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November 2017 Archives

Loyola Law Students Take Action in Flint Water Crisis

About the time General Motors was laying off workers in Flint, Michigan, the price of bottled water in America was surpassing the price of gasoline.

For Flint, the situation was much worse than an economic problem. To reduce a water fund shortfall, the city turned to a new water source. That water turned out to be polluted with dangerous levels of lead, and criminal and civil litigation followed.

Now the Flint water crisis has reached an international forum. Loyola New Orleans law students have filed a petition before a human rights tribunal charging the U.S. government with violating rights to life and health in Flint.

What's a lawyer by any other name? Well, if the U.S. Supreme Court has anything to say, if the names are close enough, they're suspended. At least temporarily or until someone tells them that they got the wrong lawyer.

For the second time this year, the High Court has acted, well, rather high and hasty. In issuing a suspension against one James Robbins of New York, the hasty High Court accidentally suspended Jim Robbins of San Francisco. Making matters even more surprising, James Robbins of New York isn't even a member of the SCOTUS bar such that he could be suspended. Unfortunately Jim is a member of the bar and was rather taken aback when he learned of his accidental suspension.

Some students will always opt for the path of least resistance when it comes to nutrition. Fortunately, fast food and delivery services have come a long way over the past decade.

So when it comes time for exams, you might want to rethink your usual dinner spread of chicken wings and hummus. Just because you can get your favorite foods delivered to your door, you might want to consider eating some of those coveted brain foods, staying well rested and hydrated, as well as eating more frequent, smaller meals, in order to avoid a food coma.

Below, you'll find a list of some of the best brain foods to eat while studying.

Law Student Wins Prize for Video Game Concept

Lara Croft, a female version of Indiana Jones, is powering a new movie and video game.

Played by Alicia Vikander in the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot, the movie is set for release in early 2018. No telling how much the enterprise will make, but the first game made about $30 million in 48 hours.

So what does that have to do with law school? For one enterprising law student, it's about a prize and a dream.

Big Tip to Do Well on Law School Exams: Sleep

As the needles go into their arms, patients might be nervous to know that their medical internist is at the end of a 20-hour shift -- for the seventh day in a row.

It's a troubling reality in the medical profession and it needs to change for obvious reasons. Nobody performs well if they are sleep-deprived.

That's true for trainee doctors and lawyers-to-be as well. If you want to perform your best in law school -- especially during exams -- get good sleep.

So you've done the whole cute, novelty lawyer gift thing in the past and received mixed reviews. You may have thought your fellow practitioner, or lawyer-family member (or friend) really would've used that Better Call Saul mug in the office, but unfortunately, not many lawyers really want a client to see that.

If you don't want your gift to get dumped in the junk pile due to the complications of online order returns, you may want to consider the fact that the lawyer you are shopping for is a regular person, with the same typical wants and desires as other people. So unless you actually know that they want some sort of silly piece of office adornment, you might want to just ask yourself: Would I want a gift that related to my job? And if the answer to that is yes, ask someone else.

Below, you'll find three tips for shopping for the lawyers in your life.

The holiday season is now in full swing, and while it is, arguably, the best time of year, for non-retail businesses, working professionals, and law students, it is also one of the most challenging. This is due to the fact that along with all the celebrations and festiveness, and individuals taking vacations, productivity (for some easily explainable reason) seems to go right out the window. This seasonal phenomenon is often referred to as 'holiday-it is.'

Generally, this phenomenon is characterized by individuals sloughing off work, being disorganized, or working in a "countdown mode" of sorts. Everyone's basically just trying to get to and through the end of the year, mostly by coasting and enjoying the parties and lax holiday attitudes. Below, you can learn to get through it in two simple steps.

While it sure 'tis the season, for law students, 'tcan feel like 'tis torture! Why, oh just why, must holiday parties and final exams be in such close proximity? 'Tis like some sort of reasonably prudent person hell: The choice between a fun night out with your peers and studying for your contracts final two weeks away is as sketchy a decision as that darned Carbolic Smoke Ball case.

If you're as confused as the UCC, you might benefit from a break, but is a holiday party what you need? After all, a spa day, a day of video gaming, hitting the gym and having a fruit cup, or just binge watching a show or two, could be a more beneficial use of your limited time, depending on your personality and needs.

Below, you'll find some thoughts on whether 'tis worth it to take that study break to attend a law school holiday party.

Law School Study Tip: Know Your Learning Style

Which student would have a learning advantage, a blind one or a deaf one?

It's not a trick question. A blind person might have an advantage over a deaf person learning music, and a deaf person might have an advantage over a blind person learning to paint, right?

So by using their dominant senses, students might have an advantage over those who do not. That's one way to explain the advantage of learning styles, and knowing yours can help you in law school.

Law Schools Offer Big Discounts for Top LSAT Scores

Some lawyers went to law school to avoid math, but you can't ignore the math if you are thinking about law school now.

Many schools have begun giving deep discounts to students who score high on their law school admission tests. According to reports, top LSAT scorers could see "as much as $100,000 tuition discounts."

It's part of the law school economy, as educators look for ways to boost dwindling enrollments. Tuition discounts may make more sense than dollars.

Will U of Illinois Absorb John Marshall Law School?

John Marshall Law School may become part of the University of Illinois at Chicago, at the same time showing how legal education is changing at the speed of a mouse-click.

UCI Chancellor Michael Amiridis made the announcement electronically with a link to frequently asked questions that educators composed and answered even before the announcement. The FAQ's reveal the university and the law school have been earnestly studying a partnership for the past 16 months.

"The preliminary conclusion of this study was that it would be financially feasible for JMLS to become a part of UIC," the website says.

If you're a lawyer or law student that is, or is on the cusp of being, technologically savvy, then you're probably on Twitter. After all, if there's a place to show potential clients that you are cool, woke, with it, or that you can, at very least, dig it, you should probably be there. Social media is exactly the sort of place where you can do just that.

There's no need to solicit clients or say you're available for business. Just being there, being a real person, and positively interacting with others can result in some serious social media marketing gains. The general public doesn't see lawyers as regular humans, so social media can go a long way to humanize individual lawyers. However, there are definitely ethical, public relations, and career considerations to think about every time you tweet, post, or decide to joke about a sensitive topic. Just ask Justice Don Willett, Twitter's most popular tweeting judge, who nearly had his tweeting bird cooked during his recent Senate confirmation hearing.

Not all lawyers take the same path to getting licensed. Fortunately for those that take the road less travelled, a decision from Supreme Court for the state of Washington might help to provide some clarity as to when the road less travelled becomes the road from which there's no coming back. In short, the court ruled that a former inmate, who is now a law grad and Skadden Fellow recipient, can actually sit for her state's bar exam.

Previously, the moral character and fitness review board had denied the accomplished grad the chance to sit for the bar exam. However, after appealing the decision, where over 100 individuals and organizations joined as amicus in support, the state's highest court reversed the review board's decision.

GRE Law Schools on the Rise

So where did this wave -- law schools accepting the GRE instead of the LSAT -- come from?

It started last year with James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona. The announcement rocked legal educators like sailors on a ship; they were unsteady but also excited about a change in the weather.

When Harvard Law School jumped in this year, the swell quickly picked up. With two more law schools diving in the same week, suddenly everybody wants to ride the GRE wave.

A real-life, actual drug, DUI, traffic, family, business litigation, personal injury and real estate lawyer from New Jersey was recently arrested for possession of pure MDMA and trespass. And while drug lawyers get arrested all the time on drug charges (nothing unusual there), this guy's charges are a bit more unique than the usual drug lawyer drug bust.

The attorney was found by police asleep and disoriented in his car, in someone else's driveway, sans pants, and wearing a black shirt and black high heel shoes. And if that wasn't odd enough, his description matched an earlier report where a man wearing no pants and high heels barged into another person's home, seemingly (hopefully) by mistake. Though one can only hope that he barged in fabulously, thankfully he left without further incident at the residence after realizing it was not the right place.

Valparaiso Law School Suspends Admissions

Rumors of the demise of Valparaiso University School of Law have been slightly exaggerated.

According to reports, the law school is closing its doors. That's true, but not right now.

The law school is closing its doors only to new admissions. So it's not over -- yet.

Do you pine for a simpler life away from the hustle and bustle of the city? Are you still buried in law school loans? Well, as has been suggested before, taking up practice in a rural area might be for you. Also, you may be in luck if the state of Wisconsin passes a new bill that would offer to help repay law school loans for lawyers that take up rural practice there.

The new bill promises to provide up to $20,000 per year toward student loan debt for Wisconsin lawyers that practice in counties with less than 25,000 residents and accept court-appointed cases. Notably, Wisconsin is not the only rural state to consider offering lawyers incentives to practice there in rural areas, and a few already do.

A former assistant district attorney in Dallas County, Texas, earned herself that former moniker due to her alleged actions, while seemingly intoxicated (seems like the likely explanation), while taking an Uber ride home.

Unfortunately for the former prosecutor, regardless of the fact that the incident remains nothing more than allegations that never materialized into criminal charges, let alone a criminal conviction, the county DA saw it fit to terminate the formerly inebriated prosecutor. In a statement released by the DA, they explained that the termination was justified because "her behavior is contrary to this office's core principle of integrity."

Law School Wants to Stop ABA From Disclosing Accreditation Warning

Beleaguered Thomas M. Cooley Law School has been fighting to defend its reputation for a long time.

With the American Bar Association, the battle started a decade ago. Now, according to reports, the end may be near.

Jacob Gersham, a legal reporter for the Wall Street Journal, says Cooley Law School wants a temporary restraining order to stop the ABA from publishing an "accreditation warning."

Alcohol Not Cool in Law School

When it comes to alcohol in law school, times have changed.

A few years ago, critics raged against university administrators who banned alcohol at student functions. But like tobacco use, it is not so cool to drink in law school anymore.

It only took a few hazing incidents, sexual assaults, and deaths to change everything. For Florida State University, one alcohol-related tragedy was enough.

At this point, you've likely heard or read about the ABA's issuance of the 'not qualified' rating for a handful of President Trump's federal judicial nominations. Though the ABA's been interviewing, scrutinizing, and rating nominees since the 1950s, it was never really big news because nominations were usually rated before being announced, with the exception of former President G.W. Bush, and now President Trump. This meant that candidates with a "not qualified" rating wouldn't get announced and wouldn't get publicly embarrassed.

Now that the ABA has publicly deemed a handful of Trump's federal judicial nominees as "not qualified," the White House is reportedly considering some new guidance to stop the ABA from embarrassing it further. That guidance allegedly being considered is so simple, it probably won't work: nominees should refrain from answering the ABA's questions. Despite the seemingly solid logic, doing so potentially runs the risk of the nominees' careers, colleagues, peers, and maybe even their social media, being the only sources of embarrassing information.

Lawyers all too often get a bad rap for being greedy. However, with the exception of lawyers that break the ethical rules and boundaries (looking at you Prenda Law), being a greedy lawyer can actually benefit your clients and society-at-large (yes, that is a big distinction).

Sure, there are bad apples, and some lawyers, like everyone else out there, will let greed get the best of them. But, in reality, greed is the status quo almost anytime money is being exchanged for goods and services: Waiters and salespeople upsell for better tips and higher commissions, businesses entice consumers with financing in order to squeeze out a bit of interest, and everyday people will drive across town to save $0.02 per gallon. For lawyers, however, the legal system is set up to reward that greed in the same way as businesses, and then some.

Below are the top five reasons why being the right kind of greedy is a good thing for lawyers, clients, and the public.

One Law School Drags Down Statewide Bar Pass Rate

There is a death spiral in the cosmos, when a black hole consumes a nearby star.

The black hole literally sucks the light out of existence. Law school can be like that, especially after three years and your eyes have gone dim from late-night reading.

But one law school is being blamed for bringing down an entire state. Charleston Law School tanked the South Carolina bar exam, pulling down the statewide pass rate to an increasingly dark place.

One lawyer is on a mission to help elderly veteran clients claim benefits at their most vulnerable points. And while you might think that helping elderly veterans can't build a law practice, pairing a compassionate veterans benefits practice with estate planning certainly can.

Basically, the scheme works like this: You lure clients in because you can help them get the benefits they wouldn't know how to obtain on their own. Then, after you've shown that you can produce results in the clutch, you'll be a shoe in for future estate planning legal needs, of which elderly veterans have plenty. In short, the benefits work is your marketing strategy.

New TX Law School Serves At-Risk Students: How'd They Do on the Bar?

The University of North Texas Dallas College of Law tries to help students with lower admission credentials. The college should be applauded, but the bar pass rate was 20 percent lower than the state average. Specifically, 59 percent of its recent graduates passed the bar.

The law school's pass rate continues the debate about whether law schools should lower admission requirements.

City Attorney Fears Assassination by Florida Police

When the cops are in the car behind you, a little paranoia is a good thing.

You slow down, make sure you signal when changing lanes, think about where you put your registration. It's all good.

But if you think the police are coming to kill you, that's another thing. City Attorney Grant Alley believes he has that problem.

Michigan State University has launched an initiative to index and track (a.k.a. rank) law schools based on innovation. And if you're thinking that MSU is just trying to find a way to rank highly among prospective law students on some meaningless list that they can use for advertising purposes, then you're probably right.

The 2017 Law School Innovation Index only indexed 38 law schools. It used specific metrics to explore whether law schools were teaching real world, practical lawyering and law business operations skills, alongside the traditional law school courses. Basically, the index is geared at looking at whether law schools have adapted to the new legal market where new lawyers are opening up solo shops more than ever before, and are expected to know how to practice right out of school.

ABA Considers Eliminating Admission Tests

Free range chickens are a good thing, right?

Free from fences, they wander around with plenty of access to fresh vegetation, sunshine, and room to exercise. On the other hand, fences are also meant to keep predators out.

So what is this proposal to take down admissions tests for law schools?

When judges make headlines, unless they've been selected for appointment, won an election, or have ruled on a controversial case, it's probably for behaving rather badly. Although judges often seem to get away with their bad actions with nothing more than a slap on the wrist and/or a short suspension (sometimes even with pay), one Texas judge might be in more trouble than he bargained for.

Judge Guy Williams, out of Nueces County, Texas, has been charged with two felonies in relation to a road rage incident where he is alleged to have brandished a firearm at another driver. Additionally, he was forced to give up his courthouse keys and passes, as well as all his firearms, and was released on $25,000 bond, pending a trial scheduled for early spring 2018.

Without fail, every year, sometimes a few times per year, surveys get done, and schools will be ranked on various characteristics to help prospective students make a decision on where to apply and what schools to attend. But this year the rankings might be a bit more difficult to decipher.

Recently, The Princeton Review released their 2018 law school rankings, which go beyond just what law school is the best. Law schools were ranked on many factors, including best career prospect, best classroom experience, and more. However, as noted by AboveTheLaw, the results are potentially severely flawed because they are based on student responses to surveys and data provided from the schools themselves.

Disbarment: That Was My Pot Money, Man

What was this lawyer smoking?

A California lawyer received $50,000 in cash from a client to purchase a medical marijuana business. But the lawyer burned through $22,000 in fees, leaving the client short for the purchase.

The client complained to the state bar, saying he didn't authorize the fees and they had no fee agreement. What will the California Supreme Court be thinking when it decides the appropriate discipline?

St. Lucie, Florida judge Philip Yacucci Jr. has received a 30 day suspension from the bench for refusing to recuse himself from cases involving a certain lawyer. Apparently, Judge Yacucci had a "longstanding combative relationship" with the lawyer. And when the judge refused to recuse himself from that attorney's cases, according to the state's Supreme Court, it created "legitimate fears of partiality and bias" against his clients.

Woman Poses as Inmates' Lawyer, Gets Prison Time

Just what we need -- another non-lawyer giving lawyers a bad name.

Antonia Barrone, 48, impersonated an attorney and swindled more than 400 prison inmates by claiming to specialize in parole cases. She pleaded guilty to fraud and has been ordered to pay nearly $270,00 in restitution and fines.

She faces 16 months to three years in a New York state prison. One thing's for sure, she won't be passing out business cards there.

Criminal defense attorneys, and those with any sense of social justice: You might want to sit down before reading this. The title might be cute and give you a chuckle thinking about John Oliver's all-dog Supreme Court, but the facts are absolutely flabbergasting and just don't jibe with the decision.

The Supreme Court of Louisiana just issued a ruling that said a criminal suspect did not invoke his right to an attorney when he requested a "lawyer dog" while being questioned by police. The big problem with this ruling is that obviously the defendant clearly requested a lawyer and was denied by the court for an unspeakable reason (though they'll claim it was semantics) which takes this case from cute to SCOTUS-worthy and troubling.

International Love Your Lawyer Day is upon us. At the very least, the first Friday of every November is a chance for you to actually appreciate yourself for all the hard work you do as a lawyer. But if you're really thinking like a lawyer, you're probably wondering how you can use this holiday to your professional advantage.

To make the most of this year's Love Your Lawyer Day, think: free social media advertising. It may not be as uplifting as a card or a chocolate cake, but it's potentially much more valuable. Free, unsolicited social media advertising is what results when a current or former client posts praise about you online. Love Your Lawyer Day is the perfect occasion to capitalize on this form of free advertising. (Note that we use the term "advertising" loosely here -- be sure to follow ethical rules when advertising online.)

Suffolk Law Offers Legal Innovation Certificate

Suffolk University Law School is offering a certificate in legal innovation and technology.

The good news is that it is an online course. The bad news is that it cost almost $16,000 for the certificate.

But since the program targets working professionals -- lawyers and nonlawyers -- they may be able to afford it without going into debt. And if you want to take just one course in the program, it's a relative bargain at $3,000.

Man Used Confidential Information From Wife -- a Lawyer -- to Trade Stock

Fei Yan and his wife had a solid marriage.

They shared everything, kept no secrets. So it was troubling when he got caught using confidential information she had about a pending corporate deal.

Yan traded on that inside information and made almost $110,000. For his wife, an attorney, the honeymoon was almost over.

Ever the lightning rod for controversy, former federal judge Richard Posner recently described his vision for lawyer-less civil trials. According to a Chicago Tribune piece, Posner would like to see real litigants go to trial like on Judge Judy.

Not only would he like to see this, he believes that a judge could in fact order parties to go to trial without attorneys. That, because there is no constitutional right to an attorney in civil cases, all it would take is for a "judge who's willing to say 'I'm not going to let either side have any lawyers. ... I don't want to have the case clogged up with lawyers.'" While Posner is known for making wild statements about the legal industry, this one might just be a daydream he failed to realize before stepping down from the bench.