Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

https://i1.wp.com/cdn.morguefile.com/imageData/public/files/s/sideshowmom/preview/fldr_2005_04_20/file0002043695191.jpghttps://i1.wp.com/cdn.morguefile.com/imageData/public/files/s/Seemann/11/l/14170495919qjki.jpgProving there are turkeys after Thanksgiving, a couple of career law school académicos opined in Black Friday’s Washington Post championing “low-bono” legal services so that “talented young lawyers will devote an early stage of their career to communities in need.”

William Treanor, Georgetown Law Center Executive Vice President, Dean and Professor of Law, and Jane Aiken, Vice Dean, Associate Dean (Experiential Education) and Professor of Law at the same school, are the noblesse oblige promoters of that well-worn access to justice idea. The glut of new, unemployed young lawyers, they reckon, can charge “affordable fees” so that working people earning too much to qualify for legal aid can obtain legal representation.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/09/Ivory_Towers_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1650865.jpg/180px-Ivory_Towers_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1650865.jpgSince most people can’t afford to hire a lawyer, low-bono is a laudable enough idea — even if it comes from a pair of insular ivory tower inhabitants who from their CVs appear not to have any experience running their own law practices where they had to make their monthly nut.

This lack of real-world client-contact lawyer experience, however, is hardly disqualifying for Ivory Tower residency, as my buddy The Legal Watchdog has often pointed out. And so they blithely declare,“While pro-bono work is offered for free, the low-bono models provide adequate financial support for attorneys.” So much for the cursory conjecture of the comfortably clueless.

Young business man standing pulling his pockets inside out uid“Lower-income residents who don’t qualify for free legal aid but can’t afford lawyers suffer devastating consequences in court,” they complain citing the sad tale of a sixty year-old widow evicted from her home. “And yet even as they fall, unrepresented, through the cracks, we keep hearing about a glut of unemployed lawyers, many of them recent law-school graduates,” as though vaguely remembering a regurgitated classroom abstraction. Harder to ignore is the haughty self-serving skepticism, “we keep hearing about a glut of unemployed lawyers.” This must mean if they don’t believe it — it must not be true.

The reality is that for some time, it’s been well documented that new lawyers graduate with “soul crushing, crippling” six-figure debt. Indeed, the financial obligations are so humongous that it’s impossible for them to service those loans without a reasonably paying job. And while the economy has improved since the depths of the recession, good paying law-related work is still hard to come by. So it’s hard to conceive how jobless, low-income or no income recent law school graduates straddled with over $150,000 in debt will be in any position to “devote an early stage of their career to communities in need” when they themselves are card-carrying members of those communities.

You’d think these two well-placed high level Georgetowners would know better. Or that they’d concede at least to save face, that law school graduate debt is no abstraction — especially at Georgetown. According to the latest US News & World Report, Georgetown University  is 12th on the list of “Which law school graduates have the most debt?” with an average 2014 graduate indebtedness of $150,529 and with 79% of its grads with debt.

Any news from the jungle? | by HikingArtist.com

But unfortunately, with very few exceptions, law school professors, deans and administrators would rather not acknowledge the elephant-sized schools vs. students conflict of interest or the post-graduate employment risks and high cost realities of attending law school. As Pulitzer Prize winning NY Times writer David Segal famously wrote 4 years ago: “Legal diplomas have such allure that law schools have been able to jack up tuition four times faster than the soaring cost of college. And many law schools have added students to their incoming classes — a step that, for them, means almost pure profits — even during the worst recession in the legal profession’s history.”

Being very smart, though, I have no doubt there’s one reality they can’t ignore: “Fewer and Fewer Students Are Applying to Law School.” Also see: “Enrollment at Law Schools Continues to Decline.”

In the end, the solution, which they will eventually come to albeit not quietly and not before some law schools close will be an approach along the lines just recommended for universities by Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein. He advocates greatly improving productivity, cutting overhead and lowering the overall tuition cost. See “Four tough things universities should do to rein in costs.”

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Life is more than conflict. It’s also about love, emotion and devotion.

And as regular readers know, with three rescues in our household, I have a particular soft spot for dogs and their special connections to us.

This touching, heartwarming video, which was forwarded to me just this morning says it as well anything I’ve seen in a while.



(A heartfelt hat tip to Jay for telling me about it).

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Big Finish! | by massless

A while back, someone recommended John Molloy’s 2004 book, The Fraternity: Judges and Lawyers in Collusion. Molloy? I wondered. Wasn’t that the guy who wrote the now dog-tired advice book on sartorial corporate success?

Wrong guy I discovered. The Fraternity was written by the late John F. Molloy — not John T. Molloy. That’s a world of difference. The former was a lawyer-turned-judge-turned-lawyer and the other was a researcher and consultant who first made his bones advising New York City law firms on how clothes could enhance the credibility and authority of young lawyers before judges and juries.

Nevertheless, I finally read The Fraternity. But as it turns out, the old Dress for Success guru’s book, which I read two lifetimes ago was eminently more useful by comparison.

Instead, I was disappointed by the self-proclaimed “confessional diatribe” by the late Tucson, Arizona jurist John Fitzgerald Molloy. Long on confession and short on redemption, it was also empty of promise. With so much discussion about the Fraternity’s self-serving, profit-seeking grip on the legal system, where were the practical prescriptions?

Clarks Pie | by Capt' Gorgeous

Among Judge Molloy’s pie-in-the-sky suggestions: Eliminate the exclusionary rule. Reduce peremptory challenges. Keep lawyers out of juvenile courts in favor of trained social workers. Take away the plaintiff’s first and last argument in a civil trial. Stop random selection of juries in favor of jurors selected by public officials. Limit the bench to only those with trial experience. Ban judges from working as lawyers after serving on the bench.

In whose lifetime will those sky pies be eaten?

To be fair, there’s enough in Judge Molloy’s wisp of a 244-page memoir sans index to justify the book’s subtitle, “Lawyers and Judges in Collusion.” But the problem is that it mostly reeks of cognitive dissonance, i.e., the conflict that results from simultaneously holding inconsistent beliefs and attitudes. It’s like the chow hound who complains about his meal while asking for a third helping.

Out of both sides.

On the one hand, Judge Molloy regales his readers with how much money he made as a trial lawyer after leaving the bench, even admitting “We were infatuated with the flow of delightful cash.” And to make certain you’re suitably impressed, he goes as far as helpfully calculating the present value of his old law firm earnings.

But then on the other hand and only at the end of his career, does the 74-year old former trial and appellate judge belatedly call for incremental reform of a legal system that’s been “massaged” by “a Fraternity composed of lawyers and judges . . . into something quite different from what was intended — one that derives powers from claiming to have come from our Forefathers, but which in fact is a system that has been restructured, almost beyond recognition, by the Fraternity, for the benefit of the Fraternity.”

NYC: New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division | by wallyg

Indeed, concluding his recollections of his service on Arizona’s appellate bench, he writes, “In reviewing this chapter, I realize that I may have given the impression that as an appellate judge I was a brave dissenter, always leaning against the tornadic winds of the Fraternity’s movement toward more litigation and more lawyer-profit. The written record gives lie to such a claim.”

Sort of undercuts the argument for reform, that it’s made — only after you’ve gotten yours. Better I think what Edna St. Vincent Millay said long ago about penance, “But if I can’t be sorry, why I might as well be glad.”

Photo Credits: “Big Finish” by Chris Wetherell at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; other photos via Morguefile.com;”Clark’s Pie,” by Ben Salter at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; “NYC: New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division,” by Wally Gobetz at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.

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There was a very good Op-ed in this morning’s New York Times, Steven Harper’s “Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs.”

I know. It’s all been said before, especially by the now declining scamblog movement.

But I still encourage you to read it, especially since Harper again challenges the American Bar Association (ABA) to do something about the dysfunctional system it’s had such a strong hand in perpetuating: law schools “operating without financial accountability and free of the constraints that characterize a functioning market.” As Harper and others have critiqued, despite its recent task force on the future of legal education, the ABA persists in doing little to effectuate real reforms concerning law school funding, tuition pricing, student debt loads and earnings potential.

Bite and breadth.

The criticisms about the state of legal education have also been made before with arguably more bite — but with equal breadth by law school professor and reform advocate Paul Campos. Indeed, in September 2014, writing in The Atlantic, Paul Campos summarized the problem like this:

“. . . the Congressional Budget Office projected that Americans will incur nearly $1.3 trillion in student debt over the next 11 years. That figure is in addition to the more than $1 trillion of such debt that remains outstanding today. This is the inevitable consequence of an interwoven set of largely unchallenged assumptions: the idea that a college degree—and increasingly, thanks to rampant credential inflation, a graduate degree—should serve as a kind of minimum entrance requirement into the shrinking American middle class; the widespread belief that educational debt is always “good” debt; the related belief that the higher earnings of degreed workers are wholly caused by higher education, as opposed to being significantly correlated with it; the presumption that unlimited federal loan money should finance these beliefs; and the quiet acceptance of the reckless spending within the academy that all this money has entailed.” See The Law-School Scam

Harper, a former big law partner, has like Professor Campos, opined extensively on the same topics, including in his 2013 book, The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis and more recently in his law review article, Bankruptcy and Bad Behavior – The Real Moral Hazard: Law Schools Exploiting Market Dysfunction.

The themes are familiar ones, including the law school market dysfunction and how “Current federal student loan and bankruptcy policies encourage all law school deans to maximize tuition and fill classrooms, regardless of their students’ job prospects upon graduation.”

And as Harper explains, a “law school moral hazard” has been created where having incentives to do so, persons take more and more risks because someone else will bear the burden of those risks. He says this moral hazard has combined “with prelaw students’ unrealistic expectations about their careers to produce enormous debt for a JD degree that, for many graduates, does not even lead to a JD-required job.”

Meantime, as Harper and Campos are so good at reminding, for law schools this just means pay no mind as their beat goes on.


Photo Credits: All photos via morguefile.com

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Been a while since I’ve blogged about my marginally mediocre albeit happy-go-hacking golf game. I’ll not do so here.

Instead, the other day, after watching an old guy angrily pounding his driver three times into the turf after an errant shot, I again recalled an interview of a few years ago with professional golfer Davis Love III.

In that interview, Love keenly observed, “Most golfers aren’t that good — to get that mad.”


But too bad so many golfers think they’re“that good.” Case in point from personal experience, the most commonly found lost ball on a given course is a hyper-expensive golf ball meant for professional golfers. But thanks to triumphant marketing to self-deluded high-handicappers, that’s also the golf ball most likely to be found at the bottom of a water hazard or nestled under a bush or buried in a third cut of rough. And at $60+ a dozen, rest assured my game will never be worthy enough to have that pricey ball in my bag. After all, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

“Don’t want to be rude”– but shut up.

Shut-up | by stoneysteiner

So a Saturday morning later when we were randomly paired with what turned out to be one of those oh-so-serious “good” golfers, I made the mistake of making small talk before our round with this stranger. I recounted my angry golfer anecdote. And apparently, unknowingly making matters worse, I also mentioned the Davis Love III quote.

Moments later, Mr. Good Golfer announced, “I don’t want to be rude —  but I’d rather not talk during the round.

“I can be plenty sociable afterward,” he needlessly added after tooting out that stinker on the first tee. But give the guy props for uncongenial precedent and for muzzling a blabbermouth lawyer. Evidently for some folks, golf isn’t meant to be sociable.

And as for his disclaimer, I once worked with a guy who loved saying, “Anytime someone starts out a story by telling you, ‘this is no lie’ — get ready for a lie.” Clearly the same can be said for introductory pronouncements about not being rude.

Mannerliness: more myth than reality.

Like some lawyers who think their profession is akin to a sanctified priesthood, there are golfers who claim a supposed special mannerliness that defines the ethos of golf. “Etiquette is a word that’s often heard in relation to golf, moreso than with any other sport” one golf beginner’s website proudly proclaims. I frankly doubt that. I’ve encountered enough golfers who equate etiquette with indelicate. Also see this particularly inappropriate way to handle slow play, “Golfer Pulls Gun on Group Over Golf Etiquette Dispute at New Britain Course: Officials.”

No matter that golf’s governing body, the United States Golf Association (USGA) has its comprehensive rules, including an affirmation that irrespective of how competitive players are, courtesy and sportsmanship are the watchwords of “the Spirit of the Game.”

SNC11595.JPG | by bradleypjohnson

But like most high-minded goals of decorum and dignity, too often exalted aspirations end up as low-rent aspersions.


Photo Credit: “Hey shut up,” by Urs Steiner at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution;SNC11595.JPG by bradleypjohnson at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.

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Law 17A Vermont man, was dismissed from jury duty this month when he showed up at the courthouse jury assembly room wearing a prison-striped costume and matching beanie. After being noticed, the judge met with him privately and asked him to leave. The Vermonter, James Lowe, was only too happy to oblige.

Some jury-selection experts think being verbal, subtle and biased are good ways to avoid getting picked. And then there’s Lowe and his costume.

Not so fortunate by comparison was Henderson, Nevada lawyer Kurt Smith who spent a night in jail over his attitude. “Thanks a lot,” he said after being chosen to serve on the jury for a scheduled three-day trial. Unfortunately, it was loud enough for District Court Judge Ron Israel to hear. Judge Israel called it a breach of the peace and held him in contempt.

The judge then ordered that Smith either watch the rest of the trial from the gallery or spend a night in lockup. Smith apologized and chose the gallery instead of a night in the pokey. But when the following day Smith showed up half-an-hour late for the resumption of the trial, the judge ordered him jailed for 48 hours. He was released after serving 24 hours.

Bad Dog! | by http://www.petsadviser.com

Rare indeed apparently is the lawyer unconvinced of their professional indispensability. That stuff may sell someplace else. But in one Nevada courtroom, the judge wasn’t buying it.

Many called, few chosen, and even more try to evade.

Clearly, George Bernard Shaw was wrong when he said “only lawyers and mental defectives were automatically exempt from jury duty.” Lawyers obviously get called although I can’t speak for the “mental defectives.” On the latter, some may have their suspicions.

As for myself, I’ve been called several times. Each time I was obediently poised to do my civic duty — but I was never chosen. The last time was a year ago here where a local newspaper previously headlined, “Most People Don’t Show Up For Jury Duty in Maricopa County.” Since then the local courts have cracked down on no-shows with a “get tough” policy. I can’t say how well it’s working.

The Jury by John Morgan.jpg

Chief Justice in the Jury Box.

Earlier this year, I read “A Justice on the Jury” in the Nevada State Bar’s, Nevada Lawyer. It was Nevada Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Gibbons’ first person account of being called and picked for jury service. According to court records, it was the first time a Nevada Supreme Court Justice had ever been seated as a juror in a jury trial in the state. Judge Gibbons served during a criminal trial in Carson City.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/19/Jury_duty.jpg/320px-Jury_duty.jpgHe related how “waiting outside the courtroom, a newspaper reporter joked with me that I would probably be the first juror excused. To my great surprise, I was seated as juror number five, when the court resumed proceedings.” I don’t think he should have been surprised, though. After all, when you have the chief justice of the state supreme court in your jury pool, a lawyer is going to be hard-pressed to strike him with a peremptory challenge.

Courtroom 98Justice Gibbons said he learned a lot from the experience. And unlike some folks, he says he’d welcome a subsequent summons for jury duty.

And while he was gracious about how the proceedings were conducted, telling the judge afterward that he agreed with all of his rulings on objections during the trial, he nonetheless wasn’t shy about offering helpful tips and procedural improvement prescriptions for trial judges. These included creating “a checklist of all mandatory jury instructions that need to be submitted to the jury” and giving “special emphasis” to the juror admonishment instruction prohibiting independent research. Additionally, before commencement of deliberations, he would require jurors to re-read the jury instructions. And during the opening charge, he says he would acquaint the jury on basic courtroom procedures, including the use of expert witnesses and hypothetical questions.

So much for all those overly busy indispensables, including lawyers, if the chief justice can serve, well . . . .


Photo credits: “The Jury by John Morgan” painted by John Morgan, uploaded to Wikipedia by Swampyank – The Jury by John Morgan.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Jury_by_John_Morgan.jpg#/media/File:The_Jury_by_John_Morgan.jpg; “Bad Dog!” by Pets Adviser at Flickr Creative Commons Attibution; “Jury Duty” by Steve Bott at Wikipedia via Creative Commons Attribution License.

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