Greedy Associates - The FindLaw Legal Lifestyle and Career Blog

May 2009 Archives

OK, that's not true.  In fact, we calculate that at least 72% of these links do not relate to the Supreme Court in any way.  You're welcome.

Firm Life: Win Some, Lose Some

  • It was just another superhero Friday in the life of The Namby Pamby.
  • Texas firms are definitely cutting the summer entertainment budget, notes Texas Lawyer.
  • Good news for some laid-off associates at Mayer Brown, for whom, JD Journal reports, the firm found in-house placements with clients.
  • Bad news, though, for some not-laid-off associates at Mayer Brown's Chicago office, where Above the Law reported a swine flu appearance.  (Not that we wish to fuel the swine-flu hysteria.  Here, as a counterweight to this scare item, is the CDC's H1N1 infection stats page.  We're lawyers, not doctors, but those death numbers do not look scary-big to us.)

Law School: What Is It Good For?

The ABA Journal is really on top of the law-school beat this week:

What's the first thing you did at the office this morning?

Before checking any e-mail, before starting the billing clock, you probably kicked off your day by procuring a nice mug or cup of a coffee-based beverage.  Maybe your firm still has plenty of good, free stuff on hand.  But maybe they've used the recession as an excuse to cut back, or maybe you've gotten yourself firmly into an espresso-based-beverage habit.  In which case you're making a daily stop at a coffee shop or kiosk to get a little latte or cappuccino love.

If that's your game, then get ready for a new coffee war.  Venerable fast-food purveyor McDonald's is now touting its McCafe coffees, which are apparently aimed squarely at Starbucks: cappuccinos, lattes, and mochas will soon grace the menu of a Mickey D's near you.

But should you ditch your current coffeehouse of choice and begin getting your A.M. fix at McDonald's?  The good news is that, out here on the internet, someone's already got a pretty well-formed opinion to share, and at Greedy Associates, we have an absolute obligation to call to your attention any significant developments in this most important daily work ritual.
If we're going to write a post on interesting legal happenings on this date, we should probably start by noting a couple of birthdays.  Today in 1907 was the birthday of biologist/ Silent Spring author Rachel Carson, who brought us modern environmentalism and the EPA.  And this date in 1923 gave the world Henry Kissinger, who is, interestingly enough, not the only Nobel Peace Prize winner to also suffer allegations of being a war criminal.

Of course, since it's late May, the more interesting legal events of the day are inevitably going to be the Supreme Court opinions which inevitably rain down upon us at this time of year.  And sure enough, we have two classics to bring you back to the finer points of torts and con law:

1935: A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, a/k/a the Sick Chicken case: who remembers their con law and can quickly recite the facts and holding?  No one?  Fine, we'll give you the holding at least: the court struck down the National Industrial Recovery Act, a major piece of New Deal legislation, as, among other things, not within Congress's power to enact under the Commerce Clause.  Sound familiar?  You'll also recall that the court had a change of heart the very next year, and that Congress would subsequently spend the next 60 years blissfully expanding its Commerce Clause authority to regulate absolutely anything it wanted to.
There's a little something for everyone in this week's links.  Just find the heading that best describes you, follow the links, and learn:

Summer Associates

Junior Associates

Sartorially-Challenged Associates

The ABA Journal reports on two sides of the courtroom-fashion coin:
Contracts meets consumer protection today in FindLaw Answers.  Put your Greedy smarts to use to help out user donnak69, who has a problem with an item she's sold:

Our dog had a litter of pups, which we sold.  One of the buyers has decided she doesn't want the puppy after having it for a week.  We don't want the puppy back. So far, the buyer has not paid any money.  Do we have to take the puppy back? or can we refuse?
Now, obviously, anyone who would want to return an adorable puppy is a heartless, soulless robot-person.  Nevertheless, donnak69 needs to know what her obligations are after the sale.  Do her prior representations to the buyer matter?  Is it a question of state law?  Does it matter if there's a written agreement?  Ponder these things, and click on over to this question thread to help out.
Where are all the lawyer shows these days?  Despite a blizzard of criminal-law-related programming on the broadcast networks, a definite shift toward shows about cops (and forensic investigators, and medical examiners, and special FBI units) has TV approaching a legal-drama dead zone.  The Practice and its spinoff Boston Legal have both left us.  A brief trend toward star-vehicle lawyer shows -- Shark with James Woods, Rob Lowe's The Lyon's Den, and Canterbury's Law with Julianna Margulies -- fizzled out.

That leaves precious little in the way of lawyer drama on the airwaves.  (We are of course ignoring the incredibly old Law & Order and its spawn, which have become repetitive and tiresome.)  But this week the broadcast networks have announced their planned schedules for fall, and two of them are going to test the legal waters once again.  CBS will give Margulies another shot at playing a criminal lawyer in The Good Wife, while ABC has the legal "dramedy" The Deep End on tap as a midseason replacement.  What are the prospects for these two newcomers?  Are they Greedy-worthy?  Let's take a look:
Everyone wants a bailout these days.  Everywhere you look you'll see a group that thinks the U.S. Treasury should issue them a blank check or two to ease their financial pain.  Graduates of this country's institutions of higher learning are no different.

We will avoid throwing around a lot of numbers here as we summarize.  College and graduate school are expensive.  Students borrow an awful lot of money to earn degrees which, their schools promise them, will provide an ample return on investment.  But graduates often find themselves earning far less than they expected, or even unable to find work in the field they've trained for.  Result: monthly loan payments that eat up a huge chunk of income, stretched out over 10- and 20-year repayment schedules.  Many borrowers end up right where they were before they entered school: living in financial uncertainty or barely getting by.

Making matters worse is that federal law makes student loans exceptionally difficult to include in a bankruptcy.  Both federal and private loans are now excepted from bankruptcy discharge, unless the debtor petitions for a determination of "undue hardship."

Is there anything that can help?  A recent USA Today article highlighted a couple of approaches being suggested to help address what may or may not be a student loan repayment crisis.
The week ends, as usual, with a sampling of links, presented today with no general organizing principle.  You'll have to find the meaning in all this on your own:

Now here's a way to knock out some CLE credits, for those inclined toward a little outdoor adventure.  Alaska West, one of a group of remote fishing lodges, is opening its tent doors for a weeklong fly-fishing/CLE blowout.  Pack your bags and plan to head (way) north from August 28 through September 4.

You'll have to get yourself to Quinhagak, on the edge of the Bering Sea.  Alaska West will kindly help you with the last leg of that journey, including a jet-boat ride up the Kuskokwim River to the lodge.  Then it's a week of piling up the credits (21 hours' worth, including 6 hours of ethics) and reeling in fish.  Alaska West suggests that that week will be prime time for silver salmon and rainbow trout, and of course you don't have to be an experienced angler to partake.  (Presumably you will want to be an actual attorney, though, to really enhance your enjoyment of those class hours.)

No mention is made of the cost of the program, but we can ascertain from the Alaska West website that a standard, non-CLE week (as if anyone would be interested in the fishing without the continuing legal education) costs $4800, plus guide tip, plus airfare from Anchorage.  So if you're the type who's always looking for the $10-an-hour, ultra-cheap CLE option, perhaps you should be looking elsewhere.  But if remote Alaskan rivers, casting for silver salmon, and a week without a BlackBerry sound appealing, well, you can tell 'em that Greedy Associates sent you.
At one firm it is going to happen.  Will it catch on elsewhere?

The Legal Intelligencer reported on Monday on Philadelphia-based Drinker Biddle's new plan for its new associates (registration required), and it looks very different from what other large firms have been doing in response to the decline in their profits.

According to the Intelligencer, new associates are going to start as planned this fall, rather than being deferred for up to a year, as is happening at other firms.  Their first six months will be spent in a program of both formal training and shadowing of more senior lawyers.  They will not be required to bill, and the pay will be at a reduced annualized rate of $105,000.  Salaries, and billing expectations, will increase after the six months of training.

Drinker Biddle clients should be excited about these developments, since it will likely mean the end of being billed for the unproductive hours put in by the most junior associates.  Many clients, at Drinker and elsewhere, already demand that first-years spend little or no billable time on their matters.

Law schools are also likely to respond positively.
Do lawyers make particularly good reality-show contestants? (Corollary question: can you make a good reality show about lawyers? Answer: do you remember David E. Kelley's The Law Firm? Didn't think so.)

Perhaps the stereotypical lawyer skill set -- analysis, negotiation, perfectionism, competitiveness -- is the right recipe for game-show success. On the other hand, like other desk drones, lawyers aren't always models of physical strength and fitness. With that to think about, consider three recent examples:

Attorney siblings Victor and Tammy Jih recently won this season's (fourteenth!) installment of The Amazing Race on CBS. Victor Jih is a partner at O'Melveny & Myers, while Tammy Jih is a Quinn Emmanuel associate. The duo outlasted ten other teams to take the big prize. (Schadenfreude bonus for associates in BigLaw hell: check out this video clip of Victor, the BigLaw partner, fighting off tears after nearly costing the team the race in the third episode.)
For a new generation of lawyers (and anyone who spends the workday in front of a computer, really) Facebook belongs with Minesweeper and Solitaire in the pantheon of time-wasting applications.  Keep up with your friends, make new friends, answer once and for all that burning question, Which Scooby-Doo Character Are You?; it's all right there, just waiting for your next ten-minute block of free time.

Some of your motivated fellow associates, though, have been savvily turning Facebook and other social sites into research tools, seeking discoverable information within the social-network profiles of both opposing parties and witnesses.  But while this seems like a great way to turn an entertaining time-killer into a source of billable hours, there are, inevitably, limits.

As reported last week by Legal Blog Watch, one lawyer recently asked the Philadelphia Bar Association for an advisory opinion on whether an attorney can ask a third party to "friend" a witness on a social network, in order to gain access to the less-public portions of her profile.
This week in Greedy Links: you are legally in the clear to provide legal opinions to your clients, just maybe a hint of a recovery for the legal profession, and a couple of novel places to look for a new job.

This Week's Ethics Lesson:

  • The Washington Post reports that Jay Bybee and John Yoo will not face criminal sanctions for their "torture memos," and that, given state bars' lack of subpoena power, they aren't likely to face professional sanctions either.  In other words, it is in fact ethical to perform legal research and then supply your client with confidential memoranda summarizing that research.  Everyone can go back to work now.

The State of the Profession:

And everywhere you look, there's a story about the slow capitulation to the need to reduce BigLaw salaries.

We have a theme for today's questions: many FindLaw Answers users have been hitting the Criminal Law board to ask about police searches of their cars.  Grab your favorite Fourth Amendment treatise (don't forget to get current with a quick read of Arizona v. Gant) and jump in:

Start with Answers user yallen, who wants to know whether the smell of marijuana constitutes probable cause for a search:

My boyfriend was recently pulled over (while I was in the car) and the police proceeded to search the car. I did not give them the authority to search. Well, they found drugs. The police report said he didn't signal a right turn, and the car smelled like marijuana.  Did the officer have sufficient probable cause to search the car by saying he smelled pot?

Got that one figured out?  Good, because here comes the Gant question.  (Hey, we warned you to look it over.)  User joej3839 wants to know the extent of Gant's restriction on searches incident to arrest:

Love it or hate it, we (almost) all have to spend time on CLE.  (Where can you move if you want to practice in CLE-free bliss?  Answer here.)

But if it's just too tedious for you, and you can't stand the thought of another four hours of "Emerging Issues In Insurance Coverage" or the like, there are plenty of providers out there who want to offer you something different and interesting.  Today's example: West LegalEdcenter, which on June 9 in Minneapolis will offer a panel discussion featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning "Angels in America" playwright Tony Kushner.

The panel, titled "Love, Law, and Litigation: A Dialog of Bias in American Sexual and Gender Identity," is co-presented by the Guthrie Theater, and will explore "polarized social attitudes related to sexual orientation and gender identity and their effect on law throughout the United States," according to the event's press release.

The course will utilize both live actors and discussions of excerpts from Kushner's play.  There will also be a live webcast.  The two hours of MCLE credit will satisfy Elimination of Bias and Ethics requirements in several states.  So if you've been casting about looking for a way to expand your horizons while fulfilling your MCLE requirements, perhaps an afternoon of great American drama is your ticket.

This week, a few notable instances of lawyers and law students forgetting the rules. Also, rankings time once again (this time for firms, not schools), the new job you really want, more anxiety for students, and Gordon Gekko returns!

Ethics Refresher Section