Technology

Making people think you are not horrible is a full-time job for lawyers. Gallup did a poll on the most trustworthy professions in the United States and, you guessed it, lawyers are near the bottom. You know who’s the most trusted profession? Doctors and nurses, and they are the number 3 cause of death in the United States. Even historically, two hundred years ago, lawyers were drafting and signing the Declaration of Independence and doctors were using leeches to heal people. I’m pretty sure that, on top of killing fewer people, the average person will be overcharged in their life more by doctors and nurses than by lawyers, but whatever. So, again, making people think we are not horrible is an uphill battle for us.

The Internet is helping some of us tip the scales in one way or the other. Each one of these topics could be their own article, but for now, I wanted to give you a short primer on how to shrug off the shroud of horribleness we have as lawyers.

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Well, it’s only taken a week for ExamSoft to go from a random company whose name you couldn’t remember one week after the bar exam to “ExamSoft: Destroyer Of Worlds.” Today we can report that the first lawsuit has been filed against the company. It won’t be the last.

This is going to be a fun ride, and we are only at the beginning. By next week I predict the counter-narrative to get rolling. Maybe a dean will pen a New York Times op-ed about how kids these days, with their computers and text machines and MyBooks, don’t know how to take “personal responsibility.” Somebody will say that it is the test takers’ fault, for buying a program and having the audacity to believe that it would work as intended.

Looking deeper into my crystal taco, as lawsuits proliferate, there will be a circuit split. The Second and the Seventh will affirm decisions against ExamSoft, while the Third and Fifth will reverse. The Third will say that we need to learn a powerful lesson about our over-reliance on technology, while the Fifth will hold that a reasonable person wouldn’t try to write an essay in the clouds: “that’s pure hogwash,” it’ll say.

Eventually this will get to the Supreme Court, which will rule, 5-4, to relieve ExamSoft of liability. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito will argue: “When a person, such as ExamSoft, fails so spectacularly in its duties, the key question is to determine if that person is a man or a woman. If male, the person’s own sense of shame will be punishment enough. But if female, the Court must teach a lasting lesson. Here, we find ExamSoft to be a male person, and therefore must reverse the trial courts. The students should clearly incorporate themselves if they wish to pursue further remedies.” Concurring in part, Scalia will tell us that the bar has become too easy of a test and ExamSoft merely introduced a greater barrier to entry. Breyer’s dissent will be something like: “I was robbed once just like these test takers and, goodness gracious, it was scary.”

Okay, you’re welcome. Now that we all know where this thing is going, we can savor the wonderful journey together. Let’s look at the first lawsuit….

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Girls in my high school briefed cases all the time, it was no big deal.

* According to Patron Saint RBG, the Supreme Court has never really come around on “the ability of women to decide for themselves what their destiny will be.” Gay people are doing well, though, so good for them. [New York Times]

* Two law professors and a consultant built a model that predicts SCOTUS decisions with 69.7 percent accuracy, and justices’ votes with 70.9 percent accuracy. For lawyers who are bad at math, that’s damn near perfect. Nice work! [Vox]

* An Alabama abortion clinic statute which required that doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals was ruled unconstitutional. Perhaps this will be the death knell for these laws. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Idaho’s Supreme Court rejected Concordia Law’s bid to allow grads to sit for the bar before the ABA granted it provisional accreditation. Too bad, since lawyers are needed in Idaho. [National Law Journal]

* Before you go to law school, you can learn how to gun with the best of them. That’s right, you can practice briefing cases before you even set foot in the door. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

Ed. note: Please welcome Above the Law’s guest conversationalist, Zach Abramowitz, of blogcasting platform ReplyAll. You can see some of his other conversations and musings here.

Before leaving Biglaw for good, I considered doing what I felt like was the next best thing to launching my own startup: working at a firm whose clients were primarily startups. The pitch from recruiters was always the same: startups and venture capital clients are much better to work with than their “big company” and private equity counterparts.

But I wasn’t buying it. Biglaw is Biglaw. It doesn’t matter if your client is Alcoa or three co-founders with the hottest new dating app (it uses an algorithm to tell you who at the nightclub wants you to buy them a drink); clients will be demanding, and legal work is legal work.

But more and more of my former colleagues who have made the jump have been telling me that there’s truth to the claim that “startups are more fun.” So, to get some clarity on this issue, I decided to invite Ed Zimmerman, the founder of the tech group at Lowenstein Sandler and a columnist at the WSJ Accelerators Blog, to join me for a conversation on this topic. Since on-campus interviews are right around the corner, I thought this topic would be nicely timed.

And since we’re creating the conversation using ReplyAll, make sure to keep checking back on our conversation as it develops over the course of the week…

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Chum’s in the water, folks. And here come the sharks.

Since we first learned that ExamSoft ruined the otherwise relaxing experience of taking the bar exam, we’ve anticipated lawsuits. You can’t piss off all the would-be lawyers you can get your hands on and expect to come through un-served. It is known.

One person on Twitter put it this way: “Numerosity, commonality, typicality, adequacy: Pretty sure all harmed #barexam takers could form a class action against @ExamSoft.”

This law firm is happy to get that ball rolling…

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What is it with insane NY-related bureaucrats and their attempts to “own” things? In the past, we’ve covered how New York State is a pretty big trademark bully over the “I ♥ NY” phrase, and did you know that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) claims ownership over the phrase “If you see something, say something”? And, now, we find out that the controversy-ridden Port Authority of NY and NJ appears to be claiming ownership of the NYC skyline. No joke. It apparently sent a cease-and-desist letter to Fishs Eddy, a housewares store in Manhattan that is selling some city themed dishes.

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If corporations really were people, ExamSoft would have to go into hiding right now. Did you see how every New Yorker suddenly had a farm implement or a rifle to deal with Sharknado 2: The Second One last night? That’s what would happen if Mr. ExamSoft was spotted strolling past a group of bar exam takers.

But ExamSoft isn’t a person, it’s a corporation, a corporation that royally screwed up. YOU HAD ONE JOB, ExamSoft, and you didn’t get it done. In America, you are supposed to be able to get your money back when a business screws up this badly. Kids paid between $100 and $150 for software that not only didn’t work but almost ruined their lives. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t going to cut it.

Unfortunately, “I’m sorry” seems to be the only thing ExamSoft is willing to do at the moment…

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I’m a technology geek. I’m cognizant of the argument that a not entirely thought-out prosecution could lead to the suppression of ideas and technology, and I have no desire to do that.

Wesley Hsu, chief of the cybercrime unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, explaining his approach to prosecuting cases. You can check out Kashmir Hill’s interesting profile of Hsu over at Forbes.

Social media is an excellent way for you to nurture relationships with your largest clients. But if you are like 99% of lawyers, you don’t do it.

Some of you have unfounded fears that engaging clients via social media could be unethical, some of you don’t know how to do it, and some of you lack the ambition to try.

Here are nine steps to engaging your top twenty clients via Twitter:

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Often times, lawyers get a reputation as Luddites. Refusing to be up to date with the latest technology, it takes only the smallest set back to have attorneys running back to old fashioned ways. So, I am sure many readers, even those of you not currently taking the bar exam, probably had a visceral reaction when you heard about the extensive tech issues surrounding the July 2014 exam. Lat even called it “the most serious bar disaster I’ve ever covered in the eight years since I started Above the Law.”

Yikes.

Unsurprisingly, if you followed the news on Twitter, there was also a fair amount of schadenfreude from more, ahem, established lawyers crowing about how the low-tech experience of their day was obviously superior. Elie even got into the mix.

But as bad as this whole debacle was (and continues to be) there are still reasons attorneys should reject the Luddite label and embrace technology.

Those of you directly affected by ExamSoftGate should probably wait until the sting wears off before reading…

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