The Seventeen Percent

June 23rd, 2016 / By

In a recent column, Professor Stephen Davidoff Solomon observes that the legal job market “is a world of haves and have-nots.” With BigLaw firms raising entry-level salaries from $160,000 to $180,000, he concludes, “[t]op law graduates are doing better than ever.” Conversely, “it is clear that it is harder out there for the lower-tier law schools and their graduates.”

I agree with Professor Solomon about the divided nature of our profession; that reality has haunted American lawyers for decades. Solomon, however, significantly overstates the percentage of law graduates who fall within his world of “haves” (those whose salaries recently climbed from $160,000 to $180,000).

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Online Education at Law Schools

June 23rd, 2016 / By

Today’s New York Times includes a column by Elizabeth Olson discussing online initiatives by law schools. Elizabeth was kind enough to quote some of my thoughts on this issue. If you’d like to read more about my suggestions, which encourage law schools to adopt a more innovative spirit with online courses, you can do so here. This is an area in which we could do well by doing good–if we’re just courageous enough to break some of our conventional boxes.

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$180,000

June 20th, 2016 / By

BigLaw firms gave 2016 graduates a sweet gift earlier this month: new associates at many of those firms will earn $180,000 (rather than $160,000) when they start work in the fall. That’s the first salary increase in BigLaw since 2007.

What should we make of this increase? It shows, certainly, that many BigLaw firms continue to prosper. But we already knew that from the firms’ reports of profits per partner. We also knew that associates are the most productive workers at those firms. This raise reflects rather belated recognition of that fact.

One could argue, in fact, that BigLaw partners are still undervaluing their associates. As Bruce MacEwen notes, the increase doesn’t match inflation since the last increase in BigLaw salaries. $180,000 in 2016 has less buying power than $160,000 did in 2007.

But those kids are going to be alright. I want to focus here on a shadow side of the BigLaw salary increase, one that the press and blogs haven’t discussed. BigLaw firms are paying more money–but to many fewer associates. This trend, which concentrates higher salaries in a smaller number of workers, has important implications for the legal job market.

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Caveat Venditor: Throwback To The Days Of Junk Employment Statistics

June 16th, 2016 / By

Originally published on Above the Law

Closeup of a pile of caution tapeWelcome to the second installment of Caveat Venditor, a series that assesses claims made by law schools to separate truth from fiction. This week we look at Brooklyn Law School’s employment rate of 92.2% posted on its “By The Numbers” infographic.

I noticed this claim on Brooklyn’s website after investigating the concern of a prelaw advisor. At the quadrennial Pre-Law Advisor National Council conference, this prelaw advisor asked what to do when a law school does not meet the accreditation requirements by not publishing the required disclosures. Indeed, Brooklyn was publishing an old report nearly six months after the ABA required them to publish its new one. Brooklyn remedied this problem on Monday, citing an “oversight due to transitions in several administrative departments in the last year.” According to a spokesperson from the law school, the ABA did not follow up with the law school to make sure it published the materials on time or at all.
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Title: Plaintiff’s Personal Injury (NYC): A Radically Changed Business [Small Firm]

June 5th, 2016 / By

When most people are injured in car wrecks or at work, they can’t afford to pay a lawyer an hourly fee out of pocket to win their case against a large corporation or their insurance company. That’s why attorneys for the plaintiffs in these lawsuits use a contingency fee, which pays the lawyer about a third of the total settlement or verdict — but only if the plaintiff wins. That amount covers the work done by the lawyers, and compensates them for the risk of no payout.

In this episode, Dan Minc, a 1977 graduate of Seton Hall School of Law, discusses how he managed to rise up to his firm’s managing partner after starting there as a first-year lawyer. He also talks about how he builds his book of business and what he assesses when determining whether to take a client. After all, he’s only paid if his client wins.

This episode is hosted by Derek Tokaz, an academic writing teacher at American University. It is sponsored by ShouldIBeALawyer.com and Top-Law-Schools.com.

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Lessons for Online Legal Education

June 5th, 2016 / By

An increasing number of law schools are creating online courses, certificate offerings, and degree programs. As newcomers to online education, we should look to existing programs for inspiration. One of those is Harvard Business School’s successful CORe program, an online certificate course in business basics. I wrote about CORe’s suitability for law students several weeks ago. Here, I examine three lessons that the program offers to law schools interested in online education.

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Caveat Venditor: Empty Threats From Notorious For-Profit Law Schools

May 27th, 2016 / By

Closeup of a pile of caution tape
This piece was originally published on Above the Law.

Welcome to Caveat Venditor, a new series that assesses claims made by law schools to separate truth from fiction. This week, we look at a threatening letter sent to a documentary film maker by Tom Clare, a lawyer for The Infilaw System.

InfiLaw owns three law schools — Arizona Summit, Charlotte School of Law, and Florida Coastal — and several legal education-related management companies. These are three of six total for-profit law schools approved by the ABA, although two of the other three are transitioning to non-profit status. InfiLaw also tried and failed to purchase Charleston School of Law after faculty, alumni, students, and the local legal community revolted.

Hat tip to Paul Campos for the full text of the letter:

I write on behalf of my client, The InfiLaw System (“InfiLaw”), regarding your inquiry into interviews with Florida Coastal School of Law officials for a documentary you are making. I write to caution you as you proceed with fact-finding and information gathering associated with your planned documentary.

Prior reporting on the issues you plan to address, including law school attrition rates and student success, has been plagued by gross misinformation, factual errors, and a general misuse and distortion of available data and analysis. This is especially true as they have been applied to InfiLaw schools such as Florida Coastal. Individuals, such as Paul Campos, have distorted facts and data and engaged in nefarious and inappropriate investigative tactics in order to accomplish a false agenda attacking law school admissions and career advancement policies. As such, I caution you to carefully assess any information and facts you gather from Mr. Campos and any other purported “authorities” on law school success metrics and the risks and rewards of attending law school in this day and age. InfiLaw and its affiliated schools will carefully analyze and assess any statements made about them and will not be afraid to pursue legal recourse to protect its reputation against any false and reckless statements.

In addition, InfiLaw requests that you notify me immediately upon any decisions to include any references to or subject matter about InfiLaw or any of its affiliate schools in your documentary, and provide InfiLaw the opportunity to review and comment on them prior to any public dissemination.

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Doctors, Lawyers & Software Developers

May 27th, 2016 / By

I wrote earlier this week about employment trends for doctors and lawyers. There is a third occupation that now vies with these professions for the affections of talented college graduates: software developer. Examining this occupation explains where some might-have-been lawyers are headed.

What Is a Software Developer?

Software developers, who are also called software engineers, are not programmers. They have a deep understanding of code, and know how to program, but that is not their primary focus. Instead, developers design the programs that give us so much delight–and occasional frustration. The developers also test programs to try to forestall that frustration and, when glitches happen, work with the programmers to fix the errant program.

Once you understand the nature of software development, you can see it’s attractions for students who might also consider law school. Software developers use their intellects, solve puzzles, and help people. They know more math than the typical lawyer, but their work focuses on logic and strategy rather than equations.

Add in these facts: It’s pretty cool to develop “apps,” many software companies are hip places to work, and you could become famous (and very rich) creating the next big program.

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Artificially Intelligent Legal Research

May 24th, 2016 / By

At least three law firms have now adopted ROSS, an artificial legal intelligence system based on IBM’s pathbreaking Watson technology. The firms include two legal giants, Latham & Watkins and BakerHostetler, along with the Wisconsin firm vonBriesen. Commitments by these firms seem likely to spur interest among their competitors. Watch for ROSS and other forms of legal AI to spread over the next few years.

What is ROSS, what does it do, and what does it mean for lawyers and legal educators? Here are a few preliminary thoughts.

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Federal Criminal Defense: Representing Indigent Clients as a Public Defender

May 22nd, 2016 / By

The right to counsel for criminal charges is essential to our system of justice. The federal and state governments must provide you a lawyer if you can’t afford one. As such, underfunded public defender offices raise serious constitutional — not to mention moral — questions.

In this episode, Candace Hom, a 2001 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, explains her role in the criminal justice system. She also talks about how she builds trust between her and clients, the various legal job roles within the federal public defender office, and the challenges of dealing with prosecutors — even the good ones.

This episode is hosted by Debby Merritt a law professor at The Ohio State University. It is sponsored by ShouldIBeALawyer.com and Top-Law-Schools.com.

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