Harp elected president of DA group
Gadsden Times Staff Reports
June 28, 2012
Etowah County District Attorney Jimmie Harp has been elected president of the Alabama District Attorney’s Association. The association’s membership consists of district attorneys from the state’s 42 judicial circuits, along with their deputy district attorneys, investigators and directors of various divisions of the district attorneys’ offices.
“I am moved by the honor that my fellow district attorneys from around the state have bestowed upon me,” Harp said. “This is a fantastic organization comprised of professionals who have dedicated their careers to ensure the safety of our state.
“The association has long been on the forefront in training our prosecutors, law enforcement officers and has been instrumental in working with the Legislature to toughen Alabama’s criminal laws. I look forward to working with the association, the Legislature and the various law enforcement agencies to ensure that our citizens are kept as safe as possible.”
Harp joined the Etowah County District Attorney’s Office in 1994 and was elected district attorney in 2004.
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The Necessity of Civic Education
By Randall T. Shepard (former Chief Justice, Indiana Supreme Court), The Atlantic
June 27 2012
Multiple forces in modern life work to detract from Americans' ability to understand, navigate, and re-shape the country's civil institutions. These forces include, to name a few names: declining emphasis on social studies in our schools, the shrinking capabilities of news organizations, and the prominence given to the brashest of headlines. A post-industrial society flooded with more "information," complexity, and interdependence than ever before," and fewer genuine aids for making sense of it all, make for a deadly combination.
Judges and lawyers have traditionally not viewed themselves as having a central role in public education about law and government. We thought that other elements of society had ownership of that task. But the diminished capacity of some of these elements (especially the incredible shrinking press), suggest that the profession must be more assertive on this front.
Courts and judges in particular are well suited for making a difference in civic education, standing as they do in the public mind as reasonably honest brokers of disputes and information. For that purpose, technology is our friend.
The role of cameras in American courtrooms is an easy case in point. The nation's judiciary banned cameras in the 1950's after a series of dreadful experiences in which court proceedings were disrupted by the equipment of the era and only the most dramatic trial moments made it to air. A plausible threat to due process with little concomitant reward.
The opportunities half a century later are quite different. Web broadcasts managed by the courts themselves are relatively cheap, and the equipment is undisruptive. Web audiences are informed and engaged. Webcasts can offer something akin to gavel-to-gavel coverage and thus place less highlight on the salacious. These techniques can even broaden the contribution by Old Media: the Indiana courts recently authorized trial court broadcasts delivered through the web pages of newspapers.
And when courts do act on matters of broad public interest, it shouldn't be above our pay grade to take into account how the public will receive the message. Judges used to declare, "The opinion speaks for itself." It frequently didn't do that very well. When I write opinions about matters of high visibility, I work pretty hard on the opening hundred words.
And we should give the public and the press a fighting chance to absorb what we write. For example, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in 2003 that the recall election of California Governor Gray Davis could go forward, the court's decision and opinions were ready in early evening. The Chief Judge, concluding that a few hours delay would not affect the course of events, announced that there would not be a decision that night but that all concerned could expect a hand-down first thing the next morning. This gave the press and the voters a full, fresh day to absorb what the court had said. By contrast, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its dispositive decision in the 2000 presidential contest around 10:30 p.m. The nation thus first heard about the ruling from reporters standing amidst klieg lights on the Court's steps, dividing up the reams of paper and simultaneously digesting and explaining as they read the Court's decision on the fly.
Of course, public understanding of our institutions begins with what we teach our children. Here, too, the legal profession has greater capacity than it uses.
The Indiana Supreme Court has a staff which works to help teachers and students understand the legal system. They use a variety of techniques: lesson plans on how to teach famous cases that illustrate important legal concepts; an electronic legal history museum; education events in courtrooms and public schools, including interactive plays written around landmark decisions; a publication series in both digital and hard copy to make for easy access by student researchers; webcasts and archives built around all of these efforts and more; and personal appearances by lawyers and judges. When the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth rolled around, for example, hundreds of volunteers went to speak to tens of thousands of students about "Why It Mattered that Lincoln Was a Lawyer." It was a springboard for conversations about the rule of law.
A national effort in this vein is led by former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Under the banner of "iCivics," civic leaders and people from the legal profession are creating free and innovative educational materials aimed at helping young Americans become knowledgeable, engaged citizens. Online electronic games like "Branches of Power" and "Do I Have a Right?" draw lots of clicks in middle schools. The National Center for State Courts has likewise launched graphics-based novels, serious comic books, if you will, about the legal system.
What do people know about lawyers and the rule of law? Do they have confidence in what courts do for society?
The vitality of the American experiment in government, and the nation's adherence to the rule of law as the chief mechanism for shaping its civic future, inevitably depend on how firmly the country's citizens grasp its institutions and engage in reforming them. "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be," said Thomas Jefferson. I've seen first-hand the difference in public engagement that energetic outreach by the legal profession can produce.
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John Carroll to step down as Cumberland law school dean in 2013, return to teaching
By Eric Velasco, The Birmingham News
June 27, 2012
HOMEWOOD, Alabama -- John Carroll will step down as dean of Cumberland School of Law next summer and return to full-time teaching at the law school where he graduated and later led through its 50th anniversary at Samford University's campus.
"There is nothing mystical about my decision," Carroll said in a statement. "I have simply decided that it is time to take a step back and return full-time to my real love in legal education - teaching."
Carroll was traveling out of the country and could not be reached for further comment today.
Carroll arrived on the campus riding a motorcycle as a law student and graduated in 1974. He has been the dean of the school since 2001. He also has been a U.S. Magistrate Judge, civil rights lawyer, and law school professor in Macon, Ga., as well as at Cumberland.
During his tenure, the law school returned to an earlier focus on trial advocacy. U.S. News and World Report ranked Cumberland's trial advocacy program fourth nationally in 2012, up from fifth in 2011.
"John Carroll has been a highly effective and successful dean for the Cumberland School of Law," said J. Bradley Creed, Samford provost and executive vice president. "He is a gifted communicator and speaker who has been an invaluable ambassador for the university in addressing legal and public issues and building bridges to alumni and other constituents."
Most recently, Carroll has led an effort to update the curriculum to better prepare students for the ever-evolving practice of law. "He has a remarkable ability to focus on the strategic initiatives that have been crucial for the law school's progress," Creed said in a statement.
Cumberland, which was founded in Tennessee in 1847 and is the nation's 14th oldest law school, celebrated 50 years on the Samford campus in April. Julian Mann III, a Cumberland graduate and former classmate of Carroll, ranked him among the most influential leaders at the law school, including the school's founder Abraham Caruthers and early professor Nathan Green Sr.
"With the possible exceptions of Judges Nathan Green Sr. and Abraham Caruthers, Judge John Carroll is the Cumberland lawyer to have contributed the most to the academic success and prestige of the law school," said Mann, Cumberland's national alumni president and chief administrative law judge of the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings.
Carroll said his longevity at the law school helm is unusual. "The average tenure of a law school dean is less than five years," he said in the statement. "There are currently only 17 law school deans in the country out of the almost 200 who have been serving longer than I have."
Carroll, who will make his transition on June 30, 2013, said he looks forward to continued service at his law school alma mater.
"I have been honored and privileged to be Cumberland's dean," he said in the statement.
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Go Rural, Young Lawyers!
By Ashby Jones, The Wall Street Journal
June 25, 2012
The outlook for legal jobs may well be at an all-time low. But in some parts of the country, to paraphrase Rodgers & Hammerstein, the outlook is nearly as high as an elephant’s eye.
A small but growing number of Midwestern law schools are sending a new message to their graduates: Look beyond the lure of high-paying, big-city law firms and consider launching careers in rural towns.
For instance, law schools at the University of Iowa, Drake University in Iowa and Creighton University in Nebraska have teamed up with the Iowa State Bar Association to place students in summer internships and permanent jobs in small Iowa cities such as Fort Dodge (pop. 25,000), as well as small towns including Garner (pop. 3,100) and Britt (pop. 2,100) in the state’s sparsely populated northern counties.
Other sorts of movements are taking place throughout the rural midwest.
The rural areas’ biggest selling point is jobs. “The job market is good for lawyers in the western and more rural parts of Nebraska, in towns like Ogallala and Scottsbluff,” said Susan Poser, dean of the law school at the University of Nebraska. “We’re trying to make students more aware of those opportunities,” she said.
One potential advantage to small-town practice: getting to work in all sorts of legal areas. Kay Oskvig, who finished her first year at the University of Iowa law school last month, took a summer internship in Garner, about 120 miles north of Des Moines. She said that in her several weeks on the job, she has worked on a contract dispute, a tax case and helped with some criminal-defense work. “I’ve been amazed at how broad small-town practice is,” she said.
Whether the program can keep up the momentum is uncertain, especially if the job market for lawyers improves nationwide. After all, small-town life has its challenges. Cultural attractions might be few. When compared to big-city legal practice, rural practice can offer fewer intellectual challenges.
Still, for the students who can shoulder the financial burden, there can be significant advantages. “The cost of living, the pace of living and the variety of practice, to name a few,” said Marianne B. Culhane, dean of the law school at Creighton. “Plus, no long commutes.”
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Posing as attorney could soon be felony
By Joseph Ax, Thomson Reuters
June 22, 2012
NEW YORK, June 22 (Reuters) - Defendants who pose as attorneys and steal more than $1,000 from their victims could face felony rather than misdemeanor charges under a bill passed by the state legislature this week.
The legislation will now go to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his approval. His office did not immediately comment Friday on whether he would sign the bill into law.
Impersonating an attorney is currently a misdemeanor in New York, though posing as a doctor, accountant, social worker or a number of other licensed professionals carries a felony charge.
Fraudsters posing as lawyers frequently prey on immigrant communities, where there is a supply of potential victims who want to apply for green cards and other legal papers but find it difficult to navigate the bureaucracy.
The legislation would make it a Class E felony to impersonate a lawyer, a crime punishable by up to four years in prison.
"By passing this law we are standing up for the rights of all New Yorkers to ensure that individuals receive proper legal assistance," said Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, a Queens Democrat who introduced the bill in the assembly.
Senator Charles Fuschillo, a Long Island Republican, sponsored the Senate version of the bill.
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ABA: Only 55 percent of law grads found full-time law jobs
Karen Sloan, The National Law Journal
June 18, 2012
Slightly more than half of the class of 2011 — 55 percent — found full-time, long-term jobs that require bar passage nine months after they graduated, according to employment figures released on June 18 by the American Bar Association.
The statistic was perhaps the most sobering in a season of bad news about new lawyer employment. Less than one week earlier, the National Association for Law Placement reported that only two-thirds of new graduates landed any type of job requiring their law degree, and that the overall employment rate hit an 18-year low at 85.6 percent.
This is the first time the ABA has required law schools to report the number of their graduates in full-time, long-term legal jobs — a statistic that transparency advocates consider the most important for prospective law students. Previously, schools could lump together recent graduates in part-time jobs and full-time jobs, making it difficult to know how many graduates secured the most coveted jobs.
The newly released data do not include any salary information, but are the most up-to-date numbers the ABA has ever made public.
In response to public pressure over the accuracy and availability of employment data, the ABA released that information nearly a year earlier than it has in the past. (The ABA released a similar — though less detailed — data set of employment outcomes for the class of 2010 in April.) The faster turnaround this year gives incoming law students access to the employment outcomes of the most recent graduating class before they show up on campus in the fall.
But the information may give some would-be lawyers pause. When including part-time and short-term jobs that require bar passage, less than two-thirds of new graduates — 63 percent — were in legal jobs nine months after leaving law school. Another 12 percent were in jobs for which a J.D. degree was preferred but not required. Another 5 percent were in business or non-legal jobs. Nine percent reported that they were unemployed and seeking work.
The nonprofit group Law School Transparency used the ABA's numbers to calculate what it calls the "underemployment rate," including graduates who are unemployed and looking for work, in short-term or part-time jobs, seeking additional degrees, and in nonprofessional jobs. More than a quarter of new graduates — 26 percent — fell into those categories. At 20 law schools, more than 40 percent of graduates fell into Law School Transparency's definition of underemployed.
"Law school still costs way too much money compared to postgraduation employment outcomes," said Law School Transparency executive director Kyle McEntee. "If you plan to debt-finance your education or use your hard-earned savings, think twice about attending a law school without a steep discount."
Slightly more than 4 percent of the class of 2011 were in jobs funded by the law schools themselves, according to the ABA data, and the trend appeared to be on the rise. Twenty-seven law schools had 10 percent or more of their 2011 graduates on their payroll.
In 2010, the City University of New York School of Law had hired the highest percentage of graduates, at 19 percent. But it was eclipsed by 14 other law schools in 2011. The University of Miami School of Law and the University of Notre Dame Law School both reported hiring 23 percent of their graduates, followed closely by Boston University School of Law at 22 percent and the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law at 19 percent. Several of the country's most prestigious law schools, including the University of Chicago Law School, New York University School of Law, the University of Virginia School of Law and Yale Law School, hired 10 percent or more of their class of 2011.
Five law schools reported full-time, long-term, bar passage-required employment rates of 90 percent or more: Columbia Law School, Harvard Law School, NYU, Stanford Law School and Virginia. Thirty schools had corresponding percentages of below 40 percent. The three lowest were Golden Gate University School of Law at 22 percent, the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law at 21 percent and Whittier Law School at 17 percent.
Slightly more than 10 percent of the class of 2011 landed in full-time, long-term jobs at law firms of 101 or more attorneys, according to the ABA data. Only three schools sent 50 percent or more of their recent graduates into major law firms: Columbia Law School, Northwestern University School of Law and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
The ABA has provided its data in a large Excel spreadsheet format that allows users to compare statistics across schools, but also breaks the numbers out by individual law schools for those interested in particular institutions.
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Courts See Increase in Bankruptcy Filing Abuse by Non-lawyers
By Matthew Huisman, The Legal Times
June 18, 2012
There has been an increase in the number of complaints against non-lawyers preparing bankruptcy filings for a fee, according to a report the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts released Monday.
Federal law allows bankruptcy filers to use an attorney or go it alone as pro se filers. Those who elect to file themselves can use the help of non-lawyer, bankruptcy petition preparers who often charge a fee to help prepare the filing.
The increase in the abuse is due in part to the mortgage crisis that has gripped much of the country, the AOC concluded.
"The increase in 'foreclosure rescue' and 'loan modification' services seems to be the source in the past three years," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Maureen Tighe in the Central District of California said in the report. "The homeowners are desperate and take advice from the most questionable sources."
Between fiscal years 2005 through the 2011 fiscal year, complainants filed 2,529 formal actions against bankruptcy petition preparers. In 98.5 percent of the formal actions, the court granted some form of relief. Common infractions include the unauthorized practice of law or collecting more than the petition-preparation fee. In other instances preparers who have been barred from filing bankruptcy petitions prepare the paperwork but advise the pro se filer to sign the bankruptcy petition.
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In Washington State, ‘Legal Technicians’ Will B--------- e Allowed to Help Civil Litigants
By Debra Cassens Weiss, ABAJournal.com
June 19, 2012
Washington State's top court has approved a new rule allowing licensed legal technicians to help civil litigants navigate the court system.
The rule takes effect Sept. 1, according to a Washington courts press release. The rule allows persons who are trained and authorized by a new Limited License Legal Technician Board to help civil litigants:
• Fill out legal forms.
• Inform clients of procedures and timelines.
• Review and explain pleadings.
• Identify additional documents that might be needed in court.
The rule was recommended by the Practice of Law Board, created by the supreme court in part to recommend ways in which nonlawyers can improve access to law-related services.
The Washington Supreme Court order approving the rule notes a “wide and ever-growing gap" in legal services for persons with lower incomes.
Many people will still require help from lawyers, the court said. “But there are people who need only limited levels of assistance that can be provided by nonlawyers trained and overseen within the frameworks of the regulator system. ... This assistance should be available and affordable. Our system of justice requires it.”
The court acknowledged concerns that the plan poses a threat to the practicing family law bar. But “protecting the monopoly status of attorneys in any practice area is not a legitimate objective,” the court said. The order also points out that the technicians won’t be allowed to negotiate with opposing parties and says the new rule “is unlikely to have any appreciable impact on attorney practice.”
The new rule is narrowly tailored, incorporates ethics requirements and includes "appropriate training, financial responsibility, regulatory oversight and accountability systems,” the court said.
Three justices dissented. “During my years on the Washington Supreme court, I have not once authored a dissent to an administrative order of this court,” Justice Susan Owens wrote. “I depart from that custom today because I have very strong feelings that our court’s decision to adopt the new [rule] is ill-considered, incorrect, and most of all extremely unfair to the members of the Washington State Bar Association.” Owens expressed concern that lawyers will be forced to underwrite the costs of the new licensing program.
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Attorneys Debate What Happened to Civil Jury Trials, And Whether They Will Be Missed
By Zoe Tillman, The Legal Times
June 18, 2012
A group of panelists at the American Constitution Society's annual convention agreed that jury trials in civil cases, especially in the federal courts, are on the decline. But they disagreed about whether that was a bad thing and how the trend could be reversed.
The panel on Friday was moderated by New York University School of Law Professor Arthur Miller. He cited statistics from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts that, in recent years, fewer than 2 percent of federal actions went to trial and fewer than 1 percent had a jury trial.
The more than two dozen panelists cited several reasons for the decline: a shift to using arbitration, the rising cost of taking cases to trial and the growing number of young attorneys who are never trained on how to handle a trial.
John Vail, vice president and senior litigation counsel at the Center for Constitutional Litigation, said jury trials can work in civil cases, and that the responsibility falls to attorneys to do a better job of explaining their cases. Miller asked him why it wouldn't be preferable to have judges decide cases where they have expertise; Vail replied that the virtue of juries is that they don't have preconceptions about certain issues, unlike judges.
F. Paul Bland Jr., a senior attorney at Public Justice, said he thought the problem was that the shift to arbitration meant that more cases – he spoke about consumer cases – simply disappeared and never make it as far as an arbitrator. Mayer Brown partner Andrew Pincus countered that in some instances, cases don't make it to arbitration because the plaintiff's claim is satisfied right away.
Barbara Hart, chief operating officer and securities litigation practice head at Lowey Dannenberg Cohen & Hart, said that jury trials in civil cases are important to keep the public informed. "What we lose in arbitration is the sunshine," she said.
The jury selection process was cited as another reason why attorneys in civil cases are moving away from trials. Josh Dubin, who runs legal strategy consulting company Dubin Research and Consulting Inc., said judges aren't allowing enough time for voir dire, which hurts the faith of lawyers and their corporate clients in the process.
David Brodsky, a retired partner at Latham & Watkins, said electronic discovery had pushed the costs of going to trial up over the past decade. Nathan Finch, an attorney with plaintiffs firm Motley Rice, said his clients want to go to a jury, but that it's become much more difficult and expensive to make it past the summary judgment phase.
Wiley Rein partner Andrew McBride questioned whether the 7th Amendment right to a jury trial in civil cases was as critical to democracy as the right to a trial in criminal cases. He said that expert judges could decide certain complex cases – he cited patent disputes as an example – without harming society.
His comments sparked a flurry of protests from other panelists. Bland said that arbitration put more power in the hands of the rich to control who decides the outcome of cases, while juries couldn't be bought. Salvatore Graziano, a partner at Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann, asked McBride how, as a former prosecutor, he could trust a jury to decide whether to send a person to jail for the rest of their life but not trust them to decide complex civil cases.
Regardless of the reasons, Labaton Sucharow partner Christine Azar lamented that the decline in jury trials meant that a whole generation of lawyers is being trained without any trial experience. "The entire profession loses," she said.
With Profession Under Stress, Law Schools Cut Admissions
By JOE PALAZZOLO and CHELSEA PHIPPS, The Wall Street Journal
June 10, 2012
Law schools are experimenting with a novel solution to the nation's glut of attorneys: mint fewer of them.
Faced with a weak job market for lawyers and a dwindling number of applicants, several law schools are cutting the size of their incoming classes, a move legal experts describe as unprecedented.
Daniel Rodriguez, dean of the Northwestern University School of Law, is 'taking a close look' at reducing the size of its incoming class.
Law-school class sizes fluctuate from year to year and, in isolated cases, schools have reduced enrollment in the past to lower their student-to-teacher ratio or to reflect the jobs picture in their region.
But experts say that the planned reductions by at least 10 of the roughly 200 laws schools accredited in the U.S., suggest a new reality is sinking in: The legal profession may never return to its prerecession prosperity.
"This looks like it's a big structural shift," says William Henderson, an Indiana University law professor who studies the market for law jobs. "Law schools don't think this is going to bounce back."
In previous economic downturns, the number of law-school applicants increased, as students who would otherwise have looked for jobs found temporary refuge studying for an advanced degree. But the number of law-school applicants this year is 65,119, down 14% from a year earlier, according to the Law School Admission Council Inc., a nonprofit corporation that administers the Law School Admission Test.
"We're going down in a down market," says Frank Wu, dean of the University of California's San Francisco-based Hastings College of the Law, a top-tier school that has taken some of the most drastic steps to "reboot" legal education.
The school plans to whittle its total enrollment to about 1,000 from 1,300 in phases over the next three years. The cuts could cost the school $9 million, Mr. Wu says.
Daniel B. Rodriguez, dean of Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, says he is "taking a close look" at reducing the size of its incoming class, as a nod to the grim job prospects for attorneys, but also to raise admission standards and improve the school's program.
Northwestern's law school is ranked 12th in the country by U.S. News & World Report, whose annual surveys are widely followed by prospective students.
Shrinking class size could help schools maintain their all-important U.S. News rankings even as the pool of applicants declines. By cutting the number of places available, a law school can be just as selective, or even more so, about prospective students' LSAT scores and undergrad grade-point averages.
"They are trying to get a class that mirrors prior classes, but with fewer applicants and enrollees," says Indiana University's Mr. Henderson.
The number of law graduates per year spiked to 44,495 this year from 42,673 in 2006, and the American Bar Association accredited 10 new law schools over the same period.
But the high-paying law-firm jobs many of those students had hoped to land are in short supply, and some top firms have scaled back their hiring of entry-level lawyers by as much as half since the financial crisis started in 2008.
"This is long overdue," Mr. Wu says of the class reductions. "The expectations about law school have been out of whack since I was in law school," he says, adding that he earned his law degree in 1991 and practiced at Morrison & Foerster LLP in San Francisco before entering academia.
For the law-school class of 2011, employment rates are at an 18-year low, according to a survey by the NALP, a nonprofit educational association for the legal profession.
About 86% of graduates found jobs in what NALP described as the worst market since 1994, when the employment rate was 85%. Less than 66% of those jobs required a law license, the lowest rate since the association began collecting the data in the 1980s, the survey said.
In recent months, law-school graduates have filed more than a dozen lawsuits around the country accusing law schools of misleading prospective students by advertising that a high percentage of their graduates were employed, without specifying whether the jobs required a law degree.
The schools have moved—successfully, in at least one case—to dismiss the lawsuits, arguing that they strictly followed American Bar Association rules and maintained accurate job-placement data.
Still, most law schools aren't planning to shrink. They include Thomas M. Cooley Law School, the largest in the nation, with 3,700 students, and among the first to be sued over its job-placement numbers.
The independent school, which has campuses in Michigan and recently expanded into Florida, has defended its practices, saying they met ABA requirements.
Cooley "isn't interested in reducing the size of its entering class on the basis of the perceived benefit to society," says associate dean James Robb.
"Cooley's mission is inclusiveness," adds Mr. Robb, who says he worries reducing class sizes could disproportionately affect minority students.
Paul Schiff Berman, dean of the George Washington University Law School, ranked 20th by U.S. News, says the school, which enrolled about 480 students in 2011, hasn't decided how many slots would be cut for the incoming class, but he estimates the reduction would cost the school about $1 million.
While Mr. Berman says his school could absorb the loss, that kind of shortfall could have big financial repercussions at other institutions.
Law schools are considered profit centers at many universities. If they can't find external funding to plug the probable revenue gap, some of them might have to consider such moves as pay cuts, paring back faculty and staff and reducing nonsalary costs, legal-industry experts say.
"Putting a university on a sudden diet is not easy," says Marianne B. Culhane, dean of the Creighton University School of Law in Omaha, Neb., which in late 2009 made a deal with Creighton University to enroll 20 fewer students a year for as long as five years.
Even if they want to slim down, many law schools will have a hard time persuading their universities that the cuts are warranted, says Ms. Culhane.
In Creighton's case, she says, "We didn't think if people were going to have trouble getting jobs that we ought to be trying to get as many to come to law school."
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Need a tie? Alabama law school grads and practicing attorneys offer a rental service
By Budd McLaughlin, The Huntsville Times
June 11, 2012
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Necktie rentals? Well, when you get a couple of guys who each have Auburn and Alabama degrees on their walls, you're sure to have something out of the ordinary.
So, meet Scott Tindle and David Powers.
They received their bachelor's degrees from Auburn and went to Alabama for law school. They're both practicing attorneys and, in their spare time, they run TieTry.
"It's essentially Netflix for neckties," said Powers, a Decatur native who is an attorney at a Washington, D.C., law firm. Tindle is an in-house counsel at a company in Mobile. "We launched it - www.tietry.com - in January."
Powers, whose parents still live in Decatur and he has an aunt and uncle in Huntsville, said they met in 2006 as first-year law students at Alabama. They were both entrepreneurial and constantly bounced ideas off of each other.
"A couple of years after graduating from law school, we learned about a couple of sites geared toward women that rent designer dresses, handbags and jewelry," Powers said.
"This, in part, made us realize that America seems to be evolving from an ownership society to that of an access society.
"While there were some women's sites that realized this, there was no one offering these services to men."
So ... They decided on ties for a couple of reasons.
"First, ties were an easy first step because, generally, they are one-size fits all," he said, though they are considering adding "long" ties. "Second, both Scott and I like wearing nice ties. But, we don't like buying a tie for $80."
Tindle came up with the idea of a subscription service and they came up with five monthly subscription plans, ranging from one tie at a time to five ties at a time, with prices from $11.99 per month to $29.99 per month.
"You could receive up to eight to 10 per month, the retail value of which could be between $600 and $800," Powers said. "Our service allows our subscribers to have variety in their wardrobe without breaking the bank, and also exposes them to a lot of great regional brands - in addition to big name designer brands, many of which they have likely never heard of."
The ties are mailed along with pre-paid return envelopes to return them.
A customer can keep the ties as long as they need or return them as often as they want, he said. "As long as (they) have a membership with TieTry."
There is an option to purchase the ties, too.
And, like typical entrepreneurs, Powers and Tindell are looking to the future.
"Eventually, we plan to move into other areas, including sunglasses, wrist watches, and other items," Powers said.
It's not all dollars-and-cents for them, either. They have a social mission.
"We intend to work with charities to help raise money for their causes, particularly those advancing educational opportunities for low-income children," he said.
For Father's Day, Powers said there is a special "gift feature" this week where someone can purchase a subscription as a gift.
Just for those who happen to read this, Powers created a special discount code - huntsville - which offers the service for just $4.99 the first month.
"They can cancel anytime, of course," he said.
But would you want to?
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Lesson for the Legislature: Governor was right to veto bill that would have been bad law
Anniston Star – [Editorial]
Jun 05, 2012
Seldom is it that an Alabama governor vetoes a bill that has passed through the state Legislature with only one dissenting vote — especially when it is a bill that, in principle, the governor supports.
Don’t forget: Under the 1901 Alabama Constitution, a veto can be overridden by a simple majority. Thus, this veto under normal circumstances would be little more than a gesture. The only time a governor can make a veto stick is when it comes at the end of a session and the Legislature can’t reconvene for a vote.
That happened in this year’s session when Gov. Robert Bentley vetoed the so-called Taxpayers Bill of Rights II, a bill that would set up an independent tax-appeals commission intended to streamline the tax administration and appeals process for state and local taxes.
Bentley did that because he said the bill — which was passed on the last night of the regular session — contained errors. Since there was no time to send it back to lawmakers so it could be corrected, he vetoed it rather than let a bad bill become law.
Good for the governor.
The Legislature had the whole session to meet with tax lawyers from the Alabama State Bar and representatives from the business community and write a bill that would improve how the state handles tax disputes. But it was not until the last day of the session that an agreement was reached. When that happened in a rush before adjourning, all of the agreed-upon language did not get into the bill. “There were a couple of things omitted — all unintentional,” Montgomery tax attorney Will Sellers told the Associated Press.
Haste makes waste.
Now the interested parties will have to get together, write a better bill and get it passed when the Legislature meets next year. (This year’s vetoed bill passed the House with a 95-1 vote and a 33-0 vote in the Senate.) Meanwhile, the state will continue to settle tax disputes under a system almost everyone wants changed.
This fiasco provides two lessons Alabama’s lawmakers should learn.
First, legislators need to take the time to write capable legislation.
Second, the governor — or, at least, his advisors — should read the bills that reach his desk. We wonder how many legislators read what they voted for?
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Critics Take Aim at Cy Pres Awards
June 4, 2012
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a law professor have appealed to Congress to get rid of “cy pres” awards in class actions, arguing that they benefit lawyers and charities but not the class members.
During a hearing on Capitol Hill last week, the first on point since the Class Action Fairness Act was enacted seven years ago, Martin Redish of Northwestern University School of Law argued that the awards create “faux” class actions. Cy pres awards are charitable donations paid from unclaimed settlement funds.
All too often, class members are unaware the lawsuit is happening, or can’t be found, or are unreachable, or the award is so small that it wouldn’t make sense for them to seek any money, Redish told a House subcommittee on the Constitution on Friday.
“What happens in these cases is [that] the lawyers become the real parties of interest,” Redish said. “The charity is not an injured party—the charity has not suffered harm—and this is a symptom of the perversion of the class action process.”
John Beisner, a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, testifying on behalf of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, said cy pres awards in many cases are used merely to justify attorneys’ fees by inflating the size of the class award.
“While the use of cy pres in class action settlements has benefited numerous organizations, ranging from art schools to law schools and from the American Red Cross to legal aid societies, the practice is troubling when there is no effort to compensate the actual class members, because in such cases the supposed relief fails to provide any real benefit to the purportedly injured class members,” Beisner said.
Cy pres awards have been under attack since the 2005 law limited attorney fees in coupon settlements. Plaintiffs' attorneys dismiss the concerns as sour grapes, arguing that defendants want to claim such residual funds for themselves.
Beisner noted that the law shifted countless interstate class actions into federal court, away from state jurisdictions that he said apply lax class-certification standards and exhibit bias towards out-of-state defendants.
“The result is more rigorous scrutiny of class action proposals, which in turn has led to a fairer and more just class action landscape,” Beisner said.
But Thomas M. Sobol, a partner at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, said the law’s biggest impact has been to deny individuals access to the substantive state laws that protect consumers, including laws governing unfair and deceptive trade practices, warranties, antitrust, unjust enrichment, negligence and other torts.
“CAFA usurped from state courts the ability to interpret their own laws and protect their own citizens,” Sobol said.
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Law School Tuition Rises As Salaries Shrink And Other Things To Law Schools Won't Tell You [LONG ARTICLE]
By Annamaria Andriotis, Smartmoney.com
June 6, 2012
1. "Lawyers are a dime a dozen."
After graduating from California Western School of Law in 2005, Kathryn Tokarska sent dozens of resumes to law firms. Prior to attending law school, she worked at investment firms, so she was hoping to land a job at a securities law firm or another related field that could use her experience. Instead, says Tokarska, the only position she was offered after graduating was a $10 per hour part-time clerkship. Knee deep in debt and unable to find a decent job, she opened her own law office in San Diego in 2008. "I thought if I got a higher degree, I'd have a better chance to get a job, but that's not what happened," she says.
Tokarska isn't alone. This year, around 45,000 students are graduating law school -- the highest number ever, according to the American Bar Association. But there are only about 28,000 positions for lawyers that are available, according to Economic Modeling Specialists, a labor market analysis firm. The latest survey data available by the National Association for Law Placement shows that about 88% of law students who graduated in 2010 were employed by February 2011 -- the lowest rate since 1996 and down from a peak of 92% in 2007. And almost a third of the graduates known to be employed were not working in a legal position that required passing the Bar exam.
Meanwhile, big law firms made an average of 22 offers to second-year students for internships this summer, compared to a ten-year peak of 39 in 2007, according to NALP. These positions often lead to permanent jobs after graduation. The number of students firms take on in the summer is largely based on the amount of work firms expect to have going forward, says Judy Collins, research director at NALP. One small piece of good news: The number of offers made is up slightly from the fall 2010 average of 19, according to NALP numbers.
2. "We're being sued by former students."
Since 2011, a total of 15 lawsuits have been filed against law schools, including New York Law School, DePaul University College of Law and Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Auburn Hills, Mich., claiming, among other things, that the schools inflate job placement numbers. Specifically, the lawsuits allege that job placement rates don't specify how many students are actually working as lawyers or other legal positions versus graduates who are employed in fields that don't require a law degree. "Law schools count working at a Starbucks as employed," says Frank Raimond, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers on the case. The lawsuits also allege that schools inflate graduate salary data by basing it on a small group of intentionally-selected students.
The schools named in the suit deny the allegations. James Thelen, general counsel at Thomas M. Cooley Law School, says the institution follows the American Bar Association and NALP's rules when reporting job placement rates, and its web site lists the sectors its graduates have been hired to work in. Separately, he says, colleges can't predict how an economic downturn will impact job openings. "No reasonable person could look at the accurate data we report about graduate employment today and believe that it is a guarantee that the very same percentage of job opportunities will be available when he or she graduates," says Thelen. For its part, DePaul's College of Law says it provides students with a high-quality, legal education and that its career services office is dedicated to helping students find careers that are right for them.
Plaintiffs were dealt a setback in March when the New York State Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit against New York Law School in Manhattan on the grounds that students are capable of sifting through the job placement data and realizing that not all law school graduates end up with successful careers. Raimond says the plaintiffs have filed their appeal, and will be submitting the brief shortly. "We are very confident the judge's decision will be affirmed," says Michael Volpe, counsel to NYLS. He adds that a law school graduate's success can't be evaluated nine months or even two years after graduation but more like 10 years later. Meanwhile, Raimond and the other plaintiffs' lawyers are preparing to file suit against another 40 schools.
3. "Salaries are shrinking ..."
While public service and government attorneys don't expect to make the big bucks, corporate law positions have traditionally paid some of the highest salaries of any industry. But even these lofty positions aren't recession-proof. Law school students who graduated in 2010 earn $84,111 on average during their first year, down 10% from 2009, according to the most recent available data from NALP.
And fewer graduates are landing six figure jobs. Eighteen percent of 2010 graduates earned $160,000 compared to 25% in each of the previous two years. Nearly half of 2010 graduates made between $40,000 and $65,000, up from about 40% for the prior two classes. In some cases, starting pay is even lower: Last week, Boston-based civil practice law firm Gilbert & O'Bryan posted a full-time associate position that pays $10,000 annually. Larry O'Bryan, a partner with the firm, says it has just two lawyers, hires when it receives extra cases, and that the salary is based on the amount of work billed and collected. So far, he says, the firm has received around 35 applications, mostly from recent law graduates.
In March, an ABA council struck down a proposal requiring schools to report detailed graduate salary data on their web sites. In a statement at the time, the ABA said that "fewer than 45% of law graduates contacted by their law schools report their salaries" and that the council felt that collection of this data is "unreliable and produces distorted information." Some members of Congress had asked the ABA last year to take more steps to prevent law schools from overstating job prospects and salaries. "I am very concerned that the ABA appears to be backing away from its commitment to provide prospective law school students with the critical information they need to make the best decision for their future," said Senator Barbara Boxer in a statement after the council's decision to reject the proposal.
For its part, the ABA council did vote in favor of proposals that would require law schools to disclose more information on their web sites about their admissions data, Bar passage rates and job placement figures. An ABA spokesman says the revised standards are up for review and the council will recommend that the ABA's House of Delegates approve its recommendations at an August meeting.
4. " ... while tuition is soaring"
The slowdown in jobs and salaries hasn't stopped law schools from raising their fees. Tuition has jumped 5% to 10% a year since 2008. The cost of attending a private university averaged $39,184 for the academic year that ended this May, up 21% from the 2007-08 academic year and up 71% from a decade ago, according to the ABA.
Tuition at public schools for in-state students is much less than private schools, but those costs are rising, too: It averaged $22,116 this past year, up 43% from 2007-08 and up 163% from a decade ago. For context, tuition for in-state undergrads at public colleges rose 33% and 119% over the same periods, according to the College Board. It seems prospective law students are taking notice. For the first time since the recession, first-year enrollment in law school has declined, falling 7% in the 2011-12 school year compared to the year before, according to ABA numbers.
No one at the ABA was available to comment on this issue, but in past statements on tuition costs, the organization has said the increases are largely due to a more hands-on approach and more competition between the schools for higher rankings.
5. "You'll be paying off your student loans for years."
When Laurie Jaffee graduated from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York in 2001 with $95,000 in student loans, she never imagined she'd be stuck with that debt more than a decade later. But, Jaffee never found a job as an attorney.
Nine out of ten 2012 law school graduates (about 48,000 total) will leave school with student loan debt, according to FinAid.org. That's the highest percentage of any undergraduate or advanced degree programs, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, which tracks student debt. What's more, the projected average debt owed by law school students is now roughly $91,100, up 14% from four years ago.
Law students have few options for debt relief. Employers rarely pay a portion of tuition costs the way they do for, say, MBA students. Federal grants don't exist for law school and scholarships don't reach many students, says Kantrowitz. There's no official data, but Kantrowitz observes that parents often end up footing some of the bill. In fact, some law schools ask applicants as old as 30 to submit their parents' financial statements in addition to their own. "If you don't have a trust fund or parents who can afford to pay, your only choice is to borrow," says Kantrowitz.
6. “Average students foot the bill for the bright ones”
First the good news: The number of scholarships for law school students has increased. In 2010 nearly 40,000 law students received strictly merit-based scholarships, up 27% from 2005, according to the ABA. In total, schools spent more than $522 million on these scholarships, an 80% increase compared to 2005. Now for the bad news: Only students with the best grades and test scores qualify. That's because by admitting brighter students, schools can raise their rankings, says Jerry Organ, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis.
Law school scholarship funding doesn't usually come from the schools' endowments, but rather through so-called tuition discounting, he says. That's when schools raise overall tuition so that in effect, those with lower grades can subsidize the bill for the brightest students. Those lower-performing students also have a harder time paying off the tuition debt they incur because they're less likely to get the high-paying positions that often go to the students with high grades, says Kyle McEntee, executive director at Law School Transparency, a nonprofit legal education policy organization.
Separately, experts say it's tougher to hold onto merit-based scholarships in law school than in undergraduate programs. Organ says he reviewed 150 law schools offering merit scholarships and found that 80% of them renew scholarships for the students who rank somewhere between the top 15% and 30% of their class. But the initial scholarship they award for the incoming class is given out to as many as the top 50% of students. In law school, grades are distributed on a curve. Schools ration the number of As and Bs that they dole out each semester. The result? It's guaranteed that a certain number of students at those schools will lose their scholarships, says Organ. In contrast, undergraduates who receive merit-based scholarships have to maintain a certain GPA to keep it, but their fate is decided by the grades they earn rather than a curve. An ABA spokesman says that if the group's revised standards (initially approved in March) are adopted, law schools will be required to publish information on their web sites about merit scholarship retention rates.
7. "You can't trust our numbers."
Students usually compare law programs before they choose, looking at school websites and marketing materials as well as independent rankings. Most schools report what grades and LSAT scores are needed for an application to be accepted. Recent events, however, have cast doubt on the accuracy of that information, says McEntee.
Last year an assistant dean at the University of Illinois College of Law resigned after the university found that grade-point averages and standardized test scores for recent incoming classes were inflated. In a public statement, dean Bruce Smith wrote that the institution found "that a single individual -- no longer employed by the college -- was responsible for these inaccuracies." The College of Law also announced it was correcting the data.
In February 2011, the Villanova University School of Law announced that it had reported inaccurate information to the American Bar Association about the students it was admitting, according to a letter it sent to students and alumni. The erroneous information pertained to LSAT and GPA scores from 2005 to 2009, according to the school. In a separate letter last August, the university's dean, John Gotanda, said the school had found a small group of former employees engaged in misconduct. The school has since taken measures to "assure that this type of misconduct never again occurs," said the letter.
8. "We're not accredited by the ABA."
For law schools, national accreditation is provided by the American Bar Association. But they can only apply for this accreditation after they've been operating for at least one year. In many parts of the country, students who enroll in new law schools may face problems. Sixteen states, including Arkansas, Indiana and New Jersey, require students to have graduated from an ABA-approved school in order to take the Bar exam, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners. Several other states, like Illinois and Louisiana, have other requirements that make sitting for the Bar exam difficult for students who've graduated from a non-ABA approved school. Without passing the Bar, graduates won't be able to practice law even if they've graduated law school.
Elsewhere, law school grads from unaccredited schools may still take the Bar and practice in the state. That's the case in Tennessee, home of the Lincoln Memorial University John J. Duncan, Jr. School of Law, which opened in 2009. The school has state approval and its 180 students are allowed to take the Bar after graduating and practice in the state. But the ABA denied the school its accreditation in December because of what it called, in a brief on the matter, a weak academic plan, declining LSAT and GPA scores and other reasons. In response, the school filed a lawsuit against the ABA accusing it of stifling competition by limiting the number of law schools. The school has said it's trying to offer a lower-cost law education for students from distressed parts of the country. An LMU spokeswoman says the university isn't commenting about the ABA accreditation process. An ABA spokesman says the school's case is under review and that the ABA doesn't comment on pending litigation.
9. "... so we're a lot cheaper."
Law schools that have state or regional approval but lack ABA national accreditation have one major advantage -- a much lower price tag. At the Nashville School of Law for instance, tuition is roughly $22,000 for four years of night classes -- less than one year of tuition at an ABA-accredited law school. Graduates may take the Tennessee Bar and practice in the state. Separately, the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover charges $17,000 a year for day classes (or nearly $13,000 for night classes) and is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Students who pass the Bar in Massachusetts or other Northeastern states, such as Connecticut and Vermont, and the District of Columbia, may practice throughout the region.
Experts say non-accredited law schools charge less tuition partly because they don't hire many (if any) full-time professors and because faculty salaries are lower than accredited schools. For students who plan to start their own law office, McEntee says this might be the most cost-effective option if they can pass the Bar. By attending a non-ABA-accredited law school in their state, they're less at risk of incurring crippling debt and will be more eligible to borrow to start up their businesses.
James Michael Dulany says he decided to attend the Massachusetts School of Law after seeing his father, an MSL alum, flourish in his own business. Dulany, who will start his third year at MSL this fall, says he had the grades and LSAT score to apply to ABA accredited schools but decided against it because of the cost. "At graduation, I wanted to be in a position where I'd choose a career that I'm passionate about -- not based on what kind of money I'd make in order to pay down loans," he says.
10. "You're better off going to law school abroad."
Christopher Schuller, a native of Nashville, Tenn., says he knew he wanted to study law when he was applying to undergraduate school. So when he was accepted by Oxford University in England he jumped at the offer. It wasn't just the school's prestige that attracted him. He also liked the idea of becoming a lawyer on the fast track. Unlike in the U.S., English universities don't offer a core curriculum of arts and sciences. Prospective students declare their major during the application process. After three years at an English university, law students can complete their undergrad studies and qualify for the Bar exams in 27 states, including California, New York and Texas, and the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of Bar Examiners. (Students who get their law degrees elsewhere abroad can also qualify for the Bar in those states.) Schuller graduated in 2008 at age 22 with a law degree. This month he'll take a break from his position as an assistant law professor in Germany and head to Albany where he'll be sworn in as a New York State attorney.
In England, the average university tuition for international students ranges from $13,000 to $21,000. Students who pay the high end of that range would save $30,000 in tuition costs, compared to U.S. schools and $170,000 compared to private universities in the states, according to U.S. tuition data from the College Board and the ABA. To be sure, in most of those 27 states that permit taking the Bar, students will need to meet extra requirements, like attaining additional education at an ABA-approved law school that can include a Master's program in Law, but that still wouldn't wipe out their savings.
Of course, attending law school overseas is a drastic move. Students who want to return to the U.S. to practice law will initially be restricted to the states that permit them to take the Bar, says McEntee. They could also run into a greater risk of failing the Bar exam since they're likely less familiar with U.S. law, says Kantrowitz.