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October 2017 Archives

Lawyer Wants Out of Usher's Herpes Drama

Lisa West was the go-to lawyer if you wanted to sue Usher, but now she's gone. 

West represented his ex-wife in divorce proceedings, and has been representing a woman who says Usher gave her a sexually transmitted disease. 

Now the lawyer wants off the case, saying she can no longer "effectively represent" her client. It's news because Usher is a high-profile singer, but inquiring minds want to know the story behind any lawyer-client meltdown.

The Hazing of Roy Moore as a 1L

Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, like any political candidate, has his opponents, but this post isn't about his politics. The harrowing tale of his hazing as a 1L and throughout law school is an all too real reminder of why hazing is just wrong, despite how even the coolest lawyer blogs are joining the pile on.

Unfortunately, the story of his hazing effectively confirmed that the pejorative nickname given to Moore by some jerk of a professor was well deserved, according to his peers. Moore was nicknamed "fruit salad" by his professor after extensive in class questioning via the Socratic method whereby the professor concluded that Moore was "all mixed up" like a "fruit salad." You might not like Moore, but that's just mean, and not very professorial.

Times may have been different back then, but the details provided by Moore's peers are telling of an overly lax attitude toward professorial hazing.

For prospective students going through the law school application process, the fees can surely add up. One of those fees involves the LSAT. In addition to the fees for taking the test, there are fees for having your scores sent to the schools you are applying to, and that's not to mention the costs of prep courses and materials.

Particularly for those who are not sure about what to do after undergrad, sitting for the LSAT is not like the GRE, which can be used for a variety of different graduate school applications. The LSAT has one purpose, law school admissions, and for decades, has been the only game in town. However, a new trend is breaking the LSAT monopoly, as research has shown the GRE could be a viable option for law school admissions.

Court Nixes 40 Percent Attorneys' Fees

People hate on lawyers for a lot of reasons, but the high fees are often the bottom line.

When people call you a blood-sucker -- and not in a Halloweenish way -- it means you charge too much. And it's not just about the money.

In one North Carolina case, it's about the fee and the clients. The attorneys want $400,000 from clients who didn't understand what they were doing, a judge said.

If Halloween happens to fall on a school day, you might be wondering whether you should don your costume all day, or just after class. And while your school may have actual rules on what you can and can't wear as a costume, as a law student, that little voice in your head called self-respect might be stronger than it has ever been before.

If you can keep it PC and not create a commotion or disruption, then dressing up in a law-related costume, or a costume that requires formal attire (think Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Margaret Thatcher, etc...), is a great idea. But be forewarned, professors will question you publicly about your costume, so be prepared to talk about it.

Below, you'll find a couple tips for picking an appropriate costume to wear in the law school classroom.

Kansas City Lawyer Shot on His Front Porch

Fighting back tears in his closing argument, attorney Tom Pickert described the struggle his homeless client endured after being shot in the leg.

Pickert said David Jungerman, the defendant in the personal injury case, wanted the jury to believe that Jeffrey Harris was "less than human" and could be shot and "no one will care."

"A verdict for Mr. Jungerman is giving him and others like him permission to take the law into their own hands, to be judge, jury, and executioner," he said.

Pickert won the case, but lost his own life. Police are investigating whether Jungerman murdered him.

It's a tale as old as lawyering. Lawyer has a drug problem. Lawyer goes to court. Lawyer starts jonesing for their drug of choice. Lawyer sneaks off to bathroom to snort drugs off their cell phone in a toilet stall. Someone overhears the suspicious noises and reports it to court security. Lawyer gets arrested while in court for doing drugs in the courthouse bathroom.

Sadly, for one law student intern in Macon, Georgia, she is living this unfortunate tale before even becoming a lawyer. At a court hearing, before 10:00 am, a bailiff was notified that she had allegedly snorted oxycodone off her cell phone while in the courthouse bathroom, then she walked into the courtroom to assist the attorney for which she was interning. The bailiff then notified the sheriff who made the arrest.

John Grisham Tackles For-Profit Law Schools in New Book 'The Rooster Bar'

If you thought about going to a for-profit law school, don't.

Read John Grisham's newest novel instead. "The Rooster Bar" is well worth the $27 hardback price because it will save you about $150,000 in tuition.

Oh, and it's a good read. Here's how it ends.

A recently filed motion in the ongoing legal saga prompted by the Netflix series Making a Murderer has legal commentators questioning the Steven Avery matter once again. After Brendan Dassey's conviction was overturned, it seems like Avery's attorneys are trying to get the same result.

According to the recent motion, crucial new evidence has been discovered, which, if believed, could potentially, circumstantially, just maybe, exonerate Avery.

Looking for the Best Value Law School? Check Out Georgia State

Georgia State University College of Law has been ranked the best value law school in the United States.

The University of Georgia School of Law has been ranked second-best. So among the "Top 20 Best Value Law Schools" ranked by The National Jurist's, Georgia law schools dominate?!

What are they feeding those students in the deep South?

Prosecutor's Affair With FBI Agent Ends in Year Suspension

When a lawyer is sexually attracted to a client, it's time for an ethics check.

Rule of Professional Conduct 1.8(j) says a "lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a client" unless the intimate relationship started before the attorney-client relationship. So yeah, check the date on that retainer agreement.

Seriously, it is so lawyer-like to look for exceptions to the rules. That's what got one prosecutor into trouble.

California Bar Exam Stays Tough. Now What?

It's back to the drawing board for California law schools facing the nation's toughest bar exam.

Twenty law school deans asked the state Supreme Court to make it easier by lowering the "cut score," but the court declined. The deans wanted the change because bar pass rates have tanked.

Other states have lowered the bar, leading to better pass rates, but California law schools will have to find another way. What are they going to do?

If you're a lawyer who hasn't heard of Justice Don Willett, Texas's Twitter Laureate, then more likely than not, you're not on Twitter. And, if you're not on Twitter and are still thinking that the name sounds familiar, it is: Justice Willett was just nominated to the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Trump.

And while Justice Willett has a rather different approach to Twitter than President Trump, it appears that the nomination has caused him to go radio silent on the social media platform. The Twittersphere has been crushed by his rapid and silent departure. His zany remarks such as "That time I wrote 'queso' under blood type at the doctor's office" coupled against the more serious tweets focused on public education or sharing personal moments, just show his absolute perfect understanding of the platform.

Johnny Depp, likely the only man both crazy and rich enough to fulfill the dying of wish of the late, good doctor, Hunter S. Thompson, has now added his former attorney to the list of people he blames for his financial losses. Earlier this year, Depp filed a lawsuit against his former business manager seeking over $25 million in damages for the gross mismanagement of his finances.

Depp alleges that his former attorney colluded with the former business manager in obtaining a hard money loan in order to get paid, while the interest on the loan ate up much of Depp's residual income. Specifically, Depp is alleging, among other things, that the attorney and manager failed to get the required disclosures from Depp prior to obtaining the loan in order to expedite their own payments.

Posner Back on Track in Pro Se Case

Richard Posner, now a retired and controversial jurist, is back in court.

When Posner suddenly quit the federal court of appeals, court watchers wondered why. Then he self-published a book that left no question: he was disillusioned with the judiciary.

One critic called it a trainwreck, but whatever. Now the judge is back on track and on a mission.

The recently debuted series 'American Vandal' has definitely sparked some interest in the legal community, and not just for the jab it takes at 'Making a Murderer.' The Netflix original show is a satirical look at the true crime genre of docu-series, which, as pointed out by the ABA Journal, contains some rather poignant criticism of the criminal justice system and the media that surrounds it.

However, the satire in the show is rather strong, particularly given the nature of the underlying crime that prompts the criminal investigation: Every car in the high school faculty parking lot was vandalized, apparently by one person who spray-painted crudely drawn penises on each car.

California Bar Passing Score Stays at 1440 for Now

If a high jumper lowers the bar to clear it, is that really an improvement?

Call it the way you see it, but not everybody sees a lower bar as upward movement. On the other hand, Nevada lowered its cut score and the bar pass rate jumped almost 20 percent.

"This shows significant improvement," said Dan Hamilton, dean of the state's only law school.

California, with one of the highest cut scores, doesn't necessarily see it that way.

It's like a real life crossover episode between the casts of two very different television dramas. One involving the chaotic fight over an oil baron's vast billion dollar estate, and the other being the life and times of a fast talking, high paid, and damn good lawyer who tows the line and once called a donkey named Buddy to the witness stand (this last part is actually true and got the case settled).

The Texas Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether that damn good lawyer's $7.5 million contingency fee (which amounts to $48K per hour) is valid. However, it's not really the amount of the fee that's contested, and in fact, the actual contingency the attorney would have earned was more than double that. Why this lawyer now has to fight to defend his fee is the sort of cautionary tale every attorney that agrees to accept a contingency should be aware of.

Charlotte Law School's Twisted Tale Has a Criminal Subplot

Good stories, even the bad ones, have subplots.

Like the story of Charlotte School of Law. It's a bad story because it tells of greed, where the owners seemed to put profits over standards and led students and the school to failure.

It's also a good story because of subplots, with scores of students alleging the school tricked them to get their money. And now the twist: criminal investigators are looking for a smoking gun.

Is Online Education Coming to a Law School Near You?

With practically everything connecting to the internet, why are law schools so slow to connect students to online education?

It's been four years since the American Bar Association approved the first distance learning program for juris doctorates. The Internet of Things has changed everything but legal education -- there's still only one ABA school offering an online degree.

Now the bar association is circulating a proposal to allow law schools to offer online courses for up to 50 percent of a student's credits. But isn't it about time, especially when even a toaster can connect to the internet full-time, to give students more distance learning?

Just outside Pittsburgh, PA, Beaver County Magisterial District Judge Andrew Hladio may surely have found himself in a sort of judicial ethics pickle. It seems that while charges against him were pending in one ethics complaint with the state's judicial ethics board, he allegedly violated additional judicial ethics rules.

In the recently announced state judicial board complaint, it is alleged that he committed acts of retaliation against the complainants and witnesses to the ethics complaint that was initiated in 2016. And while the 2016 complaint may allege more egregious conduct, the alleged acts of retaliation would certainly call into question any judicial officer's ability to perform.

What to Do When Judges Make Courtroom Speeches

Sometimes, a judge has to speak his or her mind.

And when a judge steps down from the bench, walks down to the well and addresses the courtroom audience, it's really time to listen. It's not about the record; it's about the lesson.

That's the law between the lines. Here's what to do when judges make speeches in the courtroom.

Judge Unaware He Gave Child Custody to a Child Rapist

It's hard to put a positive spin on a really bad move.

But perhaps Judge Gregory Ross could become the poster child for "Wake Up Your Judge Day." He's the judge who awarded joint custody of a child to a twice-convicted child rapist, apparently because of a blunder on a legal form he signed.

A Michigan court spokesman said it was really the prosecutor's mistake, but somebody's head is going to roll. For now, the judge is facing a recall.

ABA Considers New Law School Admissions Standards

As more law schools accept alternative admissions tests, the American Bar Association is considering doing away with the tests entirely.

The Law School Admissions Test has been the standard for generations, but some law schools have started accepting the Graduate Records Exam. An ABA committee has proposed three alternatives for law schools: continue accepting the LSAT; accept alternatives such as the GRE; eliminate the testing requirements.

The Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will consider the proposals at a meeting in November. For now, educators are moving forward with their own plans.

Law Students Fight Sex Trafficking

Quinnipiac University School of Law is a small, middle-tier school, unremarkable on the national landscape except perhaps for its variety of clinical programs -- and its outreach against sex trafficking.

According to the Hartford Courant, Quinnipiac law students have trained nearly 1,000 hospitality industry workers how to recognize and report signs of sex trafficking. The program has given students a front-seat at the table fighting the crime in Connecticut.

"There's a lot that's been done but there's still a lot more that needs to be done," U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal told them at a roundtable.

Have you ever dreamed of arguing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court? If you're a lawyer, you probably have, but you might not have ever been motivated enough to pursue that dream.

Well, bad news first: If you've never done a SCOTUS case before, you might have to eat your fees the first few times, or maybe until you actually have a case accepted for review. But, if you can get some experience and become one of those elite attorneys that seem to make annual appearances before the High Court, you could be looking at a real nice pay day, whether you win, lose, or draw.

To properly prepare for the bar exam requires more than just taking the right classes and locking yourself in a room for weeks on end with your books, notes, and practice exams. One often overlooked aspect of preparation is the financial aspect. If you can't afford to take the bar immediately after law school, you're taking a big risk that you'll retain enough information.

You not only need to pay for your post-graduation bar prep course and sitting for the bar exam itself, but you also need to pay all your living expenses. If you delay too long to financially prepare for the bar, you may find yourself looking at taking a private loan, which is not easy, nor advisable.

Below, you can read about how to financially plan for the bar exam study period.

Can I Get a Clerkship for SCOTUS?

Unless you graduate at the top of an elite law school, statistics say you are not going to get a clerkship at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The vast majority of Supreme Court clerks come from a handful of law schools -- mostly Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, and a mixed litter of others.

So how did Tiffany Wright -- a Georgetown night-school graduate -- get the job? Her story shows it's not just about who you know or what you know. It's who you are.

Oregon Lowers Cut Score to 137, Bar Pass Rate Jumps

Do the math: lower the cut score and the bar pass rate goes up. So what's the problem?

For some, the problem is that Oregon suddenly became one of the easiest bars to pass in the country. Only Nebraska had an easier July exam, and who wants to practice law there?

Just kidding, Nebraska, but the average low temperature there is about 14 degrees Fahrenheit. The point is, how low can Oregon's cut score go before enough is enough?

The lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro against Navient, the student loan servicer, could spell change for countless borrowers. According to this lawsuit and lawsuits filed in other states, Navient engages in predatory lending tactics designed to keep borrowers in debt for longer, and steers them away from more advantageous repayment options.

The federal lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction, as well as disgorgement of profits, restitution, other damages, and reformation of borrower agreements and repayment plans. And while the case may only be in Pennsylvania's federal court, a positive result here could change things across the country.

Whether you're a geek, or a nerd, the times sure have changed, for the better. Thanks to the rapid advancements in technology, and the wild success of the geeks and nerds that created the new tech, the stigma attached to belonging to either or both groups has faded. People actually take pride now in being a nerd or geek. There's even a show called Nerd Court.

However, as the terms have lost their pejorative focus, each has begun to be understood a little bit differently. Also, nerds are no longer as thirsty for revenge, and neither are geeks, for that matter. But, we're still not at the point where someone who doesn't self identify as a nerd or geek will accept being called one as a compliment. Also, the related term "dork" still retains a pejorative context.

Law Firms Open Doors to Dogs as 'Wellbeing Initiative'

Hyder Simpson said it best when he pondered a heaven without his dog Rip.

"Anyplace that's too highfalutin for Rip is too fancy for me," the old hillbilly told the gatekeeper in the Twilight Zone. "How thoroughbred does a dog have to be before you let him in there, anyway?"

Well, at one London law firm, you don't need a pedigree to take your dog to work. Eversheds Sutherland has opened an entire floor for staff members and their dogs.

How to Become an E-Discovery Professional

If you've been thinking about a legal specialty, an e-discovery career might be in your future.

Electronic discovery is a $10 billion industry, and e-discovery specialists are making it work. They are tech-saavy legal professionals who help identify, preserve, and manage electronically stored information.

For any attorney or those who want to be one, becoming an e-discovery professional is as natural as evolution.

Traditionally, when the American public looks to the elected officials in Congress, apart from disgust, the people expect politicians to have the legal training to be our nation's lawmakers. However, whether or not that legal training requires experience as a practicing attorney, or even a JD, is open for debate.

With the increased availability of MPP and MPA programs across the country, individuals with aspirations for a career in politics may wonder if a JD is necessary to get your foot in the door. MPP and MPA programs seem to be tailor made for individuals with political aspirations, but are they really worth it if your end goal is a political office (particularly given the dominance of attorneys in the legislature)?

How Much Does a JD Boost Earnings for Minorities?

A new study says your law degree will roughly double your income, but not so much if you are a minority.

According to economics and law researchers, white law graduates get a median annual boost in earnings of about $41,000. Asians get about $34,000; blacks, $33,00; and Hispanics, $28,000.

The authors say the value of a law degree could be exaggerated, because of various factors, but the differences in races are consistent. So what the future earnings is going on here?

To 3Ls across the country that will be graduating this spring: If you haven't enrolled in your bar prep course yet, now is the time to sign up.

While it is frustrating to have to choose so early and plop down a chunk of money on a deposit, future-you will thank you for doing it now. There are definitely advantages to signing up early, but if you've waited until your 3L fall semester to do it, those advantages will rapidly disappear if you wait any longer.

Here are three reasons why 3Ls shouldn't delay booking their bar prep course during their fall semester.

The data recently released from the Department of Education tracking student loan default rates has produced some concerns for those trying to analyze the data specifically for law schools.

The student loan default rate tracks how many students fall into default on their loans by school and year. If the rate goes above the 30 percent mark, then a school risks losing its ability to receive federal money. Fortunately, according to the data, no law school is even remotely close to that mark, but as the ABA Journal noted, the data may be wildly inaccurate.

CBS Fires Lawyer for Post About Las Vegas Shooting

Charles Dickens coined the phrase "the law is a ass," and unfortunately sometimes lawyers embody it.

Let me not cast the first stone because everybody makes stupid remarks. I remember a judge once interrupted my argument to say, "stop that galloping nonsense!"

But Hayley Geftman-Gold's comments give lawyers a really bad name -- as if that were possible. Her Facebook posts came at the worst possible time.

If you can afford to get some of the latest greatest tech for the legal nerd in your life, they'll probably want that more than anything else. Think Google Glass, a new Apple Watch, or other fancy recently released tech.

But, if you're not looking to spend hundreds of dollars, there are some smaller gifts that nerdy or geeky lawyers are sure to delight in. Below, you'll find five gift suggestions that won't break the bank.

Ugly Is in the Eye of the Law Student

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it follows that ugly is also a subjective thing.

It can change with the whim of critics, like those who said the University of Baltimore School of Law was one of the most beautiful one year and then one of the ugliest another year.

In the long run, does it matter? It certainly matters to architects, but do aesthetics really matter to law students and lawyers?

1Ls, if you haven't started outlining yet, you better get to it.

Outlining is one of the best ways to learn in law school. Your outlines will likely go through multiple drafts before exam time with each draft getting shorter and shorter as you learn the content better and better.

You may have been briefing cases and taking class notes, but unless you organize it all together, you'll be regretting it come exam study time. Instead of reviewing, you'll be stuck drafting your first outline. That's because you'll realize there is no way to study for exams without a good outline. Sadly, commercial outlines cannot guarantee accuracy because teachers teach differently.

Thankfully, countless 1Ls have come before you, and that means you can benefit from their mistakes and experience. Below, you'll find a five item checklist you can use to review your outlines throughout the semester.