Money

This should be a no-brainer.

– President Barack Obama, who once profited from ridiculous tuition rates, after signing a memorandum expanding a program to cap student loan repayments at no more than 10 percent of what borrowers actually earn in the workplace. The President’s comment was directed at a related bill in Congress to allow student borrowers to refinance their loans at lower rates.

If you’re a frequent reader of this website, you know that we continuously talk about the effects of law school debt and the need for tuition decreases so young lawyers can go on to lead normal lives after graduation instead of wearing their debt around their necks like slowly tightening nooses.

As time goes by, more and more law schools are starting to listen and reform — though in some cases, we imagine it’s only because they’re now feeling the pain of a decrease in tuition dollars due to low enrollment and smaller classes.

Until all law schools get in gear with the way things work now, we’ve got a list of law schools where life could be good after graduation. At these law schools, the average graduate has a starting salary that outweighs his average debt load…

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* Federal judges frequently fly across the globe on other people’s dime for conferences and symposia, but 2012′s most frequent flyer is a judge who was recently embroiled in an ethics scandal: Randall Rader of the Federal Circuit. [National Law Journal]

* Even though she claims nothing is “fundamentally broken,” Securities and Exchange Commission chairwoman Mary Jo White proposed “sweeping” new stock market regulations in an attempt to get with the times. [DealBook / New York Times]

* U. of Maine wants to combine its business and law schools, but professors are concerned about pressing questions like, “What will the diploma say?” rather than, “Do I get to keep my job?” [Portland Press Herald]

* Law schools are seen as cash cows for their affiliated undergraduate universities, but this law school is hurting so bad for cash due to low enrollment the university is infusing it with millions. [Minnesota Daily]

* A Pennsylvania man is suing his local police department for First Amendment violations after he was arrested for cursing in front of officers. N.W.A has a song this guy would like. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

To quote a recent headline, Midyear Bonus Bonanza Unlikely In 2014. We’d agree with that, at least as a general matter. Midyear bonuses are so “unlikely,” in fact, that we haven’t received any emails from anxious associates asking us about the possibility of midyear bonuses.[1]

But there are exceptions to every rule. Which highly profitable, finance-focused law firm just announced bonuses for both lawyers and staff?

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Biglaw = big a-hole?

[T]he experience [of working at Cahill Gordon & Reindel] tested my ethical compass, and it coarsened my behavior. I was sometimes a jerk in dealing with my adversaries. I was sloppy in accounting for my time. I managed to care deeply about whether associates at the firm across the street were making a few dollars more. I did almost no pro bono work.

Don’t get me wrong. You get excellent training at big law firms. Many of the lawyers there do good and honorable work. But the big firms are built on a set of ethical tensions.

Adam Liptak, the Supreme Court correspondent of the New York Times, offering commentary on his time spent in Biglaw in an article written for the Harvard Crimson. Liptak worked at Cahill from 1988 to 1992.

If you plan to work in Biglaw, you know it’s likely you’ll be able to command a very high hourly rate. Just how high we’re talking, though, depends on the area of law in which you choose to practice.

We already knew that litigators handling bet-the-company cases collected nice fees — in some instances up to $1,500 per hour — but there are other practice groups that rake in crazy cash, too.

Keep reading to find out where you’ll be able to make the most bank in Biglaw…

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Fighting over the Lawyerly Lair.

Law firms are relatively secretive institutions. Since they’re not public companies — at least not here in the United States, in the year 2014 — they aren’t required to reveal that much about their internal workings. Here at Above the Law, we do what we can to shed light on how law firms work, but there’s only so much we can do.

Every now and then, public filings disclose information about law firm operations — including information about one of the most sensitive subjects, partner pay. Sometimes we learn about partner compensation when a partner files for bankruptcy. Sometimes we hear about it when a partner goes through an ugly divorce.

That’s once again the case today. A complicated divorce, complicated enough to spawn ancillary litigation in the form of contempt proceedings, sheds light on how one white-shoe law firm pays its partners….

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Ronan Farrow

A few days ago, lawyer turned television personality Ronan Farrow commented on Twitter, “All my business meetings are like ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ and all my dates are like ‘Schindler’s List’, am I doing something wrong.” The tweet was widely retweeted and favorited by Farrow’s 250,000-plus followers (despite receiving criticism from some quarters).

It’s surprising that Farrow’s dating life isn’t going better. In addition to being extremely handsome, he’s a Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law School graduate with his own television show and celebrity parents (Mia Farrow and either Woody Allen or Frank Sinatra). What more could one ask for in a lover?

How about some solid real estate? Well, Ronan’s got that too — a New York apartment that he purchased for a seven-figure sum….

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Occasionally, someone wants me to do legal work outside of my practice area. I tend to refer the potential client to an attorney who can handle it and ask for a referral fee when appropriate. But sometimes it makes sense to work the case myself with outside help — for example, if the work is for an existing client and he cannot afford the referring attorney’s fee. So as a gesture of appreciation to the client, you want to help him for a reduced fee. Or you want to get experience in the area of law that is involved.

And let’s be anonymously honest. Sometimes the case has potential for large attorney’s fees and you want a bigger cut than the firm’s standard referral percentage. It’s hard not to feel bitter when you get a paltry referral fee up front and later learn that the attorney who handled the matter got a half-million-dollar payout.

So today, I want to write about how I typically (but not always) decide whether to refer a case out completely, or co-counsel with someone else. I assume readers are familiar with and will follow the ABA Model Rules 7.2 and 1.5(e) and your state’s versions of these rules. My first priority is to refer a client to a competent attorney, even if it means a smaller referral fee or none at all. But when there are three or more equally competent and business-savvy attorneys competing for your referrals, the size and girth of the compensation package can be appealing…

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* Congrats are in order for David Barron. The Harvard Law professor was confirmed to the First Circuit in a close vote (53-45), despite his apparent allegiance to our new drone overlords. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Another one bites the dust: Weil’s London banking leader Stephen Lucas decamped for Kirkland & Ellis. The firm retorted by saying: “We have got 40 finance lawyers left.” Aww, yay for you. [The Lawyer]

* We already know that state prosecutors are very poorly paid, but let’s go one step further and see if women are paid less than men. Shockingly enough, women are getting the shaft in Texas. [Texas Tribune]

* Dean Jack Boger of UNC Law is stepping down, but he’s proud of keeping legal ed affordable. “[B]y relative standards, we’re still doing that,” he said. It’s ~$39K for out-of-state students. [Chapelboro.com]

* O.J. Simpson’s lawyers submitted a gigantic legal doc in an attempt to get him a new trial for his armed-robbery case. Court word limit: 14,000. Words in the Juice’s motion: 19,993. Rules: LOL. [NBC News]

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