Law in Contemporary Society

Links About Lawyering

This is an interesting essay by a lawyer who graduated in 2007 into the waiting arms of unemployment. He decided to begin helping people who were deep underwater on their mortgages by trying to get them loan modifications. This is the story of his first client and his first encounter with Wells Fargo. Also includes an interesting side note about new California law that discourages lawyers from taking on these types of cases.

-- JohnSchwab - 26 Feb 2010

Here's someone who needed a good lawyer.

"At his urging, she pleaded guilty and went to jail for a felony that turned out not to be a felony at all. “It seemed like he was on the D.A.’s side,” she said later...

Usually, such a minor case would go unnoticed; a little test of the constitutional right to a lawyer, results unknown. Instead it has made Mr. Barber an emblem of the problems of the state’s ramshackle system of providing lawyers for indigent defendants. On Tuesday, New York’s highest court is to consider a class-action suit, filed by civil liberties lawyers in Ms. Hurell-Harring’s name, that seeks broad changes in the state’s frayed network of public defenders, who are routinely unmonitored and often overwhelmed. Her case, now being pored over by some of the state’s leading lawyers and judges, offers a window into the everyday corners of the legal system, where no one is usually watching."

Info about the suit from a previous article here

-- DevinMcDougall - 21 Mar 2010

Another story about a situation where good lawyers are needed - School Suspensions Lead to Legal Challenge, By Erik Eckholm, Published March 18, 2010 in the New York Times. I don't have many statistics about these types of suspensions or about the exact effects of zero tolerance policies in U.S. schools, but they are becoming increasingly common and have lead to some pretty absurd results.

As these school discipline cases are being brought out of the traditional setting (principal's offices) and into police stations, there is more of a role for lawyers. Even in cases that don't end up in the criminal justice system, students facing very severe punishments that can potentially play a huge role in their futures need good advocates to stand up for their rights and represent them.

-- DavidGoldin - 21 Mar 2010

New partnerships between hospitals and lawyers.

"In a process being duplicated nationally — the latest partnership started in West Virginia in the fall — the doctors at Children’s Hospital, using a protocol that started 18 months ago, referred 500 patients for legal aid last year. Some needed help getting food stamps, heating aid or cash welfare that had been wrongfully denied; some received help with evictions or home repairs, and others got legally mandated help for children with learning disabilities.

The idea was developed in the 1990s by Dr. Barry Zuckerman, chief of pediatrics at the Boston Medical Center. In recent years it has taken off, mainly in pediatric centers, although the technique is being tried with cancer and geriatric patients as well.

“This has transformed the way we think about giving care,” said Dr. Robert S. Kahn, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital who helped start the collaboration with the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati."

-- DevinMcDougall - 23 Mar 2010

xkcd today with a comic applicable to lawyering.

Be sure to read the alt text.

-- DevinMcDougall - 02 Apr 2010

Yet another area where good lawyers are needed. I don't know much about debt collection and the role of lawyers, but I thought this article was particularly interesting.

An interesting note - Erica Brachfeld (the lawyer bringing the suits) does seem to grasp that the old business model is dead:

"Collection industry representatives say that collection law firms operate under a business model that anticipates a large caseload.

Harvey M. Moore, president of the California Creditors Bar Association, said, 'We're not built on the same model of a traditional law firm in that we do not bill an hourly rate for our work. We are not paid unless we collect.'"

-- DavidGoldin - 23 Apr 2010

Some New York Judges are taking a stand against credit industry law firms which are trying to use the courts as a branch of the debt collection industry. Still a small step, but interesting to see that some people are seeing the problems with the current system. Still, it is clear that people against whom debts are being collected need good lawyers to represent them - especially given the unfair practices (like process servers who serve process to addresses where people haven't lived for over 5 years and sign sworn statements).

-- DavidGoldin - 08 May 2010

I saw this in the paper today. It will be interesting to see whether it leads anywhere. It definitely seems long overdue.

-- DavidGoldin - 04 May 2010

Another update on the legal aid system in New York and attempts to updated it.

-- DavidGoldin - 06 May 2010

Perhaps this new trend will give a new meaning to the phrase "jailhouse lawyer"?

Indian outsourcing firm Radiant Info Systems has found yet another way to lower wages — hiring data entry clerks from a local prison. Some 200 inmates will be paid $2.20 a day to handle manual data entry tasks for Radiant's BPO deals in a pilot for the scheme. Radiant execs told the BBC that the deal will provide skills to inmates when they are released from prison. No doubt they would also be due for a pay raise.

-- DevinMcDougall - 13 May 2010

For all who are still interested, I thought this was a particularly thoughtful piece which discussed a specific element of the legal profession without bashing it as a whole.

-- DavidGoldin - 16 May 2010

Very interesting discussion of grades andpsychology of lawyers.

It’s frustrating, trying to teach lawyers the fundamentals of doing business. Several of them arrive in my office each month, wanting advice on changing careers. But they haven’t got a clue.

That’s because they still think success is making your parents happy. Lawyers start out as the kids who do everything right. They behave. They obey. They get good grades. Typically they aren’t especially talented at anything – just good at everything. The formal education system is designed to reward that sort of bland “goodness.” It isn’t about getting an A in any one subject – it’s about getting “all A’s.”

That doesn’t make any sense in the real world. You don’t need “all A’s,” you need to discover the work that you love to do….

A friend of mine at Harvard failed or nearly failed half his courses every year. His grade-point average was dismal. Why? He was in a laboratory day and night, doing Ph.D.-level, cutting-edge bio research. He used to laugh at the academic advisors who lectured him about his grades. Now, after a successful career as a scientific researcher and inventor, he’s become a millionaire venture capitalist.

He knew what he wanted to do, and knew that his GPA wasn’t going to hold him back.

A lawyer would never take that path – in fact, he couldn’t. Legal education is all about exams, exams and more exams, and being the very best on every one, even if only by a tiny percentage. From that one extra point on the LSAT to that one extra point on the bar exam, it’s about everyone doing the same thing, but beating the next guy by a hair.

With that training, you end up utterly unequipped for the world of business, which is why the transition to business is so difficult for a lawyer.

Legal education, and law firm work, is infantilizing. It regresses you into the child who instinctively desires to delight a parent. You try to please an authority figure by doing what they say. You do the work, and make them happy.

That strategy is doom for an entrepreneur. To succeed in business you must separate from the parent, and begin to parent yourself. That means letting go of pleasing others, and becoming the authority figure in your own world. You’re the boss. You follow your own instincts. You make yourself happy.

-- DevinMcDougall - 19 May 2010

Fairly interesting report on the changing structure of biglaw I thought I'd share: -- MatthewZorn - 24 Jun 2010

Another article about debt collection clogging the court system and a law firm with 14 lawyers that files 80,000 law suits a year, along with one judge's response.

-- DavidGoldin - 13 Jul 2010


The article you posted on May 19 was great. I've found myself thinking back to it often since I read it (especially now as EIP is aggressively fighting to ruin my summer).

This morning, I found this article and it really reminded me of both our class discussions and the article that you posted. The author engaged successfully in the academic rat-race and got "the job" that all her peers coveted. Unfortunately, upon starting, she realized that it was not what she wanted for her career and that it made her miserable. She ultimately changed positions until she found the job that was right for her (starting her own business). I'll let you read the article but what I found most striking was the fact that she admitted that going off the established track was at times difficult and that most new businesses fail. She also admitted that money was tight but implied that she was managing, which again reminded me of Prof. Moglen's explanation of the nut. Set-backs and tight funds don't seem to phase her. I got the impression that one failure would not send her packing to her previous life and that was really inspiring.

I also found this statement interesting: "_I had joined consulting with the goal of starting my own company one day, perhaps after getting my M.B.A. At the time, I believed that management consulting would best prepare me to run my own business, but I soon realized that consulting was mostly just teaching me how to be a better consultant._" It's a sentiment echoed in the article that you posted: "_With that training, you end up utterly unequipped for the world of business, which is why the transition to business is so difficult for a lawyer. Legal education, and law firm work, is infantilizing. It regresses you into the child who instinctively desires to delight a parent. You try to please an authority figure by doing what they say. You do the work, and make them happy._" As we discussed in class, some big law firms may not even make you a better lawyer in exchange for removing an attorney's ability to create their own business.

The question that this article left me with was: If this woman could have done it all again, do you think she would have skipped straight to starting her own business or was that period of time working for a consulting firm necessary to her future happiness or success? Furthermore, what does that mean for us as lawyers? Are our industries different such that we need a jumping off experience at a firm whereas this author did not? Is the opposite true?

I don't know the answer to this question. Right now I'm stuck on what type of law I'm interested in specializing in. I know, I know. People keep telling me that at 24 years old, I don't have to know what field of law I want to work in but I can't shake the impression that that seems strange. I somewhat feel as though people are trying to tell me that this is not the time to be searching for a specialty. In addition, I've noticed that law firms sell themselves by indicating that you can work on anything you want in any practice group as a summer and as an attorney. That's frightening to me. I don't see how one can get good at something if you keep floating about. When does the floating end? It's my impression, that figuring out what you want to do with your life is a task that should be mostly accomplished while in school (note that I say mostly and not entirely). Again, this fear that I harbor reminds me of the article that you posted, Devin. The idea that I'm supposed to be interested in and good at everything I study seems unrealistic: "They get good grades. Typically they aren't especially talented at anything; just good at everything. The formal education system is designed to reward that sort of bland goodness. It isn't about getting an A in any one subject; it's about getting all A's. That doesn't make any sense in the real world. You don't need all A's; you need to discover the work that you love to do." Anyway, I'll keep trying to deal with this issue. What do you all think about the question posed above?


Ash, I think your question is apt. But I think there's a lot of important subquestions. My understanding is that quality of training varies by firm, practice group, and partner. I think different legal fields also probably have different dynamics as far as the usefulness of firm training.

I think Moglen's ideal of a lawyer is definitely a more entrepreneurial spirit than the law school here trains us to be. The debt model of financing, the lack of feedback, and the emphasis on high-stakes, drill and kill evaluations work against developing our practice, I think. Not to mention the numbers-driven law school admission process which screens out the people like that student who got As in things he loved, did his own research and neglected other courses.

However, I did find LCS provided a helpful way to talk and think about this stuff. I don't know if you saw the LawContempSocSoc page a few weeks ago, but some of will be meeting in August to keep the conversation going. You, and anyone else interested, should come.

-- DevinMcDougall - 24 Jul 2010


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r21 - 24 Jul 2010 - 05:00:58 - DevinMcDougall
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