Screw-Ups

Ed. note: This is the latest column by our newest writer, Anonymous Partner. In case you missed his prior posts, check them out here and here.

I really enjoy the writing of Dr. Atul Gawande, the New Yorker contributor who is also a practicing surgeon. For one thing, surgeons are very interesting creatures — in many ways, they are the trial lawyers of the medical field. Just like trial lawyers (and generally litigators who do more than just brief writing), surgeons need to acquire certain basic technical skills, but the true measure of their value lies in their ability to achieve, through the exercise of leadership and artistry, a favorable result for the client or patient. And just as it takes years of residency and fellowship for surgeons to transition from technical proficiency to artistry, so too must the aspiring Biglaw first-chair trial lawyer undergo a seemingly interminable apprenticeship on the road to courtroom glory. (At least surgeons never lack, due to the frailty of the human body, practice subjects. Biglaw trials are harder to come by — but that is an issue for future exploration.)

Back to Dr. Gawande — something he recently prepared caught my eye. In early June, Dr. Gawande was invited to give the commencement address at Williams College, and his remarks were posted on the New Yorker’s website shortly afterwards. In his talk, Dr. Gawande argued that avoiding catastrophic outcomes — e.g. a stalled career, a Dewey, etc. — is possible, but only if the decision-makers are capable of recognizing the risks of their current paths and able to practice the “art of rescue”….

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If you sent a document to the Engineers in Prometheus in .docx, they would say, 'Kill the one who expects us to convert.'

When most people call lawyers “paper pushers,” they mean it in a pejorative way. But pushing paper around correctly, in an organized and detail-oriented fashion, is a big part of a lawyer’s job. Some might say it’s the most important part of the job. The best lawyers have an attention to detail that can only be matched by research scientists and portrait artists.

If you can’t bring that maddening, borderline obsessive-compulsiveness to the little things, you might not be able to do things like become an awesome Supreme Court clerk — or even make it onto your school’s law review. That’s okay; you still might have other talents. But good lawyers can follow instructions (or afford secretaries who can follow instructions).

It’s an important lesson that three kids who got booted from their school’s law review competition just learned the hard way…

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Stephen McDaniel

Yesterday brought bad news for Stephen M. McDaniel, the 25-year-old Mercer Law School alumnus accused of killing his neighbor and classmate, Lauren Giddings. His lawyers’ request for a reconsideration of his bond, originally set at $850,000 by Chief Judge S. Phillip Brown, got denied.

One of McDaniel’s lawyers, Franklin J. Hogue, argued that the bond was “excessive,” claiming that the McDaniel family couldn’t afford more than $150,000. The prosecution countered that the family’s financial picture might have changed since the passing of McDaniel’s grandfather, Hollis Browning, back in April. According to Floyd Buford, another lawyer working for McDaniel, Browning’s will remains to be executed. In the end, the judge left bail as is — meaning McDaniel will remain in jail for the foreseeable future.

Now let’s hear the good news for the defendant. It relates to that disturbing internet posting that the prosecution attributed to Hacksaw McDaniel back in April….

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In yesterday’s Quote of the Day, we noted that Dean Susan Poser of the University of Nebraska College of Law took the time to write a letter to the editor of the New York Times to offer a critique of the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings system. Poser claimed that the rankings were biased toward top law schools, allowing schools like her own to “remain little known and undervalued” in the eyes of the general public.

Poser encouraged everyone to examine the state of legal education in flyover land, claiming that a second look might result in surprising findings. Well, we decided to take her advice. We learned that, in addition to boasting an out-of-this-world space law program, the law school is also on the cutting edge of cybersecurity.

Actually, that’s not true at all, because Nebraska Law (along with other parts of the university) just experienced a major security breach of its student information system. If you’re a current or former student, you might want to check and see if your identity has been stolen….

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Is Snooki in charge of grading bar exams in New Jersey?

If I turned on MTV and found out that the cast from the Jersey Shore had been given the “challenge” of grading the February 2012 New Jersey bar exam, I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ll say that again: SNOOKI COULDN’T DO A WORSE JOB THAN THE NEW JERSEY BOARD OF LAW EXAMINERS RIGHT NOW!

They don’t respond to emails. They don’t meet deadlines. They told people that they failed the bar when they did not. Jon Corzine didn’t mess up MF Global as much as New Jersey has botched the administration of this freaking test.

The incompetence is so intense that it’s hard to believe it’s an accident. It seems like the NJ BOLE should have to try to be this bad. Well, maybe they are. Last night, a tipster offered up a possible economic motive for all of the “issues” that have come up with the last administration of the New Jersey bar.

It’s petty and short-sighted, but I’m not sure there’s any level of corruption that you can confidently say is too low for the Garden State….

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You failed the New Jersey bar exam. Oh, wait, no you didn’t. Actually we don’t know, because according to our tipsters, New Jersey is in the midst of another huge bar exam screw-up.

You’ll remember that when it came time to release the results of the July 2011 bar exam, there was a rumor that the New Jersey Board of Law Examiners lost the tests. The exams were missing for a time, but after we ran our story, they magically appeared — with no explanation from NJ BOLE on why there was a delay.

At least when the results finally came out, they were correct. Students who took the February 2012 New Jersey bar exam might not have been treated to that kind of basic competence…

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The “It firm” of May 2012 would appear to be Greenberg Traurig. It’s the Biglaw behemoth that’s generating the greatest buzz and the most headlines right now (not counting Dewey & LeBoeuf, which will soon find itself in bankruptcy).

Whenever there’s a big story, GT is there. In the past month, it has appeared in these pages as the possible savior of Dewey, the actual savior of Dewey’s Poland operations, and the victim of some alleged rudeness by a divorce lawyer in Texas.

And, of course, Greenberg Traurig has found itself at the center of the TD Bank controversy. Late last week, Judge Marcia Cooke held a contempt hearing, to decide whether Greenberg should be sanctioned due to a discovery debacle.

The hearing spanned two days and featured some high-powered witnesses. What happened?

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Mr. and Mrs. Zuckerberg

* With more allegations of misconduct revealed, the Canadian Judicial Council met to discuss Justice Lori Douglas’s sex scandal inquiry. Unlike her legs in her nude picture spread, this media circus will likely close in July. [Winnipeg Free Press]

* “I want to apologize. Obviously, mistakes were made.” Admitting you’ve got a problem is just the first step. Greenberg Traurig’s executive director apologized for the Biglaw firm’s apparent screw-ups in a Rothstein-related trial. [Miami Herald]

* Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng will be enrolling at NYU Law School on a fellowship. The administration is giving him a ritzy faculty apartment that comes complete with a kitchen full of Chinese food. He already knows how to eat like a law student. [New York Times]

* Facebook is being sued in an amended consolidated class-action complaint for $15B over privacy issues, but Mark Zuckerberg was too busy getting married to Priscilla Chan to let it bother him. [Bloomberg]

* “What [the f**k] comes next?” That’s what law school grads asked themselves when their commencement speakers tried to slap on a happy face and speak positively about the job market. [Connecticut Law Tribune]

* But perhaps future law school grads will be able to find jobs more easily thanks to class offerings geared toward in-house counsel lawyering skills. Keep on dreaming that impossible dream. [Washington Post]

* How does a small-time DUI attorney from California go from being an unknown to being a household name overnight? By filing a lawsuit filled with tawdry allegations against actor John Travolta. [Los Angeles Times]

It has been quite a while since we have covered a grand mal discovery screw-up here at Above the Law. For a while, we almost started to believe the legal industry as a whole had finally caught up to technology — or at least had figured out how to keep major mistakes under the radar.

Well, our dry spell has ended. As we mentioned yesterday in Non-Sequiturs, the California office of a Biglaw firm handling some high-profile litigation for Goldman Sachs accidentally released an unredacted version of some files that the firm and its clients have spent years trying to keep secret.

Oopsies…

Keep reading to learn more about the case and see which firm reportedly disseminated evidence of the bank’s “naked” short selling…

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Man, final exams week is just a bonanza for law schools screwing up.

First, we had the Villanova debacle. Now we have another law school that should get an “F” in test giving (and we may well have more, similar stories coming later this week).

Keep reading to see which law school had a professor who reportedly gave students an “exam” cribbed straight from a commercial outline…

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