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June 2015 Archives

Welcome to First Week at the Firm, a 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.

Sure, in law school you studied the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, probably criminal procedure, too. You might have even seen some state rules on ethics or jurisdiction. But nothing beats local rules.

Local rules are the court-specific rules governing your practice in a particular jurisdiction and you likely never really learned about them until you started practicing. These rules matter, though -- controlling everything from where to file your suit to how to move for summary judgment. Here's how to handle them:

The bar exam is just about a month away. One month. If you aren't starting to feel the pressure now, you should be. But you don't need to start pulling your hair out just yet. You've got plenty of time to shore up your strengths and deal with your weaknesses.

Here's some milestones you should be encountering in your bar study, just a month before the exam:

The Uniform Bar Exam is about to get more, well, uniform. The UBE, which provides one test and one score but portability to the 16 different states what accept it, was recently adopted by New York. The Empire State's 15,000-some bar examinees will sit for the UBE for the first time next summer.

Those New Yorkers, along with Alaskans, Coloradans, and Alabamans, may be getting some company from the Best Coast -- if legal academics have their say. Law professors from throughout California are currently pushing for the state to adopt the UBE, according to the Los Angeles Times.

May you live in interesting times, the old Chinese curse goes. Interesting times these are, with rapid judicial and societal shifts, particularly around gay rights and same-sex marriage -- and only Scalia would view that as a curse.

This morning's Supreme Court declaration that the fundamental right to marriage extends to same-sex couples highlights just how much things have changed in such little time.

If Justice Antonin Scalia is known as one of the Supreme Court's most flamboyant writers, Justice Elana Kagan is sure giving him a run for his money. Already praised for her conversational writing style, Kagan's writing is also gaining a reputation for its clever humor -- and humorous citations.

Case in point: Kimble v. Marvel Entertainment. The case involved patent law and Superman figurines and gave the Justice ample opportunity to play off the case's "comic" nature.

A former University of North Dakota IL is suing the law school for having the temerity to kick him out. UND Law wrongly subjected his application to excessive, retroactive scrutiny, exercised institutional bias against him, and dismissed him without due process, according to the pro se complaint by ex-student Garet Bradford.

What could ever cause the relationship between a 1L and his law school to sour so badly? According to Bradford, the conspiracy against him was set afoot after he simply refused to take an unfair quiz.

Get ready, New York lawyers. The Empire State is updating its social media guidelines. The new set of guidelines, prepared by the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section, seeks to update its policy given the increasing importance of social media in lawyers' practice, advertising, and free time.

The new guidelines are almost twice as long as the New York State Bar's previous social media policy. The biggest change? Lawyers can no longer stick their head in the sand -- understanding social media is a now a must for all New York attorneys.

Welcome to "First Week at the Firm," a 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.

Your first week at the firm will probably find you worrying about your work load and stressed about performance as you start getting this whole lawyering thing down. But don't forget to make sure you have everything settled down HR-wise as well.

If your firm is large enough to have an HR department, swing by. HR can help set you up with direct deposit, employer contributions to your retirement plan, free gym memberships, and more. You've just got to know what to ask them. Here are five questions every new associate should ask their HR department:

Litigation is expensive -- really expensive. The cost of going to trial is one of the great motivators for settling, behind only the unpredictability of a jury.

Just how expensive a trial can be is easy for lawyers to forget. But, as Above the Law recently pointed out, normal people can still be shocked. A prime example is Peter Sterne, a writer for Politico's Capital New York, who amusingly found the cost of expert witnesses to be newsworthy.

Should Lawyers Marry Each Other?

Popular wisdom seems to indicate that lawyers fall someplace along the spectrum between petty thief and outright psychopath. If this stereotype holds true, then asking whether you should marry a lawyer is like asking whether you should marry a cold-blooded serial killer.

According to Forbes, psychopaths are most highly attracted to the job titles of CEO and, indeed, lawyer. So, stereotypes hold at least some weight. However, there are still many good reasons why lawyers should consider marrying each other.

Early in Tony Kushner's "Angels in America," the lawyer and arch-villain Roy Cohn, multitasking between phone calls, sandwiches, and an interview, declares "I wish I was an octopus, a f---ing octopus. Eight loving arms and all those suckers." That sentiment would be shared with more than a few other lawyers. Imagine, three arms for billing clients, two to check your stocks, another for booking theater ticket and one for patting yourself on the back. Sounds great, right?

Not for some lawyers. Many lawyers and law firms are moving away from frantically paced legal work and adopting a philosophy of "mindfulness," according to The Wall Street Journal. For lawyers practicing mindfulness, two arms are plenty -- and they are almost as likely to be occupied by meditation as memo-writing.

It's no big news that many associates are overworked, staying in the office too long and too late in an effort to plow through their high workload and make their billable hour quotas. Most associates are familiar with working on a brief or filing until the very last minute before a deadline, which, now that documents can be filed online, is often the last second before midnight.

Generally, associates grin and bear it while the rest of the legal world looks away. That's not the case in one Ohio federal courtroom. When two associates in an antitrust case asked for a midnight extension, a federal judge decided this was a good chance to turn the request into a "teachable moment." The lesson? Man, your lives really suck.

If you're a law student or recent graduate, you're probably aware by now that finding legal work that pays can be difficult. For a law student looking to gain important legal experience, or young lawyers just starting out, it can be tempting to offer your services for free.

We're not talking pro bono representation of the indigent here, but unpaid internships, volunteer attorney positions, and no-cost legal services for otherwise paying customers. Should you ever do it?

Bad news for Giggles the pig: her race for mayor in Flint, Michigan has come to an early end.

The "Giggles for Flint Mayor" campaign on Facebook was led by Michael Ewing, a trial lawyer in Michigan. Ewing launched the campaign in response to a mistake by the city clerk that would have denied several candidates from being listed on the ballot. After a short-lived campaign, Giggles' point was heard and it's back to pig-free business as usual in local politics.

Welcome to "First Week at the Firm," a 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.

Welcome to the firm! Mind doing my laundry, grabbing my kids from school, and bringing me a coffee? Yes, it is pretty unlikely you'll be greeted with these questions (if you are, congratulations on being one of the world's highest paid gophers). But sooner or later, you will probably get an inappropriate work request, something that just doesn't sit right.

An inappropriate work request might come your first week at the firm, or your second year, but odds are it will come, sooner or later. How should you respond?

The criminal justice system may never be perfect, but maybe it's a little better following the disbarment of DA Charles Sebesta, Jr., the man who wrongfully sent Anthony Graves to death row.

The Anthony Graves case made just about everyone skeptical of the criminal justice system. What sort of system allows a completely innocent man to found guilty of murdering six people? Although Graves was exonerated, the facts of the case only came to light due to an unlikely chain of events.

Cesar Vargas came to the U.S. illegally at the age of five. His status as an undocumented immigration didn't stop him from pursuing a career in the law.

Undocumented aliens generally aren't able to obtain professional licenses in the U.S. The Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department reviewed Varaga's case. In the context of Obama's immigration reform policies, the state appeals court granted Varaga admittance to the New York Bar.

The Magna Carta, that "Great Charter" which first codified fundamental rights such as due process, speedy trials and trial by jury, turns 800 this Monday. The document, which helped settle a dispute between the English monarchy and rebelling nobility in 1215, gave rise to modern rule of law, constitutions and at least one royal beheading.

What better way to celebrate the Magna Carta's 800 years than with 800 American lawyers? And no, they won't be the victims of human sacrifice on the fields of Runnymede, they'll just be attending a conference -- a very historical conference.

This article begs the question: "Do lawyers still need business cards?" The simple answer is, "Yes you do." Just as your profiles on LinkedIn or FindLaw connect you to the digital realm, your business card connects you to the physical realm (which is still a part of reality, last I checked...).

These dos and don'ts will help you make a great business card and use it to further the success of your law practice.

Working at a big firm this summer? Congrats! Summer associate positions aren't easy to come by. You've had to work hard to land the spot and you'll work hard throughout it. But, it's not like a summer associate position isn't without its perks.

Indeed, while you should treat the summer as a season-long interview, the firm will also be trying to sell itself to you. Good pay, good food, good work -- or at least lots of work -- are just some of the perks awaiting you.

June 10th is National Ballpoint Pen Day, the 72nd anniversary of the ballpoint pen's invention. Dozens of people every year take the day to remember the contributions ballpoint pens have made to our lives. Sounds silly? Yes.

But also, no. The ballpoint pen was popularized by the British Royal Air Force, who used it to take in flight notes during Nazi-fighting missions in WWII, when a fountain pen just wouldn't do. If it wasn't for the ballpoint pen, we all might be speaking German right now.

The ballpoint remains the most common writing instrument in the world, even as paper notes become less and less ubiquitous. Which raises the question: for lawyers, is physical writing, as one does with a ballpoint, still relevant?

What's the best city to practice law? When making this calculation for your own career, a range of factors may come into play, including the affordability of cities for young lawyers. The daily commute is also an important factor. There's no point in holding a great job if you can't get there.

According to an American Community Survey from 2013, New Yorkers have the longest commutes (40 minutes on average) while residents of Oklahoma City have the shortest (21 minutes on average). Aside from this blunt statistic, your ideal commute may come down to your preference for taking public transit, driving, or riding your bike. Here's how cities compare:

Enjoying summer yet? We didn't think so. If you're a recent law school grad prepping for the bar exam, this summer promises to be anything but fun in the sun. But don't worry too much; a well planned bar study schedule can help make your bar review summer, if not enjoyable, survivable.

So, a few weeks after most bar review courses have begun, where should you be in your bar prep? Follow these bar study milestones to make sure you're staying on track, right from the start.

Over the past few decades, women began entering the legal field in much higher numbers than ever before. More recently, the number of women becoming lawyers has begun to level off. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but hopefully it's not an indication that progress in general is leveling off for women in the law. A glance at the male to female salary gap for lawyers will show that there is still a long way to go.

Women lawyers still remain absent from most positions of power and they aren't gaining ground in big law firms. What's worse, even the top female lawyers feel that they are undervalued and are often given relatively menial assignments compared to their male coworkers.

Welcome to "First Week at the Firm," FindLaw's series 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.

Even if you're working yourself to death making all your hours and then some, you won't be making the most out of your time at the firm if you're not forging relationships with partners and senior attorneys. That's hard to do with just a beautifully crafted memo -- you need one-on-one time with the attorneys who matter.

One-on-one time helps build trust between associates and their advisers or managers, which can increase access to important conversations, participation in strategic decisions and ultimately advancement. Here' some tips on how to get it.

Three years ago, FindLaw put together a list of the top five movies law school students should watch. By now, all those law students will have graduated. They're either consumed by panicked bar study, or living it up as greedy associates. That means it's time for a new batch of films for a new class of students.

While we've got our favorite lawyer flicks, it always helps to get an outside perspective. Since it takes a village to make a good listicle, our talented social media team reached out to FindLaw's Facebook followers for ideas. The suggestions we got were great, even if we already picked a few of them. But, following your advice, here's 13 more films law students should watch:

When Jesus Morales showed up to court in Redwood City, California, last week, he was probably considering the possibility of a long time in jail. He probably didn't expect that his defense attorney would end up next to him, however. And that's exactly what happened.

Defense attorney Deron Kartoon was arrested and tossed in San Mateo County Jail when he appeared at court to represent Morales. Why? First, Kartoon had let his law license expire, a fairly big deal. But he was also wanted for methamphetamine and identity theft charges.

If you're thinking to yourself, "Bridges? What bridges?" Then it may already be too late. Developing a strong career path involves cultivating relationships with all your professional connections from day one.

You may also be thinking, "What's the big deal? Will burning a bridge or two actually matter?" Like most industries, the legal field is surprisingly small. You know all the legal professionals that pop up on your LinkedIn account? Those are your potential bridges, and they exist as a finite number. Although you shouldn't burn any of them, you should especially not burn bridges with your employers.

Mark Fuller, possibly the most reviled judge in recent history, has finally resigned. Fuller came into the spotlight in summer 2014, when he was arrested on a domestic violence charge. The assault occurred after his wife accused him of carrying on an illicit relationship with a clerk.

During his time on the bench, Fuller came under scrutiny for his private business interests that allegedly conflicted with his obligations as a judge. Specifically, he owned a significant interest in Doss Aviation, Inc., a government contractor. It was estimated that his annual income from stock in the company was worth up to $1 million in a single year.

It's not exactly the glamorous legal work shown on "The Good Wife" -- or even "Night Court" -- but document review makes up a fair share of many attorneys' work. In fact, document review is one of the great unifiers of the legal profession. Highly paid associates at BigLaw firms often slog through tedious document review just like their poorly paid contract attorney counterparts.

But is document review even the practice of law? Not according to one lawyer, who is arguing that his year plus of doc review for Skadden was so rote and mechanical it couldn't possibly be considered legal work -- and thus, he should be entitled to significant overtime pay.

The Varieties of Bar Review Methods

Unless you're an autodidact (and it's highly likely you're not), you'll need some help studying for the bar exam. This help usually comes in the form of a bar review course that costs thousands of dollars. That seems expensive, but trust us -- you don't want to take the bar exam more than once.

So what are the varieties of different bar review methods and courses? Here's the lowdown.

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.

You've made it to the promised land of a BigLaw job. There's the important clients, the handsome pay, and the respect of your peers. And there's stress. So much, never ending, unceasing stress.

Don't worry, every decent lawyer faces stress at the beginning of their careers. And the in middle. And near the end. But you can deal with it. Here's some tips: