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September 2014 Archives

Ky. Lawyer Gets DUI While Ordering Pizza on Her Smartphone

Lawyers drink. Lawyers drive. A lawyer getting arrested and accused of a DUI ordinarily isn't news.

But Rosanna Heinrichs, 27, of Louisville, Kentucky, just allegedly completed the hat trick of stupidity: On Sunday, she was pulled over for swerving while driving. According to police, she was driving while distracted by her attempts to order Domino's Pizza on her smartphone after drinking.

She admitted to both acts: drinking a half-bottle of wine and a beer before driving and to ordering third-rate pizza on her smartphone, reports Louisville's WDRB-TV. Let's recount her alleged sins, not in judgment or mockery, but as a means to learn from her unfortunate mistakes:

Is Your Legal Writing Terrible? 3 Points to Ponder

Recently in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Steven Pinker -- a professor at Harvard and author of several books about psychology and language -- explained why he thinks academics write so terribly. Poor academic writing comes down to a couple things, including: failure to explain, a desire to hedge, and an overuse of idioms.

Which led us to wonder: Just how bad is your legal writing? Here are three points to think about:

#DearFindLaw: Law School Midterms; Your Virtual Shingle

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

One issue that keeps coming up is the subject of midterms. Typically, it's been the case that law school classes -- particularly doctrinal 1L classes -- centered around a single final exam at the end of the semester.

This is unfair for a couple of reasons: basing an entire semester's performance on a single test on a single day, as well as the fact that 1Ls have never taken a "law school exam" before (though I'm sure Matt McGorry's character on "How to Get Away with Murder" -- you know, the one who "interned for Chief Justice Roberts" the summer before law school? -- has taken multiple practice exams already).

Is an 'Informational Interview' a Waste of Time?

Landing an interview is great. You can impress the interviewer with your penchant for witty quotes from "Spaceballs" and then you're off to the races!

What? It's an informational interview? That sounds like the booby prize of interviews: "Yes, I'll go spend my time to get a guarantee of absolutely nothing in return." Well, maybe. There are varying schools of thought about the informational interview. In the interest of public service -- because, if anything, we're here for you -- here are some things to consider about informational interviews:

'How To Get Away With Murder' Review: Law School, Defense, Hollywood

If you haven't heard, Shonda Rhimes, the artist behind "Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice," and "Scandal," just came out with a law school/legal defense drama: "How To Get Away With Murder." It was the most intrigiuing of our Fall TV/Legal Drama Preview.

It's 1L year. Professor Kingsfield Keating is teaching Criminal Law, or as she likes to call it, "How To Get Away With Murder"! And instead of sticking to the boring Socratic Method, she's going for experiential learning. The best of her 879 (estimated) students will get to work for her criminal defense firm. And, of course, there's a murder case for the first episode.

How does the show stack up in terms of 1L year, real-life law, and Hollywood screenwriting tricks? (Spoilers to follow. Also, some of this will only make sense if you watch the show.)

Statutory Rapist Attorney, 59, Gets Probation in Plea Deal

A statutory rapist attorney in Tennessee has  (We'd say "alleged," but since he just pleaded guilty, we'll drop the niceties.)

Kent Lowery Booher, an attorney who practiced criminal and (shudder) juvenile law, pleaded guilty to statutory rape of a 14-year-old victim earlier this week, reports Knoxville, Tennessee's WBIR-TV. The plea seems like quite a step down from the initial charges, which included charges for producing child pornography.

The deal calls for a three-year probation term for the 59-year-old, plus a minimum of 10 years on the sex offender registration list after that ends.

Nat'l Comic Book Day: Lawyer Comics and Coloring Books

Today is National Comic Book Day! What do lawyers have to do with comic books?

There are lawyers as comic book characters, because who better to don a mask and crusade than a lawyer with an over-inflated ego and sense of purpose? Seriously, Matlock and Jack McCoy are the same archetype as Bruce Wayne, just with more age, more education, and less money.

And then there are the legal issues that arise in comics: premises liability, lawyer-superheroes' duties to clients, good Samaritan laws, and more.

Kan. Gov. Candidate's Strip Club Visit as a Young Lawyer: 3 Questions

So the big news out of my adjacent motherland (I'm a KCMO boy; Kansas is basically the same thing) is that the Democratic candidate for governor, Paul Davis, went to a strip club in 1998. A young lawyer at the time, Davis may have been receiving a lap dance (he was reportedly in the back room with a stripper in a G-string) when the club was raided by police looking for its owner, who was also his law firm's client, The Wichita Eagle reports.

Well, such allegedly "immoral" behavior just won't do. The Republican Governors Association questioned his fitness for office, saying that the incident shows Davis "lacks the proper judgment and character to lead Kansas in the governor's office."

We definitely agree that this incident raises some questions (as well as some lessons for young attorneys who find themselves in similar predicaments). Here are three:

'Fall' Into Place at Your Firm: 5 Tips for New Associates

It's time! Bar review is done. Bar exam is done. It's officially fall, and it's time to get to work.

For many of you, that means heading into the hallowed halls of BigLaw. Others will ply their trade for less pay, but arguably more noble causes. No matter where your shingle is hung, however, you are now joining the ranks of the working legal professionals.

Congratulations. Now don't screw it up. Here are five tips for new fall hires:

Should ABA Allow Paid Externships for Academic Credit? No.

Should the American Bar Association drop its long-standing ban on academic credit for paid externships during law school? That was last week's "Room for Debate" topic over at The New York Times, with two people (a law student an an attorney) arguing in favor of lifting the ban, and one (a professor) arguing for the status quo.

If you're a long-time reader, you know how much I absolutely hate the idea of unpaid internships, though that's more an aversion to employers taking advantage of rising 2Ls and 3Ls who are desperate for resume filler by having them provide actual, valuable labor for free. But this is different: academic credit for an educational experience in a practical setting.

Let's take a look at the pros and cons, and see why lifting the ban is probably a bad idea.

#DearFindLaw: Legal Writing Checklists; the 3-2-1 Study Method

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

#DearFindLaw: It's like Dear Abby, but for masochists masquerading as legal scholars.

What are this week's topics? The first is all about revising your legal writing (especially in law school) using checklists. Also, a wise man in a warm, humid place wants to know what a "3-2-1" study schedule is.

Ruth Bader Hipster Makes Us Rethink Lawyers' Eyewear Choices

A few days ago, the topic of the day in the legal world was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's comments about gay marriage and the Sixth Circuit: If they create a circuit split, it ups the urgency for the Supreme Court to take on the issue.

While others were debating the importance and propriety of her comments, I was debating something else: her glasses. Did anyone else notice the debut of Justice Ruth Bader Hipster, whose new thick, black glasses scream: "Straight Outta Brooklyn"?

We kid, of course -- her new, trendy choice of eyewear looks way better than her old set of frames. But it did inspire some musing about different styles of eyeglasses for lawyers, and what those spectacles say about the person wearing them:

5 Lessons From the Lawyer Suspended for Fake Pics With Celebrities

Earlier today, we covered the best damn disciplinary opinion we've ever read, mostly due to the contributions of the defendant herself, Svitlana Sangary. (Quick recap: Sangary got busted for posting fake pictures of herself with celebrities on the "Publicity" page of her law firm's website.)

Sangary's philosophies on life, determination, and strength were so inspiring that we figured we'd share what we learned with all of you young attorneys out there, just starting out in the world.

Just remember: "Wikipedia [and FindLaw] describe it. SANGARY exemplifies it." Here are five takeaways:

Defense Lawyer Dresses as Thomas Jefferson for Discipline Hearing

When faced with an allegation that you ineffectively represented your client, do you (a) vehemently deny it or (b) begrudgingly accept it?

How about (c): Dress up as Thomas Jefferson and appear before the state Supreme Court to talk about how the First Amendment protects your terrible judgment?

That's the answer Ira Dennis Hawver chose. Hawver represented Phillip D. Cheatham Jr. in a capital murder case in 2005. Cheatham was convicted and sentenced to death, but the Kansas Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 2013, finding ineffective assistance of counsel.

Remembering Dan Markel: FSU Holds Memorial for Slain Law Professor

Yesterday, Florida State University College of Law held a memorial service for the late Professor Dan Markel. In addition to teaching, Markel was a well-known legal blogger who founded the widely read PrawfsBlawg.

Markel, 41, was shot and killed in his garage in Tallahassee, Florida, on July 18. His murder remains unsolved.

Job Prospects Are Grim; Should You Move? 5 Things to Consider

With job prospects still fairly grim for recent law graduates, you might be asking yourself, "Should I move somewhere else?"

It's a decision fraught with questions if you don't have a job offer, and even more fraught with them if you do. Where should you move? And is it a good idea?

Here are five things you may want to consider:

5 Classic Con Law Cases Made Easy for 1Ls

In honor of Constitution Day, which is -- in my opinion -- the real birthday of the United States, we'll help all you 1Ls in your Constitutional Law studies by discussing five classic Con Law cases. Here we go:

1. Marbury v. Madison (1803).

Marbury started it all; and by "it," I mean "judicial review," which is nowhere to be found in the Constitution and otherwise appears only in The Federalist 78. The facts of the case are hopelessly irrelevant; all that matters is that, in Marbury, Chief Justice John Marshall declared, first of all, why the new country's Supreme Court exists in the first place: "It is emphatically the duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is." He went on to articulate what is basically the foundation of constitutional law: When the Constitution conflicts with a lower law, the Constitution wins. Believe it or not, before Marbury, that was up in the air.

Roundtable: What's Your Favorite Constitutional Amendment?

Welcome to Constitution Week at FindLaw! Why this week, of all weeks? Because during this week in 1787 (on September 17, to be exact), the U.S. Constitution was signed by attendees of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

Of course, the original draft had a few imperfections -- no Bill of Rights, the three-fifths compromise, and slavery, for example -- but the foundation was solid.

That being said, we're glad the Constitution has a built-in editing function. Here are our staff members' favorite fixes (amendments) to the U.S. Constitution:

#DearFindLaw: What Is an Attack Outline? How Do You Make One?

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

Welcome, folks, to another exciting edition of #DearFindLaw Fridays. Today's topic? Attack outlines.

We know. Contain yourself. We promise: This won't be too exciting.

And for those of you (lawyers, law students, pre-law folks) with questions about anything (law school, finances, student loans, tech choices for firms, Syria and ISIS), you can tweet us @FindLawLP and we'll try to give you a hand in our next weekly column.

10 Dos and Don'ts for Law Firm Happy Hours

Drinking. It sure is fun, isn't it? It's as much a part of the common law as misprision. Lawyers drink, and soon enough, there will be a happy hour consisting of you and your fellow awkward associates, plus a partner or two.

How do you survive such alcohol-fueled social interactions with other human beings after spending the last four months in Supermax (aka your law firm cubicle)? Here are some "dos and don'ts" to get you started:

5 Movies That Make Lawyers Look Great

Yesterday, we brought you five lawyer movies that make lawyers look just awful. When they're not murdering, they're lying. When they're not lying, they're discriminating. When they're not discriminating, they're literally The Devil.

So now it's time to take a look at lawyers in a good light: upholding truth and justice when no one else will. Here are five lawyer movies that make lawyers look really good. Once again, spoiler alert!

5 Movies That Make Lawyers Look Awful

"What do you call a thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the sea?" Answer: "A good start." Har har har. Lawyers are just awful, aren't they? At least you'd think so after watching these five movies, all of which make lawyers look pretty bad (and in one case, literally the devil).

To be fair, this is the first in a two-part series (we'll look at positive lawyer depictions tomorrow). For now, though, here are five movies that make lawyers look terrible. (Needless to say, spoiler alerts!)

Lawyer's 'Torture Porn' Past Pops Up in Pa. Governor's Race

You probably couldn't care less about Tom Wolf's gubernatorial campaign in Pennsylvania. Truth is, he leads by double digits -- so having some lawyer who once starred in a so-called "torture porn" film appear in an otherwise unremarkable campaign commercial on his behalf will probably not affect things too much.

Besides, the campaign is pulling and editing the ad after Buzzfeed dug up the 2013 horror film.

But, as you might expect, our eyes are on the attorney, Alan Benyak, who starred in "Breeding Farm" as Mr. Cannibal, a lawyer playing a lawyer (married to a lawyer). Another co-star? Also a local lawyer in real life.

5 Things to Leave off Your Legal Resume

It's a tough legal job market out there, and you might be tempted to do some crazy, overzealous things with your resume.

Or maybe you just don't know what should go on a resume when it comes to looking for a legal job. Whatever your motivations might be, here are five things you should probably leave on the cutting room floor:

1st-Year Salaries On the Rise? Alas, That Doesn't Mean More Jobs

After years of remaining flat, could first-year associate salaries be moving upward? The Legal Intelligencer reported last week that a DLA Piper office in Philadelphia was paying first-year associates $160,000 -- that's standard for firms in big markets like New York and Los Angeles, but it's an increase from the $145,000 that's been the norm in Philly.

It's not just limited to DLA Piper or Pennsylvania. Reed Smith, which has been paying under-market rates in Manhattan, is going to up its first year associates' salaries to $160,000 effective January 1, 2015, reported New York Law Journal. The ABA Journal, citing the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), saw the median salary for new law graduates in 2014 rise to $95,000 from $90,000 a year ago.

What does this all mean for new and aspiring lawyers?

A Lawyer's Guide to Fall TV: The Verdict on 3 New Legal Dramas

History is littered with the carcasses of legal dramas -- good ones, like "Boston Legal" and "Ally McBeal," and bad ones, like "Harry's Law" or "Law and Order: Cancun" (kidding ... or am I?). This fall, unsurprisingly, there will be a ton of new shows botching the law on primetime. Thankfully, some (anyone remember "Rake"?) have already been cancelled.

So what's left? These are the new shows on the block, the proverbial 1Ls that haven't dropped out yet. Maybe they will get cancelled within a few episodes, or maybe, despite enduring mediocrity, they'll last forever (like "Grey's Anatomy").

Here's our take on three legal TV shows for Fall 2014:

#DearFindLaw: Outlining Tips; Damn You Socrates!

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

Another week, more 1L questions. We feel for y'all -- these first few months are downright terrifying, aren't they?

Our first question is about outlining: how, when, why? And another reader, fresh off his first Socratic smackdown, complete with a warning that he'd be "on call" next class, wants to know why -- why do they do this to students?

Can We Talk About Joan Rivers? 5 Life Lessons for Lawyers

Another week, another comic lost. This time it was Joan Rivers, who died Thursday following complications from a minor medical procedure that left her in cardiac arrest. Rivers was 81.

Joan Rivers was a trailblazer, starting out as a female comic in an era where everyone else -- except maybe Phyllis Diller -- was a man. Because she had to wade through a lot on the road to stardom, Joan Rivers can offer some lessons for lawyers when it comes to perseverance and humor.

Here are five things lawyers can learn from the way Rivers lived her life:

5 Classic Property Cases Made Easy for 1Ls

In property class, things are not always what they seem. American Indians don't own land, people can steal foxes willy-nilly (but not whales), and a fertile octogenarian will always pop up to spoil your day.

To help prepare you for the inevitable migraine you'll face from learning common law property rules -- only to be told they aren't followed anymore -- here are five "classic" property law cases made simple for 1Ls:

33 Ways to Make Money While Your Legal Career Is in Limbo

I was originally going to title this "75 ways to make money while delusionally hoping that your legal career will become something important." Alas, I got really bored at around suggestion No. 33.

So "33 Ways to Make Money While Your Legal Career is in Limbo" it is. If you're waiting on bar results, job applications, interviews, federal and state hiring freezes ... whatever it is, these may help.

Read 'em and weep. Seriously, let it out. You probably aren't the next Clarence Darrow (or Clarence Thomas for that matter).

Law School Price Cuts: What's the Real Story?

There was an interesting piece in The Wall Street Journal yesterday: a few law schools cut tuition and their enrollment numbers rebounded from the dismal depths of last year, with little impact to their admissions standards.

Which schools? The WSJ cites three that cut the sticker price: the University of Iowa College of Law (#27 per USNWR), Roger Williams University (Rank Not Published per USNWR), and the University of La Verne College of Law (Unranked per USNWR) and a fourth that introduced a grant for in-state residents, Pennsylvania State University's Dickinson School of Law (#51 per USNWR).

Is this the cure for student loan debt and decreased law school demand?

American U's Law Scholarship Fine Print is Draconian, Hilarious

Dear Future Law Students:

Here's your first (obvious) lesson in the law: always check the fine print.

American University's Washington College of Law offers a scholarship, ahem, "tuition discount" to incoming 1Ls who are focused on public interest. But, as Prof. Paul Campos points out, there are some pretty significant strings attached, strings that could leave you owning six figures to the American Washington Bald Eagle Patriotic Adjectives School of Law.

5 Classic Contracts Cases Made Easy for 1Ls

First-year contracts class is where some of the most classic law school cases can be found. Hairy hands? Chicken? You'll remember these wacky situations years later.

So let's take a quick break from the case books and try a somewhat more entertaining approach to a few of the all-time classic cases from Contracts...