Public Interest

A couple of weeks ago, we reported on the public interest stipend Georgetown Law offered its recent graduates. Georgetown University Law Center gave a three month stipend of $4,000 to its recent graduates who are working for a public interest organization.

Today, we have news that GULC is extending the fellowship for an additional three months. That’s great news for GULC grads. But it’s terrible news for administrators at UCLA Law and UT Law, two schools which are hoping to knock Georgetown out of its vaunted #14 spot in next year’s U.S. News Law School Rankings. Consider GULC’s employment stats sufficiently juked.

Potentially, it’s also terrible news for part-time night students attending Georgetown. This money has to come from somewhere, and right now it looks like part-time students are helping Georgetown cover the budget…

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Convicts, or Mississippi lawyers?

Can Mississippi force lawyers to do pro bono work?

That’s the question state bar officials are thinking about, as reported in the ABA Journal. A number of Mississippi lawyers are objecting to a proposal that would require them to either (1) spend 20 hours a year representing the poor or (2) contribute $500 to the state bar for legal services programs.

One of these days, Mississippi is going to do something objectively good and moral and not at all confusing. But today is not that day…

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Earlier this week, Conor Friedersdorf, writing for The Atlantic, poured a big bottle of haterade all over the legal profession. More specifically, he criticized the way “Ivy League” lawyers are recruited, and the “palpable sense of entitlement” they exhibit even when they don’t take Biglaw bucks and instead work for the government. Here’s the set up:

The details of how elite law and business consulting firms recruit astonish me every time I hear them. Even getting an interview often requires attending an Ivy League professional school or a very few top tier equivalents. Folks who succeed in that round are invited to spend a summer working at the firm, the most sane aspect of the process.

But subsequently, they participate in sell events where they’re plied with food and alcohol in the most lavish settings imaginable: five star resort hotels, fine cigar bars, the priciest restaurants.

And here’s the money shot, one that is careening around the legal blogosphere like Billy Joel trying to get back from the Hamptons before the hurricane hits:

Though it isn’t defensible, it is unsurprising that a lot of people who eschew offers to work at these firms, favoring public sector work instead, imagine that they are making an enormous personal sacrifice by taking government work. The palpable sense of entitlement some of these public sector folks exude is owed partly to how few of “our best and brightest” do eschew the big firm route (due partly to increasing debt levels among today’s graduates, no doubt).

Really? You want to do this now? You want to talk smack about the people on the bottom rung of this totem pole, while willfully ignoring the clients, partners, law schools, and state governments that generate huge sums of wealth off the backs of the palpably entitled?

Fine. Let me take off my glasses, and we’ll step outside…

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UMass School of Law (fka Southern New England School of Law) is open for business. Orientation happened last week, and students started classes yesterday, at Massachusetts’s first public law school.

As has been well-documented in these pages, I’m unimpressed. Put simply: there isn’t enough of a demand for new lawyers right now to justify a revamped public law school — no matter how many times you emphasize the word “public” in your press releases.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to voice my concerns to the dean of UMass Law, Robert Ward, on NPR’s Radio Boston program. Click here to listen (I start running my mouth at the 8:30 mark).

I was asked on the program to provide an alternative perspective to the dean, and that’s what I did. But the mentality of the callers was particularly interesting. They really illustrated why there is so much support for more law schools…

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Sow your wild oats for a year -- and come to the firm when you're ready to work.

With apologies to Langston Hughes, we have to ask:

What happens to an associate deferred?
Does he dry up, like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore — and then run?

Run, run — away from Biglaw. That seems to be what at least some deferred associates are doing, as reported last week by the New York Times in an article about how they spent their deferral years — and how some of them aren’t returning to the well-feathered nests of private law firms when called back.

The Times interviewed two deferred associates who aren’t going back to their firms. Nathan Richardson, a 2009 graduate of the University of Chicago Law School who was deferred by Latham & Watkins, spent his year doing environmental law research at Resources for the Future — and plans to remain in public interest. Avi Singh, a 2009 graduate of Harvard Law School who was deferred by Quinn Emanuel, went off to the Santa Clara County public defender’s office in San Jose — and is staying there.

Due to deferrals, Latham and Quinn just lost the services of two bright young attorneys. And maybe, just maybe, this isn’t a bad thing — not just for these lawyers, but for their law firms….

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Usually, we find conversations with lawyers to be very engaging. But in this video short, Ron Livingston does not:

The Responsibility Project

The video was produced as part of a corporate undertaking — The Responsibility Project — devoted to “exploring what it means to do the right thing.” So, what is it trying to say exactly?

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Desperate times call for measures to take advantage of the desperate. Why pay California lawyers $10 an hour when they’re willing to work for free? And not just willing, but eager to provide their services on a volunteer basis.

We wrote before about the public sector utilizing the unpaid legal workforce when the Marin County DA advertised for attorneys for “unpaid, temporary positions that offer a valuable opportunity to gain courtroom experience including trying misdemeanor jury trials.” Last week, a tipster sent along another Craigslist ad from the other side of the Bay, with the subject line, “Seriously?” An excerpt:

Superior Court of San Mateo County Seeks Volunteers

The Legal Research Department of the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo, is seeking attorneys willing to volunteer their time as a legal research attorney with a minimum 6 month commitment to the court.

We write often about these depressing job ads and the fact that a degree that entails six figures of debt can only help you nail down a six-month unpaid position. We wondered what kind of response such ads were actually getting, so we reached out to the San Mateo Court.

The response makes the ads even more depressing. The hiring attorney tells us that his phone won’t stop ringing…

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Working as a lawyer for the government is regarded by many as the life raft for riding out the recession. But thanks to shrinking budgets, attorneys in the public sector are also losing their jobs.

Yesterday the Bronx District Attorney, Robert T. Johnson, issued a letter announcing a layoff of 12 assistant district attorneys in his office, scheduled to take effect by the end of this month. The prosecutors who are losing their jobs have already been notified. Johnson blamed the New York City financial plan, which significantly reduces the office’s funding for the fiscal years of 2011, which started yesterday, and 2012.

The cuts were not unexpected, since Johnson had laid the groundwork for layoffs in a letter back in May. In that letter, first reported by the New York Daily News, Johnson predicted that he might have to lay off as many as 45 ADAs. So the cut of 12 ADAs could be seen as “good news,” since it’s smaller than some expected. (In his letter yesterday, Johnson said that he was able to avoid larger cuts thanks in part to some cost-saving measures in the office.)

But Robert Johnson announced another piece of news at the same time, which a number of veteran prosecutors found strange and upsetting….

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Congratulations to Sutherland. The firm’s band, “Sutherland Comfort,” won the 2010 Battle of the Law Firm Bands in D.C. on Thursday night. Sutherland Comfort defeated a host of worthy challengers — including “Dangerous Communication Device,” the Williams & Connolly band that won the contest in the past two years.

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We’ve gotten used to private firms trying to take advantage of the terrible economy by convincing lawyers to sell their services for $0, but when it comes from a district attorney — a public servant with a law degree — it really stings.

A tipster reports that the DA’s office in Marin County (CA) is looking for new lawyers. The salary? Insulting:

Note: they’re not looking for a coffee-running intern; they want a full-on deputy DA. Yet they’re willing to pay him or her absolutely nothing…

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