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March 2017 Archives

Do long commutes and collapsing highways have you down? Maybe the answer is in public transportation. We're not talking about taking the bus, though. We're talking about finding a job as a lawyer in a transportation field. So, as part of our affiliate relationship with Indeed, this week we're rounding up the best transit-related jobs we could find.

Whether you want to be the attorney in charge of the F line or in-house counsel for the cross town express, these jobs could be for you.

ABA Wants to Open Door to More Adjuncts

Adjunct: a thing added to something else as a supplementary rather than an essential part.

It doesn't sound so glamorous when you say it like that, but if you are still interested, the American Bar Association wants to open the doors for more adjunct faculty in law schools. The ABA is considering whether to eliminate a rule that has required full-time faculty to teach at least half of a law school's upper-level courses.

If the rule is discarded, it could significantly change the balance between full-time and part-time law professors at law schools across the country. That's because adjunct professors cost less, and law schools are looking to cut costs in a challenging economy.

Lawyers have been riding a public relations high for the past few months, spurred almost exclusively by legal challenges to President Trump's initiatives. When Trump stunned liberals and won the elections, law professors promised us that the heretofore almost unknown Emoluments Clause was going to save us. When Kellyanne Conway coined the phrase "alternative facts" and hawked Ivanka Trump's clothing on air, lawyers sought to get her license suspended. And when Trump abruptly banned travel and immigration from seven majority-Muslim nations, lawyers swarmed the airports, where they were greeted by cheering crowds.

If you're an idealistic young progressive trying to figure out what to do with your future, the law probably looks pretty appealing right now. But if Trump is your reason for pursuing a JD, for the love of God, do not go to law school.

Lawyer Admits Part in $550 Million Fraud on Government

Maybe it was the 19-foot tall statue of Abraham Lincoln -- a replica of the statue at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. -- outside the Kentucky law office that got investigators' attention.

After all, attorney Eric Christopher Conn erected the tribute piece to attract people to his practice. But it was his payments to an administrative law judge that have brought Conn -- and his statue -- down.

Conn, 56, has pleaded guilty in a $550 million fraud of the Social Security Administration. He has agreed to return $5.7 million he received in fees and to pay $46.5 million in restitution by selling his home, his law building, and his statue.

The legal profession is full of lionized legal minds. Most anyone who attended law school could rattle off a quick canon of great jurists: John Marshall, Learned Hand, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, Clarence Thomas, etc.

But that list may be missing at least one name, the Sixth Circuit's Judge Damon Keith, who, at 94 years old, still serves on the bench. A new documentary, "Walk With Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith" shows Keith as both a civil rights hero and a significant legal mind.

For-Profit Law Schools for Sale?

Amidst reports of falling educational standards and profits, three for-profit law schools are reaching out for help and may be headed to a fire sale.

InfiLaw Systems -- which operates Arizona Summit Law School, Florida Coastal School of Law and Charlotte School of Law -- is reportedly taking steps to sell the law schools. All three have announced plans to join other educational institutions after failing American Bar Association standards.

Charlotte, which lost its federal funding for student loans, also lost more than a third of its faculty and students because of the educational debacle. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Charlotte covered up its failure to prepare students for the bar exam.

How's your March Madness bracket doing? If it's like mine, you've probably given up. Which is fine, since college basketball isn't what matters. The law matters. And when it comes to leaders in the legal field, we've got plenty of titans.

We're not talking about the industry's biggest rainmakers here, nor the most innovative changemakers. We're talking about attorneys who are the best at behaving badly. Really badly.

Law School Debt Finally on the Decline?

Don't tell those students who left law school in deeper debt a few years ago, but student debt may actually be declining now.

According to a new report, students at law schools across the country are graduating with less debt than three years ago. A Pepperdine Law School professor drew some conclusions from national rankings of 116 law schools, but cautioned that the results are based on averages.

"[T]his is hardly a statement about whether any particular law school is a 'good' value or whether the debt loads are appropriate," said Derek T. Muller. "It's simply a relative comparison of debt loads over three years."

With that caveat, here are a few observations:

It's not easy being a for-profit law school these days. Just take Arizona Summit, the law school that offered grads $10,000 to skip the bar exam, presumably so that the school's pass rate wouldn't tank. Or Florida Coastal School of Law, the law school that recently failed the ABA's gainful employment test. Then there's the Charlotte School of Law, which recently had to hold a food drive to support students after the Department of Ed. cut its student loan funding.

All three are owned by the InfiLaw System, which appears to be scrambling to unload all three schools, according to the ABA Journal.

Immigration Lawyer Gets Federal Prison Time for Fake Asylum Claims

After two days of a bloody overthrow in 1963, thousands lay dead in the streets of Iraq and Saddam Hussein was on his way to taking over the country.

Robert W. DeKelaita, who grew up in the shadow of the new regime, left the country with his family when he was a child. He went on to become an immigration lawyer near Chicago, focusing his practice on helping Iraqis and others win asylum.

A lifetime later, DeKelaita now faces 15 months in prison for falsifying asylum claims. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly had problems with the sentencing, saying DeKelaita didn't get rich off the scheme but appeared to do "whatever he needed to do to get those people into the country."

"I'm not sure whether that's aggravating or mitigating," the judge said. "Maybe it's some of both."

If you want to drive your career forward, there's never been a better time than now. And this week, we've got three particularly appropriate jobs for legal professionals looking to shift into the fast lane -- or just looking to find an awesome new job.

As part of our affiliate relationship with Indeed, we're bringing you three of this week's coolest, most interesting jobs, covering everything from choppers to civil rights.

3 Major Decisions That Will Determine Your Future Legal Career

When you look at a map, you may see a few ways to get to your destination.

If you use a GPS device, it will usually show you the fastest route. Most people, especially in a hustling e-speed society, take the fastest way because they can't wait to get there.

But in the immortal words of Robert Frost, taking the road less traveled can make all the difference. It is a truism for poets and lawyers, too.

Here are three major decisions you will have to make at the crossroads of your future legal career:

Jury to Decide Whether Antidepressant Led to Lawyer's Suicide

Stewart Dolin, a senior attorney at a large law firm, stood at the train station and contemplated his life. Then he jumped in front of the train.

His story of suicide, apparently induced by depression and being demoted at work, haunts many lawyers. Studies say that an alarming number of attorneys -- 28 percent -- are depressed. The legal industry ranks 11th in suicide rates by profession.

So what made Dolin take that last, irreversible step in his battle with depression? That's the question in a trial pending in a Chicago courtroom.

By now we all know the social media basics. Don't post anything offensive online. Don't berate your professors, politicians, peers on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. Don't skip work then tweet about how sweet the surfing is today, brah.

And now, here's another one: be careful what you retweet, for a single impolitic retweet could jeopardize your legal career.

In September, 2015, news broke that Volkswagen had been using illegal 'defeat devices' on its diesel cars in order to evade emissions tests. In a matter of days, the German car company was swamped by lawsuits. While the government's VW investigation continues to play out, the consumer class action was settled last October, when U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer approved a $10 billion package as part of a total $15 billion deal settling civil claims.

It was the largest class action settlement in history and the attorneys involved have walked away with a pretty penny themselves. Last Friday, Judge Breyer awarded $175 million in attorney's fees and costs to the plaintiffs' lawyers, Courthouse News Service reports.

Most Expensive Law Schools in 2017

Did you ever want something really expensive, you just had to have it no matter how much it cost?

Like buying a new car, you bit the bullet, made the first payment and drove off without looking back. It didn't matter how much it actually cost -- interest payments, depreciation, taxes, fees, or whatever.

Now consider a purchase that cost between $100,000 and $250,000. Unless you are independently wealthy or have a full-ride scholarship, maybe you should slow down a little on this decision.

This is about law school and how much you are prepared to spend. Buckle up, Dorothy, we're not in Kansas anymore.

How to Get Your Law School Application Quickly Rejected

On the spectrum of lies, maybe lying on your law school application is somewhere between lying to your kids about Santa Claus and lying to your spouse about where you were last night.

One lie could result in disappointment and the other could get you killed. Actually, lying on your law school application could do a little of both. It'll be disappointing when the law school withdraws its acceptance letter, and it could kill your chances of becoming a lawyer in the future.

The big problem with telling a lie -- besides it being one of the deadly sins -- is that it seems like it always comes out at the worst time. But it only seems that way because it is always wrong to lie and it is the quickest way to get your law school application rejected. Let us count some ways:

Former Harvard Lawyer Sentenced to 40 Years for 'Gone Girl' Kidnapping

Where to begin the twisted tale of the Harvard lawyer who will be in prison for a very long time ...

The case of Matthew Muller, summa cum laude, is some kinda story. It twists and turns so strangely, like a snake having a seizure, it is hard to wrap your head around it.

From the beginning to the end, it aches of tragedy. A promising lawyer lost in mental disease; an innocent woman abandoned by police; a community in shock and literal disbelief. That's where we will start: the middle.

Clever, subtle, cutting judicial citations are nothing new. The Ninth Circuit's recent opinion halting President Trump's travel ban is a perfect example, full as it was of citations to cases like Ex parte Endo (leading to the end of Japanese internment) and Texas v. United States (halting President Obama's immigration reforms.) There are the sorts of smack downs by way of the Blue Book that make judicial writing a treat.

But there's another, more interesting citation style trending among the judiciary lately: clever, unexpected cites to unexpected, perhaps incongruous, pop culture touchstones, be they 80s sitcoms or horror movie classics.

It's not often that courts provide us with insight into sexual intercourse. But yesterday, the Florida Supreme Court shed some much-needed light on that topic.

If you're looking for some tips into the arts erotic, though, this isn't the case to turn to. (I don't believe such a case exists, but correct me if I'm wrong.) Rather, this is a case of statutory interpretation, one that forced the court to decide whether "sexual intercourse" was limited to good ol' penile-vaginal fornication or covered the gay kind of lovemaking as well.

When it comes to gaming, not all the action is on the casino floor -- nor is it all in Las Vegas. The domestic casino and gaming industry is highly regulated and massive, taking in more than $70 billion in revenues every year. That means plenty of opportunities for legal professionals who are as good at the law as they are at poker. (Unless you, like me, are terrible at poker. Then you'll need to be better.)

So, as part of our affiliate relationship with indeed, we're gathering up the best gaming-related jobs we could find. Get ready to roll the dice on these careers.

Billionaire Lobbied for Gorsuch's Nomination to the Appeals Court

So what's wrong with a judge having a billionaire for a friend?

Nothing, but there are a billion reasons that people may wonder when it comes to a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Actually, that's not possible because there are only 325 million people in the United States.

However, there are more than 1,000 cases in which Neil Gorsuch recused himself while on the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals because of possible conflicts. And more than 50 of those cases involved companies with ties to Philip F. Anschutz, a billionaire who lobbied for Gorsuch to become a member of the federal appeals court.

You went to law school imaging a career as a battle-worn litigator, perhaps, or a civil rights defending Supreme Court advocate. Or maybe you would have just been happy with doc review as a BigLaw associate. The pay is good, after all.

But you and law school just didn't click. Now, you're calling it quits. What could come next? Here are a few ideas, taken from the FindLaw archives.

Congressman Targets 'Fearmongering' Lawyer Advertisements

U.S. Congressman Bob Goodlatte is on a campaign against lawyer ads, calling out attorneys who are 'fearmongering' by advertising the dangers of certain medications to get clients.

The congressman has written a letter to bar associations in every state and some lawyers, warning them about the "far more dangerous" repercussions of the personal injury ads. Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, quoted a resolution from the American Medical Association:

"The onslaught of attorneys ads has the potential to frighten patients and place fear between them and their doctor," he wrote. "By emphasizing side effects while ignoring the benefits or the fact that the medication is FDA approved, these ads jeopardize patient care. For many patients, stopping prescribed medications is far more dangerous, and we need to be looking out for them."

Think that being a litigator means you have to be a stressed-out, ulcer-ridden, hard-ass shark? Think again. You can certainly follow that stereotype, or you can have success as a litigator while still keeping it Zen.

Don't believe us? Just check out this trial lawyer who operates a yoga studio alongside his practice.

Take a Look Into the Secret World of BigLaw Partner Pay

Jay Clayton, a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell, is at the top of his game and it says something about being a partner in BigLaw.

Nominated by President Trump to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, Clayton will take a big pay cut to accept the job but will earn the prestige that goes with it. The financial disclosures that are part of the transition, however, offer a glimpse inside the oft-guarded secrets of partnership compensation.

According to the disclosures, Clayton has earned $7.62 million since 2015. That represents his "partnership share for 2016 and 2017 received up to the date of filing," which was in January.

With partner profits of about $3.86 million annually per partner in 2015 at the firm, plus another $500,000 to $1 million in undistributed partnership shares still due Clayton, it's fair to say that equity partner compensation is well and good enough at BigLaw.

The state of Florida has quietly spent nearly $240 million on outside lawyers in six years since Governor Rick Scott took office, the AP reports. Scott and Florida Republicans have shelled out "more than $237 million on private lawyers to advance and defend their agendas," according to the AP investigation. Throw in the costs paid in opponents lawyers' fees and the total rises to $253 million.

The spending, according to Carlos Trujillo, a Republican state representative for Miami and chair of the Appropriations Committee, is "insane." Dominic Calabro, president of Florida TaxWatch, called the total "a gosh lot of money."

$100k Competition for Law Students' Supreme Court Arguments

When someone asks a law student for a legal opinion, it's usually somebody like your uncle at the dinner table wanting advice about a traffic ticket.

Well, "Uncle" Philip R. Shawe just upped the ante for soliciting legal opinions from law students. And unlike your real relative, he's even offering to pay for it.

Shawe, co-chief executive officer of TransPerfect Global, has offered $100,000 to the law school students who prepare the best argument to the United States Supreme Court regarding the sale of his company. He's calling it, "The Philip R. Shawe Scholarship Competition," but it's definitely not your typical law school competition.

Lately, we've been noticing a new trend in student-debt journalism, a turn towards articles touting how one enterprising post-grad paid off hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans in just a year or so. If they can do it, the logic goes, anyone can. That's a pleasing claim for law students with loans, most of whom graduate with over $140,000 in debt.

So, how do these quick loan repayers do it? Here's the secret: these loan payment strategies probably aren't going to work for you, or anyone else.

Harvard Law School Will Accept GRE

Citing a cost savings to law school applicants, Harvard Law School announced that it will accept the Graduate Record Exam or the Law School Admission Test for students who apply beginning with the fall of 2017. Dean Martha Minow, in a prepared statement, said the move is designed to eliminate barriers for the most talented candidates for law and leadership. She said the pilot program will reduce the cost barrier of taking two admissions tests.

"For many students, preparing for and taking both the GRE and the LSAT is unaffordable," she said. "All students benefit when we can diversify our community in terms of academic background, country of origin, and financial circumstances."

If you're pursuing a career in entertainment law, this could be your lucky week. Several major entertainment companies are looking to bring attorneys onto their team, including the people who made "Star Wars," and the company that brought you "Supertrain" and "Peter Pan LIVE!"

So, get your resumes ready. This week, as part of our affiliate relationship with Indeed, we're bringing you the 3 coolest entertainment law jobs we could find.

Miami Lawyer's Pants Literally Catch Fire During an Arson Trial

Lawyer, lawyer, pants on fire!

For real. You can't make this stuff up.

A Miami lawyer's pants literally caught fire in the middle of his closing argument on behalf of a client who was charged with arson. Attorney Stephen Guitierrez noticed that his pocket felt hot, and then saw smoke coming out. He exited quickly, stage right.

"I noticed the heat was intensifying and left the courtroom as quickly as possible -- straight into the bathroom," he told the ABA Journal.

The U.S. News and World Report law school rankings -- the only law school rankings that matter -- have been leaked. Spivey Consulting, the same "get me into law school" consulting company that obtained a leaked advance of last year's rankings, has reportedly done it again, grabbing an early copy of the 2018 rankings. (Yes, in law school ranking land, the 2018 list is released in 2017.)

And there seems to have been some surprising shakeups. For the first time in a long time, the top 14 schools, or T14, have shifted a bit.

Can You Work Past Age 100?

A lot has changed since attorney Bentley Kassal began working long ago in New York City.

Computers? Forget about it. The ball point pen hadn't been invented yet. Not only did women not practice law, they didn't even have the right to vote when Kassal was born.

Kassal, 100, has seen a lot, and that is one of the secrets to his long life. He has worked as a legislator, judge, and attorney and has been an active sportsman and photographer. He goes to work at Skadden Arps every day.

"I am enjoying every bit of it because every day I get a new challenge and I like being challenged -- whether it be in the law or whether it be on the sports field," he said.

Courtroom Security Officer Allegedly Sent Defense Notes to Prosecutor

From the "What Were You Thinking?" file, here's a story that left seasoned prosecutors and a judge scratching their heads.

Francis Griffin, a Kennebec County prosecutor, was minding his own business when a photo popped up on his phone. It was embarrassing, but thankfully not the personally embarrassing kind of photo.

It was a photo of the defense attorney's notes, apparently sent by a courtroom security officer. Sgt. Joel Eldridge allegedly took the photo in the courtroom while the attorneys were in chambers with the judge. Griffin reported it to the district attorney.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg turns 84 next Wednesday. But if you're worried about her health, don't be.

The Notorious RBG isn't just eating her kale -- and urging her colleagues to as well -- she's killing it at the gym. And this feminist octogenarian's regime might be too tough for you.

There's an Antonin Scalia Law School now, but it won't be home to the late justice's papers. That honor goes to Harvard Law School, Scalia's alma mater. The school announced the acquisition yesterday.

Scalia's files include his judicial papers from his time on the Supreme Court and D.C. Circuit, as well as correspondence, speeches, documents from his work at the DOJ and even in academia -- and probably a few doodles in the margins of the Federalist Papers as well.

Lawyer's Harassing Emails Warrant More Than a Public Reprimand, Court Rules

Calling for tougher discipline, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected a proposed reprimand for a lawyer who was convicted of sending harassing and stalking email to opposing counsel.

John Michael Spain faces discipline after pleading no contest to misdemeanor charges of sending harassing and stalking messages, which resulted in one-year probation sentence. Spain and the State Bar had agreed on a reprimand as discipline, although Spain wanted it to be private.

Free LSAT Test Prep Coming Online From Khan Academy

Finally, there's something free for prospective law students. Well, it should be free next year anyway.

Khan Academy, an online provider of interactive educational materials, announced it will post free practice materials for students to prepare for the Law School Admission Test in 2018. The non-profit organization said it will work with the Law School Admissions Council, which administers the test.

"We're always looking for ways to help get information out there to test takers so they can prepare on their own, and they don't need to invest a lot of money to do this," Lily Knezevich, the LSAC's senior director of test development, told the ABA Journal. "We wanted to level the playing field and make law school accessible to all who are interested in pursuing law."

California's bar exam is known as one of the hardest, if not the hardest, exams in the country. But that reputation could be fading. In 2015, the state decided to drop the exam's infamous third day, starting this summer. Now, state legislators want to make the bar even easier -- maybe even passable.

Last week, lawmakers sent a letter to the chief justice of the California Supreme Court, urging her to address the state's declining bar passage rates by temporarily lowering the score needed to practice in the Golden State.

You can use a law degree for anything, they say, and they're not entirely wrong. Lawyers have gone on to become movie stars, dictators, even ice cream makers. But you don't need to become a rock star to have an interesting career, as this week's cool jobs attest.

As part of our affiliate relationship with Indeed, this week we're bringing you jobs touching on everything from space exploration, to a charming town in Arizona, to, well, rubber shoes.

Judge Banned for Handcuffing Attorney

Robe-itis, the disease that sometimes infects new judges, usually is not fatal.

The malady transforms ordinary people into ogres when they put on the black robe. With time and experience, however, most judges survive and emerge as patient, dignified, and courteous representatives of the court.

But not Conrad Hafen of Las Vegas, it would seem. The former justice of the peace put on the robe and turned into Darth Vader. Now his judicial career is over.

Avoiding perjury can be a tricky thing, especially if you're a high-ranking public official. Whether you're testifying before a grand jury or the subject of a Congressional hearing, you can expect to face hours of probing. It's almost hard not to slip up and misstate a few essential facts, right?

Don't worry, though. If you ever find yourself questioned about secret White House tapes or clandestine talks with your Russian counterparts, we've got your back. Here are three tips and tricks to help you survive even the toughest scrutiny and come out perjury-free.

Harvard Law Officials Stole From Disabled Students?

What is it with Harvard employees stealing from the university?

We're not talking about pencils here. We're talking about more than $100,000 to buy laptops, iPads, clothing, jewelry, and sex toys!

It gets worse. In the latest theft, apparently two Harvard law workers took money from a fund for disabled students. And one of the employees was a graduate of Harvard's divinity school!!

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, but first read this:

If Hollywood is to be believed, the typical lawyer's day is filled with crime solving, last minute deal making, dramatic closing arguments, and maybe some romance or political intrigue. Sadly, actual, real-life legal professionals know better. Our days are much more likely to be spent reviewing documents, making sure forms are properly filed, or researching obscure points of law. It's not exactly the stuff that gets your pulse racing.

And now the rest of world has found out our secret. Legal professionals are the most bored professionals, according to one recent survey.