Money

It’s one thing to say that you bill at $200 or $500 or $1,000 an hour; it’s another to actually collect those fees. Every time a client fails to pay a bill, you’re effectively discounting your overall rate. And while writing off $500 here or there may not seem like much, over the course of the year it can amount to several thousand dollars – which doesn’t take into account the added cost of chasing down clients to collect from them.

Of course, the best way to avoid getting stiffed is to obey Foonberg’s Rule: Get the money up front. Unfortunately, sometimes, you can’t predict the full cost upfront – and if the expected bill is mid-five figures or more, a client simply may not have that kind of money all in one place. Moreover, taking payment up front won’t guard against a client asking for a refund down the line if you haven’t vetted the client properly. So beyond upfront payment, here’s a list of tips to avoid getting stiffed:

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Juan Monteverde and Alexandra Marchuk

Last week, we wrote about lawyers leaving Faruqi & Faruqi, the litigation boutique that’s locked in an ugly legal battle with a former associate, Alexandra Marchuk. Marchuk’s lawsuit accuses F&F partner Juan Monteverde of severe sexual harassment and alleges that the firm’s leaders turned a blind eye to his misconduct.

We asked our readers for more information about the recent Faruqi departures. Well, ask and you shall receive. We have the details on the lawyers who left — as well as info about how Faruqi is looking for laterals, and how much it pays them (hint: not enough)….

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Biglaw firms don’t need to scam people. Or do they?

I did find a law firm in Denver. It’s called Gibson and Dunn, legitimately. When I called Gibson and Dunn, they said that I was their fifth call in that two-day period of other people who had called them and asked them why they were being accused of criminal charges.

– Michael Kleczka, explaining his communications with the Denver office of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher after his son received a call from the “Gibson Dunn Law Firm” threatening him with arrest unless he paid $1,200 immediately.

(A Gibson Dunn spokesperson stated that the calls are not coming from GDC and that the firm has reported the scam to the authorities.)

Are you ready for MOAR rankings? We certainly hope so, because hot on the heels of the release of the 2015 U.S. News law school rankings, we’ve got yet another set of rankings for you to feast your eyes upon. These rankings, brought to us by Forbes, focus on one of the most-discussed areas when it comes to the value of legal education as of late: starting salaries.

Money makes the world go ’round, and that statement rings especially true today. From your ability to pay your loans to your ability to get a mortgage, your starting salary will likely determine your income over the course of your life — you better hope you start making bank as quickly as possible.

How can you get the best shot of making that happen? Not all law degrees are worth a million dollars, but you might come close to making that much if you attend one of these law schools…

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Miley Cyrus

* Dewey feel bad for Zach Warren? Totally. In the saddest revelation about his indictment, it seems D&L’s head honchos “had trouble remembering who [he] was” before arraignment. [New York Times]

* If you’re interested in going to law school (and if you want to pay off your loans), you’ll want to see the law schools where you’ll make the most bank after graduating. We’ll have more on this later. [Forbes]

* Fred Phelps Sr., founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, is near death. Not for nothing, but it would probably be fitting if people picketed his funeral in SCOTUS-approved protest. [Kansas City Star]

* The widow of Dustin Friedland, the attorney who was shot and killed during the Short Hills mall carjacking, has filed a wrongful death suit against the shopping venue’s owners. [Star-Ledger]

* Elizabeth Halverson, the former judge who rolled into our lives on a motorized scooter and was removed from the bench in 2008 for her courtroom antics, died earlier this month. RIP. [Las Vegas Review-Journal]

* Miley Cyrus is being sued… over her tongue. A man who helped build her tongue slide (a prop, not a sex maneuver) was injured — he claims he wasn’t warned about the potential dangers involved. [USA Today]

It’s almost mid-March, and you know what that means: broke law students are starting to freak out about the costs associated with their upcoming commencement ceremonies.

Most of them have already forked over six figures of government Monopoly money to their law schools, so why on earth are they so concerned about the cost of renting their caps and gowns for graduation?

To be honest, the loan money is starting to run out. While some schools have reasonable rental options (in the $50-$70 range), other schools are foisting very expensive graduation gear upon their graduates in some sort of a “gouge ‘em before they go” cash grab.

But how much is too much when it comes to one-day rental prices? Students at one top-tier law school have described what they’re expected to pay as jaw-droppingly “insane”…

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An anonymous lawyer in New York City

I’m not sure I’d recommend that a young person go into law.

When I was starting out, it was more of a profession, and your worth was determined by the service you provided. Now it’s become more of a business, and your worth is determined by the fee you’re able to collect.

– An honest lawyer who happened to be passing through Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan when he was photographed by Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York.

(Do you agree with him? Feel free to sound off in the comments.)

Whenever the government gets involved with “helping” students suffering under crushing debt obligations, I wonder if “the government” even partially understands how students think.

There is a new proposal in the budget that would bring significant changes to the student loan forgiveness program. Specifically, the “Public Sector Loan Forgiveness” program. Currently, students with massive amounts of debt can sign up for income-based repayment of their student loans. Their payments are capped at 10% of “discretionary” income. If they work in the public sector or for a designated non-profit, the government forgives the rest of their loans after ten years. For those playing along at home, that means that taxpayers pick up the rest of the bill.

Critics on both sides of the aisle (including me) argue that the current system encourages schools to charge whatever they want for tuition, while discouraging students from making cost-conscious choices about their debt. It’s far from ideal, and this new proposal seeks to do something about it.

But since Congress is involved, the thing they want to do to “fix it” is stupid and will ultimately hurt student borrowers even more….

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* It’s apparently time to pay your fair share. Obama wants to close the pesky tax loophole that’s allowed rich professionals, like lawyers, to get away with being rich professionals for so long. [Legal Times]

* On this episode of As the Weil Turns, we take a look at the firm’s tumbling gross revenue, profits per partner, revenue per lawyer, and headcount. Don’t worry, Weil’s just “repositioning.” [Am Law Daily]

* The American Bar Association released the dirt on 1L enrollment declines at law schools nationwide, and some schools got totally massacred. Pray yours wasn’t one of them. [National Law Journal]

* “[T]hey’d probably make the school year longer and bring the cost up for each year.” We sure hope these pre-law students aren’t right about the dubious cost factor behind the two-year law degree. [The Hoya]

* Who owns the copyright to the Oscar selfie? Does it belong to Ellen DeGeneres, or Bradley Cooper? If you want to get technical about it (and you do, you’re a lawyer), check out this legal round-up. [The Wire]

Rachel Canning

My parents have rationalized their actions by blaming me for not following their rules. They stopped paying my high school tuition to punish the school and me and have redirected my college fund, indicating their refusal to afford me an education as a punishment.

Rachel Canning, the Catholic schoolgirl from New Jersey who’s suing her parents for her high school and college costs (plus her lawyer fees). Canning claims her parents abandoned her after she moved out of their home in October.

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