New York Times

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

I don’t know about you, but I find talent markets fascinating. They have several characteristics that make them quite distinctive from regular old goods and services markets:

  • Talent is extremely heterogeneous; it’s not as if there’s another Honda Accord where that one came from.
  • Talent is what economists call both “excludable” and “rivalrous,” meaning that if I hire you Suzie can’t hire you at the same time. (Knowledge is the classic non-rivalrous and non-excludable good; everyone can know the same thing at the same time without its impairing anyone else’s knowledge of that same thing, and without shutting off anyone else’s access to it.)
  • Talent is notoriously difficult to judge in advance, without actually experiencing it, that is to say, without actually hiring the individual and putting them to work in your organization. Some other markets approach this condition of “ignorance until purchased,” such as attending performing arts events or taking a vacation to a previously unknown locale, but the stakes tend to be much higher for all parties concerned in talent markets.
  • Once talent is hired, it’s stickier than most other purchases. You can walk out of the movie theater or reconfigure your travel plans, but once you hire someone, short of felonious or otherwise appalling behavior, you’re stuck with them for a decent interval.

All this leads to a number of devices and stratagems that attempt to mitigate uncertainty and delay serious resource commitments until some firsthand evaluation can be performed.

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“It comes down to this,” said Hayley Schafer, 30. “Is there anything else I’d be happy doing? No. Is there any way around paying off the loans? No. So, what the heck? A lot of it is just trying to put it out of your mind and maybe it’ll disappear.”

Schafer has more than $312,000 in educational debt and earns just $60,000. She must be a lawyer, right?

But Schafer’s not a lawyer or law school graduate. What does she do? The answer might surprise you….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “In Defense of Law School: It’s Not the Only Alleged Culprit in Higher Education”

You need a college degree to get a good job. That’s been the case for some time. But a story in the New York Times yesterday pointed out that in this economy, you need a college degree to get a bad job. Increasingly, you need a college degree to get most kinds of office jobs, even if those jobs are as intellectually simple as “receptionist.”

I suspect that’s been true for some time as well. At this point, I expect every “white-collar” employee I interact with to have at least “some college.” Actually, I expect most blue-collar people I interact with to be formally educated as well, albeit in a different country. We’re living in an age of over-credentialization. Just like everybody in Hollywood has had a little work done, one expects that everybody in an office has had to sit through a terminally boring lecture on how many miles you have to go before you can fall asleep to a boring Robert Frost poem.

But, there’s getting a little work done, and there’s walking around with flotation devices bolted to your chest.

And I wonder, to extend the analogy to its logical conclusion, if getting a law degree is kind of like a waitress borrowing $10K to get a boob job thinking that getting her DDs is all that’s standing between her making $9.50 plus tips versus becoming a movie star….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “If College Is The New High School, Is Law School The New Liberal Arts College?”

* Justice Sotomayor’s memoir made the NYT’s best-seller list, and in terms of sales, she’s officially beating the pants off other Supreme Court justices who’ve released books of a similar nature. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* In case you were sleeping under a rock yesterday when this happened, John Kerry was confirmed by the Senate as secretary of state. Don’t think we’ll be getting a Texts From John Tumblr, though. [New York Times]

* Despite having a “pretty spectacular” year, Blank Rome’s legal secretaries may soon find themselves blankly roaming in search of new employment. Better hurry up, the buyout offer expires on Friday! [Legal Intelligencer]

* Straight up now tell me, do you really wanna sue me forever? Corey Clark once claimed he had an affair with American Idol judge Paula Abdul, and now he claims MoFo and Gibson Dunn defamed him. [Am Law Daily]

* In this round of musical chairs, we learn that Orrick hoovered up three energy and project finance partners from Bingham, one of whom will co-chair the firm’s U.S. energy group. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Remember the Zumba prostitution ring? Now we know you can’t be prosecuted for secretly filming Johns in the act in Maine, because there’s no expectation of privacy in “bordellos, whorehouses, and the like.” [Wired]

* Energy drink makers are facing class action suits over claims made about their products. Fine, Red Bull may not give you wings, but it tastes like piss, and that’s gotta count for something, dammit. [National Law Journal]

* Much like herpes, Lindsay Lohan’s legal drama is the gift that just keeps on giving. Her longtime lawyer Shawn Holley wants out, and her new lawyer, Mark Heller, isn’t even licensed to practice in California. [CNN]

* “The bottom line is … I’m the 800-pound-gorilla that you want to settle with.” By the way, if you weren’t sure, Howrey’s trustee Allan Diamond wasn’t kidding about suing the firm’s former partners. “Either we’re going to cut deals, or I’m suing you.” [Am Law Daily]

* It takes two to do the partnership tango: in the expansion of its Financial Institutions Group, Goodwin Procter picked up Brynn Peltz, an attorney with more than 20 years’ experience, and an ex-partner at Latham and Clifford Chance. [Fort Mill Times]

* Hello, predictive coding! Goodbye, jobs! Not only can computers do the work of lawyers on the cheap, but they can do it more intelligently, too. Get ready to welcome our new digital overlords. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Another day, another op-ed article about the law school crisis in the pages of the New York Times. But at least this one is about something most can support: changing the third year of law school. [New York Times]

* As it turns out, with 82 applications for the program’s first five spots, there’s actually a demand for Yale Law’s Ph.D. in Law. So much for this being “[t]he worst idea in the history of legal education.” [National Law Journal]

* Linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s defamation suit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in connection with Bountygate was dismissed. Wonder when Goodell will suspend Vilma for thinking he could win. [Bloomberg]

* Francis Lorson, former chief deputy clerk of the Supreme Court, RIP. [Blog of Legal Times]

Ed. note: This is a new series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” will take a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

Three years ago I published What Laterals Need to Know: A Modest Proposal, which essayed the thought that firms had an obligation to disclose certain information about the firm in advance to a prospective lateral partner.

At the time I wrote, I treated it more or less as a thought experiment, but we now see that shirking that obligation can come back to bite firms with sharp and large teeth right here in the real world, as seen in Henry Bunsow’s high-profile suit against Dewey’s former leadership (accusing them of running a “Ponzi scheme,” and alleging he’s out $1.8-million in lost capital, among other damages). The gist of Bunsow’s action is that Dewey’s leadership painted a misleadingly rosy picture of Dewey’s financial health, and failed to disclose its obligations in deferred compensation. Bunsow further alleges that former chairman Stephen Davis withdrew his own capital investment after he was forced out of his leadership role and “took those funds personally to the disadvantage of the firm and his fellow partners.”

My three-year-old proposal was that firms be obliged to prepare the equivalent of a Private Placement Memorandum for laterals — equally available to incumbent partners as well, of course.

I also noted that the reaction of most readers would probably fall into polar camps: That my proposal was “fascinating” or else “preposterous”….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Time for the Law Firm PPM?”

DaNae Couch

* The Department of Justice has reached yet another settlement in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill case, this time with Transocean Ltd. for $1.4 billion in civil and criminal penalties and fines. [National Law Journal]

* “[W]ith success comes regulatory scrutiny.” Google convinced the FTC to close its ongoing antitrust probe by promising to change its allegedly shady patent usage and purportedly skewed search terms. [Bloomberg]

* According to Littler Mendelson, federal contractors might want to consider sending out sequestration-related layoff notices to employees in order to comply with the WARN Act. America, f**k yeah! [Government Executive]

* Governor Andrew Cuomo will have a major impact on the New York Court of Appeals when appointing new judges. It could be a partisan decision, but his father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, insists his son will leave politics at home. [Capital New York]

* When you write in defense of the value proposition of law school, you wind up in the op-ed pages of the NYT. When you tell the truth about it, you wind up in the opinion pages of the WSJ. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Remember Danae Couch, the Texas Tech law student who was crowned as Miss Texas? She’ll compete for the Miss America title next weekend. If you’d like to help her become a finalist, you can vote for her here! [KFYO]

* Dewey know how much money this failed firm has run up on its tab for legal advisers since May? It’s quite the pretty penny — $14.8 million — and that amount actually includes some pretty ridiculous fees and charges, like $21,843 for photocopies. [Am Law Daily]

* Everyone’s glad that we didn’t nosedive over the fiscal cliff, but the people who are the most excited about it seem to be Biglaw partners. This wasn’t the best bill, and more uncertainty means more work, which means more money. [National Law Journal]

* It looks like we’re never going to find out what the Justice Department’s legal justification was for the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, because a federal judge upheld the validity of its secret memo. [New York Times]

* Everyone flipped out over Instagram’s money filter, but they’re keeping relatively quiet about this mandatory arbitration provision. Quick, post some pseudo-legalese on your Facebook wall. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Good news, everyone! Thanks to this ruling, in Virginia, you can be as nasty and negative as you want to be on Yelp without fear that your voice will be censored… kind of like the Above the Law comments. [All Things D]

Apparently, Chuck Klosterman believes law deans without checking to see what they’re hiding.

Man, the New York Times is just full of people defending law schools these days. First we had Lawrence Mitchell, Dean of Case Western Law School, write an op-ed about why he is “proud” to be a law dean. I’m not sure if he’s proud to have written an op-ed that has been savaged by everybody, but there you go.

This weekend, the Times ran an Ethicist column by noted pop culturalist Chuck Klosterman about the “morality” of law schools enrolling students at hefty tuition prices when they know the job market is very challenging.

Klosterman defended law schools, though it’s not clear that he intended to. In fact, it’s not clear that Klosterman knows just how “unethical” law schools have become.

But hey, you don’t actually have to understand the challenges of legal employment to defend law school in the New York Times these days….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Chuck Klosterman Becomes the Latest Human to Misunderstand the Point of Law School”

I reported back in October that the New York Times had asked me to write an op-ed piece about the future of big law firms, but a Dealbook special unceremoniously preempted my piece.

I figured the editor at the NYT might think she owed me one, so I cranked out a replacement piece proposing to reform legal education. I’m pleased to report that this op-ed piece was not preempted! No, no, no: It was rejected on the merits. The editor said that my article made too many points and felt like a “report, rather than an opinion piece.”

But she was wrong. And, in any event, you should judge for yourself.

So here’s my recently rejected op-ed piece proposing how we should reform legal education. (I do believe this is the last in my short-lived series of “crap I wrote for the Times that the Times didn’t publish.” It’s an awful lot of work to produce 1,200-word pieces that become mere fodder for another column here at Inside Straight.) . . .

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