Saturday, April 25, 2009

Changes to Come...And What They May Mean for New Law Grads

Change is in the air.

An opinion piece in the New York Times recently reported, "The economic downturn is hitting the legal world hard. American Lawyer is calling it “the fire this time” and warning that big firms may be hurtling toward “a paradigm-shifting, blood-in-the-suites” future."

Still, the piece went on, "The silver lining, if there is one, is that the legal world may be inspired to draw blueprints for the 21st century."

According to an article in the ABA Journal in which the Times article is referenced, three major areas of change are imminent:

"• Compensation. The out-of-whack pay chasm in which BigLaw lawyers make $160,000 to start while state and local prosecutors start in the mid-to-upper $40,000s is likely to change, with high salaries being reined in. "One industry-watcher says it could fall as low as $100,000. And fewer firms will feel the need to pay the top salary," the Times notes.
• Tuition. Between 1990 and 2003, private law school educations costs rose at nearly three times the rate of consumer prices, with the average graduate now leaving with more than $80,000 in debt. Expect a correction on tuition and more law schools to follow Northwestern University's two-year law school model.
• Curriculum. There may also be pressure on law schools, because of the economic conditions, to retool "sometimes-aimless second and third years" of courses to be more practical in nature, with more emphasis on going into nonlegal careers."

What's your take on the article? Do you agree that major changes are imminent in the legal profession and the way lawyers do business? If so, what does that all mean for recent law grads and current law students--in particular, in what ways will they have to adapt in order to navigate and thrive among these changes?

Monday, April 20, 2009

No Training on My Dime (But How Will They Get Experience?)

According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, clients at some large law firms are requesting that first-year associates not work on cases assigned to the firm.

"Among the sea changes is a reluctance by a number of clients, or even an outright ban, as far having first-year associates work on their matters," says an ABA Journal online article citing to the Philadelphia Inquirer piece and to its original interview with Morgan Lewis Chair Francis Milone:

"'It's a trend," he tells the newspaper. "We literally have some clients who are telling us they do not want us to put brand-new associates on their matters.'

The problem is, at a starting salary of $160,000 a head for the firm's first-years, such client reluctance is making the new associates less useful to Morgan Lewis, he points out. "It's going to be harder to find things for new lawyers to do."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Case of the Week 4/13/09

Law student discipline cases center around many different issues, from plagiarism to academic dishonesty to improper conduct to failing to maintain a minimum grade point average requirement.

In one case where a student was expelled for failing to maintain the minimum GPA required by her school, the court upheld the law school’s policy of counting both the first (failing) and second grade in calculating GPA. See Johnson v. Sullivan, 174 Mont. 491 (1977). The court paid particular attention to “this state’s ‘diploma privilege,’ [under which] graduates of the School of Law may be admitted to practice on motion; they are not necessarily required to take and pass the state’s bar examination. Graduation from the School of Law, therefore, virtually guarantees admission to practice. Ultimately, then, the object of measuring academic performance and allowing or precluding a law student’s continued study on the basis of that performance is to assure that graduates of the School of Law are qualified to enter practice.” Id., at 495.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Discussion Question 4/8/09

Note: These periodic discussion questions are designed to inspire dialogue about law student ethics and professionalism, whether through in-class discussions, informal discussions, or in the form of comments online.

Are law students who behave unethically or unprofessionally more likely to behave unethically or unprofessionally once they graduate? Is academic dishonesty related to unethical behavior on the job?