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December 2016 Archives

Congrats, law students. You've survived finals, most of the holidays, and still have a few days left before you have to drag yourself back to class. What should you do in the meantime? Work, of course! Sadly, your winter break isn't really much of a break. Instead, it's time to start scrambling for summer jobs.

So, if you're working on your JD, start updating your resume and polishing your cover letters. This week, as part of our affiliate relationship with Indeed, we're bringing you three of the coolest summer jobs for law students.

A judge in New York City found himself on the other side of the bench this week, facing assault charges after he allegedly cold-cocked a Legal Aid attorney at a law firm party in October.

The judge, Robert Beltrani, was visibly drunk when he got into a verbal spat with Sam Roberts, a public defender, the New York Daily News reports. As Beltrani turned to walk away, the judge allegedly sucker punched him -- but not before yelling "Yeah, I'm the judge. I do justice and I f--ing kill people!"

Back in my day, if you had to interview when applying to a law school, it was usually with an admissions officer or one of the school's alumni. Today, it's with a webcam. Well, sometimes. Video interviews are still rare, but they are becoming increasingly common. Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Chicago allow students to skype into live interviews, for example, while St. John's University and Northwestern have started to use prerecorded video interviews.

So, what should you do if you're faced with a law school admissions video interview? Here are a few tips.

Top Law School Fails of 2016

It's been a rough year. Antonin Scalia died, as did Muhammad Ali, Prince, David Bowie -- even Princess Leia was taken from us just today. There was that terrible election, Brexit, Zika, Aleppo, and mass shooting after mass shooting. And those are just the top of the list. In the eyes of many, 2016 has been the Worst Year Ever.

The year's terribleness hasn't spared law schools, either. If you can't wait for this awful year to come to a close, you're not alone. Plenty of law students and law school deans are counting down the minutes until 2016's death, too. Here's why.

Students Sue Charlotte Law School for $5 Million

If Charlotte School of Law reopens for the spring semester, a different class will be facing administrators: a class action.

Students Robert Barchiesi and Lejla Hadzic have sued the law school for taking tuition without telling students that the school was on probation for failing education standards. The American Bar Association cited the school in July for substandard admissions practices, which contributed to consistently low bar pass rates, and ordered administrators to advise its students.

In the class action filed Friday, the students say the school did not comply with the ABA's order and instead covered up their failures so they could take in more money. The law school charges about $60,000 a year in tuition and fees.

"If CSL had complied with its obligations, then it would have resulted in students not paying CSL tuition on or after Aug. 1, and defendants would have incurred substantial financial losses," according to the complaint, which alleges deceptive and unfair trade practices, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud.

Lawyer Who Shot His Wife in the Back Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter

After admitting he shot his wife in the back, a prominent Atlanta lawyer has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Claud "Tex" McIver said he was sleeping in the back seat of a car, when he abruptly woke up and shot his wife through the back of the front seat. He said he had the gun in his lap to protect them as a driver took them through a tough part of town, and he fired reflexively when he woke up.

Steve Maples, an attorney for McIver, said the felony charge and a misdemeanor charge for reckless conduct suggest it was an accident.

"Tex said this was the second worst day of his life," Maples told the Journal-Constitution.

ABA Sues for Public Interest Lawyers' Loan Forgiveness

If Uncle Sam and Scrooge had a child ...

It's possible but hard to imagine the creature that would evolve from that union. Yet more than a few lawyers have conjured up the image in the form of the U.S. Department of Education, which has taken back the offer of loan forgiveness for their student debts.

The American Bar Association and four public interest attorneys have sued the Department of Education and the Secretary of Education for reneging on the promise of the Public Interest Loan Forgiveness Program. The government has approved about 400,000 borrowers for the program, but changed its decision for some, including the ABA and its lawyers.

Law School JD Enrollment Hits 42-Year Low

Law school enrollments reached a 42-year low this year, while more women now attend law school than ever.

According to data released by the American Bar Association, 50.32 percent of the law students in ABA-accredited schools are women. It is the first time in the history of the ABA's annual reports.

While it is good news for gender equality in legal education, the report holds bad news for law schools in general. Enrollments dropped by almost 3,000 in 2016 to a total of 110,951. The last time enrollment was that low, it was 1974-75.

Time is running out to buy gifts for law students, with just a few more days until the winter holidays hit. But you're not too late.

If you move fast, you could still grab something special for the law students in your life. And believe us, they need it.

For-Profit Charlotte Law School Denied Federal Student Aid

Students at Charlotte School of Law may want to think about taking an extra-long Christmas break.

The U.S Department of Education has announced that Charlotte School of Law can no longer receive federal student loans and grants because it "substantially" misrepresented its program and failed to comply with educational standards. The department cited numerous problems at the school, and directly criticized its president for misrepresenting the school's bar pass rates.

"Your statement was false and/or misleading, particularly when you were making representations as a law school president responding to questions about an accreditor's finding of the school's substantial and persistent failures to prepare students for admission to the bar," Department representative Susan Crim wrote to Charlotte president Chidi Ogene in a letter dated Dec. 19, 2016.

Bah, Humbug. Where's My Bonus?

Remember when you were a kid, rushing to the Christmas tree before the sun came up? And remember the look on your parents' faces when you tore open the presents?

Tired. The look was tired. It was still oh holy night, for goodness sake.

Your folks may have managed to smile through it, but Christmas morning sometimes brings a little Christmas mourning. That's because, as an elf or somebody said, money doesn't buy happiness. Especially if you didn't get that pony, bicycle or special toy you really wanted -- or, for you grownups, that massive end of the year bonus you were expecting.

The holidays are just around the corner and that can mean just one thing -- a desperate rush for last minute gifts. If you order today, you can still get gifts delivered by Christmas Eve and the first day of Hanukkah.

With all this last minute shopping, we couldn't help think of the businesses who make our holiday commerce possible. In that vein, this week's three top coolest jobs all have something to do with gift giving, presented as part of our affiliate relationship with Indeed. So, if you can't be Santa Claus year round, you'll at least be able to help draft contractual clauses for some major companies. And, really, isn't that the same thing?

Malcolm Gladwell, the journalist famous for books like 'The Tipping Point' and 'Blink,' is known for his unexpected theories. Those include the assertion that policing small crimes can reduce crime rates overall (the so-called 'Broken Windows' theory), that 10,000 hours of practice can make anyone a master, and most recently that half of law students at the most competitive colleges are taking drugs.

Now, these aren't your trashy bath salts and bong hits, of course. They're fancy-people drugs. Study drugs. And Gladwell predicts that they're way more prevalent than you might expect.

50 Cent Hits Up Lawyers for $14.5 Million

Everyone's favorite bankrupt rapper, 50 Cent, was back in the news the other day after he won a multi-million-dollar settlement with his ex-lawyer. Garvey Schubert Barer, who unsuccessfully defended the rapper in a $16.2 million lawsuit over headphones, has agreed to pay 50 Cent $14.5 million to settle a legal malpractice claim.

Curtis Jackson, III, the rapper's real name, announced the settlement on Instagram: "I just got 14.5 million back from one Law Firm For malpractice," he wrote. "They f*** up so bad, I don't think they should be practicing Law." Jackson quickly deleted the "effing" announcement and replaced it with a clean version, on advice of his new lawyers, no doubt.

Tech Illiterate Judge Tossed From Case

You know the expression that when you are in the public eye, you live in a fishbowl? Well, sometimes that fishbowl may be a wineglass.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Minaldi may feel that way now. Recently unsealed transcripts show she was having trouble on the bench, but an old news video shows that her problems may have started years ago at the bar.

Minaldi was removed from a case for a series of mistakes in a criminal case, according to news reports. Court transcripts show that the judge was confused about preliminary instructions to the jury, including the burden of proof, presumption of innocence, and certain duties of jurors. 

The judge admitted that she forgot some of them, and asked the prosecutor to read them to the jury. The prosecutor and public defender then asked for a mistrial, but the judge would not.

"I think this is one of those cases that there's no reason to try it more than one time," she said on Feb. 2, 2016. "I think it will make all of us insane."

The Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation's largest gay civil rights organizations, has released its 2017 Corporate Equality Index, ranking major employers on their policies regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer employee rights. Hundreds of companies participated, including 156 major law firms, and this year saw the highest ever amount of businesses earning a perfect score.

The law was the best of the best when it came to industry-wide performance, with the highest number of top scores. Almost every firm scored an 85 out of 100 or above -- except for a few firms who ranked low. Really low. What's up with that?

Law school exams are terrible, but they do have one thing going for them: they're almost all open-book and open-note exams. Make a great outline and you can relax about having to memorize every nook and cranny of the law. But not every exam is an open one. In some exams, it's just you and your mind left to conquer those hypotheticals and pound out those essays. And they're tough -- maybe the closest thing to the bar exam you'll get before the bar exam.

But they're not impossible. You just have to have a unique approach to conquering the closed-book exam. Here are some tips to help you out.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Proudly Serves Jury Duty

Justice Jeff Brown believes in a loving God, the U.S. Constitution, and traditional Texas values. Which means he also doesn't believe in making excuses to get out of jury duty.

So when he received a summons to serve as a juror in a criminal case, Brown accepted the call. There was a possibility that he would be excused for a potential conflict because he serves on the Texas Supreme Court, but it wasn't a problem because he serves on the civil panel.

"I feel like it went pretty smoothly," Brown told the Austin American Statesman. "I was pretty happy with it."

Is Your Law School Underrated?

In sports, the oft-compared common denominator of life lessons, an underrated player is one who is better than his or her general reputation. They often are not the superstars of the game, and instead may spend their seasons on the bench.

But their overall contributions, in the grand scheme of things, may be significant. In the National Basketball Association, for example, perhaps the most underrated player last year made only one basket a game. His overall efficiency, however, would be the best in the league.

So what does this have to do with the law? Well, when it comes to law school rankings, it all depends on how you score them.

The holiday season may be the time for peace on earth, joy to the world, and copious eggnog, but it's also as good of a season as any for a lawsuit. If Santa has his elves, well, we've got our lawyers.

Whether it's Christmas displays on public property, holiday candy in the classroom, or religious holiday concerts, the holidays have engendered plenty of great lawsuits. Even Charles Dickens has gone to court over "A Christmas Carol."

Not Admitted to Law School? Hackers Found a Way

If you couldn't get into the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, you may wince knowing that cyber-hackers managed to do it.

The law school has notified 1,213 applicants from 2005-2006 that hackers got into the school's computer system. The school said the attack "exposed records containing your name and Social Security Number."

Taking measures in response to the hack, the school told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that they have implemented additional vulnerability identification programs and are "evaluating current computer applications and decommissioning those no longer needed, tightening credentials for access to databases, and deploying additional network intrusion detection."

The school also posted the notice on its website for other media.

The Chicago Cubs broke their World Series curse this November, winning the championship for the first time in over a century. Now, the newly victorious baseball team is looking to pick up some new talent. Legal talent, that is.

And that's just one of the dream jobs we have in store for you today. So, as part of our affiliate relationship with Indeed, here are the three coolest legal jobs we could find this week.

Christmas Comes Early to Associates at BigLaw Firms

Who'd have thought Santa Claus was masquerading as a partner at a big law firm?

Whether you believe in him or not, the BigLaw partners have sent out early Christmas cards with promises to stuff their associates' socks with plenty of cash. How much? Try on a $100,000 bonus for size.

There's no catch, other than being an associate at a large and profitable firm. And, of course, you must have already paid your dues.

Suing for a Negative Yelp Review Can Backfire Badly

Perhaps you had a bad day. A client fired you. A judged snarled at you. A dog bit you.

OK, you're not a postal carrier; you're a lawyer. But if a dog didn't bite you, maybe someone Yelped at you. Whatever you do, however, don't sue them because it will only make things worse.

As one law firm learned down in Texas, you probably shouldn't bite back when an angry client complains about you online. Attorneys at a Texas law firm made a costly mistake when they sued a former client for complaining about them on Yelp and Facebook. A judge threw out their case and ordered the attorneys to pay Yelper Lan Cai $26,831.55 for her attorneys' fees.

Law school exams tend to be all or nothing. You sit down, pound the keyboard for a few hours, walk out and a few weeks to a few months later, you've got your entire grade for that course. With everything riding on one test, it's no wonder stress levels are off the charts during exam time. Even worse, law school exams aren't like anything else you've done in law school and they can vary significantly between professors and courses.

There are many ways to prep for these exams, from using study groups to creating outlines to crying uncontrollably alone at night. But one of the best ways is to actually find and use a professor's practice or past exams. Here's how to go about it.

If you're looking for a break this week, might we recommend 'Loving,' the new-ish film written and directed by Jeff Nichols? The film tells the story of Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple whose relationship led to the Supreme Court's landmark Loving v. Virginia decision invalidating anti-miscegenation laws and declaring marriage a fundamental civil right -- a decision which continues to reverberate today.

'Loving' isn't a courtroom drama. You won't see great legal oration or be regaled by high-minded judicial arguments. (The legal battles take place largely off screen.) What you will see, however, is a masterful telling of a pivotal moment in American history, played out in the small and intimate details of the Lovings' relationship.

Study: Fewer Women Rank High in Law Because Fewer Attend Top-Tier Schools

Women have achieved equality in law school but not in the profession because fewer are admitted to top-tier schools, according to a new report.

The study says that women earn as many law degrees as men but less than 20 percent of those women become partners at law firms. Women are also underrepresented among judges, corporate counsel, law school deans and professors, according to the authors. Deborah Jones Merritt and Kyle McEntee, law professors at Ohio State, claim that law school rankings and job placements may be partly to blame.

Author of New Study Predicts More Law Schools Will Close

Due to diminishing enrollments, the author of a new study is predicting that more than a dozen law schools may soon close their doors.

Robert Zemsky, a professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania, said law school enrollment dropped by 21 percent at private schools and 18 percent at public schools between 2011 and 2015. Analyzing information from 171 law schools in Mapping a Contracting Market, Zemsky concluded that the third-tier schools will drop out first.

"You can't continue to muddle through and hold your breath," he told an audience hosted by Access Group Center for Research & Policy Analysis in Chicago. "You can only hold your breath for so long."

In this week's review of the top three coolest legal jobs around, presented as part of our affiliate relationship with Indeed, we're going triple-A.

No, not the American Automobile Association. These jobs in the aerospace, animation, and academic industries are perfect for attorneys looking to make a shift in their careers.

To be a great lawyer, you've got to walk the walk, talk the talk, and work till your eyes bleed. But if you want to feel more like the dapper attorneys you see on prime time, and less like an overworked associate, you need more than just a J.D. and a job. You need a bit of style.

To help you out, here are our top legal lifestyle tips so that you can be the most lawyerly lawyer you can be.

A Suicide After Failing the Bar, a Hard Lesson for the Living

Brian Christopher Grauman, a recent graduate of UC Hastings College of Law, committed suicide after learning that he failed the bar exam.

His death stunned those who knew him best. He was a high-achiever, having graduated from UC Merced with honors. He had served as editor of the school paper and chief justice of the student government judicial branch. In delivering a commencement speech, he spoke about the future of the graduating class.

"We are lucky to be here, and I don't just mean at a commencement ceremony about to receive our degrees," he said. "I mean in the world. Crime, poverty, greed and geographic barriers have each served to prevent people from earning their college degrees. We have a duty to recognize our privilege."