Pro Bono

An awning taken down by Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy hit the legal world hard, as we’ve chronicled in these pages. And many lawyers and legal employers are still feeling its effects — quite literally. If you work at one prominent downtown law firm, for example, we hope you’re wearing thermal underwear.

As we mentioned on Friday, some individuals have been exploiting the Superstorm Sandy crisis to take advantage of others. The Justice Department and the SEC have issued warnings about various “Sandy scams.”

On the opposite end of the decency spectrum, some lawyers and law firms are stepping up to the plate and supporting Hurricane Sandy relief and recovery efforts. Let’s see what they’re doing — and give them some well-deserved kudos for their work….

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Every firm has them. And partners dutifully show up. Mostly for the free lunch. This month we are serving Tex-Mex. One percenters’s loading up on the free food like a Soviet-era pensioner given the keys to the potato warehouse. It can be a gruesome scene.

So what happens at these monthly gatherings of Biglaw’s barons and baronesses? Nothing important. (You want important stuff, you need to crash an Executive Committee meeting. Or for the increasingly common Biglaw dictatorships, you need to bug Chairman Mao’s office.) At least at the scheduled monthly partner meetings. “Special” partner meetings are a different story. You want those to be boring, like calling for a vote on a group of laterals. “Exciting” special meetings, while good for Lat, are not good news for the average partner usually. Stability is one of the biggest draws of a Biglaw partnership. Stability means no shocking announcements, over which you have no control.

Anyway, here is how the typical monthly partner meeting goes….

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In May, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of the New York Court of Appeals announced that a new bar admission hurdle would be foisted upon the state’s would-be lawyers in the form of a 50-hour pro bono requirement. Last month, we found out that the new rule was “much better than it could have been,” since it allowed for the mandatory pro bono hours to be completed anywhere and at any time, including during bar admittees’ law school years.

That really doesn’t sound as bad as everyone thought it was going to be. The “justice gap” will be closed, the importance of public interest work will be stressed to new lawyers (even though existing lawyers will continue to maintain only an aspirational call to perform pro bono work), and everyone will hold hands, sing “Kumbaya,” and call it a day. At least that’s how Lippman envisioned it.

But now that everyone’s gotten used to the fact that New York’s pro bono rule is here to stay, some additional analysis has been performed by law schools statewide. Oh, you thought that the state’s “justice gap” was going to just disappear? Yeeeaaahhh, about that….

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* A former Cravath law librarian is fighting his “effective termination” from Southern Illinois University School of Law over alleged threats to bash a colleague in the head with a crowbar. How déclassé! What, was a champagne flute not available? [National Law Journal]

* Is New York’s new mandatory pro bono requirement for admission to the bar too rigid a licensing rule? Compared to what it could have been, no, but obviously others disagree on this point. [Am Law Daily]

* New York Law School’s dean thinks that experience in City Hall gives him an edge. In other news, after being sued over its employment stats, NYLS had the most applicants ever since 2008. Sigh. [New York Law Journal]

* Jamie McCourt doesn’t think it’s very fair that she only got a $131M divorce payout when her ex-husband, Frank McCourt, ended up with $1.7B after he sold the Dodgers. #filthyrichpeopleproblems [Bloomberg]

* “I’m in shock and I’m angry and I’m hurt and I’m flabbergasted and I’m livid.” You’d feel the same if you saw that your engagement photo was being used in an anti-gay marriage mailer. [City Room / New York Times]

* Don’t mind me, I’m just watering my hippies: in a proposed settlement, the University of California is offering $30K to each of the students who were pepper-sprayed by a police officer at UC Davis last year. [CNN]

‘I never look at those rankings.’

* Hey, “regular students” with “regular backgrounds,” you may be able to get a job as a SCOTUS clerk, because Justice Clarence Thomas is the Supreme Court’s honey badger in that he doesn’t give a sh*t about rankings. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

* Because $1.05 bill wasn’t quite enough, Apple is asking for additional damages in its patent war lawsuit against Samsung. Ohh, come on, Judge Koh, it’s just an extra $535 million. Everyone else is doing it, come on. Just give us the money. [Bloomberg]

* The D.C. Circuit suit about White House visitor logs is kind of like a recurring issue we see with law schools, in that transparency here means “[w]e will disclose what records we want you to see.” [National Law Journal]

* Skadden is teaming up with local legal aid groups to start a pro bono initiative in D.C. We hear they’ll be handing out gift cards as a show of appreciation to those who sign up. [Capital Business / Washington Post]

* Sumner Redstone recently donated $18M to BU Law. Will his successor be as charitable? From Columbia Law to Shearman & Sterling to media mogul: meet Philippe Dauman, CEO of Viacom. [New York Times]

* “The employment statistics really are the collective impact of individual choices.” And one of them was attending law school anyway, despite all of the negative media attention they’ve received. [Cincinnati Enquirer]

* Remember the Harvard Law student who ran for Student Government President and pledged to resign after rewriting the organization’s constitution? Well, he graduated, but at least he got a draft in. [Harvard Crimson]

Back in May, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman of the New York Court of Appeals announced that a new bar admission hurdle would be foisted upon would-be lawyers in the state, in the form of a 50-hour pro bono requirement.

It was at that point that people started losing their minds. Some likened the decree to indentured servitude, while others called it “utterly wrongheaded.” Even law schools were pissed off about the requirement, citing worries that the requirement constituted a “significant barrier to entry” to those who attended law school outside of New York State.

Now, just four months later, Judge Lippman has unveiled the details of his pro bono plan — and, to tell you the truth, they’re really not that bad. What’s in store for future New York bar examinees?

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William Baer

* “We’re all from the Ivy League. That seems to be more relevant than what faith we are.” SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas really knows how to make Article III Groupie’s heart sing. [New York Times]

* Dewey know why this failed firm’s bankruptcy team is cutting special deals with the former D&Lers who worked on the sale of the Dodgers? Like all things Biglaw, it all circles back to money. [WSJ Law Blog]

* What in William Baer’s past might lead the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a closed meeting on his candidacy to lead the DOJ’s Antitrust Division? [Blog of Legal Times]

* In a heartwarming pro bono project, Proskauer Rose will be representing NYC in its attempts to evict an elderly newsstand operator from his kiosk in Greenwich Village. It really brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it? [New York Post]

* Jerry Sandusky will be sentenced on October 9, and prosecutors are asking that he be classified as a sexually violent predator. Boy, that’ll be a fun title to have while he’s in jail for the rest of his life. [Bloomberg]

* “[A]t present, the large majority of law graduates — perhaps 80 percent — end up worse off after going to law school that they were before they enrolled.” Paul Campos is so cheerful in his book. [National Law Journal]

... a damn about law students.

Back in May, we noted that New York would be implementing a new prerequisite for admission to the state’s bar: all would-be attorneys must complete 50 hours of pro bono work before being allowed to practice in the Empire State.

This initiative was Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s latest attempt to mete out justice for all, but it was not well received by all sides. Some have likened the pro bono requirement to indentured servitude; others have thrown up their hands in frustration and called the move “utterly wrongheaded.”

At first, it seemed like only in-state bar examinees and law schools had reason to worry. Now, out-of-state law schools are stepping up to the plate to complain about Lippman’s requirement. Details for the rule’s implementation still haven’t been drafted — in fact, out-of-state schools weren’t even invited when the Chief Judge’s advisory committee last met in July. Law schools and law graduates alike have been kept in an uneasy waiting period while all of the minutiae get worked out.

But for out-of-state law schools, the worst part of this waiting period is the uncertainty about whether this pro bono requirement will come at a cost to students….

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* Dewey have some false expectations of success for this partner settlement agreement? Only one in four affected partners have signed on the dotted line, but advisers think the plan will win bankruptcy court approval. [Am Law Daily]

* “There comes a point where the prospects of substantially increasing your income just outweigh everything else.” Even on his $168K salary, this appellate judge wasn’t rich in New York City, so he quit his job. [New York Law Journal]

* The middle class needs lawyers, and unemployed law school graduates need jobs. The solution for both problems seems pretty obvious, but starting a firm still costs money, no matter how “prudent” you are. [National Law Journal]

* “This is a time when law schools are trying to look carefully at their expenses and not add to them.” New York’s new pro bono initiative may come at a cost for law schools, too. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Much to Great Britain’s dismay, Ecuador has announced that it will grant political asylum to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame. Sucks for Ecuador, because Assange is known to not flush the toilet. [New York Times]

* A smooth criminal gets a break: Michael Jackson’s father dropped a wrongful death suit against Dr. Conrad Murray. It probably would’ve been helpful if his attorneys could actually practice in California. [Washington Post]

* Did Lindsay Lohan’s lawyers plagiarize documents from internet websites in their defamation filings against Pitbull? You can deny it all you want, but his lawyer is out for blood and sanctions. [New York Daily News]

We don’t hear often enough about attorneys trying to do good for the world. Sex scandals, violence, and dirty politics are much more common to hear about than attorneys working to advance the public interest.

So it’s particularly unfortunate that we have to write about an Australian defense lawyer at the International Criminal cCourt in the context of her involuntary detainment in Libya, that fun little African country known for its leader’s kooky costumes.

Without further ado, let’s learn more about the detained Australian, Melinda Taylor (and see a photo of the beautiful young attorney)…

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