, I brought forward the view that business executives might be better equipped to lead law firms through the turbulent change facing the legal industry.

The Canadian Bar Association’s (CBA) recent recommendation that non-lawyers be able to own law firms underscores this view.

This CBA recommendation is refreshing when juxtaposed against the Texas State Bar ethics ruling stating that a Texas law firm may not use “officer or principal” in job titles for non-lawyer employees or pay profit-based performance bonuses. As Fred Headon, Assistant General Counsel at Air Canada and CBA President, urges:

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Sleep with the case files, Your Honor, and not with the interns.

For some judges, especially judges coming out of private practice, taking the bench means a better lifestyle and shorter hours. But other judges work hard — very hard.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit is famous for his work ethic — and for how hard he works his clerks. Judge Mark Bennett of Iowa warns clerkship applicants, “I am looking for a clerk that is willing to work harder than they have ever worked in their life…. If they are one of those life must be balanced folks please don’t waste my time and don’t bother applying.”

Some chambers are well-equipped for long hours. They come with kitchenettes for cooking, showers for bathing (generally reserved for the judges), and couches for napping. And maybe more than napping….

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* Lawyer busted for impersonating a Transformer. On that note, what would be the best name for a Transformer lawyer? Atticus Prime? L-Woods? Paddotron, who transforms into a clock that only measures tenths of an hour? [Jonathan Turley]

* Did you think your studying for the MBE could have used more original songs as study aids? Well, if so, you’re in luck because there’s an app called Study Songs that sets legal rules to music to help you remember. [Bar Exam Toolbox]

* New York courts are getting more and more fed up with the lack of relief available when lenders flaunt the law. [New York Law Journal]

* We’ve talked about litigation financing in the abstract before, but how can litigation financing help injured workers specifically? [LFC360]

* A former U.S. Attorney pleads guilty to not paying his taxes for years. [Las Vegas Review-Journal]

* In sad news, Sher Kung — part of the trial team that took down the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and recently of Perkins Coie — was killed in a cycling accident on Friday. [Seattle Times]

If you’re going to steal millions from clients, at least make a good story out of it. Like blowing hefty sums on luxurious private air travel and wiring millions to casinos to cover gambling debts. Make it a rock star story right up until the very end.

Of course, it’s hard to imagine a lawyer successfully stealing millions. There are just too many checks in place to let it get that far. It felt like the only thing anyone needed to know to pass professional responsibility was to respect escrow accounts. You just make sure all the money you’re watching for your customers, consumers, lenders and employees is always accounted for. There’s inevitably more than one person handling the bank statements. It’s just hard to lose millions.

Nonetheless, one law firm with offices around the country thinks it’s discovered more than a minor problem in its accounts. In fact, it just filed a lawsuit against its former managing partner, alleging that he siphoned off a cool $30 million from client escrow accounts to live like a proverbial rock star….

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