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November 2015 Archives

To Survive, Gonzaga Law School Offers Faculty a Buyout

By now, it's clear that law schools are admitting students whose bar exam chops aren't what they should be. Law schools and lawyers have certainly seen better days.

However, at least one school has been trying a novel new way of surviving the rough waters: Gonzaga University School of Law. For a number of years now, it appears that Gonzaga has been systematically offering buyouts to all tenured faculty. With fewer mouths to feed, the school has dodged (so far) the need to implement the law school equivalent of No Child Left Behind.

It happens. Despite years of hard work and dedication, every year thousands of attorneys fail to pass the bar exam. This year was particularly bad, with some of the lowest pass rates ever in many states.

So, don't worry, if you failed, you're not alone -- and you can still go on to have a successful career. But what should you do in the meantime?

5 Qualities That Smart Clients Look for in a Lawyer

Most often people only start looking for lawyers when disaster has already struck, stress levels are highest, and they are in neither the emotional state nor the right frame of mind to choose a lawyer that will be the best fit for them and their legal needs. When people are panicked they make rash choices, or foolishly follow the advice of well-meaning family or friends who have no business giving this kind of advice.

But the client pool is also made up of people who are sophisticated, smart, and who plan ahead. It is said in business that a relationship with an attorney is like a marriage: it takes time to develop. If you are hoping for these kinds of clients, here are a list of qualities you might want to cultivate because these are the first five qualities savvy clients looks for in a lawyer.

Every law student reacts to finals in their own way. Some wear their pajamas to the law library for a week or two. Some start mysteriously loosing hair. Some sit and cry silently in bathroom stalls.

And some, it turns out, fake their own kidnappings.

Move over doctors, tech bros, and Academy Award nominees. When it comes to being the whitest, malest profession in America, the law has everyone else beat.

And it's only getting worse, as the percentage of minority associates stagnates and, for black lawyers, shrinks.

Law Firm on Hook for $196M in Malpractice Fees

One hundred and ninety-six million dollars. That astounding number is the amount a Texas jury awarded plaintiff Scott D. Martin who sued Andrews Kurth for malpractice.

Plaintiffs have just moved the court to file an entry of judgment. The proposed order seeks an actual damages award of $196 million, an additional $20.7 in prejudgment interest, and more interest as yet to be determined.

When you have to chose between sleep and work, work wins. That leaves many lawyers with huge sleep deficits. After a deadline crunch leaves you working ten hours a day or more, six days a week, many esquires try to catch up by sleeping in all weekend long.

But sleeping in on days-off, it turns out, could be hazardous to your health.

Whether it's putting together a deal for a client or clinching a better bonus for yourself, negotiating is an inescapable part of your legal life. You can prep for days, run through dozens of potential negotiating scenarios, and know just what deal you need to make in order to come out on top.

But all of that could be for naught, if your body language betrays you. Body language and non-verbal communication can have just as much impact on your negotiations as the offers you put on the table. Here's how to make your body language work for you in a negotiation.

Police Bust Lawyers' House Party, City Pays $1.5M Settlement

If there's any house the police want to be careful about busting into, it's the house of a power couple pair of attorneys.

The town of Westfield, New Jersey has just agreed to settle federal civil rights claims brought by Lawrence Rolnik and Kimberly Sorrentino -- both lawyers. The case was sparked when police arrived at their home in response to an alleged 'drunken brawl' in front of their home. Only $1.15 million dollars later, all is forgiven.

Transgender people have seen unprecedented growth in public visibility lately, what with the public transition of Caitlyn Jenner and award-winning shows like Transparent. But even as the national awareness of transgender issues grows, transgender individuals continue to face discrimination, violence, and shockingly high rates of homelessness and suicide.

Today marks the 16th annual Transgender Remembrance Day, where we remember the transgender people who have been murdered over the past year -- at least 81 in total, largely women of color -- and pledge to fight for greater equality. In that spirit, here are some ways lawyers can help in the fight for transgender rights.

Well, that was unexpected. This week's episode of How to Get Away With Murder (the zenith of the golden era of television) delivers some very satisfying revelations, tidying up the mess of a plot that we've been struggling through for months and introducing a whole new mystery.

No more flash forwards. We've finally reached the big day. It's time to watch Annalise get shot. Here's your spoiler-filled recap of last night's insane HTGAWM episode.

How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

The term 'emotional intelligence' refers to a person's ability to show empathy and understanding.

This is an area where lawyers often need improvement. The truth is, high-stress lawyers aren't exactly prone to being empathetic. Fortunately, unlike IQ, which seems to be pretty much set, EQ is something that can be worked at around the edges.

Here are a few suggestions for increasing your emotional intelligence, as proposed by Preston Ni at Psychology Today.

Like books? Like the law? Worried about the crushing debt of a J.D. or the soul-sucking hours of a young associate? Maybe it's time to consider being a law librarian. Even as physical law libraries are becoming less common (no one needs those stacks of reporters when it's all digital), the law librarian still plays an important role in the legal industry.

Is a career as a law librarian in your future? Here's what you should consider.

Law Firm Raided by FBI in Aggressive Seizure of Property

The FBI appeared at the headquarters of Martin & Seibert L.C., a West Virginia law firm, and "aggressively seized property and detained personnel." The firm said that it was surprised by the magnitude of the action by the FBI but maintained that it would "rise above th[e] allegations" and return to client service.

The ordeal appears to have started months ago when allegedly defamatory remarks were made against the firm on social media.

Want to land a cushy spot as a federal judge? It's simple, at least according to D.C. Circuit Judge David Sentelle. Sentelle recently doled out some simple advice at the Federalist Society's National Lawyers Convention. (That's the annual gathering where libertarian and conservative lawyers get together to discuss the Federalist papers and the free market while wringing their hands over Donald Trump.) Just get to know a senator or at least someone who knows a senator.

Don't worry, it's not as hard as it looks. Here's out to find your own senatorial BFF.

It's the Ides of Movember and college campuses, corporate offices, and even law firms are filling up with the wispiest of brostaches. Movember, also known as No-Shave November, is the annual charity drive for men's health issues. It's the month where barefaced lads start growing facial hair and collecting money for prostate cancer, mental health, and similar causes. Think of it like a breast cancer marathon, but without any of the physical effort.

But if you're a lawyer or law student tasked with growing a 'stache while maintaining a professional appearance, Movember can be a trying month.

Pros and Cons of Small Town Lawyering

Things continue to look grim for new attorneys -- at least in heavily populated areas. According to stories by The New York Times and NPR, there are areas of rural America where jobs are actually plentiful.

Judge Tosses T. Swift Lawsuit, Has Too Much Fun Writing Opinion

Federal Judge Gail Standish recently dismissed a $42 million lawsuit against mega-pop star Taylor Swift in which plaintiff Jesse Braham alleged that Swift ripped off his lyrics.

Just any old dismissal wouldn't fit the occasion, however. The judge decided to have some fun and wrote, "[a]t present, the Court is not saying that Braham can never, ever, ever get his case back in court," but that Braham had "bullet holes" in his case. "At least for the moment, Defendants have shaken off this lawsuit." Ouch?

Tips for Handling Free Advice Seekers

You knew it was going to happen someday. As soon as you started law school, news traveled through the gossip grapevine. Now, everyone is texting you, calling you, or conspicuously bringing up their personal legal issues up in coffee-house conversation in a not-too-hidden attempt to get some free legal advice.

Now that you've actually graduated, it's not just family and friends trying to leech advice. Total strangers are trying to get in on the free-tip bandwagon. And these people were supposed to be paying clients! You've got basically two options: you can be the guy everybody hates and tell them to get lost, or you can skillfully and artfully oblige them.

As always, there was another episode of How to Get Away With Murder last night, which means that any theory you ever had about who did what to whom has once again be turned on its head. Forget anything I've ever said about Bonnie. It's Philip. It's Philip who killed the Hapstall parents, Philip who shot Annalise, and Philip who hacked into your World of Warcraft account.

So, let's talk about Philip. Here's your spoiler-filled recap of last night's HTGAWM.

Advantages of Working as a Freelance Lawyer

Attitudes towards freelance lawyers have been changing over the years. Such changes were an almost predictable outcome of the 2008 crash that left many professionals without a job. Suddenly, attorneys who had previously been labeled "substandard losers who couldn't get a job" are now an industry regular.

That "loser" terminology are the words of Donna Seyle, founder of Law Practice Strategy. She writes that some of the perks that come with freelance lawyering are enough to make at least some lawyers consider this "loser" route.

Law School Survey: Recent Students Care More About Money

According to the results of a survey, money was not the primary reason that law students decided to attend law school -- at least not for grads between the 1970s and the 2000s.

This sounds like surprising and welcome news, but don't celebrate too soon ...

Contract Lawyer Indicted for Child Porn on Firm's Computer

The life of a 65 year old attorney is about to change profoundly: he has been charged with using his Philadelphia law firm's computer to access and view child pornography.

According to an affidavit, Lawyer Goerge Bock Ditter told investigators that it all began when he came across child pornography while researching material for his book. In his own chilling words, "this is where I would say I fell off the cliff ... I discovered an unknown interest in these images ..."

Gen X or Younger? Chances Are You're Not Going to Make Partner

According to recent reports, only 3 percent of managing partners at the nation's top 100 law firms are from Generation X.

This is consistent with the public's image of law firm partners as being white, balding, 3-piece-suit-wearing law firm fixtures. But even we were surprised by these numbers. On the other hand, this information might just be the push young associates need to question whether making junior partner is worth the trouble.

Here at FindLaw, we're big proponents of lawyers taking advantage of social media. Since we like to practice what we preach, you can find us on just about every social media platform from Pinterest to Google+ (remember that?).

So when Twitter announced its new polling feature a few weeks ago, we were ready to take the pulse of the legal community on today's most important issues. And the results of our FindLaw #TwitterPolls are in.

Al Jazeera America Suspends Its GC on License Irregularities

Al Jazeera America, the sister news channel analog of the venerable Al Jazeera English channel, has suspended its general counsel, David W. Harleston, after questions were raised about his qualifications to practice law.

Mr. Harleston’s is another high level blow to AJAM. His arrival to the news channel took place during a time when the company was suffering internal turmoil amid staff complaints of a culture of anti-Semitism and sexism.

What's the worst form of government? Student government. And nowhere can this be seen more clearly than the University of Missouri School of Law short-lived new social media policy dreamt up by the (apparently Stalinist) students of the Student Bar Association.

Did we say social media policy? Orwellian thought control program might be a better description. Say that on Facebook, though, and you could face the wrath of the Mizzou SBA.

Harvard Professor: 'Low Bar Passage Rates Can Be a Good Thing'

Harvard law Professor Noah Feldman recently put forth the suggestion that it's not up to law school admissions to baby law school applicants out of applying for schools; its up to students to make their own decisions.

Although there is nothing particularly earth shattering about this statement, it strikes some people as being outrageous, given that bar passage rates have been plummeting. But the professor remains adamant in his position. Although, Harvard JDs probably don't have too hard a time with the bar exam, do they?

Welcome back to How to Get Away With Murder, where the brightest minds of a generation learn how to literally pin murders on Mother Theresa. This week's episode is called "I Want You to Die," but this show is still giving us life.

On last night's episode, things got even more Oedipal, characters went splat, and we might have our first major hint of who shot Annalise. Let's get started.

Flying? Blood? Snakes and spiders? None of them keep lawyers up at night. When it comes to lawyerly fears, classic phobias are nowhere to be found. Instead, attorneys stay up all night with severe performance anxiety. According to the ABA Journal's list of lawyers' most common fears, attorneys are worried about courts, colleagues, and even "seeming 'too nice.'"

Take a Klonopin, lawyers. You seem stressed out.

It's a tough time to be a law school. Your grads are failing the bar at incredibly high rates. The smart kids are all going to grad school to be coders, not lawyers. Grads are indebted, unhappy, and unemployed. Even The New York Times has started calling some law schools scams. Scams.

Will anyone do what's necessary and start putting some law schools out of their misery?

Casey Anthony's Lawyer Gets 5 Months in Federal Prison

A lawyer who represented Casey Anthony was sentenced to federal prison earlier this week after he pleaded guilty to charges of fraud.

The Rancho Santa Fe PI attorney pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud earlier this year. He also admitted that he forged client signatures, and used notary stamps to convince investors to advance him millions of dollars, reports the Patch.

Lawyer Posts Marketing Flyers at Punk Festival

An attorney in Gainesville, Florida, has, rather strategically, tailored his ads to appeal to a decidedly counter-culture target audience. Specifically, he targeted the youth at Gainesville's yearly punk event, the Fest, by posting flyers around the event with the words, "Arrested during The Fest?"

Is this genius lawyer marketing, or is it ambulance chasing?

Should Lawyers Have Guns?

It's been over a month since a Long Island district attorney banned his prosecutors from owning guns -- then almost immediate rescinded the rule. But the question remains: should lawyers have dogs guns?

Sure, gun ownership is correlated to a slight increased risk of gun violence. Sure, your six-year-old might accidentally shoot his brother. Or your child may intentionally shoot up his high school. But those aren't uniquely lawyerly concerns.

Prosecutor Threatens to Shoot Halloween Decorations, Gets Suspended

A lawyer in West Virginia has been suspended after reacting badly to some fake plastic spider Halloween decorations. How badly? He pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot them.

We've come a long way from the simple :). That little smiley, invented over 30 years ago, has now been supplemented by a host of emoticons and emojis, the little pictorial characters meant to convey a writer's mood, expression, or, well, whatever a frog face, burrito, and dancing woman are supposed to mean.

And there, of course, is the rub. Often, emoticons can add more ambiguity than clarity to a message. So what's a court to do when "I'm going to kill you :P" is admitted as the prosecution's smoking gun?