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March 2015 Archives

What Does It Really Take to Get Disbarred?

In the annals of what state bars can do to a lawyer, being disbarred ranks number one on the list. Lawyer TV shows frequently trot out disbarment as a punishment for things like lying to the court or breaking client confidentiality, leading civilians to think that it happens a lot.

Disbarment, though, is pretty rare, and reserved for only the most heinous offenses. Low-level offenders usually just get suspended, and if they did something particularly nasty, the state bar makes them re-take the bar exam.

So what does it really take to get disbarred?

Have you been applying to jobs and not hearing back? Don't worry, that doesn't mean you're a bad candidate. You could just have a resume that needs some serious help.

In the current job market, employers are swamped with eager candidates, so they won't think twice before discarding an applicant. One great way to get your resume trashed? Waste time on things employers don't care about. Here's three of them:

8 Legal Phrases Even Practitioners Might Not Know

There are a lot of legal words that seem obscure to law "civilians," but that lawyers easily recognize and understand. Everyone who went to law school knows res ipsa loquitor, promissory estoppel, and liquidated damages, right?

Right.

Yet, there are still even more obscure words that not even lawyers might know. To some of you out there, these words are obvious -- but probably because you still use them in certain situations. To others in different practice areas, these words are totally unfamiliar or elicit an "I think I learned that once in law school" response.

Welcome to "First Week at the Firm," a new FindLaw feature for beginning associates, focused on helping you navigate the transition into firm life. We hope you'll enjoy this new series and come back regularly for more insider tips.

Finally land the firm job you've been dreaming of? Congrats! You've taken the first steps to fame and fortune in the law world. But there's still work to be done. Let's start with the start: how to make a good first impression.

The gender discrimination trial that captured the attention of Silicon Valley, if not the whole nation, came to a close this Friday after weeks of testimony. Ellen Pao's lawsuit against a storied venture capital firm highlighted what many saw as the subtle forms of discrimination and exclusion that keep women out of some of the most powerful positions in both tech companies and VC firms.

The jury, however, sided with Kleiner. Was Pao just a bad plaintiff with a losing case, or is the boys club back?

You learn a lot in law school. By graduation, the average student will have read thousands of pages of case law, will have spent months on legal writing and maybe will have taken a class on negotiations or other business-based legal skills.

But there are also plenty of skills, skills essential to success as a lawyer, which go untaught. Here's our list of the five of some of the most important skills you don't learn in law school:

Cal. Lawyer Authors Initiative: Kill Gays and Lesbians

We've profiled lawyers behaving badly before, but Matthew McLaughlin ushered in a whole new category earlier this month when he filed a proposal for a voter initiative called the "Sodomite Suppression Act."

The proposed ballot proposition would make it a crime to be gay or lesbian in California, prohibit gays or lesbians from holding public office, and would authorize civilians to "put [gays and lesbians] to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method."

This is horrific on so many levels, we almost don't know where to start. Almost.

It's time for the third edition of the FindLaw Court Website March Madness Tournament, where we pit state and federal court websites against each other to see who will be the victor. Last week, the Federal Circuit barely beat out the Fourth to claim the title of best court website in the South.

Today, we go home, home on the range, to see which of the Great Plains courts have the most aesthetically pleasing, usable, and timely websites.

How to Network at CLEs

Most lawyers don't live for CLEs, to put things mildly. However, there's a lot to be gained from CLEs, beyond whatever educational value they may have. While some CLEs can be solo activities, done in the dark at home, or from your phone on the go, many still bring together practitioners for some old-fashioned face to face learning.

And any gathering of lawyers is a chance to network. Get the most out of your education by using CLEs as a chance to make new connections with your fellow lawyers. Here's how.

If you're contacted by a recruiter, or out searching for jobs on your own, at some point you will probably be asked about your salary history. If you've been raking it in -- well, horray! Whipping out your big paycheck can let potential employers know that you're worth it, at least in the minds of past bosses.

But if you're not making much, or feel like you're underpaid, revealing your salary history can put you at a significant disadvantage when it comes time to negotiate compensation later.

What's a lateral to do?

How to Stay Productive During a Day Full of Meetings

At the office, meetings are the bane of your existence, especially if, for some reason, they're not billable. That means you're spending half an hour to an hour waiting for the meeting to end so you can go bill some time. Your life becomes unbearable if you're spending a whole day in meetings instead of doing billable work.

Meetings don't have to make your day awful, though, and you can still stay productive throughout a day of Meetings That Won't Die. Here are five tips to stay productive even though you're being dragged into a conference room all the time.

Court Website March Madness Tournament: Southern Conference

Last week, we inaugurated the FindLaw Court Website March Madness Tournament, where we use a single-elimination tournament to determine which, among the fifty state supreme courts, thirteen federal circuits, and U.S. Supreme Court, has the best website.

Did SCOTUS win last week? Not even a little. It got trounced in the third round of the Eastern conference by Pennsylvania, which ended up winning the region. This week: the Southern Conference.

Dare we mess with Texas?

Congrats to the 3L's, 4L's and LLM's set to graduate this spring. You're finally ready to start learning about the law -- the actual, nitty-gritty laws of where you expect to practice. It's time for the bar exam.

Complaints over the bar exam are nothing new -- it's too high stakes, it's not an accurate measure of knowledge, it harms diversity, etc. These arguments are getting more attention recently, according to The New York Times, after the 2014 summer bar exams produced the worst results in over a decade.

An attorney in Connecticut has been cited for possession and fined $150 after he dropped a small bag of marijuana on courtroom floor. Attorney Vincent Fazzone was busy representing a client in New London Superior Court, when the bag of pot fell from his back pocket, in full view of the court marshal.

After Fazzone was finished with the judge, the marshal approached and cited him for possession of an illegal substance. The bag contained approximately two ounces of dank weed.

Student debt: It's soul crushing, crippling to recent grads and even slowing down the whole economy. For many students, though, it's also entirely inevitable. Thankfully, U.S. News & World Report, the world's largest list-making conglomerate, has released a new set of rankings. This time, instead of segregating the "Top 16" from the "Third Tier Toilets," caring Internet commenters' shorthand for the highest and lowest ranked law schools, they focused on what really matters -- debt.

One of the list's most surprising revelations? Not that many graduates leave with debts well above $150,000, but that some schools have an average indebtedness of less than a third of that.

FindLaw's 'Court Website Madness' Tournament: Eastern Conference

March Madness is here! And along with March Madness comes brackets and tournaments of all shapes and sizes. Other legal blogs have done the worst law school thing before, so we wondered: Is there any other tournament out there?

Our experience reading through many different court websites led us to an obvious conclusion: Yes, there is. Some state and federal court websites are good, and some are terrible. In order to figure out which is the best, we present FindLaw's Court Website Madness Tournament!

Who do you think should win? Vote in our poll below, then download the tournament bracket (also embedded below) to play along at home.

A Virginia lawyer and politician accused of having sex with his law firm's then-17-year-old receptionist is out of jail, but his legal troubles aren't over yet.

Virginia Delegate Joseph D. Morrissey was released from jail last week -- just in time to be present as his former receptionist gave birth, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Morrissey, a former high school teacher and Georgetown Law grad, served as the Commonwealth's Attorney for Richmond and was later elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. He was accused in 2013 of an having improper relationship with his law firm's teen receptionist. That woman gave birth over the weekend to a healthy baby boy, with Morrissey by her side.

How a St. Patrick's Day DUI Can Impact Law Students

For all you 3Ls out there, March is a confluence of events. You're two months into super not caring about law school anymore, as evidenced by the "Law and Shakespeare" class you're taking just to round out your credit hours. It's also time you started completing your moral fitness application (and truthfully, if you've waited until now, boy, are you going to be waiting for a long time to get the results).

Conveniently, today is also St. Patrick's Day, which means you may inevitably find yourself on the short end of a lot of green-colored beer. Whatever you do, don't drink and drive!

The Board of Directors of the University of Oklahoma's Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter has retained attorney Stephen Jones, best known for representing Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. The hire comes after the chapter was recently barred from campus and evicted from their frat house following the release of video footage of showing members' racist chanting.

In a press conference Friday, Jones said that he had not been retained to initiate litigation, Oklahoma City's KOKH-TV reports. This raises the question: What exactly prompted the disgraced chapter to take on an attorney best known for representing America's most famous, (and reputedly racist) domestic terrorist?

Law school enrollment is down, but the price of a law degree keeps going up. How do the (fewer) aspiring law students plan on paying for their degree? A recent survey by Kaplan, the test prep company, of over 900 potential law students, asked exactly that.

More than a third of potential students, 36 percent of those surveyed, plan on paying their own way, while another 22 percent will foot at least half the bill. Where's the rest of the money coming from? Mom, Dad and Uncle Sam.

Lawyers: How to Handle Behavioral Job-Interview Questions

Behavioral interviewing is becoming more and more common among employers, career website The Ladders reports. What's behavioral interviewing, you ask? Even if you don't know what it is, you've probably experienced it before.

"Tell me about a time where you had to complete a project on a deadline" or "Talk about how you would tell your boss he made a mistake." That's behavioral interviewing, which focuses less on abstract questions and more on getting specific examples of your qualifications.

Here are some techniques you can use at your next behavioral interview:

Is It OK for Lawyers to Have Tattoos, Piercings?

Tattoos and piercings aren't just reserved for sailors and punk rockers anymore. According to a Harris Interactive survey, 22 percent of adults between 18 to 24 and 30 percent of adults 25 to 29 have tattoos -- as well as whopping 38 percent of adults between 30 and 39.

Most women have their ears pierced, but more and more men have a least one ear piercing, and a growing number of people have other facial piercings. In a legal job market that's still not doing so well, could piercings and tattoos be an impediment to getting a job?

Malpractice insurance. It's something most law firm attorneys don't have to think about. They're already covered under their employer's policy.

But contract attorneys don't always have the protection of an employer's malpractice insurance policy. As a contract attorney, do you need your own malpractice insurance?

Cue the lawyerly answer: Maybe.

5 Books Lawyers Should Read on a Sunny Beach This Spring Break

If you're lucky, then you'll soon be going somewhere for spring break (and if you live basically anywhere except out west, you're long overdue for a sunny beach somewhere). It's an opportunity to unwind, but it's also an opportunity to read something that's not a deposition transcript or case law.

Hopefully you've already gone through our suggestions for books to read in the new year, meaning you're ready for some more guidance. As it happens, we coincidentally have some ideas for books you should read on spring break:

Fla. Man Arrives at Lawyer's Office With Murder Victim's Body

Clients come with a lot of baggage, but in this case -- which begins, of course, with "Florida Man" -- the client brought some particularly gnarly literal baggage into his lawyer's office.

John Marshall, the Florida Man in question, allegedly killed his neighbor in self-defense and then drove the body to his lawyer's office. So how does this mesh with the ethical requirement that lawyers safeguard client valuables?

According to James Leipold of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), job prospects for new lawyers are improving. With law school enrollment rates falling 19 percent from the Class of 2013 to the Class of 2017, new law graduates will likely face less competition for jobs.

Where are these new jobs though?

How many of you went to law school thinking you'd be public service attorneys and save the world, or big firm corporate attorneys raking in the dough? Chances are, there is probably going to be a lot of competition for jobs in these popular practice areas.

You may want to think outside of the box and growing practice areas like these:

Your resume is the first impression you make with employers. If it doesn't grab the employer's attention, you'll never get the chance to make your case to them in an interview.

CNN reports that, on average, human resource managers receive more than 75 resumes for each open position. How can you stand out from the crowd?

Consider these five techniques to elevate your resume:

Many people dreamed of the big firm job when they entered law school. But how many considered being a contract attorney?

With hiring for full-time attorney positions down since the recession, many new graduates are turning to contract work as an alternative career path.

Should you consider a career as a contract attorney? Here are some pros and cons:

A friend you knew in law school started his own law firm and is hiring. Congratulations, you have an advantage!

Many employers would prefer to hire someone they know over a stranger. Your lawyer friend knows how wonderfully smart and capable you are. He thinks you'd be a great addition to his law firm. But is it a wise idea to work for a friend?

Of course! But, keep these five tips in mind to maintain your friendship and sanity: