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February 2017 Archives

JD Sues Twitter and Her Alma Mater

Law graduate Tiffany Dehen may have trouble getting a job as a lawyer, but she is ahead of her class when it comes to creating a legal buzz on social media.

Dehen has sued Twitter, her law school, and an anonymous user for creating a false account in her name. She alleges the defendants defamed her with false posts about her support for Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler and with tweets such as her upcoming audition for:

Last year was good to Latham and Watkins. One of the biggest BigLaw firms, Latham recorded the highest law firm revenue ever last fiscal year, bringing in $2.823 billion.

That puts Latham's revenue per lawyer at $1.238 million and continues the firm's growth streak, which has seen its revenue grow by 55 percent since the peak of the recession in 2009, according to Am Law Daily.

Pre-Law Students' Interest in Politics Jumps After Election

Since Donald Trump became president, some might think that the path to the White House is through reality television.

Or perhaps it is the billionaires club, except that didn't work out for billionaire candidate Ross Perot. So maybe it's just like the late George Carlin said: "Anyone can become president of the United States. And that's the problem."

In any case, more pre-law students see law school as the way to politics than in recent years. According to Kaplan Test Prep, more than half of 500 students surveyed say they would consider running for political office. At 53 percent, it represents a 15 percent jump in five years.

"Law school has long been a bullpen of aspiring politicians, and we think the recent election showed many pre-law students of all political persuasions how important it is to stay involved and stand up for what you believe," said Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs, Kaplan Test Prep.

Former L.A. City Attorney Faces Discipline Charges for Prosecutor Misconduct

The California State Bar has filed disciplinary charges against a former Los Angeles City Attorney for allegedly hiding evidence in a death penalty case in 1985.

Carmen A. Trutanich, 65, was a county prosecutor at the time. The disciplinary action comes after a federal judge overturned the defendant's murder conviction last year.

Judge David O. Carter said Trutanich's actions in the case were "deeply troubling," including his failure to correct false testimony by a key witness. Patricia Lewis, who testified that she saw Barry Glenn Williams shoot the victim, gave a false name for the driver of the car she was in at the time of the murder. 

The judge concluded that the prosecutor knew or should have known it was a lie.

Top Hollywood Myths About Lawyers

Hollywood lawyers -- those characters created for movies and television -- represent both truths and falsehoods about lawyers in real life.

Bold or brash? Smart or smart-aleck? Self-assured or self-centered? Criminal attorney or redundancy?

Seriously, the line between fact and fiction sometimes can be quite thin. After all, everyone has seen one real-life lawyer like Vinny Gambini from "My Cousin Vinny" or at least one with a really bad suit.

There are Hollywood myths, however. They are stories built upon false beliefs, not to be confused with true legends that seem bigger than life. Let's try to sort out the differences:

What could be cooler than riding the Hyperloop, the pneumatic tube transit system promising to zip us around at airline speeds? Doing so with a Frosty and a side of fries. Or maybe working for the NBA. We'll let you decide.

We've got a motley crew of listings for this week's top coolest jobs, presented as part of our affiliate relationship with Indeed, but they share one thing in common: they are all pretty dang cool.

Relationships with lawyers aren't always the easiest. We've got big personalities, demanding jobs, crippling student debt -- and those are just the good parts.

But being a lawyer (or law student) doesn't need to mean being alone. To help you find someone to love -- and to make it work once you've found them -- here are our top relationship tips, from the FindLaw archives.

California Law School Deans Push Back at the Bar Exam

In the closing minutes of the Super Bowl this year, the Falcons sealed their fate when they made a critical mistake: they punted.

To punt -- such a well-known expression you don't have to know football to know what it means -- is to put off taking action in the face of a difficult situation. For the Falcons, it meant to delay going forward when they were winning the game. In retrospect, they lost the game because of that untimely decision.

The same could be said for California law schools faced with the lowest bar pass rates in 32 years. Rather than move forward with changes in legal education, they have asked the State Bar to lower the minimum score for the bar exam. It is a critical moment for legal education in California.

Student debt isn't just for your 20s anymore. With more than $1.3 trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt in the United States, more and more students are taking decades to pay off their loans.

Some student borrowers, according to the New York Times, are saddled with debt well into retirement. And almost 40 percent of those retirement-age student debtors see a portion of their Social Security checks garnished for student loan payments, even when those payments push them into poverty.

Will University of North Carolina Start a New Law School?

Once the largest law school in North Carolina, Charlotte School of Law's student population has fallen from 1,500 a decade ago to less than 300 this semester. The for-profit law school, now on probation for failing educational standards and sanctioned with no federal funding, may not survive into the summer. But as one law school dies, another may arise.

The University of North Carolina, the public university system, is considering whether to open a law school in Charlotte. The state system already has law schools at campuses in Chapel Hill and Durham, but had considered opening a law school in Charlotte before the for-profit school was accredited in 2011.

When you've got an environmental lawsuit, you call Earthjustice. Civil rights? The ACLU. And if you've experienced sexual assault in high school or college, you go to SurvJustice.

At least that's how 31-year-old attorney Laura Dunn wants it to be. An activist, lawyer, and survivor of campus sexual assault herself, Dunn founded SurvJustice to represent the rights of campus rape survivors. In just a few years, and on a tiny budget, Dunn and SurvJustice have been "credited with ushering in at least 120 federal investigations of schools around the country," according to a recent profile of the young lawyer by Buzzfeed.

Lawyer Convicted of Raping Unconscious Client With More Charges Pending

The young woman thought her lawyer was coming over to discuss a case. Instead, they drank and he raped her while she lay unconscious.

That was evil enough, resulting in felony rape and sexual assault convictions for Vincent A. Cirillo, Jr. The 57-year-old man, who awaits sentencing in a Pennsylvania courtroom, will probably spend the rest of his life in prison.

"It's unfortunate," he said as he left the courtroom in handcuffs.

If you're looking to make a change in your career, there are plenty of jobs out there. But not all of them are cool jobs, the kind of jobs that will bring you interesting work, around interesting people, in an interesting industry. These three are those jobs.

This week, as part of our affiliate relationship with Indeed, we're bringing you the three coolest legal jobs we can find, and they're a motley crew, covering everything from tech, to contract management, to professional ice hockey.

Life as a tenured academic in an ivory tower sounds nice, right? You don't have the stress of billable hours, ungrateful clients, angry opposing counsel. Instead, you get to research the fascinating intricacies of eleventh century forest law while taking summers off.

If that sounds like a dream come true, well, you might want to think again. Turns out, teaching law isn't all it's cracked up to be.

NY's Cheapest Private Law School: Syracuse

If you were going to flip a coin to choose a law school, you may want to save that coin and go to Syracuse University.

Syracuse College of Law is offering $20,000 scholarships to all admitted residents, effectively reducing tuition to $26,460 each year for qualified students. Unless another law school matches, it will be the least expensive private law school in the state.

"With over 5,000 New York state residents applying to law schools each year, this innovative program has the potential to positively impact a great number of students interested in attending Syracuse Law," said Grant Keener, interim assistant dean for enrollment management.

What to Do If You're Waitlisted for Law School

Just got a waitlist response to your law school application?

The good news is, the school is definitely interested in you. The bad news is, you're going to have to wait a few months to know more.

In the meantime, don't worry because law schools generally don't rank their waitlists. Nobody on the list has an advantage at this point. It's like lottery balls, they are constantly moving and no one knows which one will come up. Similarly, applicants may take themselves off the waitlist to go to other schools.

But to increase your chances of getting off the waitlist and being admitted, there are some things you can do. First, send the school a letter or pay a visit to show you are still interested. Second, update your resume or submit another letter of recommendation.

Here are a few tips about how to do it:

Judge Suspended for Badly Photoshopped Campaign Ad

Photoshop has created many images that you just can't unsee: a giant shark leaping to bite helicopter; Oprah's head on Ann-Margret's body; Forrest Gump in the White House ...

Seriously, when it comes to photoshopped images, the line between fact and fiction is sometimes pretty blurry. It certainly got one West Virginia judge into big trouble.

Judge Stephen O. Callaghan of Nicholas County has been suspended for two years without pay and fined $15,000 because of his "materially false" campaign ad. It was so bad, the state Supreme Court attached it to its disciplinary opinion to make the point. One judge concurred and dissented because he wanted to suspend Callaghan from law practice as well.

Judges Face Threats Over Immigration Ban Case

A courthouse changes when police stand outside with guns -- rather than sit inside next to a scanning machine.

It has certainly changed for US Judge James L. Robart, who issued a nationwide order stopping President Trump's now infamous immigration ban. A week ago, it was business as usual. Now Robart needs protection because of online threats.

"Ridiculous." "So called-judge." "Known liberal sympathizer." Those are just tweets from the president.

"Dead man walking." "Bow tie wearing freak." "Who in your family is expendable Robart?" And those are from his followers.

Lawyer Jokes Will Never Die

David Lash thinks that lawyer jokes are over. "For the past two weeks, across the country, lawyer jokes have fallen silent," Lash, the managing counsel for pro bono and public interest services at O'Melveny & Myers, writes in Above the Law. Faced with attorneys' quick response to the president's travel ban, during which lawyers flocked to airports to offer legal services to detainees, the public's appreciation has overwhelmed its previous derision of the profession.

Or so the argument goes. But while attorneys may be getting some good PR these days, no matter how many good works attorneys perform, lawyer jokes will never die.

Disguised Lawyer Arrested Trying to Sell Court-Sealed Complaint

Jeffrey Wertkin is a smart lawyer, especially when it comes to litigating fraud claims.

Wertkin joined the prominent firm Akin Gump last year as a partner, bringing with him six years of trial experience from the U.S. Department of Justice. Having led 20 major fraud investigations there, he had in-depth knowledge of the legal and practical considerations that shape government investigations. His specialty was the False Claims Act.

So why was Wertkin, wearing a wig and using a fake name, trying to sell confidential court records for $310,000 to a company being sued under the False Claims Act?

Want to travel the world? See the lights of Paris one week, a bazaar in Indonesia the next? You can! Sort of. At least, metaphorically. In your legal work. With the right job, you can be handling issues that span the globe, from the frozen corners of Alaska to everywhere you can buy a Coke.

For this week's collection of cool legal jobs, presented as part of our affiliate relationship with Indeed, we're rounding up the best gigs with a decidedly international focus.

Kellyanne Conway Accused of Breaking Ethics Rules With Ivanka Endorsement

Kellyanne Conway, the acerbic political adviser who calls herself a "fully recovered lawyer," is no stranger to contradictions.

In the Republican primaries not more than a year ago, Conway was attacking Donald Trump as an extremist "who seems to be offending his way to the nomination." Criticizing his use of eminent domain, she said, "Donald Trump has literally bulldozed over the little guy to get his way."

Now, Conway is serving as a senior adviser in the Trump White House. The latest contradiction, however, is that she is also promoting Ivanka Trump's clothing.

"You couldn't think of a clearer example of violating the ban of using your government position as kind of a walking billboard for products or services offered by a private individual," Harvard's Laurence Tribe told the New York Times. "She is attempting quite crudely to enrich Ivanka and therefore the president's family."

If you graduate from a law school, you should have a good shot at passing the bar, right? After all, you've had three years of school and you've got to pay back those loans. But many law school grads never pass the bar, and at a handful of schools less than two-thirds of J.D.s end up becoming esquires.

To address that problem, the ABA proposed tightening law school bar-passage standards. Under a controversial proposed rule, 75 percent of a school's graduates would have to pass the bar within two years, or the school could risk losing accreditation. But that rule was rejected by the ABA House of Delegates on Tuesday.

Rich Students Get Most Merit Scholarships for Law School

The rich get richer in law school, too?

According to recent studies, rich students actually do get richer through merit scholarships. "Law School Scholarship Policies: Engines of Inequity," an annual report from researchers at the University of Indiana, confirms that scholarships more often go to privileged law students than to disadvantaged ones.

"The end-result is a cascade of negative outcomes, including a perverse cost-shifting strategy through which disadvantaged students subsidize the attendance of their privileged peers," said Aaron N. Taylor, director of Law School Survey of Student Engagement. "This is the hallmark of an inequitable system."

The study found, in a survey of 17,820 law students in 2016, that 79 percent of scholarships were awarded to respondents based on merit. Only 19 percent of the respondents received need-based scholarships.

The Ninth Circuit heard arguments yesterday over whether to stay the nationwide injunction against President Trump's recent immigration ban. Well, the Ninth Circuit and well over 137,000 others, who tuned in to listen to the oral arguments on CNN and the court's YouTube page. When it comes to appellate advocacy, that's Super Bowl-level viewership.

Those arguments were complex and impassioned, with a few occasional stumbles. Alright, some major stumbles. Of course, we're not one to throw stones. That's what Twitter's for. So we rounded up some of the legal twitterverse's best criticism. Here you go.

Non-Resident Tuition Cut in Half at Wyoming College of Law

For three lucky students, Wyoming College of Law has cut its tuition to $16,000 a year.

Wait, that's the same as all Wyoming residents pay. So what's the big deal, you may ask?

The big deal is, the law school is digging deep to attract out-of-state students by offering them 50 percent off on their tuition. Otherwise, non-residents have to pay $32,590 per year.

"Mindful of both the university's goal to increase enrollment and the state's goal to diversify its economy and reverse the brain-drain crisis in Wyoming, it's important to understand the economic stimulus effect and the capturing effect of getting nonresident students to come to Wyoming," said Klinton Alexander, dean of the law school.

ABA Restructuring Its Legal Ed Section

The future of American legal education is, well, in the future.

At least, that's what the American Bar Association is saying for now. The ABA has approved a new Commission on the Future of Legal Education, but the commission will not be effective until August.

Incoming president Hilarie Bass called for the new commission to restructure the ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. She said the new entity will be responsible only for non-accreditation-related activities.

"There has been an increasing drum beat, amplified by the Great Recession, about the need for change in our system of legal education," she said in a letter to the ABA's board of governors. "Low bar passage rates, excessive law student debt, the depressed job market for new lawyers, and the lack of value that employers place on the capabilities of recent law graduates are just some of the challenges that need to be addressed."

In the Trump family, it's not uncommon for the children to follow in their parents' footsteps. Donald Trump took over his father's real estate business. Ivanka and Donald Junior joined their dad on "The Apprentice." Now, Donald Junior and Eric Trump are managing the Trump Organization, after the president withdrew from the day-to-day management. Even Barron's name suggests that his parents might want him to follow his father into politics.

But Tiffany Trump? She seems to be setting her own path and that path leads to law school.

Legal Aid Spending Pays Off Well in Florida

A new study in Florida shows that for every dollar spent on legal aid, the state gets back nearly seven dollars.

Commissioned by the Florida Bar Foundation, the study that said legal aid turned $83 million in funding into about $600 million in economic impact in 2015. The foundation said that legal aid organizations captured $264.3 million in benefits and income for residents, with $274.8 million going back to Florida businesses.

"Equal justice under law is not only a basic underpinning of our democracy; it's also good economic policy," said Florida Bar Foundation President Matthew G. Brenner. "This study adds to a large body of empirical data -- from Florida as well as other states -- that clearly demonstrates that society at large benefits when the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable among us are protected."

The former president of the Jacksonville Bar Association in Florida will get a new trial over his role in an alleged racketeering and illegal lottery scheme. In 2013, Kelly Mathis was convicted of 103 charges, stemming from his work with the Allied Veterans of the World. The St. Augustine-based charity ran dozens of gaming centers which, it argued, offered legitimate sweepstakes. Prosecutors considered those "storefront casinos" to be part of an illegal gambling, racketeering, and money-laundering scheme that raised $300 million, little of which was used for charitable causes. Mathis was accused of being the mastermind.

Mathis was sentenced to six years in prison for his involvement. "Attorneys all over the nation need to be very afraid when six years after you give legal advice, someone disagrees with that legal advice and they convict you of a crime," he said at the time. Now, he'll get a new trial, and another chance to prove his innocence.

Pre-Law Might Not Be the Best Major for Your Future Career

In charting a course to climb a mountain, it sometimes helps to turn the map upside down.

In other words, start at the top and plan your way down. You may see things you might miss otherwise, like the challenge of a steep grade that would be hard to ascend but impossible to descend. There's nothing quite like getting stuck at the top of a sheer cliff.

When considering the pros and cons of a pre-law program, it may help to see things in retrospect. Ask yourself, what are you going to do after you finish law school?

You already know where to come for law school news, tips, resources, and humor. (You're there right now!) But now you can make sure that all the best law school news and resources come to you. Newsletters can bring the top news and information straight to your inbox.

FindLaw is launching a new newsletter dedicated just to law school news and law student resources. That means all the best of FindLaw's law student offerings, delivered directly to you.

The Super Bowl is just two days away, but before you get too caught up in the spectacle of the Falcons destroying the Patriots, take a moment to update your resume. This weekend isn't just a chance to see who'll win the big game, it's a chance to do some winning career moves of your own.

This week, as part of our affiliate relationship with Indeed, we're bringing you the top three cool legal jobs we could find, three spots in three boutique firms in three unique practice areas.

Legal Writing Tips From Gorsuch's Opinions

Legal writing is a language unto itself with endless opportunities for exploration in expression. It need not be so mundane as "memoranda writing," or "brief writing," or even "opinion writing."

Take it from legal writers like Antonin Scalia, Alex Kozinski, and now Neil Gorsuch: it is an opportunity to distinguish yourself in an otherwise dreary world of legalisms. Their words will immortalize them because they are different. Here are some tips from the writings of Judge Gorsuch, the newest nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court:

Apple Shortcuts Cut Off for Bar Exams

Hey, want a shortcut to use on the bar exam? Of course, not! That would be cheating, wouldn't it?

If you are having this dialogue with yourself, don't worry. It's not the end of the world to think about a better way to take the bar exam.

However, it is the end of the shortcuts on MacBook's "Touch Bar" for the bar exam. In California, New York, and Colorado, bar examiners have banned the function. Other states will likely follow.

So you want to go to law school. Congrats! Studying to be a lawyer takes courage, commitment, and, of course, plenty of preparation. That's where we come in.

Once you're in law school, you'll be drowning in reading -- and not always the most thrilling reading. Right now, though, you should have plenty of time to dive into some useful, even pleasurable, books. Here's a list of what to read, adapted from FindLaw's great Law Students section and with a few of our own recommendations thrown in.

Judge Disciplined After Setting Erroneous $250,000 Bail in Seat Belt Case

It's not every day you hear a judge throwing herself on the mercy of the court.

But that's what Judge Amanda Sammons was doing in her judicial disciplinary case for multiple complaints of judicial misconduct. Having survived a criminal trial on two counts of official misconduct, Sammons was begging for another chance to show that she is not the same angry judge who set bail at $250,000 for a seat belt violation.

"In thinking this through, there is no question that I was too hasty to judge and too quick to be angry before," she wrote to the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct. "The trials I have endured have shown me these faults of mine and have molded me into a more temperate and patient person."

Noting that she had been suspended from the bench since her criminal trial last year, she pleaded for her her job back. The court accepted her "plea" and placed her on probation for three years with conditions.