In Praise of Court TV

This —praising court TV —may sound strange coming from me.  I try to stay above the fray.  No Night Court for me!  I am a professional.

So you will understand why I am not truly proud of finding myself “glued to the tube” for the last two days watching a televised hearing in the Georgia case involving the allegations of election interference against former President Trump.  The hearing is, in my opinion, a great departure and distraction from the important issues involved in the case, nevertheless I recognize that it has value.  For law junkies like me, but, most important, for law students and entry-level lawyers.

I am a child of the law.  My interest in law started when I was a small child and my lawyer Dad took me to his office from time to time.  On some of those days, he and I would walk to the courthouse where I would sit on a bench in the hallway while my Dad met briefly with the judge or with the clerk of court to file a paper.  I had no idea what those papers were all about, but I loved just being in the historic courthouse with its high ceilings and huge portraits of men in black robes too high for me to see clearly but lending to the feel of serious business.

The rest is history.  I never gave up those early feelings of reverence that blossomed full into what I am today and have been for the last 45 years of my life.  A law junkie.  And that law junkie part of me has been on full view over the last few days.  Whether I like it or not.

Some people, including me, wish that cameras were allowed in the courtroom of the United States Supreme Court.  That could be very instructive and provide the opportunity to see and hear some of the great legal minds of our times at work, both judges and litigants.  But it is not the best opportunity to view what is most important for young lawyers to know and to learn.

That distinction goes to the trial courts where cameras are allowed in many jurisdictions today.  That is where you learn how to address the judge, how to question a witness, how to respond to objections from opposing counsel, how to move documents into evidence, and how to make persuasive arguments pertaining to both the facts and the law. It is where you are not impressed by the stateliness of the surroundings and where those in the courtroom remind you of the common folks you see and hear every day.  Those are the courtrooms and the people of your future, at least for most of you.

So, tune in with me and watch what is going on in a trial court in Georgia.  And visit local trial courts in person.  Take a break from studying contracts or billing hours.  Sit in the back of the courtroom for awhile and take it all in.  Imagine yourself doing it.

Oops …  I have to go.  Court is back in session!

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Pre-Law Students Have a Choice: Logic Games or No Logic Games

Logic games, including those on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), are a nightmare for many people.  Nothing new there.  But what is new is that the LSAT soon will not include logic games.

The inclusion of logic games on the LSAT has been challenged by students with disabilities, and, in response, the Law School Admission Council, which administers the LSAT, has decided to cut its losses and get rid of logic games.

That decision creates a choice for pre-law students and others anticipating law school application.  For those who decide to take the LSAT and are OK with logic games, they still have an opportunity to take the traditional format, which includes logic games, until the end of the 2023-2024 test cycle.  And for those who are not OK with logic games, waiting until after August 2024 is for you.

And for all of those who took the LSAT in the past and were not OK with logic games, there is no remedy for you!  That includes me.  Logic games nearly made me break out in hives on the LSAT, but I was perfectly fine with logical reasoning in law school.  Go figure.

You can read more about it here.

And you also need to remember that the LSAT is not the only show in town.   Some law schools now accept other proficiency and predictive tests in lieu of the LSAT.  It is important for all applicants to do research long before law school application deadlines and in time to apply for the test of choice.

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Is Handling Medical and Family Leave Really That Difficult for Firms?

This one is hard to believe.  Above The Law recently reported on a law firm that took the “opportunity” to remind its attorneys that being on medical or family leave does not mean what it implies —- that the lawyer has temporarily LEFT the law firm to deal with serious needs that require attention and can be life-threatening.  As in, those lawyers have departed the firm, and the firm must figure out a way to deal with this temporary circumstance.

The communique in question, from a law practice co-chair, stated clearly that there is enough time in any day for lawyers on leave to check e-mail and respond as required.  Yes, you read that correctly.  On leave does not mean left.  Really?  Really!

It seems to have been settled long ago, in 1993 to be precise, that the Medical and Family Leave Act provided for LEAVE.  It could be interpreted as “leave me alone for awhile” because I have a serious situation to deal with— either of the medical or family variety — that the law considers important enough to be protected.  And since the enactments of that law, firms have been dealing with leave situations by devising simple systems to reroute inquiries and other matters directed to attorneys on leave to those who are not on leave.  Period.  Full stop.

Until now, I guess, when the absurdities of present day life in general are working their way into law firms and managers who should know better.  And, as pointed out in the article, that is not only bad for the individual lawyers, and for the law firms, it is also bad for clients.

Fortunately, for law firm managers who remain clueless, the article provides simple recommendations for how to handle matters affecting lawyers on leave.  It is not rocket science.

As I often have written and said, lawyers are better than this.  It is time they acted like it.  Here is the article for your reading displeasure.

 

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When Women Fought Hard to Fight Back

It is so easy to forget how far women lawyers have come in the law profession in our country today.  They now represent more than 50% of associates in law firms, the percentage of women partners is on the rise, and it is common for women to be members of executive committees and practice leaders.  There is still significant work to do to increase the percentage of women equity partners, but even that Holy Grail has seen some upward movement.  But, on balance, women lawyers have advanced on so many fronts to take their rightful seats at the table.

Here is a story of a woman lawyer, who fought to protect her clients from long-held assumptions surrounding domestic violence and leaned into it in a big way with a style that is still worth emulating.  And no, I am not talking about policies and practices prevalent during Victorian times.  I am talking about policies and practices and prevailing law in the 1970’s when I started practicing law and was referred to as “girl” and “honey” by judges in open court, even Federal judges.

It does not seem so long ago to those of us who lived it.  However, living it and advancing in the profession in spite of it is one matter, but facing it down against all odds to change long-accepted policies, practices, and perceptions is quite another.  Read this story of a woman lawyer, now departed, who leaned into a problem of great magnitude and dire consequences with truth and dignity on her side and changed the perception of how women are entitled to protect themselves and their families against abuse within the very family itself.

Read about Holly Maquigan and thank your lucky stars that she came before you.  I wish I had known her.  Here is her story.

 

 

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Happy Holidays!

Wishing you a very happy holiday season.  It is a complicated world these days, and we must celebrate joy where we can find it.

AND I am willing to help you spread the holiday cheer and find the perfect stocking stuffer for the young lawyers in your firms and in your lives.

My new book, New Lawyer Launch:  The Handbook for Young Lawyers (Full Court Press, 2023), is that perfect stocking stuffer.  Full of much-needed information and advice to help young lawyers skip the confusion phase and jump straight into the production phase of private practice, this book is a must-read for mentors as well.

I am joined in this book by an impressive group of contributors, who are still walking the walk and talking the talk.  Among them are managing partners of BigLaw, practice leaders, and representatives of three generation of practitioners. That breadth of knowledge and experience is hard to find in one place, and it is at your fingertips in this exciting new book.

This is the fifth book in my Best Friends at the Bar series.  My goal throughout the series always has been to keep young lawyers from tripping over themselves on the way to their successes.  The pragmatic, down-to-earth advice included in this book will help them do just that.  From introductory information on what it means to be a lawyer, to developing survival and success strategies, to an exploration of all the possibilities within the practice of law, this book has it all — all that law school did not teach!

So stuff those stockings and send the message that you care about the young lawyers in your life and in your firm.  Order now from Amazon Books, where you can view the Table of Contents, read the Foreword and get specific information about the contributors, or order from the publisher’s link on my website at www.bestfriendsatthebar.com.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year!

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Finally, Milbank’s Foul Ball is Called

Salary increases for associates are a competitive sport.  One top law firm moves, and others follow.  Just like lemmings to the sea.

Finally, the foul ball is called, but anonymously.  Nobody wants to own it.  But, at least it is out there, and attention should be paid.  Salary increases have repercussions, and associate lawyers in BigLaw do not need more  pressure on them just to satisfy egos that feast on being the biggest and the best.

Here is the comment, as reported by Above the Law recently.

 All we’re doing is continuing to put targets on these kids’ backs. Increasing salaries…causes them to increase salaries up the chain [and] increase billable hours for them. I just think they’re taking this pound of flesh out of them.”

Yes, top management needs to pay attention to what they are doing and how their actions impact the most vulnerable.

 

 

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Calling All Senior Associates!

In a surprising development in law firm world, senior associates are suddenly in high demand — a real change from even a year ago.  We all recognize that associates become more valuable as they gain experience and climb law firm ladders, but this is something different.  Now senior associates are especially sought after outside their firms as laterals, according to an article in the American Lawyer earlier this week.

Being the subject of lateral hiring changes the game for associates.  It puts experienced associates at the heart of the bargaining process like never before.  An associate recruiter at Major, Lindsey & Africa, as quoted in the American Lawyer and reported by Above the Law, attributes this market shift to the the lack of training for associates during the pandemic, which has created a need at firms for associates with transferable skills.  Firms are desperate for senior associates who can run a deal or a case without much supervision.  And it seems that associates with 6 years or more experience are taking advantage of that opportunity.

Here’s the Above the Law article.  Check it out and share with your friends.  Some of you may want to dust off your resumes and test the lateral market.

It is so nice to be wanted!

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BigLaw Needs to Ante Up

I am sure that I join most of you — all of you, I hope — in the pain and distress I feel about the Israeli-Hammas Conflict.  Too many innocent people are being killed, maimed and left homeless on both sides, resulting in a shared responsibility that is fueling continued conflict.  And the reactions in our country, where people are taking sides in the most heinous ways, makes me sad and yearning for the democracy I once knew when people acted responsibly and demonstrated true moral commitments and compasses.

Some of this heinous behavior has been initiated on law school campuses and is growing day by day.  There should be no place on the grounds of institutions of higher learning, especially those teaching the rule of law, for this irresponsible behavior underscored by hatred, and the situation cries out for leaders to step forward to combat it.

According to this article, BigLaw seems to think that responsibility lies with the administrations of law schools, specifically law school deans.  See the article for a description of the letter, including excerpts, signed by 24 major law firms.

Although I understand that law schools, specifically those called out in the suggested response by law school deans, have not handled issues of antisemitic behaviors and other hate-related incidents well in the past, the suggestion that it is law school deans who must take the lion’s share of the responsibility to curb the current despicable behavior, makes me cringe.

I barely remember ever meeting my law school dean when I was in law school.  Surely, I never had a really meaningful conversation with him.  And I expect that is true of many law students today.  Once an applicant is accepted into law school, what the administration thinks is not terribly impactful or persuasive to them any more.  It does not hold sway with students —– certainly not the way that future employers hold sway with them.  And that is precisely why the “pass the buck” attitude by the signatories to this letter is so absurd.

Law firms hold the sway.  They control access to the future that so many of the graduates of elite law schools want, and they could make the same kinds of powerful statements of intention that Winston and Davis Polk did when it rescinded an offer to a law student who had participated in the kind of hate speech being demonstrated at campuses today.

I am not naive.  The example of Winston and Davis Polk, discussed in the article, caused the kind of push back in the world of large law firms that gives managing partners and management committee members heartburn as they consider the possible negative impact on clients and profits.  Profits over responsible and moral behavior — that about says it all.  And the same kind of “group think” is also possible when it comes to losing out on the talent ostensibly represented by the “best” recruits from elite law schools.  Again, it is all related to profits and greed.

So, I say again, as I have so many times in my books and articles and as a part of the nearly 100 presentations I have made at law schools, law firms and law organizations throughout the country to date: BigLaw needs to choose responsibility over greed.

Simply put: BigLaw needs to ante up!  And now is the time.

 

 

 

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