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April 2014 Archives

Above the Law Releases Employment-Focused Law School Rankings

Justice Samuel Alito thinks the U.S. News and World Report's Law School rankings are crap, in large part because of the publication's reliance on LSAT scores. "Law schools put too much emphasis on this one multiple choice test," he told the American Spectator in an interview. "What in life is a multiple choice test? But those rankings are very heavily influenced by LSAT scores."

Maybe, then, he'll be more impressed with Above the Law's law school rankings, which focus more on outcomes (quality employment), rather than incoming measures (the LSAT).

Let's take a look, shall we?

Oh happy day! We never thought we'd see George Clooney settle down, but we learned earlier this week that he got engaged -- to a lawyer! But she's not just any lawyer, she's pretty fancy one (and a barrister to boot).

And, when we say fancy, we don't just mean fancy looking -- Amal Alamuddin has one hell of a resume. Here are some of her impressive lawyerly accomplishments.

UC Hastings Graduation Speaker Draws Protests, Petition

Janet Napolitano.

Her list of accomplishments is long: Ex-Attorney General and two-term Governor of Arizona. Former Secretary of Homeland Security. Current president of the University of California system.

For now, Napolitano is set to be the commencement speaker at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco -- a decision which has led to an online petition, an angry social media campaign from current and former students, and other protests.

Why? As Secretary of DHS, she was responsible for mass deportations of undocumented immigrants. That may fly in Arizona, but it definitely will raise eyebrows and picket lines in California.

Starting Out in Criminal Defense? 3 More Mistakes to Avoid

The last "Starting Out in Criminal Defense" post focused on protecting yourself by avoiding mistakes. This one focuses on protecting your client. By avoiding mistakes.

Don't ruin your client's weekend by getting him arrested on the wrong day

Let's say your client needs to make contact with the authorities (maybe he needs to check on a warrant) and there's a chance he could be taken into custody. Don't let him do this on a Friday.

BigLaw Memo Teaches Partners How to Interact With Diverse Hires

The worst diversity seminar I was ever subjected to happened a few years ago, while I was still in school. The presenter, eager to illustrate to the audience how diverse we really were (it was a heavily Caucasian class), had people stand up whenever she called out their group. Whether it was the lack of actual diversity in that classroom, or simply a reluctance to say, "The one person who is [minority group], stand up and be stared at," I don't recall, but it was awkward, and nobody learned anything from, "If you're from the South, stand up. Now let's see the Californians."

Is this worse? We're not sure, but it's definitely on the same misguided plane. A BigLaw firm sent out a memo giving tips to employees on how to deal with "diverse attorneys." (H/T Jezebel.) As a bonus, any time spent interacting with these curious individuals comes with its own code for tracking time in the firm's system.

Last year, associate attorneys topped the Forbes list of unhappiest jobs, beating out customer service reps, clerks and legal assistants. Garbage collectors, dishwashers and janitors didn't even make the list.

Seriously? People who have to clean up other people's messes have less to whine about than associates? Well, they're doing a job that makes the world a better place every day; maybe that makes a difference. Or maybe we should look at The Wall Street Journal's longer and arguably more sensible list.

If you thought becoming a lawyer was easy, think again. Gaining admission to the bar is more than just law school and the infamous bar exam -- you also need to pass the MPRE. The what? The MPRE -- it stands for Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, and you need a passing score.

Well, almost (there are always exceptions, right?). If you plan to practice in Maryland, Wisconsin, and/or Puerto Rico, the MPRE is not required for admission to the bar.

6 Apps That Will Come in Handy When You're Drunk

It's late April. For many of you, celebration season is about to hit full swing. Finals are ending (party!), graduation is approaching (party), it's Friday ("party and party and yeah!"), and if you're a bit older, February bar results are probably trickling in.

Basically, it's drinking season, and a long season it'll be, with summer approaching. What makes a good drinking night? Location, drinks, company, safety -- and a lifeline, just in case.

Here are six apps you may want to check out when you're faced with a few common scenarios:

We recently read an article about a new study about to be published, entitled "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Fairest of Them All." The study examines the relationship between an individual's perception of her own attractiveness, and social hierarchy, reports Quartz.

The study was instigated by the finding that in 2008, despite the economic downturn, Americans continued to spend lots of money on their physical appearance (yes, it's called the "Lipstick Effect").

Let's look at the study's findings, and some practical implications for life at BigLaw.

25 Terrible Gift Ideas for Administrative Professionals Day

It's Administrative Professionals Day! You didn't forget, did you? It's okay -- you're new to practice.

Well, you still have a little bit of time. How about shopping on your lunch break? In fact, we have a few gift ideas that can help. Of course, since this is last-minute, we want to make sure that you don't double-down on your mistake and buy a late and terrible gift.

Here's a list of terrible, terrible ideas, crowd-sourced from our writing staff:

One of the emerging trends resulting from the legal market slump of the past few years is law firm mergers. While the largest law firm merger between Dewey Ballantine and LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae went down in infamy and lead to the eventual new firm's bankruptcy, mergers are still happening.

Last year alone, Altman Weil tracked 88 law firm mergers, reports The Wall Street Journal. While firms merge with the goals of boosting revenue and obtaining new clients, how will your law firm's merger affect your career?

Here are a few ways you can approach your law firm's merger.

Kill Law School? This Guy Might be On (to) Something

A recent law graduate writes an article called, "The case for killing law school."

What's your first thought? Probably dismissal -- crazy folks spouting nonsense. But his argument, which boils down to (paraphrasing here) "lawyers make it hard to become lawyers to protect their massive salaries," and which takes UC Irvine Dean Erwin Chemerinsky to task for his defense of legal education's status quo (while making $350,000 in salary, plus a cut of textbook and study supplement sales, and compensation for bar review lectures), actually contains an interesting truth: becoming a lawyer costs way too much.

A four year degree, plus a three year degree, plus a bar study course and exam, is quite the expensive order. Matt Bruenig argues that the solution is to trim the fat by cutting barriers to entry. Is he right?

Heading to Court? 5 Tips to Make Your Life Easier

Are you a new criminal defense attorney? A new prosecutor? If you are, you'll be in court a lot and the hassles can really "try" your patience.

Since we have been there, done that, we put together five tips to make your life a bit easier.

Confirmation Bias Against Black Associates Shown in Memo Study

Study after study on implicit bias has shown that, when it comes down to it, we're all racists. Some studies use word association and split-second reactions to show that people are subconsciously racist -- that is, they tend to associate positive words with Caucasians, and negative words with African Americans. Others test the confirmation bias -- the tendency to notice facts that confirm your inherent biases.

The Nextions leadership consulting firm wanted to test this latter bias in a law firm setting, so they sent out a mistake-ridden research memo to law firm partners for review. (H/T to She Negotiates.) The average grade for the Caucasian-labeled candidate was a 4.1 out of 5. The African American? A mere 3.2.

Don't Let These Pesky Pronoun Errors Make You Look Bad

As a new attorney, you want to be known as conscientious, knowledgeable and ... not, well, embarrassing. Nothing makes a bad impression quite like messing up elementary-school stuff, like the proper use of pronouns. Yet it's easy to do, especially if you spend a lot of time on the Internet, where pronouns seem to be used incorrectly more often than not. So here's a quick refresher on the classic pronoun mistakes and how to avoid them.

It's v. Its

It's is a contraction of "it is," while its is the possessive form of it. So if its is possessive, where is the apostrophe, you ask? Yes, an apostrophe is often used to indicate possessives, but not with pronouns. You don't apostrophize his, hers, theirs, etc., so don't apostrophize its when you're using it to indicate possession. You use the apostrophe when it's is being used to mean "it is." For more help, click over to the Grammar Monster.

Law School Transparency Gets an Update, Wants More NALP Forms

When my brother was applying to law school, the first site I sent him to was the Law School Admissions Council's GPA and LSAT search. You enter your LSAT score and GPA, and it gives you probabilities of admission based on previous years' data. It's a great place to start sorting schools into "safety," "reach," and everywhere in between. Once that list was made, however, I pointed him to Law School Transparency, the movement and the website dedicated to providing prospective law students with all of the data needed to make an educated decision on whether and where to attend law school.

As part of that movement, LST has encouraged schools to make their annual National Association for Law Placement (NALP) reports public, as these reports are surveys of graduates' employment outcomes. When LST began, it was only able to obtain 34 reports (out of around 200 schools). It's made a lot of progress since then, but there's still a lot of room for improvement by the schools.

I remember my first year as an associate at BigLaw. I had my own office, and I shared an admin -- I hit the big time! But with admins, come responsibilities my dear young newbie associates; and one of those responsibilities are upon us -- Administrative Professionals' Day.

Yes, that's a thing. And it's next Wednesday, April 23.

Here's how to figure out whom to gift, and what to gift on Administrative Professionals Day. Ask yourself the following questions:

Starting Out in Criminal Defense? Here Are Some Mistakes to Avoid

You'd think that for $100,000 dollars or so, law schools would teach you everything you need to know to hang out your shingle and start out in criminal defense, but it just ain't so. Hopefully you've got good mentors, good practice guides and good malpractice insurance.

In case you have all of the above but could use a few more tips, here are a few criminal law "gotchas" you'll want to avoid.

Wherein W&L Law Makes Headlines Over Confederate Flags in a Tomb

Three years I spent in fair Lexington, Virginia, as a law student at the world's greatest law school, Washington and Lee. And in three years, I never once saw a Confederate flag, at least on campus. Off-campus, sure. But never on campus.

There are a few things you have to understand about old Dubyanel. It's in the rural South. And the University is recognized as both one of the top liberal arts schools and law schools in large part because of two men: George Washington and Robert E. Lee.

Washington donated James River Canal stock, which still provides funding for the university's students today. Lee, after he lost the Civil War, turned Washington College from a backwoods school to a world-class university, and annexed the nearby Lexington Law School. Both men are revered for their contributions to the school, even if both had ties to slavery. And despite Lee's ties to the Confederacy, this is a modern university -- there are no battle flags flying over the Colonnade, or displayed proudly in the classrooms.

But there is the Lee Chapel, and beneath it, his family tomb and museum. W&L's motto is "non incautus futuri" (not unmindful of the future), but the school, and the town, take the past very seriously as well.

NALP and ABA Job Data Says: Recent Grads, We're All [Expletived]

Told you we're screwed.

We're the many, the sad, the Class of 2011. And ladies and gents, we are rock bottom, at least in terms of employment.

That being said, from the data released last week, any gains over last year were modest, and those were barely above the year before, so while 2011 may mark the low point for law graduates, 2013 is barely a hair better.

How bad is it? We'll have our fingers crossed for my dear brother, a member of the Class of 2017.

Young lawyers under the age of 36 listen up! You have one more day to apply for the American Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division Scholarship. Just like your taxes, the scholarship application is due tomorrow.

Designed to encourage participation by minority attorneys, or attorneys in the private sector, military service, solo/small firm, or government in the Young Lawyers Division of the ABA, the YLD scholarship program gives priority to applications with a desire to be actively involved in the Young Lawyers Division, and who require financial assistance.

In a recent interview on NPR, Shankar Vedantam shared a theory on why men outnumber women in business school, and eventually later in the c-suite. And, surprisingly, it may have to do with ethics -- or the lack thereof.

Vedantam spoke with Professor Laura Cray, of the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business, and discussed a few studies she conducted regarding the gender gap in ethical considerations and negotiations. In her studies, she's made two findings, "What I found is firstly that men tend to have more lenient ethical standards than women, and secondly, that negotiators are more likely to tell a blatant lie to a female counterpart than a male counterpart."

Ok, I can hear it coming: "What does this have to do with us? We're in law school." Or, "we're lawyers, not MBAs." What does this have to do with you? Everything -- here's why.

We've all heard that it's not what you say, but how you say it, but do you ever consider that advice in your work life? Sometimes we're concentrating so much on getting the facts and legal analysis right, and meeting a deadline, that we neglect common communication.

One of those times when you really need to be aware of your body language is in meetings. We do so much work sitting alone at our desks that we forget that when we are in a meeting, we need to watch our body language, as well as what we say. Here are some tips for ensuring that your body language is not saying something that you don't want it to.

Attorneys have a pretty bad rep when it comes to alcoholism and substance abuse. Maybe you have a serious problem, or maybe just one night you had a few too many and made the wrong decision to get in your car. But now you find yourself arrested for driving while intoxicated (or under the influence, depending on where you live).

Now what? You have a few options: Represent yourself, get a buddy to help you, or find a great DUI lawyer. Which one do you think is the way to go?

Mixed Reactions to Brooklyn Law's Tuition Cuts

"2014 will be the year law schools begin to attack not only the quality issue -- that is the value proposition of a JD -- but also the affordability issue. Law schools will finally begin to attack their irrational and inequitable business model by taking on the heretofore unmentioned elephant in the room, the huge amounts spent on merit scholarships that drive tuition up paid by students who do not receive the scholarships."

Oh hey, Brooklyn Law School Dean Nick Allard. It's been awhile. When we last heard from the heavily indebted school's leader, he was making a number of optimistic (and some might argue, unrealistic) predictions for law schools in 2014. One of them was that schools will slash tuition rates (and by extension, merit scholarships).

Brooklyn just put its money where its predictions were. What were some of the reactions?

National Beer Day: 5 Uses for Leftover Law School Party Beer

On the great list of party fouls, wasting beer is not at the top of the list. No, expelling bodily fluids in inappropriate places, or spilling beer on people and/or furniture ranks far higher. Nonetheless, at every great law school party, there are those who cannot finish their beers. And when morning clean up time arrives, the forgotten and abandoned brews are typically wasted, as no one wants to drink flat beer.

Worry and waste not. In honor of National Beer Day, we bring you a list of uses for leftover beer, whether opened or unopened, canned, cupped, or kegged.

Two former associate professors at the John Marshall Law School are suing the school for discrimination and breach of contract.

Last week, the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia denied in part, and granted in part, the school's motion for summary judgment.

Here's a breakdown of the claims against the school:

We've all heard about the gender pay gap, and we've all heard the advice: lean in. According to Sheryl Sandberg, in her book "Lean In," she encourages women to negotiate their salaries and titles, and attributes much of the lag in women's pay to women not negotiating for themselves.

But some studies are finding that leaning in can actually hurt women, including a study conducted by professors Hannah Riley Bowles and Linda Babcock. Women negotiating their salary can be seen as aggressive by employers, and as Professor Babcock explains, "The research could not be more clear in that we tolerate more aggressive or assertive behavior by men more than women," reports The New York Times.

Pluto Mail: Law Students Launch an Email Startup

Looks like someone took my advice.

Just kidding. They probably never read the post. But we do applaud the two law students' ingenuity and time management skills. When we were in law school, there wouldn't have been enough time to revolutionize email in between classes and cocktails studying.

Revolutionize email? It seems so, if Pluto Mail can deliver. The law student-created startup promises to have unsending, editing (after sending), and auto-expiring features, all of which sound enticing to anyone who has ever accidently sent an email with an unfortunate typo or accidental recipient.

Did you know the ubiquitous office cube is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year? As someone always looking for an excuse to eat more cake, this is great news. In honor of the cubicle's anniversary, we thought we'd give you a roundup of our best cubicle-related posts on FindLaw.

So sit back in your cube, grab your coffee and don't let your co-workers see what you are reading (instead of working) ...

Law Office Ergonomics: Tips for Staying Pain-Free -- Need to make your workstation more comfortable? Read this post for tips on making your cube ergonomic from finding the right chair, to having the right lighting and ventilation.

American Idol for Law Jobs? Vote in BARBRI's Job Competition

This is how far we've fallen.

And that's not meant as disrespect for either BARBRI or Save the Children, the sponsors of this contest. It's just ... when did finding a law job require one to enter a reality television-like contest, complete with online videos of the candidates and a popular vote?

In any case, the Internet will help determine three finalists who interview for a one-year fellowship as in-house counsel for the Save the Children nonprofit. Yes folks, you too can vote, so long as you do so before April 7, 2014.