Greedy Associates - The FindLaw Legal Lifestyle and Career Blog

June 2009 Archives

This week brings an update on the student-loan front: Congress has decided to do something. No, not the total loan forgiveness that some are asking for, but a couple of things that should help, particularly for those who pursue public-interest careers.

The National Law Journal had the story last week, and FindLaw's Strategist followed up with a summary of the key provisions. The College Cost Reduction & Access Act, which was actually signed into law last year and takes effect July 1, includes two programs that can help law graduates struggling with debt from certain types of  loans made or subsidized by the federal government. The first will allow people in qualifying types of jobs -- essentially, public-interest lawyers -- to have their loans forgiven after making payments for 10 years. The second will allow people who meet certain income qualifications to have their monthly payment capped at a percentage of income, and to have debt forgiven after 25 years.

The Project on Student Debt also has created a site, IBRinfo, that describes in fairly clear terms the nature of the two programs, and attempts to direct users to an application process -- no small feat considering that the public-service forgiveness program does not appear to have an application process in place yet.

West Unveils Between Cases Website for Displaced Attorneys

We all know that this is an unprecedented time for law firm layoffs.  The legal job market is tough these days, to say the least.  Many attorneys are finding themselves without a job and wondering what course to follow for their future, and what first steps to take along that path.

In order to help answer these questions, West has created Between Cases, a site with free resources for those looking for new jobs, trying to brush up on their skills in between jobs, thinking about starting their own firm, or even attorneys who just want to learn how to increase their business.
Considering that many of them are essentially professional writers, lawyers are often surprisingly unconcerned with how their words look on the page. So today we're calling your attention to our new favorite website. The engrossing, appealingly geeky, and really useful Typography for Lawyers is doing all it can to obliterate the legal profession's most pressing problem: an unending parade of hideously ugly documents.

Typographer-turned-lawyer Matthew Butterick (yes, such people exist, and Butterick even insists he's not the only one) has built Typography for Lawyers into an impressive first course in font selection, page layout, and firm-yet-helpful rules for properly formatting a document. And it's all aimed at attorneys, who will benefit from its simple but clear rules, without getting too bogged down in details.

Typography for Lawyers is laid out primarily as a series of short lessons on an array of typographical subjects, and covers topics both basic -- replacing straight quotes with curly quotes, for instance -- and advanced -- such as creating non-breaking spaces to keep related words together on one line.

You'll want to explore the site for yourself to get acquainted with all that it has to offer (and we guarantee that you'll learn something useful), but we will highlight a few favorites. Our top 5:
There are a lot of large firms these days casting about for some kind of long-term fix for their crumbling business models. We wrote in May about Drinker Biddle hitting upon a model which, in the weird world of law firms, actually sounded novel: train your new attorneys to be attorneys! That light-bulb moment was bound to be noticed by other firms, and this week it was. Howrey, the D.C.-based, litigation-centric firm previously known for bringing you litigation bootcamp in place of summer-associate slackitude, has initiated a new training program that amounts to a two-year apprenticeship for its new associates.

The National Law Journal and Above the Law both reported on the "Tier 1 Associate Program," which will start this fall. With bonuses considered, Howrey associates will be paid $125,000 the first year, which will focus on structured training and pro bono work. The second year will see a slight pay bump to $150,000, and an opportunity for associates to work with clients at reduced billing rates. After that, the training wheels come off, and Howrey has (it hopes) a whole new group of litigators who are truly ready to work with clients.
Well, we just can't pass this one up. California attorneys, how about a free hour of ethics MCLE credit, earned from the comfort of your office chair? All you have to do this Thursday, June 25, is make your way to the Avalon Town Courts in Second Life.

Umm, yes, Second Life. That virtual world thing, the one that claims it's "the Internet's larget user-created, 3D virtual world community," in which you can apparently wander forever seeing the sights, buy virtual land and set up a business, or think up some crazy new use for a virtual world and make it happen. It's whatever you make it, say its creators, and for some legal-minded users, that means it's a golden opportunity to . . . form a bar association and talk shop. Yes, there is a Second Life Bar Association, in case you find that your real-world lawyer activities aren't interesting or time-consuming enough and you'd like to take them online. Perhaps you don't envision spending your nights and weekends this way, but let's not judge. After all, you're getting real MCLE credit here, for free.
We've got all kinds of advice for you this week. See below for that, but first some news links:

Read on for our handy advice:
We've written recently about the "movement" (i.e. Facebook page) to have Congress cancel student loan debt. While a blanket cancellation doesn't appear any more likely to happen any time soon, we do have an update on what's likely to come next in the student loan debate.

As reported on Monday at SCOTUSBLOG (with link to cert petition), FindLaw's Strategist, and elsewhere, the Court agreed to hear United Student Aid Funds, Inc. v. Espinosa, which involves the discharge of student loans via bankruptcy proceedings. Such a discharge is statutorily forbidden, of course, so what could there be for SCOTUS to decide? Is the Roberts Court just itching for a chance to do some legislating from the bench, and discover a brand-new constitutional right to be free of burdensome loan debt? Err, no. It's going to be a lot more mundane than that, and you're going to have to keep writing monthly checks.

Espinosa, it seems, listed his debt to United Student Aid Funds as one of the debts to be discharged in his Chapter 13 proceeding. Normally, you can't just do this; you first have to initiate an adversary proceeding in which you prove (while the lender works to disprove) that you have an "undue hardship" that permits your student-loan debt to be included in the bankruptcy.
Time to put those Greedy smarts to use once again, and help a FindLaw Answers user approach a tricky legal question. This week, appropriately for the times, we feature a bankruptcy-related question.

One of the curious difficulties of initiating a bankruptcy petition is that it usually requires money. User jasontherock wants to file for bankruptcy, but has run into the money problem:

I have retained a bankruptcy attorney , but I have not yet paid them enough to start the process. I am on a payment basis and when I reach the required amount (in about a month) they will start the process.
Should we really be surprised to learn that a lot of people who want or need to file for bankruptcy find it difficult to pay an attorney to do that filing? Probably not. The problem for jasontherock is that, while he diligently saves up and pays his lawyers, the world marches on and his other creditors keep calling:
The post title says what you need to know about our favorite stories this week.  Read on for more:

The Big Story of the Week

How's Your Career This Week?

Learning From the Best

  • The case for BLS: Above the Law says that at Brooklyn Law School, you can learn from a real-life mob lawyer! How are these things not factored into the U.S. News Rankings?
  • Also worth a read: the Village Voice piece that spawned the ATL story. Only in New York, indeed.
Over at Law21, Jordan Furlong has composed an elegy of sorts for the oft-scorned term "work-life balance." He suggests that, though the work-life balance movement was already receiving considerable criticism, the concept as such is a dead letter in the modern law firm, undone by an economy that requires would-be associates to accept pretty much any terms of employment that a firm is willing to offer. The debate ends when associates lack the leverage to make any demands at all of their employers.

To be sure, not everyone has received Furlong's message that the debate is, at the very least, back-burnered in the current recession. As noted here and elsewhere in the past few weeks, Gen Y-ers and Boomers, in the personae of Adrian Dayton and Scott Greenfield, have been engaging in an online slam-fest over why partners don't get Gen Y, how Gen Y is full of "slackoisie," the evils of old-school requirements like face time, and the partners' prerogative to use associates as profit centers.
Say what you will about President Obama's Supreme Court nominee. Really, go ahead and say what you will -- it's a free country. But whatever you say, you're going to have to say her name. And therein lies the problem, according to the blogging masses: how should you pronounce Sotomayor? Today we present a few suggested approaches to the issue:

1. Just wind up and give it your best shot at pronouncing it in Spanish. This was President Obama's initial approach at the press conference introducing Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his nominee. You can hear it at about the 3:15 mark of this clip: soft T, trilled R, accent on the final syllable: "so toe my OR."

2. Quickly tire of trying to sound like a native Spanish speaker and find some kind of English/Spanish hybrid pronunciation. This is what you hear more often from Obama in the clip after his initial efforts at pronouncing the name in Spanish (starting at around 4:40). Emphasis still at the end, but no more trilling and a different final vowel: it comes out something more like "soda my ER." Call this the bipartisan approach, maybe.
You might see some old stories and recurring themes popping up in this week's links. What can we say? The great themes never change, and some discussions just have to keep on going and going...

Work Life: Everyone Is Still Unhappy

Law School: Everyone Still Cheats

At Greedy Associates we are not content with merely referring you to an evening of American drama, or a week of Alaskan fly-fishing for your CLE needs. We want to continue to ensure that you can find unusual and enjoyable ways to fulfill your requirements. Today, we bring you this: a cruise through the Greek Isles, with instruction on tort litigation.

The American Association for Justice is currently promoting a seven-day cruise aboard the Seven Seas Navigator, with stops in Greece and Turkey, this October. You get all the expected comfort and conveniences of a modern cruise vessel -- spa, golf, endless food and drink, casino, yada yada --  and the chance to visit wonders of the ancient world in places like Athens and Istanbul.  

And if that isn't enough, cruisers will have a chance to knock out "up to 7.5 continuing legal education credits, including ethics," at the same time, according to the AAJ website. Your 7.5 hours will run you about $600 (less if you're an AAJ member), on top of the $4000-and-up per-person price of the cruise. (And the cost of getting yourself to Athens, of course.)

As for content, the AAJ says only that "the seminar will feature some of AAJ's best national speakers," and we have no doubt that among the members of the plaintiffs' bar there are some pretty compelling speakers, but really, do the details matter? You'll be on a cruise ship in Greece.  Let's just get through the seminar and back to the cocktails and the fine dining, please.

See also:

Last week brought a flurry of legal-blog postings about a new (and Greedy-sounding) book by an attorney/author who goes by "ZZ."  China High: My Fast Times in the 010: A Beijing Memoir is ZZ's memoir of living large in Beijing in the early 2000s, indulging in a no-holds-barred sex-and-drugs lifestyle after being posted to Sidley Austin's Beijing office.  It may be a coming-of-age story, a fascinating expose of modern China, and a cautionary tale about the horrors of the Chinese prison system (where ZZ apparently has a brief stay during the course of the story), but what we really want from this book is a sort of combination career/travel guide for the aspiring international associate.

We admit that we have not read China High yet, but, in true blogger fashion, we are willing to speculate wildly based on whatever meta-information we can glean from the internet, which in this case means book reviews from Bloomberg and the Far Eastern Economic Review.  Here, then, are the questions we would be most interested in if we were actually sitting down to read China High:
It's time once again to take a break from billing clients and put in a little pro bono effort.  Put your Greedy smarts to use and help the users of FindLaw Answers through the ever-disputed territory of landlord-tenant law.

Today we present pair of posts that really intrigued us.  Not so much for their legal substance, although there is a real legal question at issue here, but for their eerie similarity.  It certainly appears to us that a landlord and a (former) tenant have independently sought the help of the Answers community to resolve their dispute.  Read on and see if you agree.

First, we have a post from "sugarkitty," a landlord in Virginia, whose long-ago tenant moved away without bothering to collect her security deposit refund:

I had a tenant who vacated my property in early 2005 and refused to provide a forwarding address. I haven't heard from her in all this time but she called today demanding immediate return of her security deposit and threatening a lawsuit. After more than four years am I required to return it to her now?
We don't know too many tenants who don't want (or, frankly, need) their security deposits back after moving, so this is already an interesting story.  A later post by "blaize125" on the Real Estate board, though, made us take note: