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August 2014 Archives

#DearFindLaw: Legal Writing is a Freaking Nightmare

#DearFindLaw - Advice for New Lawyers and Law Students from @FindLawLP

Everyone goes into law school worried about class: cold-calling, reading for class, case briefing, supplements, any prep possible to avoid being embarrassed in front of 120 classmates.

But do you know what law school is really about, besides Socratic mental torture? Writing. Legal writing class, clinical work, and well-written final exams. And for most people, writing isn't their strength. That's why this week's #DearFindlaw questions came as no surprise.

Don't worry folks: you will get better at legal writing, and you'll get used to the funny citation style. Just give it time and a lot of practice.

5 Classic Civil Procedure Cases Made Easy for 1Ls

Hello, there, 1Ls! It's time for civil procedure -- a class you'll either love or hate. By the end of this course, if you hear "sufficient minimum contacts" one more time, you're going to want to strangle someone.

To help lower the tension in the room, here are five "classic" civil procedure cases. They all involve personal jurisdiction, so there's a hint for what's likely to be important on the final exam.

5 Classic Criminal Law Cases Made Simple for 1Ls

Yesterday, we recounted five "classic" torts cases that 1Ls will surely see in the year ahead. Today, here are five classic criminal law cases to get you excited for murder and ... well, basically murder.

1. R. v. Dudley and Stephens (Queen's Bench, 1884).

I like to call this one "cannibalism on the high seas," a classic from English common law. Dudley, Stephens, Parker, and Brooks were shipwrecked and had run out of food. Dudley and Stephens killed Parker and the three remaining men ate his body to survive. Once rescued, Dudley and Stephens confessed to the murder, believing that resorting to cannibalism was a "custom of the sea." At trial, they advanced the defense of necessity; i.e., they had to kill Parker in order to survive. The court held, however, that necessity could not be a defense to murder in this situation and that even shipwrecked, Dudley and Stephens' obligation was to sacrifice their own lives rather than kill another.

5 Classic Torts Cases Made Simple for 1Ls

Welcome to 1L torts class! In case you're wondering, "tort" is an Old French word meaning "very lengthy negligence fact pattern." You'll spend the next year reading many cases about old ladies falling down, whether it's at their own homes, on a railroad platform, or in a slippery parking lot.

To get you in the mood, here are five "classic" torts cases that you're going to be seeing real soon:

'The Simpsons': 5 Best Courtroom Scenes (and Lessons for Lawyers)

Hi, I'm Mark Wilson! You may remember me from such Greedy Associates blog posts as "What's for Lunch? 5 Foods That Won't Put You to Sleep" and "Post-Bar Blues? Join a Bar Committee!"

With so many great lawyer characters in "The Simpsons" (Lionel Hutz, the Blue-Haired Lawyer, and Judge Snyder, just to name a few), we thought we'd cash in on cable TV network FXX's "#EverySimpsonsEver" marathon to remember some of the Best. "Simpsons" courtroom scenes. Ever.

Here are our Top 5 -- along with a few lawyerly takeaways:

Univ. of Ariz. Adds Undergrad Law Degree. Here's Why You Don't Care.

You might think: "What a great idea -- an undergrad law degree!" After all, isn't this what the rest of the world is doing?

True, except their degrees actually have value, career-wise. An Irishman with an undergraduate law degree can go on to practice -- but these folks can't (unless they're in a 'reading the law' state).

The University of Arizona just launched the nation's first B.A. in Law*, a degree that teaches legal concepts and analytical skills to undergraduates. But it's a degree in law that won't allow you to become a lawyer (unless, of course, you go on to law school).

Which is why you probably don't care.

A Lawyer's Guide to Burning Man: 5 Things You Should Know

We're quickly approaching that magical time of the year called Burning Man, when progressive artist-types leave town for a week. (Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, that means you can finally get a table for brunch in under an hour.)

If you're a lawyer headed out to the Nevada desert -- or even if you're staying put -- you may have some burning questions about the legal environment at Burning Man.

Even if you don't, here are five Burning Man facts that lawyers may appreciate:

#DearFindLaw: Study Supplements, Outgunning Gunners

#DearFindLaw - Advice for New Lawyers and Law Students from @FindLawLP

Happy Friday!

Today's #DearFindLaw is all about the first few days of law school. Gunners are gunnin', answering questions (often incorrectly) like they think they're teaching the class, outlining their whole casebook before class even begins, and memorizing 57 study supplements.

What's a "normal" student to do?

What's for Lunch? 5 Foods That Won't Put You to Sleep

You know the feeling: after a hearty "business lunch," you return to the office only to realize that you're staring out the window, having trouble concentrating, and slumping a little in your chair. I'll just rest my eyes for a few quick ...

And then you're out. The post-lunch blahs are awful -- until they're remedied by the post-blah Starbucks. What is one to do?

Try eating these five things for lunch instead.

Dude Gets Law Review Cite as a Tattoo. We Have Other Ideas.

This is fun: Above the Law just ran a caption contest on a photo of some dude's (or very hairy lady's) leg, which is now adorned with a tattoo of a law review citation: 11 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 827 (2014).

We (read: I) have nothing better to do with our lives, so we dug up the article, the author, and then wondered what other terrible law-related things people could get tatted on their bodies. Because, you know, nothing says "legal professional" like a citation, or a scale, or Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's portrait in the form of a tramp stamp.

7 Things to Do With Your Old Casebooks (Besides Sell Them)

Well, law school is over. The bar exam is over. And yet you still have a pile of casebooks from 3L year -- as well as a smaller pile from previous years you couldn't get rid of because the federal rules advisory committees have to change the rules every single year!

Sure, you could sell these books and make about 18 cents on the dollar, but that takes time and it's no fun at all. Instead, consider these seven more creative uses for Chemerinsky's Con Law book. Plus, it's an excuse to use power tools.

3 Ways to Get Practice Experience Straight Out of School

Practice-ready, for the most part, is a myth. Yeah, you may do some clinical work, but it's a whole different game when you don't have a professor double-checking all of your work, and when you have to handle everything, from intake to trial to appeal, all on your own.

So how do you go solo out of school without crashing, burning, and ending up as the defendant in a malpractice suit? Here are a three ideas for getting practical experience, listed from best to worst:

Another DIY Legal Website Sued Over Unauthorized Practice of Law

Another website is testing the boundaries of what constitutes "legal advice" -- in much the same way your friends criticize you and then walk it back with, "Just sayin'."

Pro Se Planning Inc. operates websites where non-lawyers can fill in some forms and get customized legal paperwork. Except that allegedly, they don't always work. Latoisha Van Buren is suing Pro Se Planning in Louisiana, Courthouse News Service reports, because "the company is not licensed to practice law in Louisiana and any contracts for legal services with nonlawyers in the state 'are absolutely null.'" (An employee with Pro Se Planning declined to comment to CNS about the suit, which seeks class certification and an injunction.)

What could this website possibly be offering that's so offensive to our noble profession? I put on my hazmat suit and ventured to their website to plan my perfect divorce.

5 Common Legal Resume Myths Dispelled

It's a dog-eat-lawyer world out there, and resumes can make a world of difference. But there are many myths about legal resumes that you'll want to dispel.

Resumes, of course, are how you get your foot in the door. But don't treat them as the be-all, end-all of getting a job; as Business News Daily points out, "A good resume will get you an interview." The rest is up to you.

When it comes to resumes, the truth is that there is no one "correct" way to craft them. There are, however, five bits of advice that either don't matter or have outlived their time. Here's what lawyers and law students need to know:

If there's one universal goal among all students, especially law students who have to deal with "the Socratic Method," it is not to look stupid in class.

When I originally thought of this post, I was going to write it with 1Ls in mind, but then I realized that these lessons are applicable to all law students. It's just that if you are a 2L or 3L, you may have learned some of these lessons the hard way.

Here are three tried and true ways not to look stupid in class:

#DearFindLaw: 1L Orientation, Stuck in a Dead-End Career

#DearFindLaw - Advice for New Lawyers and Law Students from @FindLawLP

Greetings from Louisiana, where I got to laugh along as my brother spent $300 on a single Contracts casebook -- what in the blue-bound hell is academia coming to when a textbook costs more than my second car? At least he isn't paying California rent.

Speaking of law school orientation, one of our regular readers wants to know what to expect when he enters those hallowed halls. (Hint: It's mere puffery.) And another desperate and anonymous reader wants to know what exactly he should do about his dead-end job.

Here's our take on those topics in this week's edition of #DearFindLaw:

Law Suits: 3 Tips for Finding a Suit That Fits

Whether you're a seasoned 3L looking to diversify your wardrobe (or you need a new wardrobe after three years of lunchtime "pizza provided" meetings and lectures), a 2L looking to start your wardrobe, or an honest, no-foolin' lawyer who hasn't bought a new suit in years, the fact is: You need a suit. (It actually is necessary to keep up with contemporary styles so that you don't look like you bought your suit in the 1970s.)

We come in all different shapes and sizes (full disclosure: Your author is a spindly gentleman), and as it turns out, not buying a suit right off the rack is difficult for many people.

For those of us who don't have the same proportions as mannequins, where do you find a suit that fits? Here are three practical tips:

As "Shark Week" is coming to a close, and as we've spent most of "Legal Shark Week" co-opting the term, part of me wonders why lawyers can't be analogized to more sympathetic creatures, like kittens or koala bears.

So let's take a bite out of the "lawyer shark" stereotype. Here are our Top 5 choices for other animals -- some wise, some magical -- that we'd rather be called than sharks:

On Monday, we lost one our most beloved comedians and actors, Robin Williams. From my earliest memories, he has been an entertainer that has always brought a smile to my face -- and undoubtedly, yours as well.

There are so many lessons we can take away from his passing, but we want to remember him for the comedic (and dramatic) genius he was. To celebrate that, we look to some of his famous roles as lessons for young attorneys.

Want to Be a Shark? 5 Qualities to Look for in a Law School

If you have your sights set on being the next great lawyer shark, what law school should you go to? Sure everyone's heard of Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia, but are they great at everything? Sometimes, it turns out they're not, though they're definitely good for getting a BigLaw job.

Perhaps you want to be a shark in a particular field, like trial work or public interest law. As it turns out, when you want to specialize, or if you're looking to sharpen a particular skill, the T14 may not always be the best.

For all you wannabe sharks, here are five qualities to consider in a law school:

Post-Bar Blues? Join a Bar Committee!

Well, the bar exam is over, and you have nothing else to do except look for gainful employment, get a post-bar fellowship, and fret about whether or not you passed. While you're doing all that, you might as well do some networking. Is there something beyond law school alumni functions and bar association happy hours?

I'm glad you asked, because yes, there is: bar association committees!

New lawyers and lawyers-to-be often overlook the simple elegance of the bar association committee. It has everything you could ever want: leadership possibilities, networking with lawyers in your practice area, and a lovely bunch of stuff you can put on your resume.

A Legal Shark Week Playlist: 12 Tunes to Sink Your Teeth Into

When my editor tossed out the idea of a "Legal Shark Week" playlist, I jumped on it, like a shark on a bleeding dolphin.

Why? Not only is the Grouplove song "Shark Attack" one of my current favorites, but music is how I get pumped. About to head to court? Working out? Fighting writer's block? In any of these scenarios, I'm probably listening to loud, loud music.

The real challenge, however, is creating a playlist that appeals to all sorts of folks -- an especially large challenge for me, due to my narrow and unique musical tastes. Fortunately, with the help of FindLaw's resident D.J. and a few other shark-related playlists, I was able to piece together a 12-track playlist. And if you have any suggestions, I've made the playlist open and collaborative on Spotify, so jump in and add your favorites.

Legal Shark Week: Which Type of Shark Are You?

Like it or not, Discovery's "Shark Week" is upon us again. And since lawyers are often referred to as "sharks," what better way to get into the spirit of FindLaw's second annual "Legal Shark Week" than for you to see which type of shark you are?

Like lawyers, sharks come in all shapes and sizes. There are even highly specialized sharks. There are transactional sharks and litiga -- well, maybe sharks don't work that way.

Why didn't the shark eat the lawyer? Professional courtesy. But we digress. Check out these five types of sharks to see which species you most closely resemble:

#DearFindLaw: Prioritizing Assignments, Unexpected 1L Necessities

#DearFindLaw - Advice for New Lawyers and Law Students from @FindLawLP

What's up readers? Welcome to another edition of #DearFindLaw, an advice column for all young lawyers and pre-lawyers. (We recognize that the past few weeks have been all law school, all the time, but optimistic starry-eyed 1Ls are our favorite people, and they ask more questions. If you're a post-L and have a question, just hit us up on Twitter.)

What's on tap this week? One of our regular readers wants to know how seriously he should take his first 1L assignments (every assignment is life or death!), while my soon-to-be-1L brother is packing his car for the move and is curious about unexpected necessities.

Where Did Ally McBeal Go to Law School? 9 Fictional TV Lawyers' Alma Maters

Where did Ally McBeal go to law school? TV shows depicting lawyers typically start in the middle of a fictional attorney's career, so there is often little mention of their humble beginnings.

But long before Perry Mason and Ben Matlock (yes, his first name is Ben) were cracking psyches in the courtroom, they were presumably cracking books in a law library.

We've done the hard Internet research for you on this one, so check out where Ally McBeal and these other fictional TV attorneys (supposedly) went to law school:

From the Predictability Department: ExamSoft Sued Over 'Barmageddon'

Baloney isn't just at the deli counter. Following last week's overhyped ExamSoft "barmageddon" story, Above the Law posted that law firms were actively "trawling" for class representatives in preparation for the inevitable lawsuits. You know how cartoon characters get dollar signs in their eyes? I imagine it's a lot like that.

Jay Edelson, of Edelson PC in Chicago, broke through the tape to become the first lawyer to file a class action against ExamSoft.

5 Tips to Make the Most of Your 3L Year

One more year. Well, one more year and bar review, but still, it's almost over.

For rising 3Ls, it's time to work on your golf game, and your brown-nosing game. You need to find a job, obviously, especially if you didn't get offered after 2L summer. And oh yeah, there's class, which you'll totally take seriously.

Nine more months. Twelve, if you count bar review. As our series of Back to (Law) School Week blog posts continues, here are five tips to make the most of your 3L year:

20 Questions With 3L Laura Puleo, a 'Miss Virginia' Contender

We often talk about lawyers who do strange things with (or in spite of) their legal education: spirit healers, musicians, and startup titans are just some of the roads less traveled.

But a beauty pageant contestant? Laura Puleo is the first we've heard of, and of course, she goes to the greatest law school in America -- Washington and Lee, where this blogger also went to school.

I emailed 20 questions to Puleo -- who's set up a page on GoFundMe (after all, student loan payments don't leave a lot of leftover cash for pageant gowns and the like) -- about her two paths: aspiring lawyer and Miss Virginia contestant. Here are her answers:

Last-Minute Law School Offers: Be Flexible, Feed on Desperation!

One of my friends just got a last-minute offer from a top law school willing to admit him as a transfer student, thanks to credits he'd banked from a one-year program as an exchange student years ago. He's weighing that against competitive offers from other schools, while waiting on at least one more school to make up its mind.

There's what, a week left until school starts? Crazy. Stressful. Exciting!

Another friend? Just got into a school in his home state. He has placed deposits at a law school 3,000 miles away and signed a lease. He has about three days to weigh his options and make a decision (and perhaps prod the schools for more money) until he is scheduled to depart for the East Coast.

What should you do if you get a last-minute offer? Here are some tips:

Congratulations! You made it through your first year of law school. Some liken the first year to hell, others to bootcamp; regardless what you call it, you accomplished your goal and got through the first year. So you're probably thinking... "now what?"

Well, we're here to tell you. And just in case you thought the hard work was over, boy were you wrong.

As FindLaw for Legal Professionals' Back to (Law) School Week continues, here are five tips for you to make the most out of your 2L year, and your budding legal career:

BigLaw Partner's Sanction for Bad Behavior at Depos: Make a Video

Ask any litigator: What's the most annoying part of the case? Discovery. And more specifically, depositions.

"Objection. Objection. Asked and answered. Objection. I need to speak with [coach] my client."

You get the point. It sucks. And we're not the only ones who have noticed. A federal judge, fed up with the "state of discovery in modern federal civil litigation," issued a sua sponte sanctions order against a BigLaw partner after reviewing the depositions in the case. Even better? The creative sanction wasn't cash. (H/T to Above the Law.)

5 Tips to Make the Most of Your 1L Year

Welcome to FindLaw for Legal Professionals' Back to (Law) School Week!

Each day this week, we'll present a different blog post geared to acclimate you to the fact that summer vacation is almost over. From all you terrified 1Ls to bored 3Ls, there's something different for everyone to learn in the weeks leading up to law school.

Today, we offer our Top 5 tips for 1Ls to make the most out of their first year in law school:

#DearFindLaw: Best Law School Backpacks, Buying or Renting Books

#DearFindLaw - Advice for New Lawyers and Law Students from @FindLawLP

Today's #DearFindLaw advice column is all about junk in the trunk, aka hauling your crap to class. A reader asks us for recommendations for backpacks, an important consideration considering the size and quantity of expensive casebooks law students will be hauling back-and-forth to class, not to mention your irreplaceable notes stored on your expensive laptop.

And speaking of casebooks, another reader wants our advice on procuring casebooks: buy or rent, finding cheaper casebooks, and getting casebooks before your financial aid checks clear.

Going solo out of school? Spend more time developing practice skills and leave the marketing work for the experts.