Reader Polls

When videos go viral online, sometimes law students decide to let their freak flags fly and have some fun on film. Such is the case with the recent Harlem Shake phenomenon. If you’ve ever seen our Law Revue Video Contest, these videos are kind of like that, only shorter (and seemingly taped while all of the participants are tweaking out of their minds).

Don’t know what the Harlem Shake is? You’re about to find out….

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Last week, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this photo:

Let’s have a look at what our readers came up with, and then vote on the finalists….

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If you can’t laugh at these defendants, then you can’t be a defense attorney. Or a prosecutor, most likely. You could be a judge, though — a judge with no sense of humor.

We’ve got a couple of stories today about defendants behaving very badly in court. Hilariously badly. “I could have walked out of this courtroom, but now I’m going to jail for contempt,” badly.

Looking at these two stories together will allow us to analyze one important question about courthouse etiquette: is it worse to flip off a judge, or to physically assault an attorney?

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This cheese isn’t a good deal.

Today’s story about a law student bound for prison has me thinking about how regular people become criminals. The story of Marc Gersen is the kind of thing books are made of; it’s big and bold and colorful.

But on the smaller scale, people are pushed into unethical decisions all the time, and it rarely comes with the stark choices of, “Should I, or should I NOT, start a meth ring?” People, especially the kind of risk-averse people who end up in law school, don’t make one big decision to “become a criminal.” It’s a bunch of little decisions that incrementally take you from “normal, law-abiding citizen” to “bad actor.”

Today, we got an email from a person who is thinking about making an unethical choice out of desperation for a job. Why don’t you read her dilemma for yourself and tell her what you think she should do….

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Earlier this week, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this photo:

Let’s have a look at what our readers came up with, and then vote on the finalists….

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Pamela Levinson

You know what’s the mark of a good lawsuit against a law firm? The ability to polarize. Sure, it’s fun to laugh at the wacky ones, like Berry v. Kasowitz Benson or Morisseau v. DLA Piper. But the true classics are cases in which half the people think the plaintiff is a crusader for justice, and half the people think the plaintiff is an extortionist.

Take the 2007 lawsuit of Charney v. Sullivan & Cromwell, brought by a young M&A lawyer claiming anti-gay discrimination. That was a great lawsuit. Some readers saw it as a Philadelphia for the 21st century, while others saw it as a shameless shakedown of a top law firm.

By this standard, Levinson v. WilmerHale is a good lawsuit. Readers can’t seem to agree on this one. Let’s check out the sharply divided opinions — and also hear more about Pamela Levinson, from former colleagues at the firm….

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A 3L in a ‘law-and-blank’ class yesterday.

“One of the well-known facts about law school is it never took three years to do what we are doing; it took maybe two years at most, maybe a year-and-a-half,” Larry Kramer, the former dean of Stanford Law, said in a 2010 speech. The continuing existence of the third year of law school is generally held to be one of the basic structural defects in our current legal education model, alongside the contracted job market and soaring tuition. There have been efforts to address the problem, the latest being NYU’s announced overhaul of its third year curriculum.

Yet these attempts to redefine what the 3L year means appear to many like half-measures at best, “lipstick on a pig” at worst. As we noted back in November, Professor Bill Henderson of Indiana/Maurer has made a sweeping proposal that calls for a special new program for 3Ls by a coalition of willing law schools. The 3Ls would embark on a skills-based, teamwork-heavy course of study in partnership with law firms who agree to employ the students, albeit at a reduced rate. Also, there is a proposal currently before the New York Bar that would allow students to take the bar exam after two years. These students would not obtain a J.D. unless they return for their third year, but would be eligible for a bar card.

In assessing the NYU proposal (basically an increase in study abroad and specialty courses), Professor Kenneth Anderson argues that law schools have allowed educational incentives (i.e., learning to how to be a lawyer) and credentialing incentives (i.e., becoming an attractive job candidate) to drift apart: “The problem lies in how very, very unattractive we’ve institutionally made [students’] incentives – and the price tag attached to what is essentially a bet rather than investment. It’s a bet with many more bad payoffs than good ones.”

All the discussion and debate about the three-year law school model focuses, understandably, on the utility of that third year. We thought it would be interesting to have a look at our survey data to get a sense of how the experience of law students changes over time. The ATL Insider Survey asks law students and alumni to rate their schools in academic instruction, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life. We wondered how, if at all, these perceptions differ between 1Ls and 3Ls….

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‘Please explain why I should take money away from widows and orphans.’

Looking for some feedback on this one:

Should judges be allowed to impose fines for the benefit of unrelated third parties outside the jurisdiction?

I touched on this tangentially in my earlier story about Pennsylvania’s pending lawsuit against the NCAA because one of the claims against the NCAA challenged the provision of the settlement that ordered Penn State University, as an institution supported by Pennsylvania taxpayers, to pay a fine that would partially benefit victims of sexual abuse outside Pennsylvania.

But settlements provide more flexibility than judicially imposed fines.

Who could possibly object to forcing criminals to send money to charity? Oh, we can find a guy….

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What’s the most exciting way to die? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most men would enjoy death by sex, because meeting your maker in one last blaze of sexual glory is probably more satisfying than any Biglaw bonus you’ll ever get. In second place on that fantasy death list for men would probably be death by motorboating, because getting a stiffy while going stiff from rigor mortis is surely the breast best way to die.

But if you were an unwilling participant in this kind of macabre motorboating, it wouldn’t be a very pleasurable experience. That’s what supposedly happened when a woman in Washington allegedly smothered her boyfriend to death with her ample bosom, and I am shocked — shocked, I tell you! — that this all went down in a trailer park.

Talk about a deadly booby trap….

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In a way, I’m surprised we don’t have more stories about people posting their grades on social media sites. The kids are already using Facebook and Twitter as a running diary of their lives, so you’d expect there to be more instances where people throw their law school transcripts up on the internet.

In fact, let me ask the question this way: why wouldn’t you post your grades on Facebook? They’re clearly important to you. If you did well, you can brag about them just as surely as one of your friends is bragging about the exploits of their kids or dogs. If you did poorly, you can seek the solace of friends who you don’t actually like well enough to have a beer with. Why wouldn’t you post them?

The obvious answers seem painfully old-timey. “It’s in poor taste to brag about your grades.” “Your transcript should be private.” “You got an ‘A’? Go f**k yourself.” These are the thoughts of a previous generation. For the Facebook generation… I mean, have you seen what people post? This is nothing.

A law student decided to post his solid grades on Facebook. I bet you can guess what school we’re talking about. Let’s just say that it’s a school that seems to admit students who like to draw attention to themselves when things are going well by subtly upturning their collars….

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