Articles Posted in Practicing Law

Newsflash: the legal job market is a jungle. According to the National Association of Law Placement, 2010 summer associate positions are at least 17 year low (the NALP has only been collecting data for 17 years).

It is a tough job market for new lawyers. But law students and young lawyers should keep in mind that the legal market has had peaks and valleys as long as anyone can remember. The market will change again and people scrambling for jobs will have their pick of good jobs. It is just hard to imagine right now if you have never seen the highs and lows.

Above the Law has a post (with a picture) of an advertisement in a Minnesota airport where a law firm markets itself mimicking a nutritional ingredients label.

This law firm has apparently coined a new term to describe itself: an “expertique.” Above the Law says this increases their “Obnoxious Lawyer Schtick” content from 0% to 15%.

I hate to attack anyone for going outside of the box in legal marketing. Outside the box can be a great thing. Every innovator when outside of the box. But it is important to keep in mind: they made the box for a reason. When you jump out of it, do so with great care.

Am Law Litigation Daily has announced a winner to the “love anthem to your firm” competition. The winner was an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meager & Flom who wrote the unforgettable diddy “Skadden, You Gladden My Heart.” Moments after winning the award, Skadden fired the associate because she “should be able to find something else to do” with her time.

Okay, not really. But that would have been a good big firm story that would be believed if you told it straight-faced in a bar filled with big firm lawyers.

I think this guy is completely insane. I think you want associates that are completely dedicated to your firm. I just don’t think the best associates are Patty Hearst brainwashed. But the article is full of the great advice you could not think up on your own. “Associates should always strive to provide the partner with perfect work.” Groundbreaking stuff.

This blogger agrees with me. Yet I really don’t agree with his post, either.

There’s less risk involved in not sticking to the conventional MO at the firm. After all, it’s unlikely you will last long there. It’s even more unlikely you will become partner. What is likely if you are a shrewd player is that you will learn about practicing law and career strategy/tactics to make it just about anywhere in law. That could range from a solo practice to a top government position.

This is a funny story (via Overlawyered, via the AP). A Portland, Oregon lawyer blamed his BMW 535xi for a speeding ticket, claiming that he couldn’t know that he was speeding.

C. Akin Blitz said he was just trying to get ahead of a line of cars following a motorhome over a mountain pass on U.S. Highway 26 — that he had no idea his BMW 535xi was going 76 mph in a 55 mph zone because of its handling characteristics.

Funny, right? But the funnier part is that he made a PowerPoint presentation and offered expert testimony from a mechanic. Now that is funny. Just the same, the judge found him guilty and ordered him to pay a fine.

The Maryland Daily Record reports that a Rockville lawyer was suspended by the Maryland Court of Appeals. The slim minority of the court – 4-3 decision – voted for disbarment.

I don’t know how I would vote on this. He failed to keep an IOLTA account, which is a huge problem. The second “error” he made was loaning money to his client’s relatives. Both are incredibly obvious no-nos.

These are bad offenses but not crimes of intent to cause anyone harm at the lawyer’s own expense. But adding salt to the wound in the dissent’s view was what brings down most people: the cover-up. Ask Nixon or Clinton. Judge Harrell’s dissent makes clear that he did not find he was honest with bar counsel during its investigation.

Tricia Bishop has an article in the Baltimore Sun on how lawyers stereotype jurors in Maryland. The title of the article is “Stereotypes Confound Jury Selection” and the subtitle is “Bias assumptions seldom right; juror’s experiences called the best indicator.”

I disagree with the subtitle. I don’t think assumptions are “seldom right” but “usually right.” But usually, it is not 99%, it is more like 60%.

The bigger point that the article misses is that while juror experiences are the best indicator, Maryland has what is probably the least probative voir dire in the country, according to retired Howard County Judge Dennis M. Sweeney. So Maryland personal injury lawyers picking a jury have very limited means to determine juror experiences which leaves most Maryland lawyers making assumptions based on stereotypes that have varying degrees of accuracy depending on the stereotype. Of course, lawyers on both sides of the v are equally handicapped by this minimalist voir dire approach.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is getting heat because before she was elected to Congress in 2006, she spent much of her career as a lawyer working at a mega New York law firm representing the world’s largest cigarette company, Philip Morris. She apparently spends a good bit of time between 1995 to 1999 helping Philip Morris fight the Justice Department’s efforts to get the tobacco company to produce damaging research and other internal documents regarding its knowledge about the health risks of tobacco products.

My first reaction is that you shouldn’t judge people for the clients they represent. I defended drug companies during that same period and while I’m not proud of this, I’m not ashamed either. I’m sure Martin O’Malley is not ashamed of defending criminals. But Dorothy Samuels has a different take on it in the New York Times that I think deserves airing:

Professor Stephen Gillers of New York University Law School, one of the country’s leading legal ethics experts, distinguishes between publicly criticizing lawyers because of the people they represent, which he says he would not do, and how they carry out the representation.

Interesting New York Times article on the correlation between how many questions a lawyer receives from the Supreme Court and the lawyer’s client’s chance of success. I think this general rule is true in any legal argument to a judge: the fewer questions a lawyer is asked, the more likely that lawyer is to prevail. The hardest thing for a lawyer to do – particularly a lawyer who prepared well for the hearing or motion – is to just shut-up and let the judge work for you.

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals found that a judge’s condescending ramblings about a black criminal defendant’s “baby mama” could lead to a reasonable perception that the sentence was based on his race. Specifically, the judge said:

THE COURT: What do you do all day?

THE DEFENDANT: I just stay at home with my daughter and that’s it.