Public Interest

Keith Lee

As I’m sure many of you heard, the southern part of the United States was blanketed with snow this past week. In particular, Georgia and Alabama (where I live) were hit particularly hard. This being the Deep South, people and municipalities were not prepared for the quantity of snow and ice that came down so quickly. This led to widespread disaster and lots of Walking Dead jokes.

Some people have attempted to explain why 2-3 inches of snow was capable of crippling cities. While many people have scoffed at such explanations, they are true to some extent. But of course, that doesn’t relieve people of responsibility of behaving and driving like morons. As things settle down and return to normal, finger pointing and blaming will likely continue to go on for sometime.

But the most interesting aspect of the “Southern Snowpocalypse” is the reaction of people in the aftermath of the storm….

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Jodi Arias

* Which Supreme Court justices missed out on the State of the Union address last night? Three of the usual suspects (Scalia, Thomas, and Alito), plus Justice Sonia Sotomayor. RBG was there most of the time, except for nap time. [Legal Times]

* You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma! Oklahoma O.K.! The Tenth Circuit announced it’s going to fast-track Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage appeal, and it’ll be heard by the same panel of judges presiding over a very similar appeal from Utah. [News OK]

* The American Legal Institute just named Ricky Revesz, the former dean of NYU Law School, as its new director. He’ll be “clarifying, modernizing and improving the law,” just like he kind of / sort of did with NYU’s 3L curriculum, but not really. [National Law Journal]

* Law students, say hello to the Immigrant Justice Corps, a job opportunity brought to you by Chief Justice Robert Katzmann of the Second Circuit. Hey, the pay is pretty decent for public interest. [New York Times]

* The results of the latest Law School Survey of Student Engagement reveal to us 1Ls are morons. Seventy percent of them are thrilled with career services, but only 45% of 3Ls feel the same way. [WSJ Law Blog]

* She’s no George Zimmerman: Jodi Arias has a racked up a legal tab of more than $2 million, but because her artwork isn’t as hot as she is, the bill will be footed by Arizona taxpayers. [Associated Press]

Some of you are working feverishly right now. But most of you are clock-watching until the dictates of face time allow you to get out of the office. With Christmas and New Year’s falling awkwardly on Wednesdays, very little work is getting done next week or the week after. For some lucky lawyers, this is your last day of work for a week or even two.

To help you waste what’s left of the day, especially for those of you not on Eastern Standard Time, here’s a collection of funny tidbits from around the legal world.

Oh, and Professor Brian Leiter decided to rip Above the Law, so we’re going to talk about that…

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The law firm of Skadden Arps might be a follower when it comes to bonuses, but it’s a leader when it comes to public interest. For example, Skadden was one of the first firms to support Philippine typhoon relief efforts. Over the years, Skadden has given generously to address a variety of humanitarian crises around the world. Its public-spirited nature is one of the reasons Skadden enjoys a perfect score for industry reputation in our Career Center.

Skadden’s most famous contribution to the world of public interest law is surely the Skadden Fellowship program, which has been described as “a legal Peace Corps.” It was established in 1988, in honor of Skadden’s 40th anniversary as a law firm, and it supports graduating law students committed to public interest work as they embark upon specific projects at sponsoring organizations.

How many fellowships were awarded this year? Which law schools do the fellows come from?

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* Stan Stallworth, the Sidley partner accused of sexual assault, has hired a prominent criminal defense attorney to represent him in the case while the firm stands by its man. [Am Law Daily]

* Wall Street regulators are considering approval of a formidable version of the Volcker Rule that would ban banks from proprietary trading. Voting occurs later today. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Skadden Arps has asked a judge to toss an FLSA lawsuit filed against the firm by one of its document reviewers. Aww, silly contract attorney — there’s no way you’re getting overtime pay. [Law360 (sub. req.)]

* Weil Gotshal is still leaking like a sieve. This time, Bruce Colbath, a partner from the firm’s New York office, defected to the Antitrust and Trade Regulation practice group at Sheppard Mullin. [Market Wired]

* Lawyerly Lairs, China Edition: Raymond Li, chair of the Greater China practice at Paul Hastings, just purchased a townhouse for about $95 million — and paid “mostly in cash,” homie. [Wall Street Journal]

* They’re extremely tardy to the party, but if the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar gets its way, law schools will be subject to random audits of their employment stats. [ABA Journal]

* It’s a tough job that “can really beat you down,” but an organization called Gideon’s Promise just made it a whole lot easier for law students to secure jobs as public defenders in the South. [National Law Journal]

It’s Friday.

You’re bored. You’re not looking forward to working/studying this weekend. You watched that Sound of Music remake based on the premise, “if you loved Julie Andrews, Carrie Underwood has to be an improvement, right?” You might be hungover if you came to the ATL party — like a ton of you in NYC did. Hell, you might still be drunk because that’s how you roll, ATL reader!

How about we just trawl the Interwebs for funny legal content to waste a few billable minutes on? Does that sound good?

It does? Capital!

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The ruins of a house on the outskirts of Tacloban, capital of Leyte.

Law firms and the legal profession have a long and distinguished tradition of contributing to the public interest. Earlier today, we highlighted five Biglaw firms that are pro bono all-stars.

Most pro bono cases involve clients and causes here in the United States. But in today’s increasingly global world, law firms look beyond borders when it comes to helping the needy.

Yesterday we commended Skadden for its generous support of Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts in my ancestral homeland of the Philippines. And today we recognize several other law firms that have joined in this worthy cause….

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South Park metaphorically linked the 2004 election to a matchup between a turd sandwich and a giant douche. As bad as the Bush era had become, John Kerry came across as such a self-righteous tool it was hard to get swing voters psyched up to vote one way or the other. I think of this episode today as I approach the tale of two lawyers sniping at each other over Facebook about whether a woman deserves to have her parental rights terminated. It’s not that I think either is really wrong, as much as both of them exhibit the worst of their respective positions in their online feud.

So what did one entitled Biglaw lawyer say about a poor client, and what did a self-righteous public interest lawyer say in response? All bets final once you read past the jump….

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… a damn about pro bono.

Pro bono work is often an afterthought in the minds of attorneys who have more important things to do with their time — things like “churn[ing] that bill, baby!” But for others, it’s a commitment to fulfilling the very concept their naive and idealistic law school applications were premised upon: helping the people who need it most.

We know lawyers like rankings, so we thought we’d provide you with a way to measure a firm’s prestige and beneficence, all at the same time. Out of all of the Biglaw firms in the United States, which five are filled with the most worthy do-gooders? Let’s find out…

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Last week, the New York City Bar released a report, Developing Legal Careers and Delivering Justice in the 21st Century. To the bar’s credit, it acknowledged the role that starting a firm can play in addressing joblessness in the profession.  To this end, the bar proposes to create a New Lawyer Institute that will provide training and advice to potential small firm and solo practitioners.  And while I realize the concept of starting a firm as a way to launch or continue a legal career in the absence of other options is hardly revolutionary (I’ve been blogging about it almost eleven years), in a universe where many law school placement offices direct students to unpaid internships or non-legal positions, the renewed focus on the startup option is refreshing.

But as I read more about the program, I began to wonder if the goal is to teach lawyers to start firms as an end in and of itself or as a means to expand access to justice. According to the Report, the program includes the standard “Starting A Law Firm 101″ fare – obtaining insurance, business forms, technical needs and “benefits and cautions of cloud computing” (but nothing about the benefits and cautions of housing files on site in a physical office).  Meanwhile, substantive classes focus on “Divorce Law 101, Handling Cases in Family Court, Estate Planning Basics, New York Civil Practice, Introduction to Land Use and Zoning in NY, Basics Residential Real Estate Closing, and Everything You Wanted to Know About Landlord/Tenant. NLI participants will be required to take a set number of credits in both practical skills and substantive law areas” (page 113).

Herein lies my beef with the New York City Bar program….

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