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December 2011 Archives

Does Your Law Firm Support SOPA?

[1/17/2011 Editor's note: The original House Judiciary Committee's list of SOPA supporters has recently been updated. The committee's website now features an entirely new list of SOPA supporters. This new list does not include any of the law firms listed in this post.]

If you haven't heard about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), then get your head out of the sand. The bill, which is currently making its way through committee, gives copyright and trademark holders the ability to cut off access to infringing websites.

And if your firm does any work for the media or entertainment industry, you can bet that they've heard about SOPA.

Some call it censorship, others think it protects American jobs. And a group of technology heavyweights thinks it stifles innovation. But what does your law firm think of SOPA?

According to a list released by the House Judiciary Committee, the following 22 law firms support the bill:

Law Schools Bracing for Wave of Class Actions?

2012 may prove to be the year of the law school lawsuit.

At least that's what some attorneys at LeClairRyan are saying. They claim that they've been tracking the "noise" on blogs and social networks for months. Their conclusion is that disgruntled law grads everywhere seem poised to sue.

Are you surprised? If you're currently sitting pretty in a BigLaw office, you're probably grateful for your law school education. It netted you a high six-figure paying job, after all. Granted, you don't have a social life. But hey, life's all about compromise. At the same time, you likely know some law grads that fall into one of the following categories:

Goodbye 2011, and hello 2012! Time to break out the bubbly -- and to reveal our Top 3 New Year's resolutions for BigLaw associates.

1. Work healthier.

How much time do you spend stuck behind a computer or in a cubicle? A lawyer's sedentary lifestyle can lead to health problems -- but you don't need us to tell you that. The bloggers at Diethack suggest taking frequent, regular breaks: for example, 10 minutes on your feet for every hour at your desk.

Other tips to work healthier include:

New Supreme Court Cookbook Will Help You Eat Like a Supreme Court Justice

Martin Ginsburg's posthumous Supreme Court cookbook will allow you to eat as heartily as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Sure, Justice Ginsburg wasn't exactly young in her years when she first took her place on the bench. But that doesn't mean she subsisted on a high-fiber diet of prunes with a nutritious side of Ensure.

No, it actually seems that Justice Ginsburg ate better than most of us. Her late husband, Martin Ginsburg, was not only a tax lawyer but an amateur chef. Are you seething with culinary jealousy right now?

Raise Your Hand if You Took Adderall to Study for Exams

Law school finals week is a time filled with stress, tensions, and of course, prescription drugs. It seems students everywhere are ingesting Adderall.

Adderall is meant to alleviate the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It's a stimulant, which means it also allows students to stay awake for long stretches of time.

Honestly, staying awake is something all law students struggle with. It's rare that students are positively enthralled with contract or property law. Does "fee simple absolute" ring a bell? Most likely, just hearing that phrase numbs your brain and almost lulls you into a coma.

A Survival Guide to Working During the Holidays

For most Americans, the holiday season is a time for feast, family, and fun. That is, unless you're a BigLaw associate. If you are, you're probably trying to figure out the best way to explain to your parents that you have to write 3 motions before Santa can hit the chimney.

That whole "no smartphones" at the table rule that your relatives love to employ?

That simply won't work -- you've got work to do. And, you're in good company. Around 64% of employees surveyed by Regus PLC said they plan to work the week between Christmas and New Year's. What can you do to soften the blow?

Record $285 Million in Lawyers' Fees Approved by Delaware Judge

Lawyers aren't overpaid at all. Just ask Delaware Judge Leo Strine. He recently approved $285 million in attorney's fees in a shareholder derivative suit to two plaintiffs' firms.

Broken down, the $285 million of attorney's fees essentially means the firms are getting around $35,000 per billable hour. The firms purportedly spent around 8,000 hours on the case, according to Thomson Reuters News & Insight.

It's good news for attorneys. I mean, it's flattering to think that every hour of your time is worth $35,000. But what exactly happened in this case?

Paralegal Forges $285K Law Firm Check for NYC Spending Spree

A California paralegal forged a check for $285,000 to give massive donations to charity.

If only.

In reality, the paralegal, Alexa Johzen Polar, and her accomplice, Robin Antonella Pabello, used the money to charter a private jet to New York. There, the women rented five hotel rooms near Times Square. They then went on a luxurious shopping spree at Tiffany and Co. and Montblanc.

UC Irvine Places 1/5 of Graduates into Clerkships, Tops Harvard

Did you know UC Irvine has a law school? Federal judges certainly do. UC Irvine's 2012 clerkship rate exceeds even prestigious rivals like Harvard Law. This coming from a school that just opened its doors in 2009 and isn't even fully accredited by the American Bar Association.

Surely someone over at Harvard is getting a tongue lashing right about now.

UC Irvine placed about 1/5 of its graduates into federal clerkships. This number has only been surpassed by a few schools, including Yale and Stanford which placed 27 and 24% of their graduates respectively.

Legal Writing Tip No. 78: Don't Call a Judge a 'Bigoted Catholic Beast'

The story of attorney Rebekah Nett has understandably been making the rounds. Really, who can resist laughing? She told a judge that her court is "composed of a bunch of ignoramus, bigoted Catholic beasts that carry the sword of the church."

We may find it funny, but Minnesota Bankruptcy Judge Nancy Dreher (the "black-robed bigot" and "Catholic Knight Witch Hunter") is taking the claims very seriously. Judge Dreher has asked Nett and her client to show cause why they should not be fined $10,000 a piece.

Nett's client Naomi Isaacson, who also happens to be an attorney, has responded. And the results are not pretty.

With holiday season fast approaching, here's a list you'd better check twice: What Christmas gifts to buy for your support staff -- especially your legal secretary.

Let's face it, legal secretaries are often the most valuable players on any legal team. They juggle intake calls, scheduling, and legal document preparation -- all while dealing with some very difficult people. (That means you. And your opposing counsel. And your annoying attorney friends who stop by for unannounced, Mad Men-style happy hours.)

For these reasons and more, it's best not to be an office grinch when it comes to gift-giving. To help you out, here are five broad categories of gifts that your legal secretary won't object to receiving.

California Attorney Sues Firm Over 3,000 Billable Hour Quota

Ever wish you could bill your clients for your "thinking time"? One California attorney claims that that's exactly what his firm had him do. He's now suing them for wrongfully terminating him after he failed to meet his billable hour quota.

Richard Unitan, the attorney in question, says that the firm simply has unrealistic billing requirements. He says that his former employers are committing billing fraud, and he was only fired because he refused to follow suit.

These are pretty litigious statements, to say the least. Unitan says his firm wanted him to bill 3,000 hours a year. Let's break that down:

UVA Law Student Broke Into Registrar to Steal Transcript Paper

A UVA law student broke into the University Registrar's Office to steal official transcript paper. The student, Joshua Peter Gomes, was charged with two counts of breaking and entering and another count of possession of burglary tools.

Some might wonder why Gomes would risk it all by breaking into the office. If you're one of those people, you must not be an attorney or a law student.

In this economy, OCI can be incredibly difficult. Landing a BigLaw job, or any law job for that matter, really boils down to two things: your tenacity and skill.

DA Accused of Sexting Domestic Abuse Victim Faces Suspension

Sexting a domestic abuse victim - whose abuser you are prosecuting - is probably not a good idea. Former Wisconsin District Attorney Ken Kratz is accused of doing just that, and may be facing a suspension.

If you graduated from law school with the goal of becoming a prosecutor, you probably spent three years studying and learning about cases where women were abused and harassed. You might have even attended seminars about victims' counseling.

And, you probably had to take a legal ethics course. And the MPRE. Sure, legal ethics can be a gray area, but really, does sexting a domestic abuse victim fall under that umbrella? Kratz really should have known better.

It's December, and attorneys everywhere are scurrying to buy presents -- so they don't seem like a louse.

But who's on their list? There are many to flatter -- such as anyone who helped them with their legal matters.

Not just clients, associates, or legal assistants -- there are lots of others to thank, so you'd best be persistent.

Here are five people to add to your holiday list. We suggest finding presents they'll find hard to resist.

Christmas Tree in AL Courthouse Adorned with Murder Victims' Photos

The Houston County Courthouse in Alabama has a strangely themed Christmas tree this year. It's covered only in angels and crime victim ornaments. As in, ornaments containing the photos of murdered persons.

Though slightly morose, the tree is fueled by good intentions. VOCAL -- Victims of Crime and Leniency -- put up the tree to honor local murder victims during the holidays. But even good intentions can be problematic.

Local defense attorney Billy Sheffield is fighting the victim tree, calling it "highly prejudicial and inflammatory."

A Chicago lawyer's, shall we say, ballsy Craigslist help-wanted ad has led to an unwanted result: a one-year minimum suspension of his law license.

Attorney Samir Zia Chowhan posted the ad in the "Adult Gigs" section of Craigslist, seeking a legal secretary with benefits -- and we're not talking medical, dental, and a 401(k).

The Illinois attorney disciplinary board's report reveals Chowhan sought an "energetic woman" for his immigration law firm. His ad read in pertinent part:

"Duties will include general secretarial work, some paralegal work and additional duties (emphasis added) for two lawyers in the firm. ... If interested, please send current resume and a few pictures along with a description of your physical features, including measurements..."

They've tweaked the curve, but the bottom line is the same: Who really cares about the new "Best Law Firms" rankings by U.S. News and World Report?

The folks at U.S. News and Best Lawyers sure do. Their "Best Law Firms" publication is a growing business, and the new second-annual list is being described as better than ever.

It also appears law firms named as being the best in the country care too. An internet search finds dozens of firms have recently issued press releases to tout their new top-tier rankings.

That could be helpful information for clients looking for the best lawyers -- but not so much for out-of-work and new attorneys looking for a good job. Especially, as one recruiter noted, 80 percent of big firms will only consider job candidates who are currently employed.

BigLaw Commits to the Environment, Goes Green

BigLaw is going green. At least according to the Washington Post.

A number of D.C.'s largest law firms are moving into LEED-certified buildings, hoping to demonstrate a "commitment to the environment." And to save a little bit of money, of course.

Hopefully those savings will amp up their commitment to jobs.

For the uninitiated, LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It's a green building certification system that rates overall construction, interior design and maintenance.

Best Value Law Schools: Will These Schools Reduce Your Student Debt?

The National Jurist has released its ranking of the top 60 Best Value Law Schools, and the results aren't exactly that surprising.

Only three private schools made the list, one of which may or may not game the system. And there seems to be a concentration of schools located in regions with a low cost of living.

You know, like the Midwest, South and other places without many BigLaw firm offices.

For these reasons, attending one of these schools would probably reduce your student loan debt. But if you value free food and city culture, the discount might not be worth it.